Thursday, October 25, 2007

Saawariya vs Om Shanti Om

Saawariya.. tintintinaning
Saawariya.. tintintinaing
Saawariya.. o ho o ho

This is my daughter's favourite song right now. It's not mine for sure.

The big Bollywood showdown this Diwali is Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Saawariya vs Farah Khan's Om Shanti Om. And in a way it's a battle of Youth vs Experience.

Saawariya uses one of the oldest formulas in Bollywood's book: launching a new lead pair. There are a number of big stars who were born that way:
- Bobby (Rishi Kapoor, Dimple)
- QSQT (Aamir Khan, Juhi Chawla)
- Maine Pyaar Kiya (Salman, Bhagyashree)

Note: Technically MPK was not Salman's first film , and QSQT wasn't Juhi's either but whatever they did before that has been long forgotten. Everyone remembers these as unki pehli picture.

Then there were actors like Kumar Gaurav who made a smashing debut with Love Story. Neither Kumar nor his heroine Vijeta Pandit made it big in Bollywood subsequently par kam se kam ek picture to hit hui!

The 'young love story' is actually a favourite way to launch star sons. I think it fell out of favour when the last chappie launched this way - Abhishek Bachchan - did not make it for about 4 years.

But that was a while ago. India is once again ready for a new chocolate hero and new candyfloss heroine. And a new generation of star kids is ready to be launched.

Lekin there are interesting differences this time. For the first time, a star daughter is being launched with full blessings and fanfare from the family. Poor Karisma had to fight for her career while even Kareena took a backseat to Abhishek in Refugee. This time, Ranbir and Sonam are getting equal footage and so are both sets of parents.

What's more, although either of the Kapoors could have produced a film to launch their kid they have put their eggs in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's basket. And both sides have formed this mutual admiration society.

At the music launch of Saawariya Bhansali gushed: "I am so touched to see Krishnaji here" and made glowing references to Raj Kapoor. While Ranbir came on stage and said in a small and humble voice:"I am grateful to "sir" for considering me worthy of this project." Vagairah vagairah.

Makes sense for both sides. Bhansali has this grand and opulent cinematic vision which India loves. While a debut pair which can generate so much free press and public curiosity can only boost the film. And lead to profitable though bizarre marketing tie ups like this one.

On the other hand, there's 'Om Shanti Om'. Also a love story but with a 'reincarnation' twist. And a reincarnated Shahrukh 'six pack' Khan. And the whole '70s era reincarnated as 'retro cool', actually.

OSO also has a new heroine - Deepika Padukone - but clearly she is not the USP of the film. In fact - in an exact opposite strategy - Om Shanti Om is pitching the star card heavily. The song 'Deewangee', currently on air, features '31 top stars'.

Bottomline: OSO is old wine in a new bottle while Saawariya is new wine in an old bottle. If I had to choose just one I'd go for 'Om Shanti Om'. But then... I'm old.

P.S> Regardless of who 'wins' the box office battle, I think Ranbir will go on to do very well. But hey, I thought Rishi Kapoor (in Karz) was really cool. And Ranbir does have a jhalak of Rishi... Before he graduated in size and had to hide behing horrendous checked sweaters!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fortune Global Forum finalists

Thank you for the tremendous response to my call to 'speak your mind'.

The 'important international forum' is the Fortune Global Forum in New Delhi from Oct 29-31 which brings together the leaders of the world’s largest companies with policymakers and scholars to address key issues facing multinational corporations today.

The four outstanding young people selected to represent Indian youth in a panel discussion at the forum are:

1. Abhishek Nayak, 20, student, BITS Pilani
2. Nikila Srinivasan, 19, student, SVCE Chennai
3. Akanksha Thakore, 21, student, IIM Ahmedabad
4. Akshay Mahajan, 21, college dropout and freelance photographer

The panel they will be speaking on is titled 'Our India: Reflections of Rising Stars' and is part of a Roundtable on India: Snapshots of an Evolving Culture. I will be moderating this session along with Barkha Dutt of NDTV.

Once again, thank you to all applicants. The level of energy, entrepreneurship and enthusiasm was amazing. I will keep in touch with you guys and I am sure we will get a chance to do something together in the near future.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

'The Odyssey Generation'

David Brooks, coined a new term for 20-45 year olds in a recent Op Ed piece in the New York Times: the Odyssey Generation

There used to be four common life phases: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Now, there are at least six: childhood, adolescence, odyssey, adulthood, active retirement and old age. Of the new ones, the least understood is odyssey, the decade of wandering that frequently occurs between adolescence and adulthood.

During this decade, 20-somethings go to school and take breaks from school. They live with friends and they live at home. They fall in and out of love. They try one career and then try another.

Hmm - reminds you of the characters on 'Friends'.

Their parents grow increasingly anxious. These parents understand that there's bound to be a transition phase between student life and adult life. But when they look at their own grown children, they see the transition stretching five years, seven and beyond. The parents don't even detect a clear sense of direction in their children's lives. They look at them and see the things that are being delayed.

They see that people in this age bracket are delaying marriage. They're delaying having children. They're delaying permanent employment...In 1960, roughly 70 percent of 30-year-olds had achieved these things. By 2000, fewer than 40 percent of 30-year-olds had done the same.

Brroks believes this trend will become more pronounced because that's how it is in Europe. He quotes William Galston of the Brookings Institute who notes that Europeans delay marriage even longer than Americans and spend even more years shifting around jobs, careers, degrees.

And of course, we're seeing all this happening in India also - although in small pockets. Social pressures in India are far stronger but young men and women who are economically independent and strong-willed are deferring marriage, for starters. Quitting your job to go 'back to studies' is acceptable (especially for MBAs), even with spouse and kid in tow. Even drastic career switches are not shocking and unheard of.

And kids from affluent families with liberal-minded parents are living very experimentally in their 20s. Taking up one job after the other merely to 'try it out'. Going abroad for esoteric courses with little or no employment value. Living without a real plan or idea of 'where I will be 5 years from now'.

All things considered however, I see more scope in India for odyssey in careers, education and search for overall meaning than odyssey in personal relationships. There are a few, very few young people who 'live in' but generally even they formalise the arrangement in due course. As one close friend who is getting married put it,"Nothing will change after marriage... but at least we can attend the Society dinner without having to answer awkward questions."

And overall sab log kitne khush hain. Both sides of the family are busy shopping and planning and plotting the various ceremonies and simply for the sake of the smiles on your grandmother's face you say, "Heck, kar lete hain."

Aur uske baad ek-do bachche wachche bhi.

So we in India will see the modified odyssey. The thodyssey. The urge to paraglide at 35. Get six pack abs at 40. Wear jeans - perhaps forever.

The warm cocoon of the Great Indian Family is hard to resist. We're a tropical species... Beyond may lie great adventures, but it can be lonely and cold.

Monday, October 22, 2007

5 month HR project

If you're a BMS/ BBA or even a plain BA/ BSc/ BCom graduate looking to work hands on at something other than marketing credit cards/ insurance/ retail/ BPO - here's a golden opportunity. Especially if you're keen on an MBA in HR (or at least considering the same).

The 'job' is a 5-6 month long project with an interesting outfit (not JAM magazine, in case u r wondering!) who is assessing HR practises within top name companies and then bringing out a high profile report. It will look very good on your CV for sure. And pays well (Rs 15,000 a month). Two people is all they're looking for.

So if you are interested, OR, know someone who is then drop a mail right away to rashmi_b at Attach your CV please and a contact number and I'll let you know further details!

Bhaag ke shaadi

Young couples eloping against their parents wishes used to be a standard storyline in Hindi films. Rich boy, poor girl/ Hindu-Muslim/ naukar-maalik wee some of the disparities which led parents to screech: "Nahin, yeh rishta hamein manzoor nahin hai."

Then came DDLJ, where Shahrukh Khan refused to elope with Kajol. No sir, I will get married only with papaji's blessings. And so began a new era where parents and kids turned over a new leaf. The kids decided it was better to 'win over' the oldies while the parents eventually realised, 'Agar hamare bachche khush hain, hum khush hain'.

Give and take became possible - and a happily ever after full family photo as well. The Ek Duuje ke Liye / QSQT genre of scripts died to make way for Saathiya where the young couple does elope but without any great fuss or drama following it. The prents are displeased but life goes on and the movie is more about how life isn't a bed of roses even after you marry the person of your dreams.

And then there was Pyaar ke Side Effects where there are some parental doubts and murmurs but the bigger villain is the groom himself who is afraid of making a commitment.

A tongue in cheek take is captured in a recent ad for Maruti Zen Estilo where a young couple elopes and is stopped by the girl's father (an army type). But he is so taken in by the car's features, he lets them go. It's kind of silly but at a deeper level rings true because hey, if the guy looks decent, drives this kind of car and makes my daughter happy, who am I to play spoilsport?

So all this sounds like wonderfully progressive stuff but at ground level, things aren't that cool and easy. The drama around Chiranjeevi's daughter eloping with her boyfriend last week is a case in point. TOI report:

On a day of dramatic developments, megastar Chiranjeevi's younger daughter 'went out for a walk' from their home in Jubilee Hills on Wednesday morning, but surfaced little later at an Arya Samaj mandir in Secunderabad and married her lover of four years.

The drama unfolded at around 10 am when Srija, dressed casually in jeans, went out of the house for a walk and on the way wanted to meet her aunt. She left in a frend's vehicle. An hour and half later, Srija surfaced at Arya Samaj mandir, New Bowenpally. Her lover Shirish Bharadwaj (21) was already there. The couple, both majors, exchanged garlands and took marriage vows as per Arya Samaj tradition at around 11.30 am in the presence of friends.

Soon after the marriage, the couple asked for help from police and the media as they feared for their lives. Speaking to the media, Srija alleged her family members forced her to discontinue the relationship from the time they came to know of it...

The couple said, she was in a state of 'house arrest' after she turned 18 on November 9 last. In a interview to a news channel recently, Bharadwaj reportedly alleged that Chiranjeevi and his fans were threatening him.

Sources said, Srija probably feared her love story would meet the same fate as her sister Sushmita's. Srija's elder sister was engaged to upcoming hero Uday Kiran, but a few months later the wedding was called off citing "incompatibilty" between the couple. However, the real reason was Uday Kiran was forced out of the relationship, they added.

Phew. Now there are two issues:
a) Chiranjeevi may feel 'my daughter is too young' to be able to decide who her life partner should be. Fair enough The solution would be to let the couple go out - have a relationship - and maybe it would end on its own. How many such affairs last more than a few weeks or months anyways?

But nahin, this is not the Indian way. We do not 'date'. We do not make out before we marry. And if we do, our parents certainly have no inkling...

b) Forget age, even if Srija was not 18 but 28, Chiranjeevi would not want her to find her own life partner. After all, that is the job of a parent. In fact, the most enjoyable and exciting job of an Indian parent. By making their own choices, kids are depriving their parents of their shining moment in the sun. Their 15 minutes of fame. The raison d'etre of their very existence.

Exaggeration, you think? Often enough, I think not. And more so with the rich and/or famous. As Sunil Sethi pondered in Business Standard : "Do the new-rich shed their liberal spots first and revert to neo-conservatism?"

To which I would say, who said they shed those spots in the first place?

The irony of the Chiranjeevi case is that his recent film 'Shankardada Zindabad' is a remake of 'Lage raho Munnabhai' which promotes Gandhigiri, inter caste marriage et al.. Magar apne ghar mein scene ekdum opposite hai.

Equations have changed, of course. 'Inter caste marriage' is the issue but Srija is from a lower caste than the boy (who is a Brahmin).

Even that might be seen as progress... In 'OBC reservation' India.

Update: It seems that Chiranjeevi has finally forgiven and blessed the couple. Certainly a better ending than the Priyanka Todi - Rizwanur Rehman love story, or this gruesome case of a mother killing her daughter for marrying against her wishes.

Spy vs Spy; Parent vs Child
And oh, this is really... funny. But a new trend, for sure.

DNA reports: As Hyderabad woke up to the news of Srija’s wedding, movie tycoons as well as real estate and corporate groups virtually clamped the shutters on the freedom of their kith and kin.

Parents are apparently hiring private detectives to keep a 24 X 7 watch on their kids, look into the background of their friends and provide surveillance of eating and watering holes. Armed escorts to teens and even house arrests are being talked of!

While in Ahmedabad: Parents in Gujarat are hiring private detectives to spy on their teenage children during Navratri when late-night dance celebrations attract tens of thousands of youngsters.

"It is strange to pay someone to keep a night watch on my daughters but it is better than regretting later," said S. Doshi, a 42-year-old mother of two girls, aged 17 and 19.

Ah, brave new worlds for spies to conquer... James Bond on an exciting new assignment: "I'll have a sandwich dhokla and mango lassi - shaken, not stirred!"

Also read my earlier take on the subject: Pyaar ke asli dushman

Friday, October 12, 2007

And what about distance learning?

Pure distance learning is like trying to review a restaurant by merely looking at its menu. Despite best intention and sincere effort, you will lose out on the actual experience.

Much of the learnings in an MBA come from student-teacher and peer to peer interaction. You get none of that when you simply order course material and pore over it alone.

Much of the value of an MBA comes from its selection process. While full time MBA admissions are highly competitive and grueling, and even good part time programs apply some selectivity, distance learning course dispatch their courseware to anyone who’ll fork out the cash for it.

The two most popular distance learning programs (apart from IGNOU, which most discount) are offered by Symbiosis Centre of Distance Learning (SCDL) and ICFAI. Students are quite happy with the quality of courseware from both institutes. They’re not happy with its lack of effect on their careers.

Delhi based Jaspreet Chandhok is pursuing a PGDBA (Marketing) from SCDL. A BCA from IP University, he joined BPO Convergys soon after his final sem exams. “Fortunately, I got chances to excel and kept learning lessons of the "Work /Job World", and hence am still sticking in the same organization, “ says Jaspreet. Hungry for a post-grad qualification, he joined SCDL (“considering the hype of Symbiosis”).

He now feels, however, that the course is of absolutely no use. “I did gain knowledge but much of it was pretty basic. One doesn't need to go though books and "online exams" to prove his skills in these areas.”

He’s seen no gains in his career linked to distance learning – and isn’t about it even in the near future. It’s much the same story with Harikrishnan J, an Infosys engineer who completed his “Online MBA” from SCDL 6 months ago.

“The courseware is very good, lucid and manageable for a working person. It has given me good understanding of business concepts”. But job prospects wise - no gains. “ None of my technical work (I work as a Software Engg @ Infosys since 2003) deals with management and hence it hasn't helped me in this regard. And since my company doesn't accept this kind of MBA this course doesn’t help me climb up the coporate ladder yet.”

Try shifting? You can get a higher paying technical job but not a functional role. “Most openings, when advertised, give a disclaimer that Part-Time / Distance MBAs are not considered”. Of course Harikrishnan believes many full time MBAs (leave out IIMs and ISB) are in a similar boat. “I know a guy here who did his MBA from Cardiff Business School UK and came back to Infosys . He is working as a software tester”.

The verdict: Keep a distance from distance learning, from the point of view of impact on earning. Of course, there’s no harm – if you really just want to learn.

first published in March 2007 in Businessworld's Mega Indian Bschool Guide.

also read: The Part time MBA puzzle

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Part Time MBA - to do, or not to do?

Practically every single day I get a couple of emails with the following query:

I am working with XYZ company as a software engineer/ BPO executive/ something-else but-fed-up-with-it. But for ABC reasons I cannot do a full time MBA. What is your opinion of part time MBA? Can you recommend a good one?

And some put it even more bluntly: Please give all the information about Mba part time and crosspondance courses

The funny bit is they write this after reading this piece written by me on precisely the same subject.

While my overall assessment of part time courses remains the same it has been close to 3 years since that was published. So here's an update for those still looking for answers. To do or not to do: the Part time Puzzle was published in Businessworld's annual 'Mega Indian Bschool Guide' earlier this year.

As readers of this blog were an important source of feedback and the guide has been out for over 6 months now, I am sharing with you my findings. Besides, I really can't reply to each of you personally - answering practically the same Qs!

To do or not to do: the Part time Puzzle
- by Rashmi Bansal
published March 2007

Why does the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean? Why is George Bush such a clown? What is the secret of eternal youth? These are mysteries which may yet remain unsolved. But there’s one puzzling question I do have some answers to.

“Should I do a part time MBA?” is a subject weighing on many minds. Assuming you can’t – or don’t wish to - give up your job to pursue a full time course, is it worth spending time, money and effort on? Given that no part-time or distance courses offers placements, will it offer a tangible boost to your career?

The answer is: it depends. Part time courses definitely lack the prestige factor of full time MBAs. But choose carefully and you will reap benefits.

When Zubin George joined JBIMS’ 3 year part time MIM (Masters in Information Management) he was a developer with Innovative Systems. He’s now moved to Citigroup’s information technology division in a management role.

And he has no regrets. “The quality and depth of learning was far greater than what I would have got from a full time course. The kind of questions raised and the quality of answers from the faculty were outstanding”. In other words, more practice than theory - direct application value. That must be why, despite the grueling after-work and weekend timings the classes had a healthy attendance statistic of 65-70%.

Managing work and studies is always the dilemma for the part-timer. The PGPSEM (Post Graduate Program in Software Enterprise Management) program offered by IIM Bangalore is no exception. 33 year old Abhinav Agarwal completed his PGPSEM in 2006. “There are students who manage to excel at work and get straight As but then something’s gotta give. Their personal life suffers”.

Classes are held on every Friday and Saturday but there are also weekly tests and of course, assignments. Is 2.5 years of this self inflicted stress worth it?

Yes, asserts Abhinav. “Over 500 of us have completed the PGPSEM program since it kicked off in 1998.” Unfortunately, no formal survey has been conducted to assess its co-relation with individual career growth. But anecdotal evidence suggests many direct and indirect benefits. “I was a product manager with Oracle,” says Abhinav. “I am now a Principal Product Manager. And yes, I do believe the PGPSEM has accelerated the process.”

There are many interesting twists that PGPSEM has introduced in some careers. Arun Narasani, also from the batch of 2006, started ‘Brain League’, an Intellectual Property services company. The company was incubated at IIM Bangalore’s NSRCEL (Nadathur S. Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning ).

Another student who was working with Oracle when he entered the PGPSEM program, joined venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins midway. He is now a VP at a mobile applications company funded by the same VC.

“Besides what you learn in class I definitely see a networkng effect,” says Abhinav. “You meet a hundred odd people from outside your company and your immediate line of work”. That’s certainly an aspect of the 18 month Executive MBA at S P Jain that Siemens engineer Rashmi Das enjoys. Interestingly, she is based in Bangalore but travels to Mumbai once every 10 weeks for the 10 days of classroom contact sessions. The rest of the time course delivery, quizzes and assignments are conducted online.

Rashmi is extremely pleased with the faculty, the quality of case studies and group work. One semester into the course she says, “Meeting people from other companies and altogether different industries has broaded my perspective.” It’s a similar story with Sunil Malik, Senior Manager Public Relations and Corrporate Communications at XIM Bhubaneshwar, after he enrolled in the broadband assisted long PGCBM (Post Graduate Certificate in Business Management) offered by his own institute.

While Sunil happens to be on the XIMB campus, other participants log in from Reliance centers in their respective cities every weekend. Assignments and quizzes are conducted online, and so are ‘endterm exams’. The highlight of the 12 month course is a 7 day campus visit during which participants meet and interact on the XIMB campus. As far as impact on career goes, the immediate effect can’t always be pin-pointed but participants are confident of a boost in the longer run.

Akhil Agarwal, a CA rankholder and a CS to boot, was part of the inaugural batch of the XIM PGCBM (2005-6). Midway through the course he switched jobs (from Reliance to ICI Paints), with a significant shift in role and salary. But this, he believes, is a break he would have got whether or not he enrolled in the XIMB course.

His classmate Shekhar Rao, however, attributes his mid-course job shift within the telecom industry to his enhanced qualification. “I am getting double the salary today and a responsibility for which ‘an MBA’ was a necessary requirement.” The XIMB name, he says, definitely helped tip the scales in his favour. “Besides, I learnt a lot from the course itself”. And additional benefit: he can refer back to professors for advice and mentorship on problems.

The verdict then is clear: a part time program from a brand name institution does have its value. Although ‘official’ placements may not be part of the deal, the informal network does contribute to a career boost.

While part time MBAs don’t command the same kind of respect as full time ones, some companies do value them more than others. Case in point: 20-25% of the 2006 PGPSEM class comprised of Wipro employees. Infosys also actively supports the program and recently helped IIMB expand it to Chennai.

Says Rashmi, “If you are working in the regional development centre of an MNC, a part time or Executive MBA may not have that much value. But it will really help you in an Indian software company, particularly product managers.” She also believes that one should have 5-6 years of experience and be extremely self-motivated to truly reap benefits.

Much also depends on the attitude of your company. Around 50% of students in part time courses like PGPSEM are sponsored. But it’s not clear how many companies are simply using their sponsorship as a retention strategy, and how many have actually chalked out a post-MBA career path for their employees.

Of course, none of these courses come cheap. While the 3 year Bajaj course sets you back by Rs 1 lakh, S P Jain’s Executive MBA costs Rs 2.65 lakhs (excluding
travel cost to Mumbai for contact sessions). XIMB’s broadband aided PGCBM is Rs 1.5 lakhs for 12 months. Similar certificate courses are also offered by XLRI, IIM K, IIFT, NMIMS etc in collaboration with VSAT provider Hughes Direcway.

In conclusion, ‘cause and effect’ are palpable but not always as tangible as in the full time program. But the very act of stretching onself, of seeking knowledge and opening up to new ideas and opportunities is what perhaps makes a difference.

Speaking of success in terms of ‘formulas’, a participant on an online MBA forum obseves, “Whenever a chemical reaction happens where A mixes with B to produce C, this catalyst helps speed up the process so that C is produced sooner... The catalyst CANNOT alter the chemical reaction to produce D instead of C”.

Given quality raw material, a good part-time MBA could be that career catalyst.

Tomorrow: The dope on Distance Learning MBAs

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I-Pill: let's talk about family planning

"Had I known my wife had forgotten her birth control pills, I would've been careful last night."

"My husband and I are worried our family planning method might have failed last night."

Now what to do? The ad copy explains: Take the I-pill - an emergency 'day after contraceptive pill.

You can't miss the hi voltage campaign Cipla has unleashed for its product. What's interesting is how safe the advertiser has kept his communication. Husbands and wives, birth control and family planning. You know - we Indians have sex only when married and more so use contraception because producing another child into this world would mean additional burden to the nation.

OK, seriously, words like 'family planning' disappeared from our vocabulary approximately two decades ago, along with slogans like 'hum do, hamara do'. The inverted red triangle which was everywhere you turned when I was a kid has been banished.

Heck, we're no longer ashamed of our billion plus population but flaunt is as a dhinchakly large consumer market.

But getting back to the i-pill you can see why the advertiser is treading soo..o cautiously. He wouldn't want to be accused of corrupting our Indian youth and so on and so forth.

Indian Express reports:

As the revelries of Navratri draw closer, condom once again has become the bad word. While the NGOs working for AIDS control are steering clear from condom promotion programmes that they usually launch during the festival, the Bajrang Dal has said it will not tolerate any condom promotion or HIV/AIDS awareness programmes around Garba venues this time.

Talking to Newsline, an NGO worker, on the condition of anonymity, said they used to put up stalls at various Garba venues to create public awareness about HIV/ AIDS. This time, however, they will not do so, he added.

“Last time, some activists claiming to represent the Hindus, had beaten up NGO workers in Baroda during Navratri while they were distributing condoms,” the NGO worker said, adding that they have decided against carrying out overt intervention programmes this season. “We will carry out one-on-one intervention programmes instead, and supply condoms to hotels and guesthouses” he said.

Wonder whether the dals will stake out these venues as well!

According to a pharmacist quoted in the report, "sale of condoms rise by about 70 per cent during Navratri". And this year I am sure the I-pill will rock as

"After iPod, I-pill gains popularity with youth", says Midday:

Alka Kumar, a consulting gynecologist at Gurunanak hospital in Bandra, says, “This product is a boon for married women not planning to conceive. But it may be misused by the youth especially during Navratri when unmarried pregnancies go up.”

The reason for all the action around Navratri is related more to opportunity than anything else. A lot of young people, esp girls, are allowed to stay out late. Dressed in sensuous chaniya cholis and whirring to the dandiya beat , hormones are bound to get into a tizzy. Pehle hota tha, ab bhi hoga. Instead of a botched abortion, many a young woman will opt for an i-pill.

But the two messages "prevention of pregnancy" and "prevention of HIV/ sexually transmitted diseases" have become independent of each other. The i-Pill can help with the first bit but do nothing for the second.

It would be terrible if young people decide to adopt the convenient route: Condom nahi hai? Koi baat nahin - you can always use the i-Pill. So let's go ahead anyways.

That's not what the advertiser has intended, but I bet a lot of folks will interpret it that way. If we accept that the i-Pill will be used by unmarried guys and girls, we can address this issue.But hello, yeh hai India. We will have to continue the charade and keep promoting 'family planning'.

Why not bring back the red triangle as well? Dunno - it just makes me nostalgic :)

Thank you

For the response to 'Speak your mind'. A preliminary shortlist has been made. Entries are now closed.

Details re: who finally gets selected, and the event itself, in a week. Watch this space!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Speak your mind...

... At an important international forum.

You must be
a) born in 1985, or after
b) an articulate speaker
c) have achievements/ interests in one or more of the following areas - social work, entrepreneurship, arts, music and literature, leadership (at college or community level). The list is only indicative - any evidence of initiative taken by you is welcome.

If you think you fit the bill, write in to me with a 3 para description of yourself and a pic.

I am specifically looking for 4 guys and 4 girls, and at least one person originally hailing from a small town. Email rashmi_b at

Do include your contact number!

Small town syndrome

The key trends that define India today are being formed in the chai tapri's (tea stalls) of Ludhiana and not in the pubs of South Mumbai, according to a recent study, 'The Bunty Syndrome' by advertising agency Euro RSCG.
- report in Business Standard

Yes, there is a lot of energy and desire to consume in tier 2 and 3 towns. And that is something relatively new for India.

But to recognise the rise of small town India as a 'trend' is one thing. To stretch that point into small town India is a 'trendsetter' (as BS declared in its headline) is quite another. It's not clear whether that's a leap the sub editor has made, or whether the Euro study has actually used the term in its report.

A trend is defined as a 'general direction in which something tends to move'. Or a 'current style'.

A trendsetter, on the other hand, is 'somebody or something starting trend: somebody or something that starts or popularizes a new trend or fashion'.

And I don't think new trends are being started in small towns. They may be ready to jump up and embrace trends but the action originates elsewhere.

Take Ludhiana. Till very recently there was not a single decent theatre in that town, let alone a multiplex. The happening folks of Ludhiana did all their shopping in Delhi. If they felt like visiting a classy restaurant, the closest option was Chandigarh.

(How do I know? I visit Ludhiana every year. That's where my husband's side of the family is from :)

Sure, they have this thing for Mercedes S Class (as the Euro study notes: Eighty out of every 100 Mercedes S Class sold in India are sold in Ludhiana). But that's because it's a really wannabe city.

The equivalent of the exporter in Ludhiana who buys a Mercedes S class may be a Mumbai yuppie who's happy with a Honda Accord. It's like Lokhandwala/ Juhu new money vs South Bombay old money or investment banker profile. The former is intensely attracted to brands which shout "You have arrived".

The Ludhiana guy will always look up to Mumbai, Delhi, London and New York. Large cities which allow individuals freedom to think differently and experiment with their lives are the cauldron which produce 'trendsetters'.

And that's why Buntys and Bablis will continue head there. Despite bade shehron ki dukaan aur aisho aaraam heading to their doorstep!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dress code for CAs?

DNA reports:

The Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICAI), a statutory body for regulating chartered accountants in the country, has tied up with retail major Provogue to provide a dash of colour and style to the profession.

“A professional should be identified by his knowledge, garb and panache. I believe the new dress code — blue blazer and tie — will give chartered accountants a new identity,” said president of ICAI Sunil Talati.

A well intentioned but poor idea. Doctors wear white coats and lawyers may don black ones. But, they work in specific work settings like hospitals and courtrooms. By ICAI's own estimation 75,000 of the 1.4 lakh CAs registered with the body work in industry. ie. regular corporate office. Can you imagine them wearing 'uniform'??

The remaining 65,000 must be in private practice. But here too, a blue blazer and tie is not going to help 'market the brand'.

A dress code is merely cosmetic, it cannot solve an overall identity crisis.

I have nothing against CAs, despite what you may think after reading this piece.. I do believe however that the MBA has impacted the CA profession. CAs have more 'core skills' but in a world where showmanship, branding, soft skills and a macro view seem to matter more, the CA loses out.

The acid test of a professional's worth is: do I get the last word? If a doctor scribbles out medicine X, you take it. If a lawyer advises defence Y, that's what is argued in court. If you don't agree you can go to another doctor or lawyer. But whichever you finally gets to be the expert. You have to trust him or her.

With a CA, what happens. He advises. The client may or may not agree. Or even believe he knows better. CAs are manipulated or coerced into signing audits they know are false. Inflating or deflating figures. And so on and so forth.

And this is not just in India. As the Financial Times noted after the Enron scandal:

Over the past five decades, accountants have changed from watchdogs to advocates and salespersons. Auditing has become one of a number of services, including consulting and tax advice, in which accountants "sell" creative tax avoidance and financing structures.

No doubt black sheep exist in medicine and law as well but there the regulatory body when it comes to accounting is particularly weak. I have not heard of CAs being 'unchartered' for malpractice. If it does happen, it's an event so rare and invisible that no one is afraid when signing off on doctored audit reports.

Again, not to suggest MBAs are highly ethical but that's a separate story.

As a core skills profession, bound by a charter, CAs need to live up to high standards to regain their rightful place in the sun. And then, they won't need those ties and blazers...

Terribly unsuitable for Indian weather in any case!

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