Friday, December 28, 2012

Before the numbness fades

Where do we go from here?
The anguish, the grief, the numbness,
The familiar cries of 'collective failure', 'the system to be changed',
Speeches, panels, RIP statuses, perhaps a new law or two?
How long will the numbness last?

It will eventually fade, blood will circulate,
After all we are the living, with tiny dreams and wants,
Deadlines, commitments, new year, movies, malls, T20, fight for attention,
And might fade out the numbness in days, weeks or months.
It will fade, it always has.

But before that, can we steal that one brief  moment?
That precious moment, devoid of words, discussions, updates, even tears.
That moment whose only companion is stillness.
For it's stillness that may help us find and dig deep inside,
What's inside us that got us here?

Maybe we'll find it, howsoever tiny, that trait, that emotion, lurking, smirking...
Less than noble or as is said 'not a best practice'. Observe it.
It might have a different shape or size in each of us. Expose it.
But let that moment be common, let that stillness be shared,
Before the numbness fades.

RIP Amanat

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Remembering Steve…and his little known connection with Indian ‘Jugaad’

It was the India launch of the new iMac, a pristine white work of art with a hemispherical base, aka the sunflower Mac due to its vague likeness to the flower. The event was being held in a hotel near Connaught Place, Delhi. The Product Manager had flown down from Cupertino for the unveiling. As the Marketing Manager, I wanted to emulate the grand spectacle  Steve Jobs had put up a few days earlier in the US., though at a smaller scale. One of his tricks included a levitation of the  iMac  on a platform followed by 360 degree rotations  to emphasize its beautiful backside. I was skeptical we could pull off the platform levitation bit till we discovered a hydraulic lift from the nearby electrical market in Bhagirath Palace, Chandni Chowk. It worked perfectly.. 

The stage was set, the press and dozens of Mac enthusiasts arrived for their first glimpse of the latest marvel. The final dry run was being conducted 30 minutes before the unveiling and we seemed in perfect control …till the hydraulic lift decided to get jammed . The damn thing just wouldn’t start. The supplier rushed to get a replacement  but given the Delhi traffic there was little chance he could make it unless he  himself levitated all the way to his shop. Not doing the levitation & rotation act would have ruined the entire sequence. Minor heart attacks were happening all around!

Fast forward  40 minutes -  the iMac was launched to thunderous applause in a slick routine that included   levitation and rotation revealing its three dimensional glory – just like Steve’s show at Moscone Centre, SFO.

Here’s what happened behind the scenes.  No, the supplier's replacement never appeared  but the 30 minute gap between the  lift’s act of defiance and the unveiling was just about  enough to find a person of modest height (one of the employees with the hydraulic lift supplier) who could fit into the 5 ft. cylinder encasing the lift. The levitation was mimicked by deftly pushing the iMac platform from underneath by our vertically challenged savior after getting a cue from the Product Manager (which was a knock on the top of the frame). Then he spun around inside the cylinder like a pirouetting ballerina to provide multiple 360 degree views of the iMac.  Our man crouched inside in perfect stillness till the end of the presentation  - luckily someone had the foresight to drill  enough holes to let in precious oxygen and avoid manslaughter. And so the world’ most talked about machine owed its India launch to the flexibility and spinning ability of a guy from Chandni Chowk or the Indian practice of jugaad!

Jugaad is ‘Think Different’  thought differently

Monday, January 23, 2012

Indigo Airlines: "No dollar? No tea!"

I've generally liked Indigo Airlines. I see it as a cost effective and  efficient alternative to  most other airlines in India. Which is why I had no hesitation in booking a flight on their newly launched international sector for my parents' first trip to Singapore from India. It didn't turn out to be a very good decision because of a strange and questionable policy of Indigo. My parents were not carrying Singapore dollars, they could have, but it seemed needless as I was coming to receive them at the Singapore airport. What they weren't aware of was that an Indian air carrier that charges for all in-flight meals and beverages would refuse to accept Indian Rupee as a mode of payment . So no food or even basics essentials  like coffee/tea  for over 6 hours unless you shell out dollars. This sounds silly and raises some questions:

1. Why should an air carrier not accept  the currency of its country of origin?  Any international air travel regulation? Or protection from vagaries of currency fluctuation at the inconvenience of passengers?

2. Why couldn't Indigo have done a better job of warning the passengers before they boarded or even at the time of booking?

3. Lastly, the least you can do Indigo is answer your customer service emails. 

So the next time you plan to fly Indigo on an international sector don't forget to visit your friendly currency conversion dealer before that.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

11 things I learned from my 1st marathon

11 things I learned running my 1st  marathon

- Anyone can do it
   Many people tell me "I can run only 5 km/ 10 min etc." Well if you can run that much, in all probability, with some practice you can run a marathon. 

- Run it only if you really want to. 
 Running a full marathon requires serious commitment. There are many sacrifices you'll need to make. If you are into fitness running, you can stretch a bit and run a half marathon. A full marathon is a painfully different ball game altogether. Be sure you really want to do it. 

- Follow the pre-documented plans but customize. 
  The web is full of free resources and training plans. Jeff Galloway and Hal Higgdon are  two popular online experts. Follow their plans but make your sure you make adequate changes to suit your routine.  For instance, my travel and work schedule never allowed me more than 3 weekly runs though the plan I followed prescribed four. 

- Paperwork helps.
Maintain a schedule and measure your performance weekly against the schedule. Rate your self each week. 

- Make use  of technology - some of it is FREE. 
 You could buy a $300 GPS watch or install a free app like Cardio Trainer on your smartphone. It tracks your distance, speed, route and stores critical data of all your runs. There's something uniquely satisfying about looking at your previous run records and the progress you've made over the months.

- Running shoes: much ado about nothing. 
  As much as possible stay away from the jargon sports shoe salesmen are tutored to disseminate. The entire running shoe industry is built on a shaky foundation. I ran my marathon in minimalist shoes with soles meant to provide only basic protection for the feet and nothing more. I believe the best way to run is to run naturally - why should your shoes attempt to influence your running form? Read the book 'Born to Run'  to learn more. Most manufacturers are now introducing running shoes that allow you to run naturally. 

- Its not how much you can run, its how fast you can recover. 
 Recovery is the key to all practice run. Remember the basic principle of recovery: RICE -  Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Also, if possible buy something called a foam roller. It helped me  recover from a near show-stopping knee injury 4 weeks before the marathon. 

- Daily motivation helps. 
 Subscribe to Runner's World quote of the day. You will be surprised how eerily close it will be to whatever you're going through. 

- Listen to your body. 
  No running schedule and recovery aids can help if you ignore what your body is telling you. Yes, almost all runners at times go beyond limits. But such instances should be an exception and not the norm. You simply know when you are not fit enough to run and need to rest.  

- Finding the time to run
  A full marathon requires serious commitment in terms of time. I traveled over 100 days last year with a fair share of red-eye flights and jet lags. One of my biggest learning was that finding time for an activity is a function of two things - how high is it in your priority and weather you really enjoy it, which brings me to my last point.

- Do you really enjoy running?
 Finally, it boils down to this - do you find running rejuvenating or a chore? There will be days when you come home after a hard day's work and would need to do your 10km practice run. Only those who really enjoy running will eventually manage to stay true to the practice schedule. 

Happy running!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here's to you Steve

Here’s to you Steve…
  •  My first recollection of you was a 1992 article in Economic Times Brand Equity titled ‘What’s NeXT?’. That cool picture of yours with the Next Computer along with an account of your ouster from Apple is still fresh in my mind and it was the first time I was inspired by a business personality. Thanks for showing us that superstars don’t  always hold a guitar or a racquet .

  •    That article had something to do with my decision to choose Apple as an employer over a traditional IT MNC 7 years later. My business card ‘Sales Manager – Apple Computer’ with the six color Apple logo still gives me as much joy & pride as it did back then. Thanks for giving me a job.

  • I still treasure the  beautiful black book  titled ‘Think Different’ I received when I joined Apple. The  black & white images and inspiring messages from all your heroes, from Gandhi to Einstein, continue to delight. Thanks for the inspiration.

  •    I was extremely proud of  heading a regional office for Apple in Delhi. It didn’t even strike me that my kingdom  was a 5x5 cubicle  in a business centre and I was the only employee in my office at that time.  Such is the power  of  the Apple brand. Thank you for teaching me that  your worth is not measured by the size of your office.

  •   The small office meant that my house became an Apple stocking centre. My wife and I had no hesitation in devoting one room of  our two bedroom apartment  to stock  the iMacs and iBooks –  they were gorgeous. I would choose them anytime over  pieces of furniture. Thank you for  making our computers a work of art.

  •  The video ‘Here’s to the crazy ones’ used to give me goose bumps back then and even now. Nothing epitomizes your life than the last line in the video“ People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do” .Thanks for giving us the power to believe.

  •  Somewhere along the way I became a Steve Jobs & Apple trivia junkie. In a reseller recruitment drive my pitch  focused on your and Apple’s detailed story instead of the usual Reseller terms & conditions & profitability models  and it worked wonderfully. Thanks for showing us that the best way to convince people is to appeal to them at an emotional level.

  •   One of my most exciting moment at Apple was when I was nominated to  attend your MacWorld Keynote. The  US visa didn’t come through – the rules were made much tighter after 9/11. It turned into one of my biggest regrets.  Nevertheless we followed all your keynotes staying up late at night to witness the latest magical marvel you are unveiling.  We would  subsequently imitate the same presentations at  events in India and all of  us ended up  imbibing your style.  Thanks for  showing us  the true meaning of a presentation.

  •   I received the first iPod that landed in India– small privileges of being the Marketing Manager. You introduced  the concept of iTunes playlists back then.  I still have that iPod ( though its not working any more) but I  still run to the same ‘workout’ playlist I created back then .  Thanks for putting the  music in our lives.

  •   I was crazy about setting up Apple retail centers.  Due to lack of budgets for  the Retail initiative my wife and I used to spend our weekends doing up Apple shops on our own.  Looking back, those attempts look almost laughable compared to the ultra cool Apple Stores now. But thanks for showing us  what a retail experience should be.

  •  Over a decade ago you predicted  “we are entering an era of digital lifestyle and the Mac will be at the heart of it.” Though this became part of my sales pitch  I never quite believed it.  Now we know what you meant  back then, you were just ahead of your times. Thank you for transforming our lives.

  • I was disappointed when I secured a front page interview of yours with India’s leading business daily and the request was turned down by your office. I was told there are only 4 publications that you appear in. I couldn’t quite appreciate it back then when I was  told ‘we need to be focused and not over expose Steve’ . You said somewhere in the context of Apple’s minimalist design, ‘Focus is being able to say no’.  So true.Thanks for sharing the power of   being focused. When Apple changed the logo from  6-color to solid I wondered why don’t we talk about the change  and  create an ad campaign. Your guidance was – “a logo represents the sum total of what  a company does . Talking about the logo itself is meaningless from our consumers perspective” . Again something that took me time to understand.Thank you for sharing with the world how to create a powerful  brand.

  •  I still try to follow  the advise  you gave in your commencement speech at Stanford ‘What would you be doing if this was the last day of your life?’.  One of the most inspiring  speeches ever.Thanks for being a guide and mentor to millions.
  •   I had mentioned in my farewell note at Apple – ‘No matter where I work, Apple will always be close to my heart and I will continue to follow all developments at Apple’. I  moved on several years ago and the passing years made me  less star struck  but I stayed true to my promise. I still use your products and so does my son.  Thanks for a legacy that will last  for generations. Goodbye Steve.

Apple employee (1999-2003), Steve Jobs fan for life

Monday, October 4, 2010

From “Dilli badnam hui” to “Mera bharat Mahaan” in a week or the age of the “5 picture decision maker”

So the  CWG 2010  got off to a great start. The opening night ceremony has been termed a resounding success and there’s a mass out pouring of patriotic emotions  in stark contrast to the scornful messages that  plagued the cyberwaves till sometime back.

Here are a few things I observed with the advantage of being a distant but highly interested observer from a foreign  land :

1.       The collective power all of us wield through mediums like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube  is phenomenal and we need to use it responsibly.
2.       The  media we all love to blame actually gauges the mood of the nation through our tweets, status messages, pictures we share and videos we upload.  After spotting a trend they exaggerate it a million times, spice it up and  regurgitate it back to us.
3.       There’s no point blaming the media for their exaggerated stories. That’s their job. No matter how much we talk about media restraint, its just a matter of one ambitious, over zealous reporter  whose love for TRPs  outstrips his patriotic emotions  doing  a sensational story and the rest  of them will follow suit.
4.     Are we turning into "5 picture  decision makers”?  Lets not jump to conclusions  after  looking at the 5 pictures forwarded to us by a facebook  friend. Aren’t real world matters much more complex  and deserve better than the simplistic  conclusions we all tend to arrive at in this age of information overload?
5.       Criticism  through social media is an important tool but lets use it constructively.  If  you posted messages like “Dilli badnaam hui”  after receiving a few pictures of a flooded CWG village and watching a late night talk show, think again – what’s the purpose this message serves? Could there be a better  way to get the point across?
6.       Similarly, lets think again before  showering  superlatives.  A few pictures  showing bright green astro turf or  a spanking new stadium don’t mean anything and are certainly not a sign that everything has been magically fixed and  the entire controversy is the brainchild of  a few crazed foreign journalists  born with a  mission to insult our motherland .
7.       Yes the opening ceremony was awesome and all the pride is justified but  this is just  one aspect of  CWG, an important one I agree but just one dimension.  Spectacular as the opening ceremony was, lets  remember  we are known to produce amazing song and dance extravaganzas and  this just happened to be a very good one.  There’s a lot left to be done still.
8.       So  before  we judge anything after  receiving a fresh new set of pictures on our wall post lets ensure we are not falling into the “5 picture decision maker” trap.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Celeb Twitter Wars

I guess this would be looked back as some kind of a milestone in India's Twitter landscape. A twitter conversation between two celebs - Javed Akhtar and Mahesh Bhatt just turned into an open confrontation. The topic was royalties for songs. Javed Akhtar insisted that artists and songwriters get the short end of the stick while Mr. Bhatt was more sympathetic to movie producers. Reproducing some of the tweets:

JA to MB - You are not fooling any represent the vested interest in this matter and stand totally exposed.

MB to JA - Thus far and no further. I rest my case here.I am not interested in wining u to my side & u can't win me to yours.Dead end.

JA to MB - Galat baaton ko khamoshi se sunna haami bhar lena/bahut hain fayeday iss mein magar achha nahin lagta.

I have no interest in knowing who is right or wrong but find it amazing that what would have been a headline worthy scoop for any curious Page 3 type of journo is being played out in public domain. Chances are journos in India will still pick it up and this will get airtime on TV and print space because of Twitter's limited reach but Twitter is on its way to alter the face of journalism.