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May 26, 2013

Career 101 – Career Tips for IT Professionals

I have mostly been on the "hiring" side of the table. Based on that experience, I am listing down few career tips – mostly around soft skills. Again, the tips are directed towards professionals in IT industry, but it should be applicable in every industry with some modifications. I am happy to hear (or read) your perspective and learn from the same.

1) Pace out your career!

There is no rush. You do not need to achieve the pinnacle of your career by the age of 30. It is not important to simply scale the peak. The journey is more important than the destination. It is equally important to stay put or at least climb down gracefully when your capabilities are not in line with the ever changing and growing demand of your professional career.

It is okay to push yourself and improve your capacity and capability in a sustainable way. But do not be reckless.

2) What is your ROI?

Think over it. Calculate it. Ensure that you calculate it before your boss does. Are you able to deliver what is expected at your level? You can only grow if your value proposition is high, distinct and visible. Set clear and high goals and milestones. Make sure that you only work with a company that has alignment with your personal goals. Align your goals with your organization's. Take help from your management team to do so. Without clear ROI, you can never have a satisfying and rewarding career.

3)  Stay well oiled

If your job is to carry heavy machinery on your shoulder, make sure that you exercise and keep your body in top shape. If your job is to write software code, ensure that you exercise your brain. You can do so by learning new technologies (with self initiative), having intellectual discussions around your subject to add to your knowledge. Observe how people make decisions, ask questions, understand the decision making processes – this will make you sharper and valuable.

4) Love your work

Do not take up a profession that you do not LOVE. If you do not love unearthing accounting frauds, do not get into Audit as a profession. If you do not like writing software, do not get into a programming job. It will be an ordeal – for you and your employer. If you are doing so – change it today. It is said "Do what you love, and you will never have to work ever".

5) Work for excellence

You must be proud of your work. Not for the sake of it, but because you are confident that your work is best in its class. It needs a lot of passion, hard work and self criticism to achieve this. To be excellent, you need to have laser sharp focus – to learn, to observe and to absorb from your peers and ones who have excelled.

6) Love your company

Yeah, I know – its being idealistic. But, honestly if you do not respect your organization, you should not belong there. It is important to have a feeling of ownership, a sense of mission and a state of belongingness to be able to achieve and deliver. Every organization (and people) will have their strength and weakness. We need to understand, adjust and improve them ,if we can. Criticizing them wont help anyone. If the weaknesses far out-weights the strengths, and you cannot love your organization, its time to move on. But, as long you are associated, there has to be 100% commitment.

7) Surround yourself with good people

In every organization you will find different kind of people. It depends upon you, whom you choose to spend your time. Spending time with the right people will help you acquire the desired skills (soft and hard) that you need to achieve your goals. Indulge in healthy debates and discussions.

Avoid smalltalk and gossips. Remain positive. Have your own perspective that you must derive from your own logical thinking instead of simply adopting conclusions from people around you. Share your opinion and thoughts – not only with your colleagues, but also with your seniors and take feedback. Keep your mind open. Every coin / thought has two (or more) aspects.

8) Create value for clients

You work for a company, but your salary bills are paid by the clients that the company has. Think about them. Benefit them with your skills. I call it top-down value creation. If the client benefits, your company benefits. If your company benefits, you have better ROI (see point #2). And if you have clear ROI, you move up the chain.

9) Let go the ego

The higher you need to rise, you need to shed the weight of your ego. Some learn it the difficult way, and some adopts humility as the way of life. The higher you move, the more you need to get things done from your team members AND the more you need to align up with clients. If you want to take them along, you need to respect their ego more than yours.

10) Ethics – the real #1

My definition of morals and ethics is: Do to others as you would have them do to you.(Luke 6:31).  I have seen many people justify their acts as "ethical" and "legal" because that benefit them. But the best way to judge that is – will you like your friend to do it to you? or will you like your employee do it to you? This is the real #1 tip!

Remember: The journey is more important than the destination.

I am sure you all know of 100 more tips and feel free to add to this list..

 

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February 25, 2011

Is "happy employee" a myth?

Being healthy does not mean that one has never been sick. It means that one has had many more healthy days than the days in which one has been sick. Similarly, a happy employee does not mean one has never had any problems at work. It means their chances of having a fulfilling work day are higher.

Happiness is an emotion and hence it’s a very personal thing. It is a state of mind. Different people will be happy (or otherwise) in different situations. Some of them are induced by the workplace and some by their personal circumstances.

Therefore it is very difficult to generalize it for anyone – be it an employee or an entrepreneur.

So, how an employee can be happy?

1)    By not working!

2)    By adapting to organization and people

3)    By aligning needs with goals

Let us try to understand them in a little but more detail:

Not working

Everyone has a desire to achieve something in the given profession. They want to make a difference in a given way and want to make a living out of that. This is a great approach for a perfectly happy work life. Most people use the word “work” to specify something that one has to do for making a living. But, when you do something you are passionate about, you are not working! You are doing it because it makes you happy.

Unfortunately, on several occasions, the immediate need overpowers passion and the dream is lost. The fulfillment of immediate needs, which is mostly derived due to peer comparison, is a great feeling. This mostly revolves around money, benefits, quality of life, position and power. They look so attractive that most people are forced to believe it to be the goal of their career. People end up choosing a job which they are not particularly happy with but it pays well.  Does the story of engineers doing MBAs sound familiar to you?

The by-product of a career becomes the end purpose of the career and the desire is killed. And, in doing so, play is transformed to work.

If people do not let these forces of immediate needs drive them, they can surely have a happy career.

P.S.: To make sure that employees really make the difference, it is most important that the goals of the organization and that of the employee align with each other. Else, it will end up in work, work and more work!

Adapting to organization and people

It is common to see that when someone joins an organization, they shower all praises for the same and its management team. Then gradually he becomes indifferent to the same and takes it for granted. And finally he starts hating it. It is time to look for a new job!

So the question is: Has the person changed? Has the company changed?
Neither of them may have changed.
What has changed? – Perception.

Every organization and human being looks great at the first instance, simply because everyone wants to present their best self. However, as the relationship grows, both learn more about each other. When the person is unable to take the new found perception of the organization in stride, dissatisfaction grows.

No organization is perfect. No human being is perfect. It is critical to adapt.

Similarly, to be happy at work, one needs to see things holistically. When we look at things by stepping in someone else’s shoe, we understand things better and are able to adapt to the members of the organization. Heartaches and frustration can be avoided, and meaningful discussions can be made by doing so.

Aligning goals with needs

A good organization can manage the hierarchy of needs in the workplace. But how can we manage the same beyond that, i.e. in personal life?

This question is more crucial as the demarcation between work life and personal life is rapidly fading in most organization. I do not see this as a problem, because for a happy employee, work and personal life cannot be separated because they pursue work to satisfy their personal goals.

Therefore it is not necessary to demarcate work and personal life. But it is critical that personal goals and needs are well aligned to the work life.

It needs major functional change (and scalability) in the human resource management framework of companies. And the employee needs to have clear unbiased focus on personal and professional priorities.

This is easier said than done!

So, the happy employee is a possibility. There are happy employees, but less in numbers. Even if companies desire, they cannot scale and customize the human resource framework to make majority of the employees happy. Also, it may not be possible for every employee to follow passion and adapt. Both factors put together make “happy employee” a rare phenomenon, thus raising the question – “Is the happy employee a myth?”

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January 22, 2011

My interview @ Mixergy.com

Recently, I was interviewed by Andrew Warner of Mixergy.com. Here is the video for you. Please post all your reactions at Mixergy only (link given below), so that the conversation stays in one place and everyone can relate to it.

P.S.: The positive emails after this video interview has inspired me to do a detailed video story of INT. It is not the biggest story ;), but I am sure there will be few takeaways and I will be happy if it helps anyone.

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September 4, 2010

Bootstrapping 101

In a follow up to my previous blog post about "Bootstrapping Myths", here are some tips for those bootstrapped startups. I have applied many of these techniques myself, and hence suggesting the same:

1) Speed is critical

When you run a business, your expenses are ON. Your revenue is OPTIONAL (i.e. only available when you close deals!). And, you need to self-sustain within the given means. Therefore speed is critical. You need to experiment fast, learn fast and earn fast. If you don't, you will run out of the little cash box that you have, and the venture will be hit.

2) Start small

Do not hesitate to start small.

There is a fantastic concept called – "compounding". If a number keep doubling itself for 25 times, you will have a big scale. Therefore keep a goal to keep multiplying in a sustainable way. Remember the chessboard problem!

3) Execute, then plan

One common problem I have seen in most startups (or even bigger companies), that make them un-viable (read: un-sustainable) is excessive planning and very little execution. Things are changing faster than before, and therefore many ideas / thoughts get obsolete by the time they are executed. Therefore, prepare a gut based on some "core concepts" or "thoughts" that define your way of doing things (warning: be flexible about changing these core beliefs, if proven wrong!), apply this gut to the sketchy plan that you have on the paper-napkin, and take a call. Then learn from the outcome, feed the gut new info, and repeat the process.

If you do not go out and do things, you will never understand how it works. If you are putting together an assumption that you can get X number of customers by sending a blast mailer to 1 million users, then do a trial on 1000 and see if you get 1/1000th of the estimated numbers? If not, then re-validate your theory. If you keep thinking and guessing and planning, you will end up being in a dream land – with no fundamentals.

4) CEO = Chief Everything Officer

If you do not believe in the above equation, do not even think of starting a business (forget about bootstrapping it!).

You got to do everything that the business needs. It can start from cleaning your office to negotiating a deal with the biggest retail outlet in your town, from calling prospective employees to installing the server.

5) Barter / Trade

You will be amazed to discover how many things you can barter – and save cost and build strong relationships. Look at opportunities with your vendors where you can swap services / products. It will not only save you money, but will give you new customers / clients / consumers. Make sure that you:

  • put a clear $$ value to your offering
  • are not too pushy
  • are offering something that is relevant to the other person

Barter / trade may not happen in the exact form as it used to happen in stone age. What you can expect is to get a "heavy" discount on your purchase bill from your vendor for the services you are offering.  Also, you may not get barter deals from very well established players. You may have to look for vendors who are good, but do not have a very big order book – difficult but possible.

6) Negotiate, then re-negotiate

It is okay to negotiate. Many-a-times, we just feel embarrassed to negotiate. There is always a better deal / bargain / price waiting for you. You just need to take the initiative to offer a price that you feel is fair for the product / service (or what you can offer). Sometime, you may have to start below your comfort zone, so that both of you can meet at your comfort zone.

And yes, do not feel embarrassed to re-negotiate, if need arise. There is no set rule and the deal is not finalized, till you sign the dotted line. You deserve the best.

Just be fair!

Note: I strongly advice that you research the prices (caution: compare apples with apples – specially while buying services). Sometimes this can result in big savings.

7) Invest in technology

If technology can be deployed properly, it can save a lot of money. It can also improve organizational efficiency, which can become an important differentiator and help you garner more business. Spend time to understand different technologies available, which can reduce cost, enable collaboration, improve communication and make you look / work smart.

Technology need not necessarily cost a lot of money. Adopt open source and free software. There is one for almost every possible business application 🙂 Cheer up!

8) Extra-ordinary income

There are some indirect avenues from which your business can generate cash.

  • Sub-lease part of your office space / give out desk space / invite others to come and work with you and share costs
  • Do garage sale – do not hang on to things that you may not near in near future (specially computers!)

9) Get your accounting right

Everyone will probably suggest that – get a good accountant.

I will say that – spend time in learning as much about accounts as you can. Accounts let you see and listen into your business. If you do not understand it, you will be at a loss of control over your business. You should know your numbers like the back of your hand. And you should be constantly analyzing ratios (over a time line) like turnover, profit, current ratio, acid test ratio, solvency ratio, debtors / creditors turnover, etc. This will let you know the direction of your business, so that you can steer it clear of accident prone zones!

Set up management information system and decide upon core organizational metrics to measure key parameters such as sales performance, customer satisfaction, customer distribution, product quality, etc. And, take action to streamline things which look out of place. Else, all the effort is a waste.

Imp Note: It need not be the most expensive software system on the planet. You can simply use spreadsheets to manage that!

10)  Sell without spending

There are several ways in which you can generate sales without spending a lot of money in advertising. You will discover your own set of tricks while you do business (relevant to your business). Some very common ways are:

  • Social media
  • Networking events
  • Word of mouth referral
  • PR / Media

These methods will result in lowest "cost of sale" and will give you your "most loyal customers". Keep your eyes (and mind) open to make deals. They will happen.

11) Hire for attitude / Appraise for performance

When you end up hiring – hire for attitude / talent. The degrees do not matter.

Spend time in developing them (I think this is why they call it Human Resource Development) – aligning them to company requirements / goals – and then measure their performance – and give feedback.

If you sustain the wrong people, they wont probably let your company sustain – hence killing the idea of "bootstrapping".

Conclusion

I hope these small random ideas about bootstrapping will help you in a small way. If you have an interesting tip to share, please post it as a comment, and I will be happy to include it. Feel free to share them!

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February 10, 2010

Interview on SEO Outsourcing by Kelvin Newman @ SiteVisibility

I was recently interviewed by Kelvin Newman @ SiteVisibility.

Here is the link:
http://www.sitevisibility.co.uk/blog/2010/02/09/a-crash-course-in-seo-outsourcing-offshoring-with-abhishek-rungta/

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January 14, 2009

Implications of the Satyam fiasco

Satyam fiasco was a shocker for me. I have been closely monitoring it for quite some time as a scam of this magnitude can have a ripple effect in the Indian IT industry. There has been thousands of reactions from all over the world. I logged in to twitter to see how the story unfolds, as it is supposed to be the real time micro-blogging media to tract instant reactions.

Not to mention the micro blogging platform was teeming with activity and tweets about satyam and the term #satyam was the highest referenced term on twitter.

There were few comments that caught my attention.

http://twitter.com/thomaspower/status/1113004894
http://twitter.com/thomaspower/status/1110612232

What was so special about these reactions? They were from one of the most renowned networking experts on the Internet – Thomas Power. Besides this, this was from someone whom I regard highly as a friend and a human being.

And this is why these comments were very shocking. I immediately thought of two possibilities (but I was not convinced) –

Possibility 1:It was a casual remark

It is understandable.

However with the influence that  Thomas has on Internet, I feel such casual remarks (at least something which has negligible probability) should be avoided. It will not only result in a hype, but also spreads negative vibe about an industry in general which employs more than over a million professionals.

Possibility 2: Thomas meant it!

In this case, first of all, I am deeply hurt, because I never expected such comment from a global visionary who wrote the book "A friend in every city".

Second, let me emphatically say that this is not the end of an industry. Also generalizing an industry due to some events is not a mature way of looking at things. And, if a scam of this magnitude can 'finish' an industry, then we would not talk about:

  • Power business after the Enron scandal.
  • Banking / Investments business after Lehman Brothers fallout.
  • Bandwidth business after Worldcom went bust.

The culrpit is not an industry. Then why talk about the industry. The culprit is the greed which is driving few professionals with extraordinary power to misuse it. In my opinion this is just another scam driven by personal greed and peer pressure. We should not read much into it and move on.

Again, the losers have been shareholders, who are aware of that they are investing in a risk based equity model. At least this is better (comparatively) to the scams where companies went down with savings, debt instruments and required bail-out from taxpayers money. And yes, those industries are still there!

Software outsourcing industry is here to stay, since it has proven benefit model, which is resulting in solid growth for every stakeholder involved. It is balancing the work-compensation balance in the flattening world and resulting in an inclusive growth of the global economy.

So, I very much disagree with Thomas on this.

 What may be the aftermath of the Satyam fiasco:

  • I think the Satyam scam will lead to major improvement and overhaul of regulatory framework which will plug the loopholes that has resulted in this scam.
  • People will look at their bottom line more often and work on improving the efficiency there. (Considering that Ramalinga Raju did not siphoned out the money and inflated the figure only to sustain the peer pressure)
  • There will be temporary 'loss of faith' of retail equity investors, which may elongate the bearish trend on Indian stock markets for a slightly longer period. However,these may change overnight!
  • It also reminds that new companies need to continuously emerge. The companies who are stalwarts today may not be like that forever. There is a life-cycle and to remain on the top, India need to throw up interesting growth oriented companies at regular intervals. They cannot remain dependent on the "fab four".

Of course there are more implications than what I can get together in few minutes. So feel free to add your views..

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December 3, 2008

Internet strategy for small business

Friends,

I have recently written an article for SME WORLD (November 2008 – January 2009) issue of Financial Express. It should be a good read for any small business if they want to put together an Internet strategy for their business.

Internet Strategy for Small Business

Internet is making the world flatter and giving small businesses a level playing field to compete with the big players. Many businesses have changed the rules of the game by using Internet to their advantage.

Do you have a compelling Internet strategy? In simpler words, do you have a clear plan, on how you will use Internet as an enabler to create an edge for your business? If not, put one together now.

Demystifying Internet Strategy?

Every successful business needs a strategy, i.e. meticulous planning and a long term vision across all functional practices like human resource, sales, marketing, supply-chain management, etc.

Internet is a media, a platform and a network. Therefore, it is not a business function. But, it cuts across all business functions and has a profound impact on the way we do things. It has changed the way we do business.

Therefore, it is important to plan to usage of Internet across different business functions in a way that it can make the business more competitive by optimizing it’s top-line and bottom-line growth.

Every organization is unique. The way their business works is different. And therefore, their Internet strategy is bound to be different. However, a generalist approach for small business highlights three core strategic dimensions –

  • Acquisition of new business
  • Developing a strong online business network
  • Improving efficiency in communication, and collaboration

Acquire new business

Internet is a mass media with millions of attentive people logged in. They are trying to solve a problem. And if you can solve that problem, you have a hot business lead!

Do not ignore the fact that this prospect is looking for what you offer. Therefore this is a potential pull-sale prospect. It is more valuable than hundreds of cold calls and thousands of mailers that you might invest in, expecting a single digit conversion rate.

This opportunity has its own challenges:-

  • What is your prospect searching for?
  • How will your prospect find you?
  • What offer should you make?
  • How will you convince him?
  • Why will he trust you?

The entire cycle is comprised of a) Getting targeted visitors to your website, b) Convert those visitors into clients and c) Analyze results and make changes in your online customer acquisition process! (Note: A targeted visitor is one, who is looking for a product /service you offer.)

You can get the targeted visitor by using techniques like SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) backed by high quality content on your website.

SEO is a technique used to rank a website high on search engines on specific keywords. SEM is all about buying clicks on popular search engines. Both techniques have their pros and cons. The selection entirely depends upon the business need and the overall Internet strategy of the company.

Once you have the visitor on your website, you can further test various offers, content snippets and design elements by techniques known as A/B split testing and Multivariate testing to see which combination works best!

This is just the beginning. Some of the many things that you must consider:-

  • Which keyword shall I target?
  • Is it worth paying $1 per click when I am selling something worth $25 only?
  • How to handle a visitor who is not interested in my product today, but might need it tomorrow?

The list can go on and on. As you can see, it is a fairly technical process; it needs expert guidance, external consultancy and implementation help.

Make new connections

Business networking is a marketing method by which business opportunities are created through networks of like-minded business people. People like to work with people within their comfort zone. So before you can talk business, you need to create a trusted relationship.

A good network is like a catalyst, which can multiply the speed of your growth. If you know the right person at the right time for the right job, you will race ahead in the competition.

When this networking is done online, it can connect you with people all over the world in a very efficient way.  You can efficiently create private and open networks where you can share opinions, ideas, problems, information, knowledge and most importantly business references! There are several online business networking websites like LinkedIn, Ecademy and Ryze.

It is important that you approach the network in the right spirit, present yourself nicely, increase your connections, work on win-win partnerships, and adhere by the pay-it-forward principle of networking.

I highly recommend that you try to strengthen your network with face-to-face meetings with as many people as possible.

Some questions that you need to answer to do this bit effectively:

  • What is your elevator pitch?
  • What are your goals of networking? What are you trying to achieve? Most people who are actively networking invest a lot of time, without a clear view of the desired outcome.
  • What kind of people you want to connect with? Why will they like to connect with you? What is your win-win proposal for different categories of connections that you will make?
  • How can you proactively help? What knowledge can you share? Which are your areas of expertise? Do the areas of expertise help you create influencers in the marketplace?

You need to do the groundwork to get the best results. So do not underestimate this part. You may need someone to help you with this.

Streamline communication and collaboration

In an increasingly dynamic business environment, proper communication and collaboration system is the key to success. Internet is a software platform that enables such system to be deployed across the organization cutting across various roles, designations and departments.

Businesses do not operate within their closed shell anymore. They have major impact from its environment consisting of employees, clients, suppliers, etc.

You need to react to changes as they happen every moment across the organizational eco-system. Therefore, the data required is real time – i.e. updated every moment.

You need to have an intranet (internal collaboration portal) or extranet (external facing collaboration portal) to keep up with the pace.

Think of some of the advantages it can bring to your business:-

  • Employees can share ideas, notes and project details.
  • Efficient communication with all your employees and clients.
  • New employees applying online on your website to reduce time and cost in processing the job applications.
  • Real time order status and inventory flow can be seen by respective customers and internal stakeholders.
  • Clients have access to their ledgers in real time.
  • Clients can communicate with their sales managers, place new orders and file complains / queries instantly.
  • Suppliers can see tenders online and submit their quotes. The built in rule engine help you select the winning bid.
  • Documents can flow within departments with remarks added on within seconds at relative ease.

Such empowerment will increase the level of productivity and satisfaction at all levels. Innovative ideas will result in paradigm shift in the way a particular work is done.

Some examples:-

  • E-statements by bank save money, postage and trees.
  • You can buy and reserve your air ticket / railway ticket online without standing in the queue.
  • Major corporations need you to apply for a job online. Even, Barack Obama, President (elect) of the USA is recruiting his team online!
  • Large corporations like BPCL have online system to receive and resolve complains from consumers.
  • Online shopping is becoming the order of the day.

The way Internet can be used to increase efficiency is only restricted by your imagination.

It is a good idea to hire a consultant who can think aloud with you to find out ways, in which your business can become more productive, more efficient and stay ahead in the fiercely competitive world.

Conclusion

There is no silver bullet of Internet strategy. However, the following tips will help you define your Internet strategy and put the same into execution.

  • You need to put together your organizational goals. Break them down into functional goals and map them with the three dimensions of Internet strategy.
  • Rationalize and prioritize various elements of your strategy. Everything may not be feasible or even rational to execute. The cost / return analysis should be done.
  • Once you have created the right mix, define your approach for every element in detail. It is a low-effort high-impact world of Internet. If success gets magnified, then so are the mistakes!
  • Execute the strategy in a time bound manner. Everything changes fast and if you are caught on the slow trail, you might be doing something which does not hold value anymore.
  • There is no absolute truth. Make sure that you have a mechanism for measuring the results.

How Indus Net Technologies can help?

Indus Net Technologies has been rated as #1 IT SME in India – 2008 by Dun & Bradstreet.

We help enterprises all over the world through consulting and implementation of their online strategies. We bring together 11 years of experience and implementation expertise to ensure success in your online initiatives through out its lifecycle.

Our core teams provide creative services, web application development and Internet marketing (SEO, SEM & conversion optimization) solutions. They are guided and supported by our consulting initiative.

You can be in touch with us at abhi@indusnet.co.in

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November 13, 2008

HR review of IT Industry in India – An environment of mistrust

I was reflecting upon last one year and how IT industry has changed in this duration from HR perspective. Among many thoughts, the most visible one (and the most concerning one as well) was the all-time-low employer-employee trust level.

One year back, we were looking into an industry where attrition was the biggest concern. Even the FAB5 (Infosys, Wipro, Satyam, HCL, Cognizant) of Indian IT industry felt the heat as employees jumped ship at the drop of a hat. It was difficult for them to understand as "What the youth want?". The HR honchos from all over India were hunting for answers even less than six months back. Employers were finding it very difficult to trust an employee. The question was – "Will he stay with me long enough to complete this project?"

And suddenly, the situation has taken a u-turn. Companies are laying off their "talent bank" for which they fought so ferociously. The guy who walks out of office today is not sure, if his job is here to stay when he reaches office the next day. The morale is at all time low. Employees are finding it difficult to trust an employer. The question is – "Will he sack me today?"

This is an environment of extremes and uncertainty. This is an environment of relationship without trust. And, this is going to worsen with every cycle on up-and-down.

So, Who is to be blame? And more importantly, how this cycle can be broken? OR, Can this be at all checked?

In my opinion,
This environment is a result of a number of social-commercial factors, like:

  • Employee side:
    • Desire for overnight riches and i-want-to-retire-young mindset
    • Career objective not properly defined. (Corollary: Objective=money)
    • Peer pressure. Comparison of lifestyle. Increase in jealousy.
    • Spending more than the earning!
    • Gaining experience without gaining competence (i.e. 12 years of experience looked like 1 year of real experience repeated 12 times over! – which eventually remains 1 year of experience) 
  • Employer Side:
    • Inexperienced and poor management
    • Unavailability of proper HR professionals (Hint: NOT those people who think HR = headhunting)
    • Treating employees as commodities
    • Not sticking to the basics
    • Lack of strategic insight into one's business

Currently, the problem is in a virtuous cycle, and it is difficult to break it, since it is not based on a tangible outcome. It is purely based on emotions! And, if this cycle is not broken soon, it will intensify and re-occur more frequently.

However, it is very important to solve this problem. Otherwise, it will result in more bankruptcies, more stress, disturbed lives, social crime and poor results. To resolve this, both sides need to take corrective actions (read: be logical in their approach).

I hope, both sides get it right soon.

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June 11, 2008

Saturation of the social networking fad

There is a mad rush towards online social networking space. Every second person wants to get on the bandwagon with his own social networking website with a silly-sounding name. In my opinion, most of these sites are just a fad and are not built on strong fundamentals in terms of a) revenue sources and b) the problem they solve.

What is online networking, btw?

The purpose of a social networking website is to help you keep in touch with your existing contacts and to generate more contacts! In case of social networking, the contacts are friends or prospective friends, whereas In case of business networking, the contacts are business associates or prospective business associates.

Now, answer this question – How much time and money are you willing you spend to keep in touch with your: a) friends and b) business associates. It is important to know this fact. Online market may be different, but it is closely related to offline consumer behaviour. Online business model can help in extending the product composition with new innovation and format of delivery. It is important to know if people are willing to pay for a given convinience. And if they are not willing to pay for the convinience, what alternate source of revenue do we have?

So how do you keep in touch with your friends?

In real life, you spend nothing to keep in touch with your friends. You call them up when you want to hang out with them, you give them a shout on their mobile phones or drop in to kill some time! If you are tech-savvy and love to announce a great news, you send them emails. Why will you like to send a scrap to someone (when you can simply send a short email or catch up on various instant messengers)? And why will you like to create such huge volume of personal content and share with millions of people on the Internet who are not even known to me.

Though you may have build friendship /relationship on social networking websites, they are generally not for long. And the long ones actually use the social networking as only the contact point and then evolves and flourishes offline.

What about business associates?

However, business networking sites will keep evolving, since it adds value to businesses. It help people refer / recommend a vendor or buyer to other people in a networked environment as a recommendation network. It has been very successful, when it comes to executive search and generating new business.

Again, the formal nature of relationship and privicy factor makes business networking websites a great place to get connected and exchange notes.

So, the conclusion is:

So, as on today, given the trend, I can say that social networking is a fad, which is getting saturated and is not supported by a proper revenue model. Online advertising cannot be considered a decent revenue model for a site where people come to kill time! However business networking is here to stay. Corporate intranets having social communities may stay. 

I have already written the orbituary of Facebook, My Space, Bebo and social networking platforms. These are evolving as a fad and will vapourize in the same way in years to come. I wish these trillion dollar valuations to be true, but my mind says otherwise. And I am not the only person saying this. Steve Rubel of Micro Persuation feels the same way to a great extent (may be for different reasons).

What do you think? 

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March 24, 2008

Managing vs. Leading – What an organization needs?

I regularly hear about terms like Manager, Managing, Management, Management Team, etc. The dictionary term for manage is "cope: come to terms or deal successfully with" and "pull off: be successful; achieve a goal"

In my opinion, the word 'manage' makes me think about:

  • Control,
  • Status Quo,
  • Monitoring
  • Come to terms

Somewhere it reflects a sense of compulsion, where someone else is setting the goal for you. It sounds like "ensure that it stays on track". I somehow find managing limits a person and his role to retain the lead.

Therefore, to get the lead, you need leaders!
Leaders are a different breed. They manage less. Instead, they lead.

The word 'lead' makes me visualize

  • Energy,
  • Execution,
  • New,
  • Inspiration.

When I think of a leader, I visualize someone who:

  • Set the vision and inspire people.
  • Set long term goals.
  • Does not control the outcome.
  • Trust people around him.
  • Win trust of team members by setting examples
  • Manages less.

So, to build / grow a company, you need leader(s). And to manage one, you need managers! Mostly, leaders are not good managers and they should not overstretch themselves for that role.  

Leaders are like creators.
Managers are like Accumulators.

You cannot run a company without either. So make sure that your company has both!

 

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January 23, 2008

Open-source products are great. But know the limitations before you use it.

Apart from doing software / web development on Open-source platform, Indus Net Technologies also customize and implement open-source products for clients on demand. Some popular (and free) open-source products are SugarCRM, Drupal, osCommerce for CRM, content management and e-commerce respectively.

IMHO, these are some limitations that I have observed. It is important to know them before initiating a project. These are not very serious in nature and using free open-source products remains a good option for many small and medium sized enterprises around the world.

1. Like any product, it is very important to align the product with your workflow and/or requirements. You must fit the product into the organization by making necessary changes. Therefore a gap analysis should be done and the effort must be estimated for aligning the product as per the current work-flow and/or requirements.

2. Most free open-source products lacks in usability. Therefore if you are doing a major implementation which will be used by thousands of people and you are going to pay for their time, you must consider a major overhaul of interface by involving a usability consultant from your vendor. Otherwise you will end up spending a lot of money.

3. Most free open-source products have very poor reporting system. These reports are not good enough to run a business and shall be re-done as per your company requirement aligned with your key measurement matrix for the given business function.

4. The programmers who can change the software as per your needs are the code-hackers types, who love to dive into existing system architecture and make small changes to achieve the desired results. Therefore you must identify and hook up with the right programmer / programming company (like Indus Net Technologies – a bit of shameless self promotion) to get it right.

5. It is a myth, that implementing open-source software is free. Software code is free, not the hard work of programmers and analysts which goes behind implementing it. And you need the later to successfully implement it in your scenario and reap the benefits of the solution. Yes, it considerably reduces the cost, improves reliability and gives you a head start from where you can take informed decision about your IT needs.

Do not get me wrong. I am only listing the limitations. The benefits are well-known and they out-live the limitations any day. However it is very important that these limitations are known before proceeding.

Feel free to discuss / debate!

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January 13, 2008

SEZs are not good for Small & Medium sized IT Enterprises

With the uncertainty over the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) scheme after the union budget, a mad rush towards Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is very much expected. I have been studying about SEZ or last three weeks and two things are very clear –
  • The SEZ Act is under constant change. So whatever is stated there cannot be taken as a confirmed policy from the Government.
  • The Act has been poorly and loosely drafted leaving a lot of ambiguity, areas of misinterpretation and scope of misuse by people who have the best lawyers at their disposal.
The SEZ is going to benefit two classes of businesses –
  1. Manufacturing or service companies – They will get duty-free import capability and relief from various direct and indirect taxes including VAT, Service Tax, Excise Tax, FBT, Dividend Distribution Tax and above all Income Tax. These sops are given so that these businesses invest for setting up new infrastructure and in their business within the SEZ marked area.
  2. Real estate companies – They will develop the SEZ infrastructure and multiply the value of land literally overnight and reap rich dividends.
The unfortunate reality is that,
  • SEZ scheme is mainly helping large, established businesses and is working against small and medium sized businesses. Large companies like Reliance, Infosys, Mahindra, etc. who can buy and build infrastructure measuring 25 acres or more will reap the benefit of tax exemption for another 15 years, while small companies will struggle with a collective tax burden of more than 50% of the total turnover. Big will become bigger, small will have a tougher time and perish.
  • SEZ scheme is brining back (in a new package) the age old zamindari system. The SEZs which are being developed by real estate developers to accommodate medium sized companies are leasing out infrastructure at abnormally high costs (almost five times of normal rent) which makes it out of bounds for most entrepreneurs. There is no regulation on the ownership / lease / rent process between these real estate developers and the SEZ units. In one of the agreement that I have managed to get my hands on, the SEZ developer made a mix of Deed of Assignment and A Sub-lease Agreement keeping best of both worlds in his own favor and charging a price which a Freehold Land. Few companies, who will manage to afford it, will end up spending a major of their cash flow on rent/lease cost alone. This will make them highly vulnerable to cyclic depressions in the market which are very common on a new industry.
I will like to see a proper level playing field to be set up by Government of India.
  • We do not mind paying taxes. If IT industry should do away with subsidies, Let everyone pay taxes! There should not be double standards by retaining tax benefits for large established players and punishing small & medium sized enterprises for being what they are – i.e. small.
  • Please come out of the dream that infrastructure creation is fundamental to IT growth. IT is not like heavy engineering, steel or shipping business which depends heavily on top-quality infrastructure. In fact IT infrastructure has the highest depreciation and technologies / equipments get obsolete overnight. The largest companies in Silicon Valley have come out of garages and dorms. IT industry needs entrepreneurs and people for its growth. Focus on growing talent in colleges and universities. 
  • IT industry has low entry barriers. Try to keep it low. This will help innovativeness and constant evolution of the industry. Let entrepreneurs take control and scale new heights. Facilitate them, don't frustrate them.
In years to come, my company may also get into a SEZ (either on its own or through a SEZ developer). However, my stand on how SEZs are resulting in a divide between established player and small/medium sized companies will remain the same unless the policy is modified for inclusive growth (this is the term our respected PM, Mr. Manmohan Singh uses quite often).

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November 27, 2007

Take a positive attitude to work

I often hear from people:

  • I hate my job.
  • I don't feel like going to work.
  • I have no excitement in my career. It is the same old grind.

This happens more so often because most people are doing things that they never wanted to do in their professional life. I have written about this problem in my post – Are you what you always wanted to be?

I suggest a three step solution for people who are stuck in such a situation!

1. Take a positive attitude to work.

Even if you want to change the big picture, you got to do what you are expected to do on the given day when you reach your workplace. You may hate the work, but you have to do it. Now, if you can take a positive attitude towards your current job and enjoy the same, you will have a good day at your workplace and you will feel satisfied and happy at the end of the day. If you keep cursing the world for putting in that position, you will end up feeling more frustrated and probably mess up the work that you are doing.

So, cheer up and take a positive attitude to work. Think of the ways your work makes a difference to others. It does. Else you would not have been doing it and your boss / client would not have been paying you to do the same. 

2. Visualize the value chain

Once you know, how your work helps the company / social setup in the bigger context, try to visualize the value chain. So you might like to find out what happens before and/or after you do your job. What is the value that the end consumer gets? Try to visualize the entire value chain and see where you fit in based on what you will like to do and the profile which can have maximum impact on the company / social setup where you want to contribute.

3. Make your moves

Once you have learnt to live your daily workday in a positive way and have visualized the area where you will like to see yourself in you can start making moves towards achieving the same. Please note that this should be closer to what you always wanted to be or should be able to derive similar level of satisfaction, else you may not feel the drive to achieve this new position.

You can start training yourself appropriately. Gather knowledge through books, Internet, friends, professional gatherings, etc.

With the appropriate knowledge, show your organization that you are capable of doing something better or more valuable than what you are currently doing. Everyone wants a proof-of-concept! Once you have proved your credibility and capability, you can surely find you way to reach your goal.

Take action.

 

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November 20, 2007

Can entrepreneurship be taught?

I was recently speaking on "Myths & Facts of Entrepreneurship" in Entrepreneurship Summit 2007 at IIT Kharagpur (KGP) on behalf of NEN. Overall, the event was nice, but it made me think over few points.

1. Can we really teach entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship, as I see is,

  • An instinct,
  • An attitude to create something new,
  • An activity which creates value in the entire social eco-system, 
  • A creative expression of interest in solving problems around us 

Till date, I am yet to meet an entrepreneur who has been taught about this subject in a formal setting, and that he has actually gone out and done it, and made it successful. It is a state of mind, which develops naturally, based on his surrounding and experiences, which makes him think about life and career in a given way.

Such events (like Entrepreneurship Summit) can inspire someone to be an entrepreneur, make a person desire to start a venture, but I am not sure if it can create the state of mind.

2. In many cases, I have seen that entrepreneurship is not be plan. It is by destiny. There are hundreds of people who were pushed to the wall and were left with no choice to take on the world all by themselves. They rose up to the occasion and did what it takes to survive. Today we call them successful entrepreneurs. This again emphasize that entrepreneurship is a state of mind that is there or emerges under given circumstances – mostly adverse situations.

3. Most wanna-be entrepreneurs start off with a business plan which predicts his revenues, profits, break-even point and growth trajectory. If you see most successful entrepreneurs, they never planned, they dreamt. They created value and chased their dream. The dream was not the riches that entrepreneurship can bring, but a dream to dominate / be successful in a given domain and create value that can change the world. They want to lead. 

For example, Bill Gates never planned to become the "richest person on the planet" through Microsoft. He dreamt of a PC on every desktop in the world! He worked hard to make his dream come true and reaped the rewards in form of the riches that he got in the process as a result.

Wealth is a by-product of entrepreneurship, not the destination.

So, the question again comes – Can you teach someone to lead, dream, continuously innovate, rough-it-out and fight back. I think – NO. You can only motivate someone to do so.

Your comments are welcome to debate my point of view!

 

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September 23, 2007

Businesses can never be in equilibrium

Business organizations can never be in equilibrium or achieve stable position. Either they are moving up or they are moving down, depending upon their innovation quotient. 

If you are trying to keep things stable, they won't remain so. You will slowly slide down simply because:

  • there is no exclusivity,
  • competition will catch up on the technology front and –
    • either cut price – if they too are not innovating (resulting in your margins to shrink)
    • or innovate and better the product – if they want to add value to the product and move up the value chain (resulting in your market share to shrink)

And if you continuously innovate and apply new ideas (refer to my post on manufacturing ideas), you will continue to move up.

It is unfortunate that in some cases, the entire industry decides to stabilize their position and take customer wants for granted. For example, consider:

  • radio manufacturers,
  • alarm clock manufacturers,
  • camera manufacturers (there are some really big names out there)

They decided to stay at their position and were swept away by mobile companies like Nokia (who is the largest digital camera manufacturer in the world today). They decided to experiment and give more to their customers by integrating digital camera in mobile phones (possibly the thought process was that mobile, camera, clock, alarm are all things that need to be handy). It took some time to gather market acceptance which was created by the initial hype, but later on sustained due to the instant-in-the-hand value of the additional gadgets.

Seth Godin has highlighted how alarm clock manufacturers can still make a small change in their product and make it stand out. These are simple improvements which can make a product stand out and desirable!

Are you moving up or moving down?

 

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