Friday, February 6, 2009

An essay -Reprising CAPITALISM & Entrepreneurship.

I graduated during the early part of what was a glorious surge towards a close of a century. Economy was bustling around the globe. Big Blue was powering its way from a deep rut and every one agreed that "elephants could dance". The bricks crumbled not only uniting Germany but also bringing global barriers which usually ended at ones shores or sea ports. Portals opened up and capital was jetting furiously exhibiting its prowess of being ever so liquid.

Amongst assets the most liquid of them all "Equities" were powering bourses around the BRIC countries and all of a sudden Hang Seng, Kospi, Sensex began outperforming their peers NASDAQ,FUTSE and DAX indices. Oil prices were soaring to astronomical highs threatning to cross the 100 $ a barrel mark.

Every one thought what heralded a boom time for the IT czars "Y2K" will dawn a similar euphoria across businesses in a new century. That’s when George W Bush in company with Tony Blair went in search of "weapons of mass destruction". Outside of the zeal to quell Islamic fundamentalist forces using a absurd ploy for which the world would pay in great deal later along with republicans and Tony Blair losing their seat of authority another "weapons of mass destruction" was beginning to run amok.

Call it greed , over leveraging or derivatives, mortgages, sub prime et al the elements were all put together growing in enormous propositions to pull down the good work done by centuries of blood sweat and toil put in by legendary entrepreneurs, brave heart investors and a creative spirit called capitalism. "Black Swans" and "being fooled by randomness" by Nissim Taleb made sense like a slap on every foreteller and economist predicting future based on the past.

Add to that we had sterling and shameful examples such as Enron, CA , Worldcom, Satyam and BT who cemented the conviction of the downturn albeit for reasons created by greed of another kind. Sterling in their raise and shameful in their fall.

Oil Prices came dowm to as low as 40 $ per barrel after touching 140 $. So did institutions like Lehman Bros, Fannie and Freddie, Meryll Lynch . They came down and crushed several 100 billions of investor wealth. A few lucky ones like Citi got bailed out to survive.

Barely had the world won over the communist block which dithered away braring the indomitable Fidel Castro and a few isolated folks in India, all and sundry believed that capitalism promised what its practioners believed in. Capitalism an economic system in which wealth, and the means of producing wealth, are privately owned and controlled rather than state-owned and state controlled.

Now that what as a graduate from Osmania University that I witnessed. In 15 short years the pcyhe from being bullish changed to a sombare summer today.An environment from being such a great promise to today when many pundits compare the times to the great depression.

Economists, Financials analysts and the other player in the capital market “Bears” are today piling up reams of rhetoric and their contribution to the forth estate being a gloomy treatise bereft of hope and sunshine are adding to the pessimism.

Remember Capitalism as we know is systems where the state need to limit and expressly play the role of a facilitator; largely take on the onus of responsibly creating an environment conducive for global trade/ free trade.A step further put in place regulations and create resilient infrastructure and ensure peace times are always the kind of times we get to live in.

But the state starting from Capitol Hill or shall I say a “Changed Capitol Hill” seems to have rather seriously began to realize and act as though they were in a righteous place to anoint the messiahs and orchestrate the conduct of business after having absolved the guilty with behemoth bail out packages.

Did I hear that they are going to start with a focus right at the top? The paycheque of the Chief Executive? And did we hear that we going to cap their draw for the element of risk that they undertake to manage ( or mismanage when this para gets superfluous ) ? In times those are as challenging as they come by? Will these state artists also start putting a cap on the profit margins that gets charged from their customers? Will the state start to curb businesses with stringent regulatoty road blocks hindering a rebound of capitalistic forces.

Now this is certainly going to be the beginning of the end of the idea capitalism as we know it? If we allow the state to take control of business and call the shots. If only we fail to assert our self now and pledge that a short span of lull and a few rotten eggs wont fail the great promise of capitalism.

Yes there has been a time lately when certain elements have undermined the good work done by an army of value creators. Yes Japan has been in the dumps over a decade now due to complexities yet to be deciphered? And oh yes the West is aging and the youthful east with zest is bustling with enthusiasm only to be rapped time and again by terror perpetrators and the infections from NASDAQ , FUTSE and bourses from the west. Every time there is a sneeze in the west the east catches cold.

But then capitalism is unquestionably powered by consumers .Who will disagree the growing influence of two of the most populous nations on planet earth? More than every before the consumer demands value at a fair price. Savings ecomonies are changing to spending economies. Capitalism thrives due to imaginary entrepreneurs who take on daunting risks and audacious challenges. Entrepreneurs excel in an environment fostering free trade devoid of STATE interventions. Capitalistic forces create jobs and jobs create consumption and then an upward spiral tornado which has the potential to wake up the slumbering bulls.

Raise my dear capitalists, bulls and that breed of untainted entrepreneurs whose eyes gets glazed by the sight of an opportunity even in time of depression. The brand of entrepreneurship from the Valley which was folk lore only a decade ago needs to be rekindled.

This time around there are no bricks and no shores inhibiting businesses. Portals are conducive to trade across borders with a click of a mouse.The world today is hot and flat.Halt the state today , their say in business. Pegging Pay cheques and cap in H1B's and vote them to power for what they do well. Preserving democracy and creating a stable environment.Ensuring freedom for all.Opportunity to all as equals.

The onus of conducting capitalism should be with the entrepreneurs and the choice with consumers. This is going to be an uphill trek, there is a peak to be scaled every day. A few of us will fall by the way side, but will create a certian path ahead in doing so. But some day in the near future every one risk taker and investor will hoist flags of capitalism high.

For that to happen we need new age beacons like IBM,HP, Microsoft,Google,Apple,Toyota,eBay,Amazon, to emerge from the lows of today. These beacons and champions will emerge from all round the world. BRIC world, EU, APAC and US as well. They may be microfinance companies helping the poorest raise up to a level playing field, social networking players desseminating positive influence faster than what Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King , Nelson Mandela or a Che Guevara could achieve. The world will in fact be flatter because of the waning of the superpowers or G8 countries, but also because of the raise of the Individual and the voice of the individual combined with the power of the community.

Capitalist will find ways to create markets and rainmakers will find business which hitherto remained unaddressed. Web 2.0 will increment the profound impact on business and societies and IT will become mainstream in every walk of life. Capitalism will spawn new businesses on charters addressing global warming or saving a green planet from over heating. Markets will get seamless and yet remain decoupled and financial services will undergo a transformatioal change.

A Global economic architecture will emerge challenging status quo of certian archiac norms and way of life. Business leaders will grow younger and corporate boards get more diverse , independent and accountlable. Lines between business will overlap and newer competition , coopition , cooperation models will be evolved. Global Delivery will become a common strategic fabric for most companies and talent capital will become the most significant capital.

For the above to happen the state need to responsibly understand the limitations of the statesmen and recognise that the business of business is best handled by capitalists and entrepreneurs. Boderless business and common currencies are what state actors should strive to provide as environment.

Curbing terror in many ways be achieved by equitable distribution of wealth and pursuing plural agendas to execute inclusive mandates ebracing all forms of society elements.

The terror perpetrators feed on some undesirable situations like poverty. In an event capitalists and state leaders disolve the borders and embrace a global and inclusive charter than the cess pool of terror camps will dry up naturally.

Greed is an obnoxious social evil. If corporate citizenry is built on a value systems of organic or inorganic but ethical values then issues emanating from greed will natutally be not proliferated.

There is a lot of promise and a lot to be gained from our uphill journey from the present down turn. I am an optimist and hence i wont ascribe the situation as downturn, rather call it a phase in correction. The Statesmen and Capitalist are both distinct and have specific roles to play. Both need to work togather rather than cross swords at cross purpose. For evey Raju & Madoff from corporate there was a Bush and a Blair from polity.

If everyone understands and applies the macro consensus to work on a future agenda and execute then the road to recovery is just round the corner. Lets not spend too much time understanding the turmoil, Japan hast yet figured out. Lets be the part of the solution and chase a future good for all of us.Gobal Citizens. Lets all turn atheists if it helps our children live in a clean and green and peaceful planet. The graduates to be churned out of varsities need a lasting legacy that we can afford to leave behind us. Lets take on the responsibility sincerely.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

MUMDOGS and BILLIONS OF THEM not doing more than their BIT.

The opening shot captures children playing cricket at the airport even as a flight takes off. The scene to me sets the tone of the movie as it unfolds revealing the many gut wrenching moments captured on celluloid so very effectively yet representing a work of brilliant cinematic expression.
For someone like me who used to stay at the Bandra East area in Mumbai a few years back every time I look out of the jetairways window as the flight glides over the slums of Santa Cruz and Kalina into the concrete airstrip I used to wonder how the lakhs of people dwelling in the slums would cope with the deafening sound of the 500 plus Aircrafts landing and taking off from India’s busiest airport?

The film maker, cast and the music irrepressibly capture the naked truth of the darker side of the great city of Mumbai. Film making is a medium to entertain, communicate or kindle thought or perspective or influence people depending on the genre the film caters to.

The movie reflecting on the promise of rags to riches and the treacherous turn of life which the human beings living in the slums is an eye opener and brings a lump in ones throat and cheer in ecstasy to even someone like me who has seen these very scenes so very often live.

Every time I stroll from the posh Bandra east through Bandra station to walk into the ultra posh Bandra west you just cannot avoid the “In your face visuals “ which are harsh reality and is what which got captured in the movie so well. With Telling Effect.

In the busy life of a Mumbaikar (or other Indians )these images do not even generate a sigh in agony. Simply put in other words one gets so immune to these Bare, high decibel placards of poverty crying out for help along with the glitzy giant hoardings featuring bollywood stars or TV soap ads.

Slumdog Millionaire in its 2 hour long cinematic influence brings out the kind of sensitivity and empathy that it evokes in you and bares the a thick skin urban animal that we have so shamelessly got to being. Even as the movie kindles a spirit of triumph against all odds and bares the raw open wounds, there are a section of the elite society who live in a state of denial.

Even in denial these ultra urbane intellects that worry of India being wrongly represented or the “West getting entertained by showing the reality of the slums of Mumbai” are so arrogant to speak in a derogatory manner condemning a humble work of cinematic brilliance.

If they so cared about the very image which stares at your face in every major metro bustling with economic progress , they could do a lot to save the lives of at least half a dozen “Salims , Jamals & Latikas” . If they cared so much they could have done quite a lot in fueling the indomitable spirit of the slum dweller. For the several heartless egalitarians who have an issue of the title SlumDOG , will be surprised to know that their Labradors and Pugs gets a spa visit a week and two sessions of proteins supplement a day and an air-conditioned car ride to the nearby bandstand of Juhu beach every day .

If only we cared as a society , if only our banks lent a helping hand as micro finance , if only we had an ounce in compassion , we only we saw and reacted to their eerie cries of despair , if only we saw them as innocent children , if only we knew what hunger was , if only or hearts bleed even as street kids eyes are burned , if only the sex manic not crave for that barely matured virgin , if only they dint use them to kill , IF ONLY WE TREATED THEM LIKE HUMANS , I would never have an issue of on their protects of naming the film “Slum Dog “ or India being showcased as regressive.

I am doing my bit every time I walk up the steps of Bandra station by doing away with the coins giggling in my pocket. Worked with events conducted by my ex employer reaching out to street children. Donating to the Lions club buying books for the slum children or even parting with warm clothes when I am actually doing away with my out of fashion clothes and freeing up my wardrobe. So are several thousands of us whose eyes get moist at the sight of a underprivileged soul.

But is doing our bit and is bit just enough. We should care more and more than ever before now and today as the problems are still manageable if we have open eyes and caring hearts.

A few of us .No.This isn’t enough and won’t be. There isn’t an iota of pride in having the world largest slum in one of the fastest growing economy. The slums exist and are growing by the day. Hence films will be made if they made by films makers like Danny reflecting reality. If we cared for they being called dogs and worry about west entertaining themselves on our state of poverty then do more than your bit to support in elevating the standard of their life. Lend them hope, and stop complaining about the west or the films they make reflecting reality. Stop living in denial. I am doing it from today and I hope my friends will too join in for a better India. DO A BIT MORE THAN YOU DO TODAY. If you haven’t yet started START NOW.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

IT as a tranfomation catalyst and an enabler to challenge "Status Quo"

Blog posted in response and as an extention of thought to Vineets blog pasted here under FYI !

Vineet, Changing "Status Quo" is very appropriate a title for the today’s times. Your thought starters do raise a few important questions. Here are some of my view submitted for consideration.
The IT industry for long has been viewed as a productivity enhancing industry supplemental to the other core businesses. The offshoring services business has created a service model where cost imperatives have been taken care of and global supply of talent effectively leveraged.
Though we are seen as information industry dwelling in knowledge far too often the army of human talent who form the prime capital of the business is at the receiving end during recession. Human capital is often times seen as a cost rather than an asset base even if umpteen annual reports carry the cliché “People are our biggest assets”
As an industry we have the onus on us to drive significant belief amongst corporations that knowledge services along with information and people assets will form a core component of any business and agendas like transformation, value creation, globalization, turn around et al have a significant bias toward IT messiahs.

Some of the significant challenges which needs to be addresses with telling impact and influence are the stuff discussed here under:
Oil, metals with other commodities has with the help of Finance hogged prime capital consumption. Not for a moment I am I negating their significance. But consider the use of silicon at IT and Solar energy creation and the prowess of deploying them in tandem to help global companies depend less on oil and create stronger currencies out of the burning sun.
It is a time when IT can ill afford to be seen as a electric power devouring giant to being an enabler of a greener world. IT as an enabler to designing world class energy efficient cars. Being able to effectively mange the emerging global financial markets and economic architecture. Crunching data to get break through in bioinformatics, drug discovery and deciphering the DNA for healthcare benefits.
IT as a platform to support education and micro finance is reached to the remotest village. Ensure that the produce at the fields reaches the dining table by maximizing value to the customer while ensuring highest profit to the tiller.
Help reach new and entertainment in real-time and allow the pleasure and power of the content chosen by the consumer. Importantly create an information democracy where quelling terror with global partnership becomes the order of the day. Predict climatic changes and save, prevent or minimize the impact of today’s unforeseen climatic disasters.
Support democracy by effectively aiding psephology so that popular peoples government are elected and help governance in policy execution, revenue collection and plan expenditure.

All those and many more are what we should as IT professionals deliver today more that just profess the potential we have as an industry . Not that we don’t do it today. That not enough is been done for the IT industry to be acknowledged as a player with a changed “Status Quo” and helping other change their “Status Quo”. And importantly people wont go under the axe every time there is a dip in NASDAQ or SENSEX or other bousers.


Vineet's Blog from HCL Technologies
November 20th, 2008
Challenging the Status Quo

All around us, the rules of engagement are being rewritten. Perhaps the term ‘rules’ itself is inappropriate in this age where Wikipedia, Linux, Facebook, Napster and eBay are new flag bearers. These live laboratories of the human mind are governed not so much by rules as by the power of collaborative thinking.

In a process-driven world, the quest for efficiency and productivity through best practices of the past often inhibited innovation and evolution. Yet, today an ostrich-like approach will not be able to withstand the winds of change. In order to find solutions to some of the unprecedented challenges being faced by business, we need to challenge the status quo and break mindsets with a fresh approach.

Outside our business silos, we see traditional structures of creation tumbling as an unstructured collective of individuals become the new custodians of power and choose, create and destroy according to their needs. This process of co-creation and innovation is an exciting new territory as it multiplies synergies and has a disruptive impact on existing thought process.

In business as well, there is a compelling need to challenge the status quo. And there is an important lesson here staring us in the face: a need to “unstructure” the highly strait-jacketed world of business and technology today.

The changing mechanics of the human thinking is intrinsically linked to the future of business – and in turn linked to the future of technology.

As an instance, for the large part today technology plays a key role in enabling businesses – rather than businesses defining how they wish to leverage technology. But the individual has power over technology – and when business and the individual come together – and define the future of technology – structures will be broken, and the true power and ubiquitous nature of technology will set individuals free to run powerful businesses.

We need to bring business, technology and people together to unlock thought by raising questions that reveal new perspectives.

Existing thought leadership platforms, however, tend to structure the thinking upfront stating the problem and a suggested solution. Instead, the need of the hour is free-flowing discussion on the interlinked future of business and technology. Thought leaders, who play the role of the ‘thought provoker’ rather than problem solvers; who become a catalyst that creates other thought leaders without a care for hierarchy.

This will help bring alive communities rather than organizations, stimulating thought with the power to transform technology and business. It is only through such unshackling of ideas that the world will emerge more creative, collaborative and empowered to deal with tomorrow.