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Archive for May, 2013

India can justifiably boast of a long history of culture, tradition and values. Scriptures of Indian origin are a treasure trove of nuggets of wisdom. These continue to be relevant in the current context and also find ready application in the field of business management and administration.

Here are some of the areas where I believe Ramayana can inspire management14 practitioners.

  • A Premium on Values

Sticking to some core values which are steeped in righteousness eventually leads to success. The main protagonist, Rama, is depicted in Ramayana as an epitome of virtue. He is an ideal king, an ideal son and a pragmatic person. He sets high ethical standards in warfare and invariably sides with dharma, or righteousness.

A random sample of all successful business houses which have been around for more than a century now – Siemens and Tatas, for instance – is ample proof that ethics in business do pay dividends in the long run. Names of such business houses enjoy tremendous brand equity in the market; understandably, that rubs off on their products as well.

  • High on Motivation

To me, the Ahalyaa episode is all about a good leader enthusing a team of demoralized members who have become zombies over a period of time and have stopped delivering results. Once ‘woken up’, they are fully charged and start performing along expected lines.

Rama wages a war on Lanka with very limited resources, backed by an army which is pretty out-of-the-box or unconventional. It is an army which is highly motivated, expecting minimal facilities. Goes on to show the superiority of motivation levels over the availability of physical resources.

A CEO who is out to increase his market share needs the back up of a highly motivated sales staff which – if motivated well – would go all out to win the hearts and wallets of the company’s customers.

  • Mergers and Alliances

When a merger is based upon a congruence of basic value systems of both the parties involved, long-term benefits accrue.

The alliance between Rama and Sita is a turning point in the Ramayana for more reasons than one. Sita is brought up in the household of the sage-king Janaka. When Rama gets banished to the forest after their marriage, she displays a clear absence of any hedonistic tendencies and chooses to accompany him to the forest. Without a synergy of this kind, the sequence of events could have been quite different!

Likewise, the friendship of Rama and Sugriva sets a good example of mutual cooperation between two people facing a similar predicament in life and career. What follows is Sita getting traced in Lanka and Ravana eventually getting vanquished.

When Etihaad decides to team up with Jet Airways, or when Tata Steel ties up with Corus, the parties involved are looking for synergies in their respective core strengths, so as to tap their joint business potential better.

  • Succession Planning

Dasaratha’s plans for installing Rama on the throne of Ayodhya do turn topsy-turvy, but the existence of a clear succession plan can never be denied. This is meant to ensure continuity in governance. It helped that besides being the eldest son, Rama was liked by all and hence chosen to lead the kingdom once his father passed away.

As per Raghuvansham of Kalidasa, when the time comes to relinquish his body, Rama divides it equitably between his two sons – Lava and Kusha.

All well-managed companies ensure that the career development plans of their top performers are directly linked to succession plans. Ideally, good leaders invariably groom at least three managers under them. When one gets promoted to the coveted slot, it is quite likely that two others may seek greener pastures elsewhere. Whatever happens, the goals and the processes involved in achieving the same enjoy uninterrupted continuity.

  • Leaving the Comfort Zone

When Rama gets ordered to remain in the forest for a span of fourteen years, Sita and Rama take it as an opportunity to engage with the ordinary citizens of their kingdom, rather than remaining confined to the comforts of their palace. This helps them to understand the ground realities better.

CEOs and marketing honchos of today who travel through the hinterland to get a better first-hand feel of the customer’s pulse do a far better job of servicing the market.

  • Excellence in Execution

The plan to locate Sita gets brilliantly executed by Hanuman. The wisdom withRamayana 3 which he conducts the search and the single-minded pursuit of the goal is an example worth emulating by managers at all levels. While crossing the sea, he declines an invitation from Mount Mynaaka to take some rest on the way.

The manner in which he assures Sita of his genuineness exhorts managers to conduct commercial negotiations by first setting the anxieties of the opposite party at rest.

  • Concern for Environment

For three days, Rama prays to the god of the sea to grant a passage to his army. Nothing happens. Rama then shoots arrows into the bosom of the sea, whereupon the sea-god appears and explains that he is bound by the laws of nature, just like earth, air, space, light and all constituents of the universe. Creatures living under his shelter he cannot forsake, but surely a shallow area can be shown where a causeway can be built.

Rama accepts the sea-god’s apology and orders the building process to start. Thus, the objective is met without damaging the eco-system.

In the current context, governments all over the world are realizing the importance of striking a judicious balance between economic growth and environmental concerns. Rama’s approach inspires us to strive to find the middle path and ensure that Mother Nature is not unduly disturbed to pave way for crass commercialism.

  • Dependence on Yes-men!

Ravana is a highly learned and accomplished person. One of the reasons for hisRamayana 2 downfall is to neglect the advice of nay-sayers. His wife, Mandodari, brother Vibheeshana and grandfather Malyavaan – all advise him to return Sita to Rama. Instead, he chooses to listen to his courtiers who play on his ego and pride and advise him not to do so.

A couplet in Sundara Kanda of Ramcharitmanasa clearly advises us to ignore the advice of a paid deputy, a doctor and a teacher who speak positively out of either fear or expectation of a gain. A king who acts upon such motivated advice loses his kingdom, his body and his righteousness (dharma) as well.

  • Humility in Victory

When Ravana is on his death-bed, Rama exhorts Lakshmana to learn the tenets of good governance from him. Lakshmana approaches Ravana rather haughtily first and fails. Rama then advises him to approach Ravana with due humility, whereupon Ravana speaks of the pitfalls of procrastination and shares his knowledge about statecraft and diplomacy.

  • Power of Attorney

The sincerity with which Bharata takes care of the kingdom’s affairs while Rama is away speaks of true values of follower-ship. Upon his return to Ayodhya, Bharata informs him that the kingdom’s revenue had gone up ten-folds during the fourteen years he was away.

Here is an excellent example of a kingdom held in trust and good faith, much akin to the present day concept of a power of attorney getting appointed to take care of administrative and legal matters of a business when owners are not readily available.

  • Make Haste, But Slowly!

Rama has won the war and is on his way back to Ayodhya. He decides not to rush back. Instead, he stays back at Sage Bharadwaj’s ashram for a night and makes enquiries about the state of affairs in Ayodhya. Also, he sends Hanuman upfront to break the news of his imminent arrival to Bharata who is living like an ascetic in Nandigram. He moves to Ayodhya only after receiving adequate feedback about its current situation.

  • Leadership Traits

With the possible exception of his handling of Sita upon her return from Lanka, Rama conducts himself in an exemplary manner throughout the narration. Whether it is befriending Nishaad Raaj, refusing to return to Ayodhya when Bharat approaches him in Panchavati, conducting the last rites of Jataayu, accepting Vibheeshana in his fold or even when reuniting with his mothers and brothers upon his return to Ayodhya, he sets a high bar for humanity in general.

In the corruption-infested times we live in, his leadership traits inspire managers to do their best even under the most trying circumstances.

  • Ram Rajya

The concept of being fair to all is the bedrock on which modern management is based. For those in power at the top, an impartial conduct of those in authority is a sine qua non for the morale of the people. Sita gets banished to the Valmiki ashram when an ordinary citizen casts an aspersion on her character. Rama’s role is not much different from that of a true-blue CEO whose loyalty to the company’s overall welfare is unflinching.

Skirt-groping CEOs who have a roving eye and managements which look the other Ramayana 1way just because they accord a higher priority to business goals than to the character of their top honchos could take a leaf out of Rama’s conduct.

There are several instances when management has to divulge information on a ‘need to know’ basis. However, if the basic practices are perceived to be fair to all, even management policies which impact the employees adversely – like a down-sizing – are not taken amiss across the company.

Ramayana is rich with several other narratives which could be useful to management practitioners. Also, each narrative may be interpreted in several ways, depending upon how one goes about analyzing it.

References:

Ramcharitamanas by Goswami Tulasidas, Valmiki Ramayana, Ramayana by C. Rajagoplachari, Raghuvansham by Kalidasa, Adhyatma Ramayana, Series on Ramayana by Narendra Kohli.

Illustrations Courtesy Internet

http://attachment.benchmarkemail.com/c117651/July-Augusl.pdf 

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/management-lessons-from-mahabharata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/management-lessons-from-the-life-of-lord-krishna)

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The Chinese Premier Li Keqiang honored Indians with a visit, his first international foray after he assumed charge. Once the Beijing imageeuphoria has died down, one is likely to find solace in the fact that both China and India have the courage of conviction to put all matters on the table and to try to thrash them out. Rhetoric apart, one also hopes that the Indian government shall nevertheless set in motion a long-term strategic plan to handle the game of Chinese Checkers that our northern neighbor plays with us.

The Chinese Premier is absolutely right that our two nations are destined to be together. But good words sometimes convey only pious intentions and do not get converted into positive ground realities. An entire state of India, Arunachal Pradesh, is claimed by China. Even at a forum like the ADB, loans for developmental works in Arunachal Pradesh have been scuttled at China’s behest. Zangmu and other dams are being planned on the Brahmaputra, with no participation by India which is a lower riparian state. India’s claim for a seat in the UN Security Council is not getting supported by China. Its stand on Kashmir touches a very sensitive chord amongst Indians and its support for Pakistan is an added thorn in the flesh.

If China is said to be working on a ‘string of pearls’, India is no less capable of creating an ivory necklace around itself, so it Rashtrapati Bahavanwould not be taken lightly by China. Maintaining better relations with other neighboring countries, backed by investments in strategic assets, is a singular step in that direction. The government has already shown imagination in going in for the development contract for Chahbahar port in Iran. Many more initiatives of this nature need to be followed through.

We surely need better highways within India. But our top priority has to be building up our border defense muscle. This can only be deferred at our own long-term risk and peril. The humiliation of 1962 is difficult to forget and so is the recent arm-twisting in Ladakh.  

At times, our innate sense of decency is taken to be a sign of weakness. Sure enough, India needs to far more proactive rather than just being reactive to Chinese manoeuvres, militarily or otherwise.

With due respects to the leader who is an honored guest, allow me to say that we need to judge countries not by what their leaders say but by what they actually do.

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QUALITYQUALITY

Hire a quality expert who is practical and does not live in an ivory tower, or else your billings may nosedive and your entire manufacturing team may end up doing only rework.

In the services sector, quality invariably means an extension of the core job being done. A shipping agent who keeps you updated of the status of a shipment at all times is a delight to work with; so is a dentist who sends you a discreet s-m-s reminding you of your appointment that evening.

To quote Dr. Laurence J Peter and Raymond Hull: “……man cannot achieve his greatest fulfilment through seeking quantity for quantity’s sake; he will achieve it through improving the quality of life, in other words, through avoiding life-incompetence.”

 

QUANTITATIVE APPROACH

Quite a few times, a team leader has to let go of his quantitative obsession and take a decision off the seat of his pants. A crucial input to decision-making is intuition and gut feel. In turn, intuition and gut feel get sharpened over a period of time by the sheer availability of good quality quantitative data.

 

QUESTIONNAIRE

A well designed questionnaire is an important tool in any research project. It pays to pre-test one before freezing it. However, in case of behavioural and attitudinal studies, a structured interview approach works much better.

 

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It pains me to see Delhi University getting dragged into a controversy over its proposed four-year undergraduate program. Its graduate degrees are henceforth meant to be different, introducing academic separation of a different kind. 0002 (58)

I walked out of the hallowed precincts of Delhi University (DU) close to forty years back. However, the attachment with the Alma Mater remains as strong as ever. Warm memories of the carefree days spent at DU long time back come flooding back. 

A Touch of Nostalgia

I have fond memories of evenings when the mess-y food provided in the hostel mess motivated us to saunter across to nearby Kamala Nagar market. When it came to nourishment for keeping our bodies and souls together, piping hot chhole-bhatoore, or the modest aloo-tikki and samosas were always rated better than the tepid and monotonous fare dished out at the hostel.

Much before Munna Bhai reinvented Gandhi-giri, the hostel food taught us rich lessons in civil disobedience. A day came when we could no longer bear to even look at – let alone gobble up – the all-potato meals served day after day. A huge container went around the dining tables of the hostel mess. All potatoes one could lay one’s hands on got piled up in the container. The Mess Manager was promptly called in, garlanded, applauded and presented with the container overflowing with potatoes of all shapes and sizes. With a sheepish grin on his pock-marked face, he quickly withdrew to the safety of his store-room. 0002 (64)

Our college used to be derisively referred to as a ‘brahmachari’ college those days. As aspiring pseudo-ornithologists, we had to find some solace in whatever ‘bird-watching’ we could accomplish – either while walking to and from the main University Campus, or in the course of our evening snack-athons in Kamala Market. However, once we completed our academic sojourn and departed, the authorities thought it safe enough to make the college a co-educational institution!

The cafeteria on the main campus was a breeding ground for proponents of communist as well as capitalist ideologists. Traits of professors were discussed threadbare, as also top news of the day. Impromptu gatherings in the lawns led to much singing talent getting discovered, what with movie songs of Hemant Kumar and Kishore Kumar getting belted out with gay abandon.

Come monsoon time and young men’s fancy would lightly turn to thoughts of love. Lover’s Lane used to suddenly get more traffic than it could possibly handle. When a member of our group started dating a smart class fellow regularly, some turned green with envy whereas others started entertaining romantic thoughts of the unilateral kind.   0002 (12) 

Lessons in chivalry were yet to be learnt. Money supply for those residing in hostels was erratic and woefully inadequate, so it was common to see day-scholar sweethearts graciously footing the coffee and dosa bills. While passing through a door, it was never a custom to hold it open for the accompanying female. Holding a chair for a female companion was never heard of. Luckily, the fairer amongst us were equally un-initiated, so no one seemed to mind such indiscretions.

Classes were invariably a serious affair, followed by feverish exchanges of hand written notes and of text books sourced from various quarters. The studious types were obliged to take separate ‘classes’ in their hostel rooms, so the not-so-serious types could pursue their hobbies without missing out much on the academic front. During examination times, it was pretty common to see the brainy ones going through bulky text books cleverly concealed within the covers of the latest Batman comic. 0002 (83)

Other than academic accomplishments, we could forge long-lasting bonds of friendship. One is now a successful entrepreneur while another rose to dizzying heights in the realm of banking. Another one is now at a very senior position with one of India’s largest business houses. Yet another one enriched the IAF with his dedication and continues his romance with cloud-computing, though not of the IT kind. One went on to become the Director Finance in one of the leading airlines in India. Another one has made it big in the IT sector, whereas several others have excelled in such diverse fields as pure sciences, law and order and even in international diplomacy.

Innovation and Isolated Glory

Allow me to come back to DU’s attempt to innovate its graduate degree course. Sure enough, it sounds like a good step. However, the apparent absence of academic refinements and adequate discussion with faculty, prospective students and with other stakeholders is discouraging. Quite possibly, DU would start churning out youngsters who would be more ‘marketable’. But the prospective employers are sure to be twiddling their thumbs in anxiety, trying to cope with an unpredictable quality of performance.

There is a long and justifiable debate on encouraging real innovation in higher education in India. One of the major goals is to demolish the strict boundaries between various disciplines and allow students to choose a mix of as diverse streams of learning as, say, Physics and Fine Arts. The real test of the proposed system would lie in ensuring that each student can grow as per his/her individual aptitude. That would be the only way to harness the innate potential of the youth of today, thereby increasing their contribution to society at large. Macaulay

I believe the basic innovation we need in the area of higher education is that of ridding it of Lord Macaulay’s legacy. We need to hone the entrepreneurial skills of the young, so they could transform India economically.

The Indian system of higher education boasts of over 600 university-level institutions and more than 36,000 colleges. Any reform must therefore address three basic issues: standardization across the country, parity between different centers of learning and vertical as well as lateral mobility of students. In the absence of these features, DU may merely end up basking in its isolated glory.

Here is hoping that wider consultations will take place before an academic reform of the kind proposed gets implemented. A prestigious entity like DU can ill afford to have several degrees of separation between itself and other institutions of higher learning in India.

 

 

 

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My dear, never did I dream of being with you,

With silent feet you waltzed into my life, it is true.

 

You came in and took control of all aspects of my life,

All kinds of sweets and savouries are now denied by my loving wife. 

 

When others feast on dishes and foods exotic,

You make me learn the art of detachment and turn me into an ascetic.

 

To remain aloof from all kinds of cuisines and tastes,

You exhort me to walk, exercise and not let my life go waste.

 

I abide by all your wishes and try my best to keep you in good cheer,

I live like a recluse, satisfying all your demands, dear.  

 

When it comes to taking good care of me, my wife is near perfect,

But all my vital organs you alone appear determined to effect.

 

O dear Diabetes, my beloved,

It appears you are in no hurry to take leave.

 

But a guest needs to know when it is time to depart,

Hope you leave my abode before death make us part!

 

[Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/getting-india-in-the-pink-of-health

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/handling-the-diabetes-tsunami-in-india%5D

(Published in The Hindu dated August 11, 2013)

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/diabetes-my-dear/article5010531.ece

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Much before I was born, cocooned in my mother’s womb,

The society tried to kill me and bury me in an unmarked tomb.

 

I arrived in this beautiful world hoping to chase my own rainbows,

But was treated like a burden and made to suffer all kinds of blows.

 

At a tender age of five years, all chirpy, playful and carefree,

I was either married off or violated beneath a mute tree.

 

My brothers got better rights when it came to wealth and health,

Education was their privilege, mine to tend house and hearth.

 

When I was happy, carefree and sprightly at the age of sixteen,

I was brutalized by some booze and porn-addicted teens.

 

Out in the streets, I was hounded, teased, touched and groped,

Disrobed by eyes and leered at in thoughts – not the life I had hoped.

 

Caged always was I by the customs, rules and traditions of the society,

Held captive by precious stones and gold jewelry, devoid of any gaiety.

 

Dependent on a father, then a husband and then a son,

I always craved for freedom which I could never have won.

Prime enabler of progeny, I was shared, bartered, depraved and sold,

Killed in cold blood, family prestige I was mandated to uphold.

I spent my life multi-tasking and managing the entire family universe,

To give me due credit in my country’s GDP, economists were averse.

I was put on religious pedestals and worshipped with fervor,

Chased in my youth but later abandoned and entombed forever.

 

For someone’s momentary pleasure and a spot of weakness,

Blame was laid at my own doorstep; abused for my meekness.

 

Maimed by acid attacks, beaten black and blue and burnt alive,

Freedom to make choices invariably denied on my own life’s drive.

 

Lying awake each night, the untold misery and terror I continued to relive,

Those supposed to protect me in fact exploited me, difficult to believe.

 

For each brutality, my countrymen, alas, barked up the wrong tree,

They asked for tougher laws and went on a police-blaming spree.

 

The courts tried to help, but too little and too late,

The politicians were too busy chasing their own fate.

 

The media and movies gleefully always used me as a sex object,

TV soaps ignored the reality, my stereotype roles they still project.

 

Religious and spiritual gurus never raised their voice and let it pass,

Society never decided to look within and re-set its attitudinal compass.

 

However, each violation has left me stronger than before,

My body they might have crushed and bruised, not my soul.

 

O Creator, give me the courage to forgive those who have tormented me,

Let me be born a female in coming births, making me assert myself with glee.

Never shall I let males dominate me, even if it means facing death,

For equality between the sexes, I shall always fight till my last breath.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/an-open-letter-to-damini

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/to-nirbhaya-the-fearless-a-daughter-of-india)

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