Monday, December 21, 2009

Montfort School Yercaud - My Alma Mater

I am in India now as most of you possibly know already. I made a trip to my high school - Montfort School, Yercaud after like 6 years! I was stunned and shocked by the number of changes in school - both Physically and in the culture. There were new structures at every possible place - in my sister's words, a "Concrete Jungle". Bro. George for sure is a visionary leader but he is now lacking in space to put up concrete structures. As we enter school now, they are putting up a statue of Montfort 100 feet above the ground! Now that's gotta be a landmark of some sort! I wonder if he's got permission from the Civil Aviation ministry for that - We gotta warn the planes bout that thing. They're also in the process of building what will become Asia's largest indoor stadium at a phenomenal cost. The new 400 m track is amazing! Being maintained like it were fit for use in the Olympics. All this apart from a number of other statues and structures around school. Ah yes... They're also building another floor above the dormitories. Apparently, they are moving the Junior school classes here. Junior school is to become another school for Montfort - Montfort ICSE! Whew.... too many changes.

On a cultural note, I felt kind of disappointed when I first walked through school. I hardly could meet anyone who knew me! Most of the staff in the office had changed. Bro.Augustine couldn't remember me (That was disappointing) and Bella (Robert Bellarmin, my Physics teacher and dorm warden) had moved out of school since he was now married. It was also Bro. George's birthday and hence I couldn't find the time to meet him. So, I wandered around aimlessly in school for about half an hour before I went to SHY (Sacred Heart Convent, Yercaud) - my mom and sister studied here. It's a girl's school just opposite to Montfort. The welcome we got here was so overwhelming! All the nuns (including the Principal and the Provincial head) were out to fuss over us. They took us to the parlour, gave us tea, biscuits, bread, butter and guava jelly and even put out some cake for us. I really had no words - I was disappointed with my school but let it pass.

Here are a few pictures, will upload more when I get the time!

However, I went over the next day and met Bro. George. It was a pleasure as he welcomed us whole heartedly (I presume!) and actually took us to the parlour for some tea too! Look at me getting so excited over a damn tea! ha ha... I did meet Bella, ID (Irudhayaraj - My Maths Professor) and Bio (Francis - The Biology Professor). Was glad to see that there were few of the old faces still in school. They all remembered me very well and were glad to spend time speaking to me! Felt nice to be back at school.

 Have a couple of very interesting and exciting posts lined up. Coming up right after will be one on the Yercaud Mafia, which is no doubt more interesting than any soap on television!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Auto Sir... Auto... Taxi Sir... Taxi - Back to India

"Auto Sir... Auto... Taxi Sir... Taxi... Cheap and best sir.... "

To hear the familiar sound of Auto and Taxi drivers run out to you when you come out of the International Airport in Chennai brought back nostalgic thoughts of my days in Chennai. I guess the Autos and their drivers will always remain an Integral part of what Chennai means to us. It was refreshing in many ways to hear the deafening sound of cars "honking" for the smallest of reasons and for the longest of times. I guess Manila has made me realize that it is possible to drive a car without having to honk every 20 seconds!

Even as I waited to clear immigration after landing at the Chennai airport - I was reminded of the "openly" corrupt nature that India was in. The Philippines is known to be as corrupt as India but I still am yet to see the brazen openness that we see amidst the cops and politicians here. While we stood in serpentine queues to get our passports stamped - there we see a police guy (pretty senior official) wait inside with his wife (Though us "normal" folks aren't allowed to come in to the aiport). They were waiting for their son to arrive. As soon as he gets to where we were standing, there are a few cops who take his luggage, take his passport and run to the official at immigration and get it stamped for this guy. Why, even the guy sitting at immigration stood up to salute this chap! Lol... I actually smiled watching all of this and then reminding myself that India was still the same! Well, I carried on waiting for the next half an hour in that line and I was tempted to call a friend's mother to get help with all of this (She was in a senior position in the airport), but then I realized that there would be no difference between that Cop's son and me then.... and that I would have no right to crib about such things in India... and so I didn't make the call.

While I waited to get my check-in baggage from the baggage collection point, I saw this young couple struggling with a huge bag. Before I could offer to help them, I see this guy (With a badge and stuff - I presumed that he works at the airport) offering to help them. He brings a strolley cart and starts lifting their bags to put it on the cart. In all, he would have spent about 5 minutes carrying and arranging about 3 suitcases/bags onto that cart. I was impressed! But at the end of it, I saw him asking this guy in the classic Indian fashion for money! While the couple looked at each other and the guy pulls out his wallet, this guy goes saying, "Please give me Rs.100"! Whew! 100 bucks for just that???? And the audacity to ask for money like that. How I wish I had the authority to fire that guy! But then what difference would it make - That's how our system works... right from the top to the bottom! And there are more than enough people to point fingers at but not enough people to take these people to task.

Well, this was my sweet welcome back to India.... I sat and thought of what all needs to be done in our country before we can become truly competitive in the Asian context (not even Global). Maybe we do need a dictator to rule us for a few years to set things straight and to change the way most of us think. We take our life for granted and don't even want to change any small aspect of our lives! I kept thinking... and my eyes closed... as I sat at the domestic airport waiting for the next flight.

Monday, December 07, 2009

iPhone Battery Issue - Finally Resolved

I have the iPhone 3G for close to a year now. In the recent past, my battery had become a pain in the ass! I would charge it in the morning (say 7am) and then by 1pm I would need to charge it again. It was really killing me to carry a charger wherever I went. I was cursing Apple for this reason. I however love the iPhone on all other counts and was doing my best to put up with this "curse".

However, I recently upgraded my firmware from 3.0 to 3.1.2 and the battery issue just disappeared! Brilliant! I din't know that a firmware update could improve battery life so drastically. It now lasts me more than 15 hours! So for those of you facing the same issue as I was, you should upgrade your firmware - even if yours is a jail-broken (unlocked) phone, it would make sense to upgrade and then again get your phone unlocked.

Another observation is how Apple has such a "Halo effect" with its followers and fans! A friend of mine whose a hardcore Apple fan (He was the reason as to why I bought the Macbook Pro too) would keep telling me that the battery issue was probably coz of my usage! When I told him that I had upgraded the firmware and the battery was fine, this was his response: "See, it was your fault all along. Why didn't you just do the upgrades as they came by"!

A classic example of the "Halo effect" in Branding and Consumer Behaviour going on to Cult Branding.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

First Time Mac User - The Mac is growing onto me

Well, its been a week now since I started using my Macbook Pro. As you know it's my first time with a Mac... So this would be a continuation of my previous post - Previous Post - First Time Mac User .

As I do go to office already with my Macbook, I really am on the job with it. I installed Microsoft Office for Mac a few days ago and Entourage comes along with it (Entourage is the Mac version of MS Office). The look and feel was similar to Office except it did look better. I however chose at this point to stay with the native application - Mac Mail. It's not given me any issue till date.

I've just gotten used to the four finger thingi with the Mac - swipe the trackpad with four fingers and it shows you all the open windows/apps and you can choose which one you want to go to. Also if you swipe it upwards with four fingers, it moves all windows and shows you the desktop. This is very useful and cool!

The native Pages application (Equivalent of Word) is very simple to use and after i updated my entire software (Yes, you can install all software in the computer from one single interface - The update went on overnight), I can now export files as a Word document or PDF or many other options. These options are also available in Keynote now - which means I can export as a ppt or PDF or even a movie file. This is pretty cool. However, I must warn you that heavy PPTs take time to open on Keynote. It sometimes even Hangs while trying! This is one of the reasons as to why I installed Microsoft office for Mac. Just in case I need it to open some ppts.

I still haven't figured out an alternative to Microsoft Groove which we use at office. There is something called Microsoft Project Connection that installed along with the Office Package. I need to test whether that can connect to Groove to be able to access my workspace. Will let you know if that works out just fine.

I connected my iPhone to the Mac and they synced so beautifully! Picked up all the contacts from my phone and brought it into the Mac Mail.. Even got the pictures to be synced to the contacts. It was absolute brilliance! I do at times miss Winamp. Maybe they do have an app for the Mac. Will have to look it up. I just realised that I don't have iLife installed (Includes Garage band, Movie Maker etc). So will have to install that. To play movies with the drive, you need to set your region preferences - this is a little irritating for me coz you can only change it 5 times! That sucks! Anyways I guess most movies we watch nowadays are online or via a USB! So I'll let this one pass to Mac's benefit!

Some of the documents I transferred from my PC which were created using Microsoft Office 2007 for PC are not opening properly with Pages of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac! Don't know the reason but am still trying to figure that one out.

Keynote still has various unexplored options and I'm having fun trying to create jazzy presentations but it still is taking me time to work on. I was almost born and brought up with Microsoft Office - That kinda makes it my mother tongue! But I'm sure that over time I won't have to look Microsoft's way again!

The trackpad just grows onto you and you begin to love it! It is absolutely a fantastic bit of innovation from Apple. I just bought a netbook for a friend today and was trying to navigate using the old touchpad and it was absolutely a disaster! All of this just after a week of using a Mac! No kidding! The trackpad is brilliant! You have to experience it to even comment! I love it... Along with the brilliant battery life that this Mac is giving me. I get an easy 5 to 6 hours on my battery!

Have also gotten used to the Command + A for all actions similar to Cntrl +C in windows. So that's a good sign!

And I'm the kinda person who really spreads the good word about any product. I've been speaking to all my colleagues about it. So a colleague has already purchased a Macbook and there are another 4 of them from work who want to get one too! Awesome right! I think Apple owes me a commission on these sales!

I haven't been missing anything else from my PC over the last week. Hence, so far so good!

Goodbye and Hello - Carry AIM high

The time has come when the only mails that I see in my Asian Institute of Management (AIM) mail box are those to say Goodbye... People writing a number of lines talking about how this phase of their lives have changed them for the good or better... Or how they would miss the people etc. If you ask me, the most important thing for us (The graduating batch - Cohort 3) to do would be to hold the name of our school very high. I understand many of us do have an issue with some of the things that happen in school (specially with regards to campus placement) but at the end of the day, nothing will ever change if we don't go out being proud of AIM. When we're out - we are the ambassadors of the school.

Never once, have I ever put my school down. Even today, when I met some folks from Megalink, they looked up to us AIM students. They were truly in awe of the school. The issue here becomes that we intimidate them and hence they feel that it would be impossible for them to have an AIM student as their intern or hire. They automatically feel that we would be way too expensive for them! What they don't realise is that we aren't as difficult to handle monetarily. Specially when it comes to internships. When I did tell them that it would be possible to have interns in AIM for a monthly stipend of around P30,000, they showed a lot of interest. I promised them that I would get them through to the Career Management Services (CMS) so that they could have interns.

The internship program should be given more importance than it is given right now. It is all the more important for foreign students. Foreign students at AIM should understand that local companies should value their talents even more because we expats cost more to the company to retain - one on a monetary front as they need to pay for our expat visa and two they need to give decent reasoning to the government as to why they hired an expat instead of a local. Thus, its during the internship that one should be interested in selling oneself. If true value is seen in a person, I doubt any company would have any issues with hiring that person - no matter what the cost is and no matter what hurdles they would have to deal with. Good talent is a huge challenge for all companies today. Will elaborate more on what I feel the CMS needs to do over time in a different post.

I just hope that each and every one of us would take the name and fame of our school to a whole different high and let the world know that a new batch of leaders have just been nurtured and let into the world.

Saying Goodbye is never easy... in fact.. I hate saying Goodbye... More often than not, I try to avoid goodbyes... as they make me feel uncomfortable! I just look aside and tell myself that this aint a goodbye... rather a stepping stone to meet elsewhere.... I hope to keep my school and my batch proud... I look forward to any reunion days down where people look up to me and say "This guy made it"!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Anawangin Cove - Disconnect yourself from the World

When my friends told me that they wanted to go to Anawangin Cove - a Cove that is not known by most people (Even Filipinos don't seem to know bout it), I tried to look for it on the internet and found that its an isolated island without electricity or anything. Foreign tourists don't know bout it too - Probably because there is no mention of it in Lonely Planet!

I wasn't very open to taking a holiday in such a place. I couldn't imagine myself in a place for two days without electricity, without signal on my cell-phone, without a roof over my head (You need to carry tents) and without restaurants! After days of slogging, my idea of a break was more about sitting in the spa of a huge resort and getting myself pampered. But then my friends persisted with the idea. What finally did get my buy-in was the fact that it would hardly cost any money to do this trip (It cost me about 1500 pesos - USD 30 for the whole trip).

I did find information on the place on the internet and the pictures were stunning! I include some images here which I have sourced from other blogs. I will add my own pictures as soon as I transfer the pics from my camera. Take a look below:

Stunning isn't it? A perfect cove with white sand - Now wait a second, that isn't sand! Basically that ain't sand but sediments (or something) from a volcanic eruption years ago! And that's true. It doesn't feel like Sand in anyway. Look closer and you would see pine trees on the beach. Now has anyone seen Pine trees growing on a beach? Apparently (not verified information), this is the only beach in the world with Pine Trees. Again, because that's not sand but stuff from the volcanic eruption! Along with the sediments, the eruption sent with it Pine Seeds and hence the trees.

Well, now how do we get there from Makati? Below are the steps to get there along with the cost:

  1. Take a cab or jeepney and go to Cubao Bus Terminus or Calocan bus terminal. The cab should cost about 100 pesos to Cubao and 200 pesos to Calocan. 
  2. From there, take the Victory Liner Bus going to San Antonio via Olangopo city. This should cost about 220 pesos
  3. From San Antonio bus stand, take a toda (Three wheeler transport) to get to the dock - costs about 50 pesos per person
  4. Hire a boat to take you to Anawangin Cove (The boat ride costs about 200 pesos per person and takes about 45 minutes)
Simple and inexpensive isn't it? However, don't forget to pack a tent if you plan to stay overnight. Also, canned goods as there isn't any food there save for one small store selling Cup Noodles and eggs (Overpriced of course). Also, take a sleeping bag, or atleast a couple of sheets (bedspreads). Take some candles too as there's no light there (We didn't have to use them as the moonlight was bright enough and we lit a bonfire for most of the night). Also, of course - beachware and a beach volley ball if possible to play around. Shoes - if you are planning to trek around (Oh yes, instead of taking the boat to reach the cove, I was told that its also possible to trek there but that would take about 5 or 6 hours).

We reached there and were amazed at how beautiful the place was. Just a small stretch of beach (Can walk the entire stretch in about ten minutes). We scouted around and found that the locals there had staked their claim to their bits of land by putting up boards in small stretches reading "Private Property"! They had these small fences.... Basically, you could set up tent in their area for a price of 100 pesos per person. This is worth it because they have a few toilets built there, bring you fresh water, clean up the place after you leave and basically help you out with whatever you need.

We however chose to setup our tent in a secluded area and we didn't have to pay anyone for that. We would just pay them to use their toilets. We bought some firewood (they ask for about 100 pesos per bunch), went for a swim in the water. The water is calm but not as calm and clear as Boracay (I love the beach at Bora and that's always the benchmark for beaches in my vocabulary). But this place is far better than Puerto Galeras (I've been there) and Bataan (My friends' had been there).

We then sat by the beach and started talking around a bonfire. As we went further into the night, stories from the first day of school (The Asian Institute of Management - MBA) came out and it was fun reliving our 16 months in that one night! By the time, I fell asleep, it was about 3am in the morning! I slept on the beach instead of getting into the tent. It was pretty comfortable at night but I woke up feeling so damn cold (The sand gets so hot during the day and so cold during the night). So people, don't forget to carry a jacket and something to keep you warm at night. I woke up with a back ache and a cold!

I went swimming in the beach again, we had fun eating out of the many cans that we bought (in the excitement, we had bought enough food to feed about 20 people - we were just 6 of us).

While going back, we found it difficult to find a bus to take us back to Olangopo City (From San Antonio) since most of the buses that passed that way were already full and there were many people waiting. We however did manage to find a bus (not air-conditioned though)

The way back:
  1. Take a ferry to get to San Antonio
  2. Take a tricyle to get to the Bus stop
  3. Take a bus to Olangopo City
  4. Catch a Victory Liner going to Cubao
  5. Catch a cab to get to Makati (Could even use the local buses or jeepneys)
I strongly recommend travelling to Anawangin to detox and go "offline" for a while! Leave your computer and mobile alone for a while! It is refreshing.

Will update my pics later.... :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

First time Mac user - Macbook Pro 13" with 4GB RAM

I just got the new Macbook Pro 13" with 4GB of RAM a day ago. Before I decided to buy the Macbook Pro, I did hours and hours of research on the internet to see if I would be comfortable with the Mac. The primary reason was the fact that I have never used a Mac before and have used Windows all my life. Hence, I was reasonably worried about how many of my day to day activities would be carried out with the Mac.

We live in a world where a laptop has become a necessity and is no more a luxury. I lived without a laptop for about two weeks and I felt handicapped. When I needed to create proposals or forecasts, I tried to do it with a pencil, paper and a calculator - But nowhere does it come close to Microsoft Excel or Word for giving us all of the functionality - to delete and correct to begin with. I even wonder how our previous generation did business with typewriters!

I decided to write this post and follow it up with a number of posts to help new adopters of the Mac understand how the Mac can complement their daily life and the hurdles they would initially face when they migrate to Mac OS from Windows.

One of the advantages (or disadvantages) that happened was that I got the Macbook Pro on Wednedsay -  a day before three of my final presentations/exams in school on Thursday. I went to school that evening and was forced to start working. No time to experiment.... no time to learn! I decided to take up the challenge and not install a parallel Windows OS or any Microsoft related software. This would ensure that I first give Mac the chance to prove itself to me.

To start with, I must tell you that I was absolutely AMAZED when I opened the box and powered up the computer. It took about 20 seconds to come to life - all ready to go! That was an eye-opener to me! My old Dell would take about 3 minutes to just boot up. And here was this computer coming right out of the box and all set to go in less than 30 seconds!

The track pad will take some time to get used to, but it is pretty intuitive. I'm comfortable now with the left click (click on trackpad with one finger) and right click (click on trackpad with two fingers). I however am still not comfortable with using three fingers on the trackpad (to Scroll left and right) and four fingers (To reveal the desktop or show you all the applications that you are running). I find it very difficult with the four fingers as I'm not used to any such gesture on the laptop. Other features of the trackpad are very similar to the iPhone (I've been using an iPhone 3G for the past ten months) like the pinch and twist features for pictures. The same gestures work on this trackpad too.

The first thing I did on the Macbook was to open Photo Booth and take some pictures. That was fun as we could use the Webcam to take many different kind of pictures guided by templates available in the application. The next thing I did was set up my business Mail on the native Mailbox application (The Stamp icon on the dock). I was determined to use all the capabilities before even considering Outlook. The setup process was very easy. Signatures work here unlike Thunderbird where it is difficult to insert a signature into your mails. I have still not been able to find an option to receive a "Read Receipt" from a mail (If anyone knows of this feature in the Mac Mail application, please do let me know). Other than that, it seems pretty easy to use and is fast. Calendar invites from Outlook are understood by this Mail app and it can be setup to automatically add any invites to iCal (the native Calendar application on the Mac)

Safari is super-fast! I was using Google Chrome earlier in my Windows Vista based system and would swear by the unbelievable speed of Chrome. But Safari still has an edge over Chrome and I must say that it is the fastest browser I have ever used.

The battery life is something you should experience. There's not enough I can thank Apple for giving us such a powerful battery! I needed to charge my Dell every hour before the battery gave up on me. The Macbook Pro stays full of life comfortably for about 5 hours at the very least (They guarantee 7 hours, but I haven't seen anything close to 7, but 5 hours is awesome enough for me).

I still haven't learnt all that needs to be learnt when it comes to the File structure (Windows Explorer) - called Finder in Mac. But that's probably because I have put away the transfer of data from my External hard drive to the Mac for the weekend when I will have more time to explore the Mac.

The iChat application is so easy to setup and responds very well (Google Chat and AIM can be added here).

Before I forget, the two finger scrolling (Use two fingers on the trackpad to scroll up and down) is really cool and helpful. Saves going to the scroll bar anymore.

I installed iWork (Mac's version of Office) on my system and had to start working on creating a Presentation on Keynote (Mac's version of Powerpoint). I have to admit that it did take me some time getting adjusted to the way things work there... But the templates and the transitions that are available are amazing! The presentation did take me like 4 hours to complete (Would have taken me two hours on my MS Office) but this is because this was the first time I was working on the Software and on a Mac. But the output was like ten times better than what I would have got from Office! So, I'm satisfied and am learning quickly. There are so many templates available on Keynote and this makes life simpler! People, take note that pptx format doesn't really open well as yet with Keynote for me (My friend told me that there is a software to fix this) but I still haven't installed anything! Also, I could share the Keynote presentation with other people saving it as a Presentation (Powerpoint recognizable) but it removed many of the design elements. I couldn't save as pdf initially. I however did run an update last night : Which is very easy to do. Go to the Apple logo on the top-right corner of the screen and just click on Software update. It lists all possible updates for the computer (Includes OS and applications). This feature is really cool. I ran a full update and now when I open Keynote, I see that I have the option to export the presentation into so many different formats. So that solves that problem.

You have to use (Command + C) here instead of Control C. That took me a little while to get used to but am not comfortable with that.

Well that's it for now! Just my second day with the new Macbook Pro. Am doing well so far and have still not installed a parallel windows. Will keep you all updated with how life goes with the Macbook. Keep following this blog or follow me on twitter at for updates.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Logos and Symbols in Branding

I have had this wonderful opportunity of being able to understand in real time what I learn in my Branding classes. My engagement with Management Systems (Asia) which is a Business Publication focussing on Management Systems and Business Excellence. The magazine is now about 8 months old and we have been working towards building a Brand from scratch. Over time, we now have good recognition in the Philippines apart from Singapore where the magazine is headquartered.

But recently due to feedback we received saying that keeping the "Asia" as part of the LOGO of the magazine could limit our market to Asia. So, a debate started on whether the "Asia" should be brought out separately from the logo - like Management Systems and then "Asian edition". The argument for this was that Management Systems primarily comes from the Western countries and not from Asia. The other argument was that Management Systems may have to be tweaked for Asia, and the whole world is looking towards Asia as the next phase in the Global growth story - China and India are being looked at as the possible new powers in the world. We are seeing a power shift and Asia does excite people across the globe.

The argument continued and the organization decided to keep the Asia but not as part of the logo as that would let us be flexible at a later stage of our growth. So we embarked on a new journey to discover a logo that would best embody the attributes of the product and still ensure visibility keeping some of the physical attributes of the previous logo.

All of this has complimented by learning in my Brand Equity Classes at the Asian Institute of Management .

By the way, Management Systems (Asia) is one of the only Management Systems magazine that has an online replica of its print magazine in a very interactive and user friendly interface. Take a look at Management Systems (Asia) eMag .  You can read the whole magazine online for free on just registering.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twilight: New Moon... Now Really?

Hell... I went for this movie with so much of expectation... Not that I was in love with the previous Twilight flick... But that sure as hell was a decent movie and got me to look at Vampires in a whole new light... I've never been the kind to go for movies with Vampires etc... But the previous Twilight movie was pretty decent..

The New Moon really did keep me looking at my watch every 15 minutes wondering if it was time for the movie to get over... But when it did, I was like "Now Really"! Very abrupt end to the movie and leaves the viewer wondering if that's how the movie should have ended. I agree that there are more to come... but still...there could have been a better ending.

There were a number of good scenes though... The "fight sequences" have been done very well with a good background score. The style quotient of the "Vampires" have been taken to a whole new level.

Some of the scenes just drag on and on and make you wonder whether the director wanted to put you to sleep! An all-out chick flick with bare bodied hunks running around the place in the guise of were-wolfs! A must watch for all the "Vampire crazy" gals out there and the romantic guys who wanna keep their gal friends happy! For the others, I would suggest you read the story online and wait for the next in the saga (Which I hear is much better - the book is supposed to be better).... For me, I wouldn't give up on the series as yet and will wait for the next episode before I walk away from the "Twilight"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Final Run

Well its down to the last ten days... The last stretch... The home run... Call it what you may... But its really beginning to sink down really hard inside me that my life in Makati is going to change in just a little while...My MBA at the Asian Institute of Management ( is now almost done.... At one end, I am glad to be done so that I can get back to working seriously and getting down to some serious travel. But on the other hand, I'm going to have to say goodbye to so many of the good friends I've made over the past 16 months.  And these months have flown past... I still remember so very clearly the first day - The day I arrived to Manila... not knowing a single soul... Opening a new chapter in my life.... Meeting people... The formation of the friends' circle... Our first few parties outside... The first few quizzes... The first few "Cold Calls" in Larry Tan's (LOB Professor)  class... the first few parties by the pool side... the first few kareoke songs we heard the Filipinos sing by the poolside, the first Marketing projects... the CAN groups... the first few days in the dorm... And what not... And after all these months.... I wonder when it went on from the first to the second and on and on! It all feels so close... so near....But its now getting down to the last few things with some of the best friends and best people I have met in life...

I know its strong to call it the last... But well, life will change and things will go on... And at this stage, its so weird that every few days I seem to be getting an invitation to some friend's wedding or the other... The times have changed... I feel like I've actually aged... gone into a new phase of my life... Most of my friends now are older than me.... Most of the people I interact are much older than me...

Well as always, nothing better to do at such moments than listen to Guns N Roses! He he... did it when I left school... Did it when I left engineering college... When I left Infosys.... When I left HCL... When I left India... and now... When I have to say Goodbye yet one more time....

And once again, I hope I have made the right decision and things are going to go just fine for me... Did take a lot of thinking from my side despite what many of my friends think - To stay back here in this country... I believe that my future is going to start from the Philippines and other South East Asian countries.... So now I need to travel and meet as many new people as possible... To a new phase in my life.... I dedicate this phase to all my friends over the past 25 years of my life.....

Monday, November 02, 2009

500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer - One of the best movies I have seem in recent times. Nothing larger than life in this movie and everything is so realistic that most of us would be able to relate to a "Summer" (Summer's the name of the girl in the movie) in our lives. The attention to detail which brings out the small things in life that make such a big difference really kept me very engaged. Small things such as Summer not holding his hand when he gives it out and then the expressions on their faces.... These are things that for sure each and every one of us would have experienced some time in our lives...... The small indicators we look for... the strong beliefs we have inside of us that the person we are is for sure the ONE!

The movie also plays frames from different times not being chronologically in order... Which reminds me of Mani Ratnam's Alaipayuthe (Tamil movie director) which also showed shots from different portions in time and then brought the story together. Even here, they show different days in the 500 days which actually turns out to be very humorous and also gets us very involved in the story line.

Watch 500 days of Summer and you will realize that there are so many more possibilities to life.... Don't lose hope on love... but remember that there are many FISH in the sea! And finally, one of the best lines in the movie..... "You were not wrong, You were just wrong about me"!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Motivation - The last stretch always seems too long!

When you don't even have time to think,
And time flies by in a blink,
Where do you look for the drive?
To keep ignited in you that fire.

Passion has always pushed me on and on,
But now I wonder whether I'm falling down.
I need a sign to keep me standing strong,
The last stretch always seems too long.

But, yes I do know that I have to finish this race... and then go on to finish all the other races... For of course, however, we try to hide from it, we are in this Rat Race called "Life"! I wonder when I'll be out of it... and look down at the race and smile!

A.R.Rahman - The Mozart of Chennai

A friend of mine sent me a link ( to a new Hollywood film called Couples Retreat starring Vince Vaughn amongst others produced by Universal Pictures. To my surprise, the soundtrack is totally composed and produced by none other than our very own A.R.Rahman ( For those ignorant of the name, A.R.Rahman is most known around the globe for his Oscar award for Slumdog Millionaire - he's the one who composed "Jai Ho".

The movie even has a Tamil song that is awesome! Well, now if that's not taking Tamil and India to the world, what is? We truly have a global Indian now! I've just been listening to the music and the songs seem to have a Jamaican beat to it apart from the Indian tablas gracing a few of the tracks!

For those who have been following A.R.Rahman from "Roja" - his first entry into mainstream films, this is seen as an accomplishment of sorts. I was very young when Roja released. I think I was eight years old at that time and till date I still do believe that the soundtrack for that movie was almost his best! I still listen to the songs from that movie 16 years later! I have been following every single movie of his and have never been disappointed with the music! And now I can't wait to watch the movie, Couple's Retreat to see how the music blends with the movie. Now whether this movie is a hit or a flop, this heralds a new dimension to Hollywood -entry of Indian music into mainstream Hollywood films... I do wonder though, if there would be more dance sequences like in Indian films! Ha ha ha!!! That would be funny! To watch Hollywood stars break out into  colourful dance sequences!!

Way to go A.R.Rahman! We are truly proud of you!  Jai Ho!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One night at the Police Station

I had never been to a police station in the Philippines (Touch wood) and I thank god for keeping me clear of those lovely gentlemen whose responsibility is to guard and protect us. However, I landed up having to go there for no fault of mine. A colleague of mine from work called me frantically to help her out with an issue at about 4 in the morning. Her room-mate and friend was apparently in jail! Both of them are Austrians and haven't been in the country for more than 2 weeks. So she had no clue what to do and I couldn't decline to help a "damsel in distress"!

I diligently carry my PRESS ID (I work with Management Systems Asia - An Asian business magazine and so of course that makes me part of the PRESS) not really knowing what I would do with it at a Police station. I go along with her to the station which took me almost an hour to find and see that this guy has been into a brawl with a few of the bouncers at Tabu. They brought him to the station and filed charges against the guy. When I asked the bouncers (security guards) to tell me what happened - The guy tells me that this Austrian guy was fooling around with the girls at the bar and when he was questioned he hit the bouncer. The security guy also showed me his jeans which were torn and said that it tore because he was kicked there!

When I asked my colleague more about the guy (let's call him Tony for now), she said that the story was highly unlikely because Tony was gay and moreover he was not a violent person and couldn't really harm a fly! Anyway, it didn't really make sense to me to try to fight it out.

I however did make it very clear to the cops and the bouncers that I was a member of the PRESS and they couldn't get away with trying to scare me with all of their big talk. I saw that this stand of mine did wonders to quicken things. I understood that the cops and these two bouncers were working together to try to extort as money as they could from us. I didn't want to have a long and fruitless argument with those guys and that too so early in the morning. I just wanted to finish the issue and get home to my cozy bed! We landed up paying about 2000 pesos to that guy to get his jeans replaced and also for his "medical check-up"!

A funny thing that happened to me during this whole incident was that the cop was being over friendly to me once he knew I was with the PRESS and he even asked me for my business card so that we could stay in touch! Most of the cops there at the station asked for my number and so did the security guards. So much for being a part of the media.

So that was my first experience of being to a police station here in Manila and as I thought of the experience much later, I do realize that apart from the numerous other things that I have learnt from AIM, I have learnt to fine tune my negotiation skills as I feel I did a pretty good job of sorting things out at the Police Station. Well, that was most of my "One night (Ok... Just a few hours) at the Police Station"

Diwali Party at AIM

Last evening was super awesome on many counts! We celebrated Diwali at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM). There were a number of cultural shows - participation was from various parts of the world. And the best part of it was that we actually had a dance for a Tamil Song - "Appadi Podu". Am sure the videos of the event will soon start surfacing on youtube and I will link it to this post as soon as I do see one.

My friends at AIM actually managed to convince me to do a small 30 second Cameo in their dance program since I really am passionate about "Dapanguthu" - A south Indian form of folk dance ( . Well, it was well worth it as it gave me the energy to go on for the rest of the night! It was a night of sorts as I actually tired myself out dancing, spoke to so many people, found myself at so many places..... I even visited the Police Station! More on the Police Station in my next post!

All of this just makes me wonder how life would be just a month away from now when I will be done with my MBA at AIM! Most of my friends would leave and go back to India while I'm gonna be staying back here. How different would life be? I wonder if it would become boring and make "Philippines" look not that attractive anymore? My circle of friends in the Philippines would go down by about 70% as most of the close friends I have right now are from school.

But I'm sure that would open me up to even bigger challenges and that would make me speak to more people around the country and forge new relationships and bonds with the people of this country. My quest to understand the Filipino culture would be accelerated by the change in my environment.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Diversity and Cultural Harmony at AIM

Just got back from school - The Asian Institute of Management... and this evening actually further reassured me that I never did make a mistake to come out of India to do my Masters in Business Administration! I saw unity amidst such cultural diversity once again! There were a bunch of Juniors studying quietly at one end of the Zen garden for some exam they have tomorrow... At another end there were a bunch of exchange students from France, Belgium, Germany and Austria dancing to a Punjabi song! And at yet another end... a bunch of Indians dancing for a Tamil song! All of this for the Diwali celebrations at AIM tomorrow! Now this has got to be an eye opener of sorts for anyone watching... to see the kind of harmony between people from all across the globe! The Europeans were so interested in learning why Indians celebrate Diwali and they actually are closely involved with all of the activities for next evening.....

All of this again makes me wonder how life is going to be exactly one and a half months from now! I finish my MBA and get back to working.... Will for sure miss the school life... I guess this is going to be the last bit of formal schooling or education in my life (Famous last words... some people may say)! I also wonder at times whether I am making a mistake to choose not to go the huge corporate life way and instead take a different part with a smaller start-up firm to steer the company to where it rightfully belongs... And as always I have more questions than answers and every answer I come up with leads to a number of other questions.... But one thing remains clear to me.... I have come to the right place at the right time,..... and am with the right set of friends..... Thank you god.... For showing me the way.....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Infosys - Always a company I will respect and love

It is now close to 3 years since I left Infosys Technologies where I worked at earlier and the memories of the company (Note: I said company and not the job) still linger on strongly in my mind. It is all the more stronger now as I during our case discussions, Infy keeps coming into the discussion - The good thing being is that the name comes up for all the right things. Be it Corporate Governance, being transparent, be it Brand Personality, be it Values, or be it Character of an organization - we hear Infosys in the discussion. I've done a couple of cases on Infosys in school already.

Thinking back - I feel that the company today (Infosys) has taken on the character and personality of Shri. Narayana Murthy or NRN (That's what we called him in Infy). He has successfully transferred his personality into the values of the brand name - Infosys. Below is a small excerpt from a speech he made at Infosys 25 (Celebrating Infy's 25th Birthday). I was at the ceremony at Mysore and I still remember the goose-bumps I had all over my hand when I heard him say this... felt proud to be a part of the company.

"When, in 1992, the young librarian asked by the then Head of Education & Research Dr. Vishwanathan about a library book, referred to me the borrower as that gentleman who sits in the corner, it was then that I knew that our jobs had been done in demolishing hierarchy in the organization. When the first telephone was established at the house of P. Bala who was in-charge of our computer center and not in the house of the CEO, I knew we had created a customer-focused organization. When we spent 1.5 times our revenue in 1992 to build India’s first campus, I knew we had started on a journey of worthy dreams. When we politely refused General Electric’s unreasonable conditions in 1995 and walked away from their business when they formed 25% of our revenues and 8% of our profits, I knew we had built a courageous and principled organization. When Mr. Ramachandrappa, an attendant at Infosys told me recently and invited me to the fabulous house that he had built, I knew our experiment in democratization of wealth had achieved success and indeed had served a great purpose. When Infosys Foundation financed and fulfilled the dream of higher education of a bright but poor Hanumantappa belonging to a disadvantaged community in Karnataka, I knew our hearts were in the right place. When I stood up in front of 1500 investors and accepted that we had indeed erred in investing some of our free cash flows in the secondary market and lost it, I knew we had fulfilled our pledge to be transparent with our investors. Friends, I can go on and on and on, but what is important is to remember that we have bigger challenges and rewards ahead of us. I will not be there when all of this is achieved, but I know that we have a wonderful set of people led by Nandan, Kris and others. But we all have to remember one thing and that is aspirations, courage, principles, and innovation and relentless focus on execution will carry you all to that great success that you all want to achieve." - Shri Narayana Murthy

Monday, October 12, 2009

Management Systems Asia - Asia's upcoming Business Magazine

Well, I've recently been helping out with Management Systems Asia (MSA) which is a new business magazine with a special focus on Asia. MSA is clearly designed to be a 'Magazine for Managers" with its articles designed to help Managers do their daily tasks better and also help their organization/company perform better. The magazine helps them to update their skills/ capabilities without having to go to school. Even the "lifestyle" section if I may call it that focusses on helping managers understand the finer aspects required in doing business - such as Business networking, etiquette, cultural differences and the likes.

I have always had an inclination towards working with Creative products (a testimony to which is my blog title) but I never did think I would end up with the media after doing my Bachelors in Industrial Engineering and then now almost on the verge of completing my Masters in Business Administration.

You can view more details of this fast growing magazine at or even read the eMagazine for free at .

Overall, I would feel that this magazine is going to be a powerful force to reckon with over the next few years. I am able to see the growth patterns and there is a powerful brand that is being built from scratch. Lucky are those advertisers, partners, writers who associate themselves with the brand at this stage.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A contrarian view of the Indian Economy

I just got back from a trip to India and I spent a lot of time with my grandfather who shared his ideas and ideals with me. It interested me immensely as it seemed to be a totally contrarian view of the Indian economy that what was taught to me at Business School or prescribed by the Management Gurus and Economists of the day...

Firstly, he attacked the concept being sold by most of our politicians and economists including the then Finance minister, Mr.P.Chidambaram that Indians should be instigated and motivated towards spending in order to see a revival of the economy in these recessionary times. He believes that this is a wrong policy to be advocated for India as India has primarily been an economy driven by savings. Of course, spending has increased over the years, but Indians have mostly been thought to save. Even as I grew up, my mother and grandparents told me time and again that every rupee saved goes a long way in the future and encouraged us to be both penny and pound wise. It was drilled into us to save from a very young age right from the time when we were given our first piggy bank and encouraged to put in every single rupee we could save into this. When the piggy bank filled up, it was a ceremony of sorts at home where it would be broken to take out the savings, counted and then deposited in a bank for us. A new piggy bank would return to take the place of the old one.

Further, he also said that it was a known fact that India was an agriculture based economy and pushing an Industrial Revolution in the country without giving Agriculture the support it needed would only skew the economy to look polished on the outside leaving the rusted portions hidden temporarily. Most of India's Finance ministers and Economists such as Manmohan Singh or Chidambaram or even the late Jawaharlal Nehru have been educated in the west where they have been taught that Industries need to grow for the economy to grow and Consumption should increase to show economic growth. What these people are forgetting is that India is an Agriculture based economy and Indians are taught to save and can't be made to spend money very easily. I agree that this is changing in the urban areas where young people are flush with money and their disposable incomes are high but when you go to the rural areas, people still would think before each additional rupee that they earn is to be saved rather than spent. It is also only in India that people think of saving for their children and their grandchildren. Saving in western nations are primarily to take care of themselves in their old age but is not the same case in India. Families save for generations below them and accumulate wealth in the form of gold and land. Thus, the western school of thought is not pertinent to a country like India where economic growth can be a direct function of spending. Thus, instead of reducing interest rates to tempt Indians to save, the government should spend money to develop agriculture and the rural areas in order to spur the economy.

If the government were to spend towards developing roads and other infrastructure in the villages and towns and even consider moving major educational institutes into these rural areas this would set off a multiplier effect in these rural areas leading to fast development of rural India. This would be in the line of the Gandhian school of thought now christened "Gandhian economics" where he advocated a scattered economy for India.

Much of India's prosperity today is concentrated in Urban Industrial centres and this has led to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. We still hear of Farmer suicides when newspapers and televisions are reporting the fast growing economic might of India.

My grandfather advocates that growth should be stimulated from the rural areas and there is no better time than now when there is a global recession. Let most of the stimulus be in the rural areas and develop the infrastructure there and push educational institutes from the cities into rural areas as this would be the key factor in setting the multiplier into play. Once the infrastructure has been developed and education has been setup in the rural areas, industries would automatically begin to grow there and there would be jobs created in the rural areas.

I feel this is an interesting perspective on the Indian economy and maybe solutions from Harvard and Porter aren't as pertinent to the Indian economy and our Harvard educated ministers should now re-think their strategies for development. 

At the end of the day, what works becomes fine strategy and what doesn't makes for a fine case study!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Strategy for Small Companies to take on Larger Multi-National Firms

Quality and “Perceived Value of Quality” – A strategy for Small firms to take on the large Multi-National firms


With globalization and liberalization came the mighty onset of Multi-National Companies with the power and resources to wipe out local domestic players. In this game of “David Vs Goliath”, how do the local domestic players succeed in holding their forte, and compete with limited resources and talent? Traditionally marketing and advertising in small local companies have been handled by one of the members in the firm with at the most some local ‘amateurish’ help. They would sit and brain storm amidst them-selves on how they feel could be the best way to utilize the shoe-string budget that had been allocated to them to maximize returns.


Coming from a region in India with a large number of ‘family-run’ businesses and where people thought it was a shame to not be able to be one’s own boss, I have had the opportunity to observe a number of such small businesses including my own. Most of these businesses have existed for more than 40 years with the 3rd of 4th generation of family members now looking after the business. There was earlier a generation of people who believed that advertising was a way of “blinding” customers to other critical factors such as quality and value. They felt that advertising was necessary only for companies and industries that were not confident of their quality and ability to get customers to purchase their product. Over time, they faced the consequences of this line of thought and lost market share to other domestic players.


So thinking on these lines, this brings me to the question, “With excellent advertising, is it possible to get the customer to buy anything?” Is quality only a perceived parameter that can be driven into the customer with the right kind of advertising? If so, is it wise or necessary to spend on quality improvement programs like TQM, Six Sigma and Quality Control measures? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a product that “just manages” to satisfy the customer and divert the funds that would have been used to make a “high quality” product towards advertising and hence increase the “perceived value of quality” from the customer.


I take a break from this line of thought to bring to the front the scenario most of these small firms are in today. With the advent of multi-nationals who have “bottom-less” pockets when it comes to the sizes of their advertising budgets and their expenses on Research and Development. They can bring out the best of both worlds driving towards achieving both physical quality and spending on advertising towards increasing the value of perceived quality to the customer. But what does the customer want? Does he want to be delighted every time and in every product? I don’t think so! When we go to the super market to pick up a tube of toothpaste, we don’t expect the product to delight us every time we use it to brush our teeth; we want to ensure that the toothpaste satisfies basic factors such as fresh breath and anti-bacterial protection amongst others. We are not concerned and we don’t even know if the next time we buy the toothpaste; it is able to fight germs even better!


The initial reaction of all of these small firms to compete with global players has been to increase spending on their Research and Development to be able to compete on “physical quality” of their product hoping that it would make them more competitive and then strain their cash flows by pushing what little they have remaining to advertise on less main-stream modes such as posters, radio and promotional items. There has been a tendency to focus on constantly coming up with promotional items such as “free gifts” and also competing largely on price. They have been forced to reduce prices oblivious to the fact that getting into a price war with the “Goliaths” is the last thing that they can afford to do as that would be the first step towards digging their own grave. I have seen a number of such firms fall from their position as market leaders or being acquired by the large firms over the years.


So how do they compete? Apart from a numerous other methods available such as niching, positioning and all of the “Porter-jargon”, I feel that there can be a trade-off made between “physical quality” and “perceived quality” that can enable these firms to compete with the giants. So where lies this point? We can study the same from the diagram below comparing “physical quality” and “perceived quality”.


The Graveyard – This is the term I have used to refer to firms that are both low on physical quality and on perceived quality. The firms in this region of the matrix will die a natural death over time.


The Bleeding Sheep – These are firms that are high on physical quality and low on perceived quality. These firms are those which still believe that quality sells itself and are heavily investing in improving their quality of their product without being able to communicate the same to the customer. They feel that the solution to their dropping market share should be to further spend on improving the “physical quality” of their product. They are the bleeding sheep because they are slowly bleeding to death as their cash flows are highly constricted and I also refer to them as sheep as they try to replicate all the methods and processes used by the multi-nationals.


The Goliath – This positioning is where most of the multi-nationals armed with deep “war chests” are positioned. While they are constantly spending towards improving their ‘physical quality’ by means of Research and Development and Process Improvement Programs, they are also constantly communicating their high level of quality to the consumer thus raising the perceived value of the product in the minds of the customers. This is where ever firm – small or large aims and dreams to be.


The David(s) – This segment of the matrix represents firms with a low level of “physical quality” and a high level of “perceived quality”. I would like to bring to your attention that when I mean a “low” level of physical quality, I am referring to a threshold level of quality which translates to the customer just being satisfied rather than being delighted and excited to hold your product. This is my recommended positioning for small firms to compete with the large MNCs. The blue circle is the optimal trade-off point that I recommend small firms should position themselves – being a product that satisfies the consumer but working towards increasing the “perceived value” of the product in the minds of the consumer.


Increasing the “perceived value” of the product in the minds of the consumer can be done with focussed advertising. The company should divert the funds that it would have allocated towards increasing the “physical quality” of the product in terms of capital expenditure, process improvement programs and promotional items towards highly focussed advertising communicating quality to the consumer. Focussed advertising could be in terms of geography or target market. If in case of geography, it could be in terms of first fortifying its base in its home market regionally before it goes on towards advertising in newer markets. Focussed advertising is a very important aspect in this strategy as the advertising budget that these firms is not enough to compete nationally or globally with the “Goliaths” and hence they should focus all of their resources towards maximizing results.


Once, these actions begin to translate into increased market share, these firms can choose to expand into newer markets following the same strategy and when their cash flows are strong, they can consider spending towards increasing the value of “physical quality” of their product. This would help them to move into the “Goliath” segment and then they will be a force to reckon with.


While writing this article, I have mainly used products to validate my arguments and have not yet considered the applicability of this matrix and approach to the services sector. The matrix will change for the services sector as in that case the “physical quality” is too closely linked to the “perceived value” of quality.


For example, people from South India may have heard of VVD Coconut Oil. For the benefit of others, Coconut Oil is used in India on the hair as one would use a hair cream. VVD Coconut Oil has successfully positioned itself as a force to reckon with in its home turf and has defended its position against “Parachute” which is a national brand from the house of Marico. The processes that VVD uses towards achieving “physical quality” is not as mature and developed as that of Parachute and so is the same with the expenditure on Research and Development, but VVD has successfully communicated its “perceived value of quality” through the times to the customer in its home turf by means of focussed advertising.


Try to think of any consumer product that you know is strong or weak regionally and fit it into the boxes and you will see that this model can be validated. There may me many ways for small firms to compete with the large giants and this article tries to highlight one of the ways. What is most important is for the smaller firms to acknowledge that they are not in a position to be able to compete with the MNCs in all aspects and hence they should identify and recognize their areas of competence and try to study if improvement in that facet could lead to improving their market share. If their findings indicate that it could lead to an improvement in market share, they should choose to focus a maximum portion of their resources towards their competency. This could make them all the more competitive. Remember that everyone likes the underdogs and even in the story of David and Goliath, everyone roots for David! Try to use this to pull the market into your favour. Falling down is not defeat…. Defeat is when you refuse to get up.