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Hi, I'm Mukul Bhartiya

Mukul Bhartiya is a Story teller, Inbound Marketer, Personal Brand Architect and Salesman; last tag he wears with pride.He is a curious mind, who loves to use metaphor, takes his audience to word pictorial tour, delves into mysteries of occult, handwriting and signature reading and flaunts his love for martial arts and photography.

Articles by: Mukul Bhartiya 53 Articles Found

7 Step Rule Book to Master the Art of Sales

7 Step Rule Book to Master the Art of Sales

When I had started thinking about my career, someone suggested me to spend at least a year in ‘sales’. He advised me that sales function’s exposure makes the man “A Gentleman”. It helps the person to appreciate other’s point of view, build up and tell your story, handle rejection, navigate your way to success despite challenges and teaches you “patience”. This message left an ever lasting impact on my mind and career. Being a salesman first and storyteller second, I look forward to meet the doyens of my stream, talk to them and learn from them.

Recently, I got an opportunity to meet Mr. Syed A Asim, Director, DeBox Global; a seasoned sales professional with more than two decades of experience, expertise and success in IT Sales. His illustrious career journey includes heading sales and business function for technology companies; Financial Technologies Pvt. Ltd., Dion Global Solutions Ltd. and Bonton Group of Companies to name a few.

Though we talked on different topics of concern and interest, but the learnings which I got from him about sales in general and IT sales in particular was most beneficial for me and I am sure it will be the same for my readers. So, let’s just jump into it without wasting any more time.

Mukul: You are a doyen of IT Sales in India and rightfully so, because you have successfully spent close to two decades at Sr. Management positions in IT sales. What according to you is the present character of IT industry and sales? What are the challenges and opportunities?

Syed Asim: A Salesperson enjoys these kinds of tags like ‘doyen’ or ‘you know how to make your customers pay’, but I don’t take these words seriously. My idea of sales doesn’t start and end with taking money from someone’s pocket. For me, building trust and maintaining it is more important than just selling a product or service. If you start the sales process with the idea of ‘money’, then you are limiting your reach to just one customer whom you are targeting. But if you start your sales process with the idea of building ‘trust’ then your customer will become your evangelist.

The big mistake people make while trying to understand IT industry is that they take it as a standalone business vertical, which it is not. This may sound contradictory because there are so many companies which are doing nothing except creating IT product and services and selling it.

IT is an ‘enabler’ and it must be seen this way only. Whether it is doing good or bad depends upon the good or bad of the industry whose processes it is enabling. So, if all other sectors and industries which an IT company can serve are doing good, then IT industry will automatically do well.

What has changed over the period of time is awareness and acceptance. Earlier there was very little to no awareness of what IT can do and there was resistance to acceptance too. This was the era when people believed in doing everything of their own.

IT sales started as concept selling. Entire concept was needed to be spoon fed to the customer. Now there is awareness as well as acceptance. In fact, some people go overboard with their dependency on IT. They think that it can do some magic and solve all their problems. I am not saying that it is bad for the industry, but in my opinion, it should be seen that, at what cost it is coming. If the cost of solution is more than the business itself, then what’s the point in getting the solution?

I came across an example where the IT team of a company was asked to give utmost priority to data security. So, the IT team instructed everyone in the office to change their passwords frequently, have alphanumeric constituents with one capital and one small letter in it and one special character. Next thing they found that all the passwords were pasted on the desktop or the board behind because the password were quite difficult to remember.

Another example I came across recently was in a village I visited and which was facing an acute problem of monkey menace. Monkeys were damaging the standing crop. The problem reached the District Magistrate and he promised a sum of Rs.1 Lakh, as if it was a big amount to find some scientific solution of the problem. Everyone got busy with finding frequency and pattern in monkey damaging the crop to designing a sound which could scare away the monkeys. An elderly from the village itself suggested that rather than breaking the head over it, they should rather bring/hire a baboon which scares away the monkeys.

My point is, the business function has to clearly understand and decide what problem they are trying to solve and at what cost. If they could decide it clearly and emphatically, then it will help their business, otherwise it will prove to be a burden.

This awareness is good also for us because it has made sales process easy and people are willing to listen, understand and come up with their own ideas. And with this acceptability and awareness, quality talent pool has also increased, which in turn has increased the quality of product and services, overall benefitting the industry.

Mukul: This brings me to my next question. IT behemoths like Infosys, Wipro etc. are reportedly facing challenges in the mature markets like USA and EU due to slowing down of some of the European economies, noise of protectionism, currency fluctuations etc. Do you think that export of IT services will continue to dominate the sales book of IT companies or will they look inward for revenues?

Syed Asim: It’s not that Indian IT companies were not looking inwards for the revenue; they were. But since the revenue per unit was so small as compared to mature markets you named, they had no option but to look outwards and it has done great service to the country in terms of providing employment as well as earning foreign exchange.

Now, due to increased awareness and acceptance at every level of the society, domestic market is also poised to grow very big. The idea of ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Model Villages’ and big push for infrastructure will provide huge opportunity for the IT companies, domestic as well as foreign and more so if entire plan is executed with transparency. Not only the government expenditure on these plans, but multiplier effect of these expenditures and increase in economic activity due to it will continue to push the domestic demand of IT product and services.

Efforts like demonetization has also forced the end users and companies alike to shift from cash transactions to cashless transactions, which in turn has invigorated the demand for IT products and services. So, there are a lot of things happening which indicate positive future for domestic market of IT products and services. But till the time it takes a proper shape, exports will continue to dominate the sales book.

Mukul: Of late, Indian companies have been forced to move from one business scenario to another due to various factors like technological advancement or disruption from a powerful competitor. For example, before Telecom operators could think about how to realize the money they had invested in 3G, they had to jump start to 4G or before Organized Modern Retailers could even think of reaching operational level profit, they were fighting technological and reach superiority of Online retail. Similarly, what I am seeing that before Indian IT companies could realize full potential of IT services sale in the country, they are already battling with low revenue mobile applications business disturbing their sales register. How complex is the scenario and what should be strategy of IT companies to beat that?

Syed Asim: Mobile applications have helped to popularize the use of IT products among end consumers and it is good. But to say that it is posing a challenge to the sale of IT services is not correct. In fact, it has paved the way for bigger things in the background.

Yes, the economics and sales practices of mobile applications are certainly different from other IT products and services, but interpreting it as their challenge is wrong premise. I have told you earlier that the projects initiated by Government of India offers a great potential to IT companies if implemented with transparency. It will offer same opportunity to mobile application business and both will continue to grow in the time to come.

Mukul: India is the country of entrepreneurs and IT entrepreneurs can be found probably in every nook and corner of cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Gurugram, NOIDA etc. But I feel that it is more difficult to integrate the product to market than designing and developing it. What is your take on that?

Syed Asim: A good product is something which can’t be compromised at any cost. This helps in building the trust. What you are promising to your customers must be delivered. 

But if you ask me what should be given priority, then I will say that ‘sales’ should be given priority without compromising on the product. 

So, sales first approach is always better. It helps you to design a better product according to the need of the consumers and saves cost as well, which in turn guarantees success.

Mukul: You are probably one of the few persons who not only launched an “IT product” specific to Indian market when penetration of IT knowledge was very low in the country, but made it hugely successful as well. What advice you would like to give to the entrepreneurs to create a sales funnel for their product or services and master the sales?

Syed Asim: You know, even if my customer calls me in the middle of the night, I respond to him with full attention and alacrity. I don’t let him feel that he is not welcome. Once I close a sales deal, I make it a point to address all the problems regarding the product, after sales, if there is any. I don’t end my sales process with taking money from the customer. Moreover, I don’t sell something to someone if he doesn’t need it. 

I have always approached my customers as a consultant first, and then I graduate to a guide and then a salesman. It has helped me to understand the need of customers first, then advise him about the right solution and then pitch my product. This process has helped me get the sales numbers and I am sure it will help others as well. 

Now consider if you start as a salesman first, then what will happen. You will start selling without letting your customer tell you whether he needs your product or not. What kind of impact it will have on him?

Your sales process should start with your sales introduction big enough to pack the glimpse of your offerings and small enough to let your customer have all the time to list out his needs, requirements and work. He may not know whether he needs your product or not, but once he is done with his list, you will be in a better position to guide him towards your product or services. It will allow your customer to feel respected and you to attend his questions with proper answers.

Make sure to have initial agreements on the benefits of your product with your customer before signing off the final sales deal. These small agreements will help you to repeat the benefit of your product into customer’s mind and iron out all the difference before the final sales deal is sealed. It will also save you from lots of after sales service headaches. Most of the after sales challenges arise due to mismatch between expected benefits from the customer’s side and promised and delivered benefits from seller’s side. And if any challenge emerge out even after this, then be there for your client, even if it cost you time and money. It will go a long way in building trust and establishing long term beneficial relationship. Be genuine not a fool, be honest but diplomatic, be helpful, build trust…….it will help you in sales. 

For example, if I come to you to sell a phone which may be having some shortcomings and I tell you first about the shortcomings, then would you buy it; Of course, not. If I tell you all the positives but keep quiet on shortcomings, then what will happen after sales you can very well imagine? But if I tell you all the shortcomings but I keep my focus on the positives and the positives outweigh negatives, then you will not only buy the phone but you will be a satisfied customer as well.

Mukul: Data science, AI, Robotics…. how are they going to change how we consume information technology as an end consumer or as a company doing business, whether they are into IT or not?

Syed Asim: I have told you so much….now you answer this question…... (After some silence)… Alright……..as I told you in the beginning itself that IT is an enabler. Someone buying it will understand its benefit only after using it. Using big word sometime becomes fashion. People don’t want to be perceived as an ‘IT illiterate’.

Tell me one thing…. If your aunt is in hospital and she wants to see you. Will it help if you send a robot having your face and artificial intelligence and she knows that it is a robot and not you?

Mukul: No….

Syed Asim: That’s what I am saying; IT is meant to enable your job. Now it is up to you to decide in which part of your job you want to use AI.

AI is a comprehensive word and for it to work, you need a good amount of unstructured data points and experiences captured on the continuous basis. You will have to see which function of your business will fulfill these criteria, what benefit it will offer to you and your consumers once it is implemented and at what cost. Say if it is bringing down the cost of production or bringing you more consumer or increases consumer retention etc. then it is good for you.

Availability of unstructured big data points and behavioral aspects in any function means load of information to be processed by human mind, which will surely be beyond its capacity. So, it automatically warrants machine intervention. But it does not mean loss of human employment potential in that organization. For example, if a bank uses an AI enabled chatbot to handle customer grievances, then it will be able to solve these problems more efficiently and at a bigger scale. It will enable bank to utilize human resource more efficiently in the direction which can help in maximizing the revenue like acquisition of new clients or finding new opportunities with older clients.

But, Experience of these things can be felt and measured only after implementation in different functions. 

If you are selling it, then you should properly guide your customer. You must lay out all ‘if’ and ‘but’ in front of him to enable him in making the informed decision.

Mukul: One last question; will Skynet ever take over the world or there are Sarah Connor and John Connor to save the world from it? Or John Connor will be co-opted by Skynet and there will be no Sarah Connor to kill him before he is co-opted?

Syed Asim: I understand from where you are coming. I have seen the movie. A possibility has been explored were robots fitted with collective artificial intelligence group takes control of its own evolution and stops taking instruction from its human masters. There is an assumption in movie that in the days to come, we will be dependent completely on technology and artificial intelligence in all spheres of life.

So far, this assumption is not completely off the mark, but at the same time, it is also getting accepted that too much dependency on technology can lead to disasters. Data Security and related theft to name one is a case in point. There are voices of caution from no less than Elon Musk.

There is law of equilibrium which need not be breached. If it is breached then it automatically corrects the course and brings it back to the equilibrium; sometimes coupled with disaster. Whenever there will be an extreme push in one direction, there will be pull back for sure. So, I personally don’t see a possibility of Skynet taking over the world.

All these things are still futuristic and evolving to give it a decent picture. Till that time, we must enjoy all the technological advancements we can achieve……and not to forget these challenges will throw up abundant opportunities for people who are developing it and selling it. So, I see it more as a good opportunity than anything else!!

Now, let’s quickly wrap it up….. My Rule Book of Sales has the following lessons:

  • Introduction: Long enough to excite your customers and small enough to allow your customers sufficient time to talk about their work, needs and requirements. Your transition from a speaker to a listener should be real quick. Also, it will make the customer feel respected.
  • Understanding: A clear cut understanding of the customer’s requirements, your own product and it’s fitment to address the identified requirement. This will make the customer feel that his views are appreciated and his problems are being addressed. He will not have the feeling of being told off.
  • Honesty: Honesty in approach to address the customer’s problems and fulfill requirements. It would be right to list out the shortcomings of your product, but put greater emphasis on its positive qualities and abilities to solve the customer’s problems. It will build trust.
  • Affirmations: Small affirmations need to be collected to every query raised by the customer and addressed by the product. This will imprint positivity about your product or services in customer’s mind. Here, your transformation from active and patient listener to a consultant and guide must be real quick and smooth. It will strengthen the root of trust and sow the seed of mutually beneficial business relationship.
  • Pre-closure of sales: Before signing off, run through all the affirmations of the customer quickly so that he is convinced that all his concerns are being taken care off. From here your role as a salesman starts…….. Pitch the price here….. Since the customer will be convinced about the product’s ability to solve his problems, hence he would not like to lose it and will zero down on your product.
  • Closure of Sales: When everything is agreed upon, then move fast to close the sales.
  • Be there for your customer even after sales: If you are there for your customers even after sales, it will give you more customers without any extra effort, because your satisfied customers will become your evangelist. They will not only talk about your product in their circle, but even pitch it on your behalf.
I hope all your questions are answered. 

Mukul: Yes Sir... You have given my readers a practical guide of becoming a better salesman. Thanks a lot for your valuable time and sharing your experience with us. 


Rebooting Education An Innovative Way

Rebooting Education – An Innovative way…

The Government’s outlay in education for the budgetary year 2018-19 is Rs. 85,010 Cr. According to Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation, GOI, domestic private expenditure on education in 2014-15 was Rs. 2,25,832 Cr and in 2017-18 also, this expenditure would be on similar lines. Every year, India produces more than 5 million (6.3 Million in 2015-16) graduates and 1.4 million post graduates.  Every year, India is saddled with the colossal task of creating more than 10 million jobs for its educated youth.

In reality, after spending more than Rs. 3.1 Lakh cr. on education, we are adding millions of jobseekers to the already mammoth numbers. If the objective of majority of the educated youth is to seek Jobs, then who will create Jobs? Can the Government alone do that? This leads us to the fundamental question: Is our foundation right? Is our education system correct? Because if a huge part of our population remains on tenterhooks and is dependent on others to provide them an opportunity to earn their livelihood, then there must be something seriously wrong in what is being taught to us.

To find the answer to these questions, we talked to Mr. Sandeep Srivastava, Founder Promoter, IYC World. He is an Educator Entrepreneur and a budding Politician, who is aiming to reach the lower house of the country in 2019 to change the way Education is perceived in this country. For the person he is, we have the best wishes for him. His passion for education can be gauged from the very fact that he himself is a B.Tech (Computer Science) from Jadhavpur University, Cost and Works Accountant from ICWAI, M.Tech from IIT, Delhi and M.B.A from INSEAD. His professional accomplishments don’t end here. He is an Author / Writer as well. His publications includes: Career 3.0: Destressing Families and Societies, Parent 3.0: Secrets of Good Parenting, 21st Century Science- A series of 25 books, Concept based Social Science-A series of 13 books, 21st Century Math-A series of 25 books,  Education 3.0: No child is left behind, The Bright Stuff: How Innovative People Can Make the Old Economy New (Financial Times Series), Government @ Net: New Governance Opportunities for India, Embracing the Net: Get Competitive (Financial Times Series) to name a few.  He wears many hats; that of an Educator, Social Entrepreneur, Mathematician, Technology evangelist, Writer, Parenting Expert and now a Politician.

So, you can very well understand that we landed at the right doorstep to get the answers to our questions. Now, why should we keep you waiting; let’s jump in to know more:

Review Board: Sir, you are an educator entrepreneur solving the humongous problem of elementary education is what I know about you. But please tell me how it all started? How your journey of a social entrepreneur began?

Sandeep Srivastava: The genesis of all this was while I was doing my M.B.A abroad, internet was just picking up. I was studying in Business School called INSEAD in France. There I wrote a book named “Embracing the Net: Get Competitive” along with my professor in the year 1999, before the first dotcom bust. By the time the book came out, the bust had happened. This book I had written in U.K and then I wrote my second book “Technology didn’t fail us, we failed technology” for Prentice Hall, USA. During this period, I realized that technology can change social sector and this to me was an eye-opener as this was almost missing in our country. I came back to India and started using technology for social sector. Out of nearly 17-18 years as a Social Entrepreneur, I have spent close to 14 years in school education sector. Getting into school education sector was more by serendipity than filtering process, but it has been a very interesting and satisfying journey. 

The way the entire system of education in school and at home is going on, tells us that we are sitting on the time bomb. We don’t read. We are not a reading nation!! Just imagine what kind of person or parent they would be and what would they consume….TV…or video on internet…because they can’t consume anything else. People hardly read literature these days….

We have been working on Mass scale transformation in education sector, where a child on the street can be as good as children from our home; that gets the best of everything. He or she can be as good in communication language of English, language of logic, i.e., mathematics and interpersonal skill as our own children. To get these entire things right, one needs at least a time period of 14-15 years whereas to get the education structure of a family right, at least 3-4 generations is needed. If anything goes wrong in between, then process has to start from the start.

Children of people who have spent 14-15 years educating themselves can acquire higher education, become a doctor or an engineer, but he/she will still get a complex. For him / her to reach to the top of his profession or mingle with the best in his profession is an issue, because the strata he belongs to and the kind of conversation he is used to in his society creates a gap. But perhaps his children can aim and reach the top, as he will have all kind of support system in terms of infrastructure and motivation for aspiration in place. So, to set the system of education right in a family, at least 3-4 generations of hard work and dedication is required. Due to this factor, some families have gone nowhere in life despite going to schools and have remained perpetually undereducated and stuck in lower strata of the society.

And if you look around world over, 80% of the kids have gained nothing from schools and remaining 20% got something simply because of the involvement of their parents in their studies. So at the end of the day, parenting matters far more than the schools……

So, I say the current situation is more of a parental crisis than anything else………parent are not asking for better quality education. My way of defining the present situation is…… educated middle class was not getting what it was looking for from the schools, so, it started supplementing the same with tuitions and online courses, but that is also not working now. That’s the level of crisis….. Now it is so happening that people are unemployed despite having degrees like Engineering and Management which earlier had a value attached …..Because the foundation from Class 1st to Class 8th is very weak….

Review Board: Whatever you have just said is somewhat associated with urban or semi-urban areas. A large part of our students live in rural areas and they have neither the idea nor can they plan like this. Their life revolves around a mid-day meal from the school.

Sandeep Srivastava: That’s the irony of modern developing India, where human existence has been reduced to a mid-day meal. Pets of some of the families have better life than kids living on the street or in a poor family of our villages. I am sorry to say, but this is the reality. What have we reduced human existence to???

And it is happening because we have not set our Elementary education right, from Class 1st to 8th. It is called Elementary not without a reason…… ’Elementary’ comes from the word ‘Element’…..because upon this, we build a ‘Compound’.  Once they miss this phase, they miss the entire thing….. Only 5% somehow manage to correct the situation by working hard and with parental support… rest of them simply miss the bus. ….

However, I am not saying that they won’t make money….they will…but will they be able to live their life fulfilling all their responsibilities to the fullest…..that will remain a big question.

Getting good education changes your world view. I went to INSEAD to do something else and ended up doing something else. It is known as the best Business School for landing a very good Consulting job and here I am, working in our country’s social sector. Writing was always my passion but getting exposed to the place, system and environment, where one gets the best of professors as guide and mentor and peers who come there to experience and understand life and not to get something they had set their eyes on for a long time are the best thing one can ask for. Places of quality education changes your views towards life and problem solving…… It fires up your imagination, makes you creative and collaborative. You can’t imagine the way it changes your life and the purpose of life. Good education is to understand the basic value of human life, not about the degree.

Review Board: A question comes to my mind then…….In this age of technology and specially after the advent of Google, everyone; students, parents and teachers alike are busy in the process of cut, copy and paste…..then how would one develop this habit or practice of reading? Most of the schools have become money making machine…..they are milking the parents...

Sandeep Srivastava: From School only….where else? Problem is….Who is asking for change? Parents are not asking for any change……It has become the other way round….parents are treating schools as their paid nanny….just keep my child safe…..but away from me. Whether they are getting good education or not….it has somehow become not the concern of the parents. They think that they will supplement it with tuition. A child is spending 7-8 hours in school and another 3-4 hours in tuition. They are killing the childhood….You just go and spend two days at a child’s desk…..you will go mad.

For just one snap of their child dancing on the stage with five hundred others are driving the parents to send their children where they live a life of mechanized robot. Choreographers are making more money from schools than any other place….Parents are just happy with that. Nobody is asking for quality education.

Clause No. 27 of RTE Act says that tuition is banned, but it is rampant everywhere. I hired a lawyer to file a case in High Court against it, but the lawyer told me that it will not be maintainable in the court. Court ensures adherence to the laid down rule. In RTE Act, only that line is mentioned and no rule has been framed till date. So, when no rule is framed…..how will that be followed?

Review Board: Then how will this situation change?

Sandeep Srivastava: Parents will have to change…..They will have to ask for better quality of education and life for their children. A government changes when the clients, the voters seek for change. Parents need to ask tough question of the school. Parents are not asking why my children are going for tuitions. Why is their childhood getting spoilt?

Review Board: You are an educator Entrepreneur. You are working towards dissemination of quality education using technology. Many other entrepreneurs are doing one thing or other in this field which is really commendable. It may not be the case that it is targeted to urban population of the country, but fruits of all these efforts are not reaching the underprivileged strata of society, who probably need it most. What steps should be taken to make the quality education reach to every part of the country and what role entrepreneurs can play in it? 

Sandeep Srivastava: Problem side you have already mentioned….but there is a bright side and i.e., Technology. Education system is already moving from a teacher centric to a learner centric system where the focus is shifting to how best a student can be taught to be more productive, proactive, responsive and responsible.

It is very difficult to break the bureaucracy of government system and especially in rural areas; it is very difficult to work with them. As far as private schools are concerned, they have become very money centric with no focus on education at all.

My answer for this problem is a Parents school and a Community school aided by technology. As far as educational content is concerned, everything is already created. It needs to be delivered now to the students……and how can it be done???  And by whom it can be done??? Parents…..

No one can teach your children with all the attention, love and care than you yourself….no one understands your children better than you. These community schools can be extended to rural areas as well with the help of technology. Moving out from present system is the only solution because current system has degenerated to the point of no return.

Five parents of West Delhi have come up with a new school for a total seven children, where they take time out to teach their children themselves. We are mentors for them. Recently I have learnt that there is a school in Raipur whose name is “Abhibhavak School”. If families come together to teach their children collectively and they get it tested by NIOS or CICSE Board. There is a need of regulatory framework which allows parents, villages and blocks to come together and create this kind of educational environment, where participative parents and others who have passion for education can teach the next generation.

As I have already mentioned, study material is already available, technology for delivery of content is already available, what is missing is the love for education and love for these children. Government should only focus on quality of the education….They should be more concerned with the quality, standard and test…rest everything should be left to these kind of passionate educationists.

Our country needs a social revolution more than an administrative revolution. We have become morally corrupt by accepting, supporting and propagating what is wrong. We need to change ourselves first!!

Review Board: What role entrepreneurs can play in it?

Sandeep Srivastava: Beautiful question..…… Anyways parents are sending their children to tuition. Let this thing start as a supplement to the existing system. We need people who love children…….

If someone asks me what do I teach…..I tell them I teach children…..earlier I used to teach the subject called “Biology”. Before teaching any subject one needs to start with teaching children. This will solve the problem of quality of education in India and address the problem of unemployment to a great extent.


8 Points You Should Keep In Mind To Get Hired And Stay Happy

8 Points You Should Keep In Mind To Get Hired And Stay Happy

All economic indicators of a country are meaningless if they are not doing one simple thing, i.e. generate employment and employment opportunity for the citizens of that country. After all, the very basic objective of any sovereign country is to create an opportunity for its citizens to fulfill their basic minimum requirement i.e. to live his/her life with dignity. No economic model till date has been able to achieve this and that’s the reason why a cry to have a Universal Basic Income has started emerging. But that’s not what I am here to discuss. I talked to Mr. Abhay Kumar of Team Recruiters (www.teamrecruiters.in), a seasoned HR Consultant on various subjects related to employment and the job scenario of the country. During the interaction I asked him for his take on developments on the economic front, his advice to prospective employees for interview as well as on personal conduct and ways to lead a happy and healthy life. Mr. Abhay Kumar has a career spanning more than two decades invested in sales and human resource, guiding thousands to not only get placed but live a contended life. His strategy of ‘talk’, ‘guide’, ‘prepare’, ‘place’ and ‘follow-up’ makes him unique and different from others. Without wasting much of time, let’s delve into his thoughtful and informative insights:

Mukul: For a prospective employee, what should be the takeaway from impact of policy changes Indian employment scenario? How much GST and Demonetization has have impact on employment scenario of the country?

Abhay Kumar: See, we need to look at the broader picture first on the global trends of last couple of years or a decade. The market generally has been very sluggish, be it US, Europe, China, Africa or Middle East. The Global economy has been under a lot of pressure and in this globalised and connected world, India can not remain insulated. Major Sectors have been under performing and this has challenged the growth prospect of one and all.

Another factor which was playing in the background locally was the performance of the banks which were under tremendous pressure due to NPA and toxic assets. Banks were under scrutiny and this led to a reduction in loan advancements as there was pressure to clean up the books of account.

The challenging global scenario has resulted in countries looking inwards to strengthen their internal economy. This has led to reduced out sourcing of projects and also the increased focus for employment of local resource instead of overseas workers.

IT sector has slowed because projects are not coming from abroad. Reality sector has sucked in loads of money from Banks, Corporate and Individuals. All this has drastically reduced liquidity in the market. And together perhaps this is why the Indian job market has been under a lot of pressure owing to both external and internal factors.

Now coming back to what you have specifically asked, any policy decision of the enormity of Demonetization or GST which challenges the existing system to its core is bound to have a huge impact on everything related, be it economic or social, because both were such huge decisions. Even if we look at either of the decisions in isolation one would conservatively give it 6 – 9 months of a cooling period before the market could bounce back. Coming back to back a year of low growth, challenges and sluggish economic numbers was easily a reality.

Demonetization was extremely challenging to the people in the first 45 days and could only settle down in the six month period. The cash crunch led to conservatism in the market where consumption reduced drastically as people started holding on to the currency and postponing expenses. The over burdened Banks were working with their backs to the wall to ease up the cash issue and the focus from liquidity in the market and businesses taking a back seat.

What added to the problem was the implementation of GST, which brought in a new tax regime. The industry / people lacked in understanding of the Tax System, its rules, implications and a new system both in skill and process had to be put in place. Everything which existed earlier had to be changed / modified. New accounting system, new skills, software upgradation, registrations etc. became a mandatory requirement with a deadline in place. Hence, the back to back implementation of these two major economic policies has further slowed down the performance in the short term.

Look, it is a well known fact that there were very few additions in the number of tax payers in general and the numbers of businesses out of reach of the Tax Dept. was huge. This problem was addressed to a large extent by Demonetization and GST by forcing people to get into the banking system which was mapped with PAN and Aadhaar. So, the two decisions did slow down the economy to some extent in the short term but were much needed to strengthen it in the long run. These decisions had to be taken. We can debate about the timing but one can never be fully prepared. In a country like ours which is full of complexities a gradual implementation would not have been possible and the results very debatable.

There is a thought process that believes India was able to minimise the pains of US subprime crisis because of its parallel cash economy. But at the same time, things cannot remain the same and the way forward required these policy decisions.

But I am very optimistic about the future as the steps which have been taken would start yielding the positive results very soon. This quarter will see a lot of activity on the job front with the green shoots getting visible this New Year. Government is also spending big time on infrastructure like road and electricity which would kick-start the economy and generate employment. Everyone needs to be patient and positive.

Mukul: What is the short term and medium term employment scenario of the country?

Abhay Kumar: As we discussed that market has been under tremendous pressure since 2008, so, there were various challenges on employment generation front. But as far as future is concerned, impact of policy changes have firmed up and taken shape. Market players are also now sure that there won’t be any roll back from the government on these decisions and things are here to stay. So, they are back on their drawing board, coming out of their ‘hold-back’ strategy… re-strategizing their plans and actions. 

As mentioned earlier the last quarter has been favorable and so will future as predicted by different organizations of importance. Normally we see that the last quarter of a financial year is generally strong and bullish. In the answer to your first question, I have already said that there is a major push for infrastructure; rural electrification and roads etc. The big Infra push would drive and be the engine for growth and more jobs will be created bringing relief to the employment scenario in the medium and long run.

Our discussion so far has been revolving around the changes and challenges of the last ten years. I think we have seen almost the end of it and we will see organisations re-inventing themselves and re-drawing their business strategy. The ability to adapt and re-strategise will drive the success stories in future. The changed scenario will require employees too to re-skill themselves to remain employable. So on one side re-skilling will be the order of the day on the other side the business of re-skilling will also be a big opportunity.

Mukul: What are the top five points which you would like a candidate to have and keep in mind to leave positive impact and get hired?

Abhay Kumar: First and the most important point for a prospective employee is ‘Know your profile’. People actually spend least amount of time on their CV. They do not read it and very often they are not conversant because professional writer/external help is taken to prepare/write the CV. So, it is very important to read and understand one’s CV, the words written in it, the projection you are trying to make and the goal you want to achieve.

Second is ‘person should be prepared very well’. Before going for an interview, the candidate must know the company very well; the kind of business they are into, product or services they are providing, who are the competitors etc. This would prepare him/her for the questions which would be posed in the interview.

Third is ‘have a positive outlook’. Many a times it so happens that the interviewer cross checks you on various aspects of your personality by throwing challenges or situations; whether you are ready to work hard, are you ready to experiment, whether you are ready to take new challenges etc. Any kind of laidback or lethargic response would put you down in the eyes of a prospective employer. So your words and body language must communicate positive frame of mind and positive approach.

Fourth is ‘long term picture’. It is imperative that people have a very well defined goal or a long term picture in mind. Often people have a very idealistic picture of their career. They want to be at the top in no time. They don’t realize or often forget that there are many steps to a stair between the first step and top of the ladder and every step is a process in itself. And he/she has to go through every process to reach the top.

Fifth is ‘planned approach and open mind for salary negotiation’. Throwing any random number can’t get you hired. Before salary negotiation, it is very important to be realistic and be prepared with your expectation. You should have all the details of income which you are drawing from current employer. You should be aware of the market trend etc. You also need to keep in mind that you need to deliver in multiple times of what you are asking from your prospective employer.

Mukul: What are the ‘words’ you would suggest the candidates to not to have in their resume?

Abhay Kumar: I won’t suggest anything about the words as the context is very important. I would suggest on positive mindset while writing the resume or during an interview. Your resume should represent you, the direction of your career and the path you want to take. You should be as factual as possible and should resist the use of superfluous words and numbers. While mentioning achievements one should try to give a true picture and not to go overboard with the numbers. Similarly when writing about responsibilities one should try to be specific on the responsibility you actually have. If there are additional responsibilities which have been assigned to you do mention them separately and not mix up the two.

 Mukul: Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are buzz words these days? How much substance do you think these words holds for the future? Which are the industries or sectors will be most affected by them? 

Abhay Kumar: Look, every change in technology brings a kind of upheaval and change in the market. That’s their nature. Couple of years before Y2K, every company worth its salt jumped into ERP business, with basic objective to cater to their own demand and to explore the outside market. So, it created a requirement for new skills and opened the doors to new avenues for various companies. Similarly, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics will have its own impact. It is a long drawn process, so effects will also be visible accordingly. Old skills be discarded and new skills will come in demand. New jobs will replace old jobs; new skills will replace old skills. And as I said earlier, re-skilling will be very crucial factor for survival and success.

Mukul: Few years back, I had read a book ‘Startup of You’ written by Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn. In that book, he has written that the time of stable jobs are over and every Individual is required to be in startup mode all the time. Most important reason he had given for suggesting was the pace of technological advancement. He was of the opinion that high speed of technological advancement won’t let the world to stabilize, so everyone will be required to be fighting fit all the time.  Since 2008, no big Greenfield project has been announced by any big company, whether they are Indian or multinational, if we minus Reliance Jio. During this period, Startups and Unicorns filled up the space of employment provider. But they came with their own characteristics and that is ‘uncertainty’. Do you think that this is going to be the nature of jobs being provided in future or big companies will be back and bring stability in the nature of jobs?   

Abhay Kumar: Yes, technological changes are happening at a very vast pace, so ‘instability’ in the market will be the hallmark. When market remains unstable, then jobs obviously will be unstable. But I would like to use the word ‘dynamic’ rather than ‘unstable’. Again I will bring the point of re-skilling, which will be a continuous process for everyone, if they want to last long.

Mukul: In this age of startups, where employees are getting hired and fired at will, sometime getting duped and dumped, what would be your suggestions to the prospective employees to stay afloat financially and mentally? 

Abhay Kumar: If you remember in earlier day’s people used to live their life in simplicity. After fulfilling their major commitments in life, they used to venture towards luxuries of life. Children’s education, daughter’s marriage, medical needs etc. used to take precedence over other types of expenditure. Construction of house and purchase of car were to be done nearer the age of retirement. There was a strong logic behind it. They used to build their strength first before getting on with luxuries of life. Today’s generation hits the ground running, getting into these expenditures at the beginning of their career. When they get smallest of jolt in their career, they are already saddled with EMIs of house, cars, credit cards etc.  

I am not suggesting that today’s generation should imitate older generation’s lifestyle, but they should focus on building their strength first. As we discussed early in our conversation, speed of technology advancement is very high and it will become even higher in coming days. So, job market, which is dynamic today, will become very dynamic in coming days. So, they should take risk only when they can, otherwise they should avoid it. It will save them from financial and mental stress.

Mukul: I believe that job satisfaction and finding the purpose of life are overrated terms used to manipulate employees. How someone will know without doing something that it is something he/she wanted to do and want to do all his/her life? In my opinion, a person should be like water and should find his/her way in everything and everywhere. He / She should take up anything which comes his/her way. God knows, what will become his passion and start giving job satisfaction. Moreover, focus should be on ‘money and family satisfaction’, because first one is what we take to the bank and second one is ultimately what we aspire to achieve?

Abhay Kumar: Yes, I would say ultimately it is the money that we take to the bank which drives the individual. There is a lot of talk on job satisfaction, living ones dream, dream job but I have a different take on it. Our education system is such that the number one scores in an examination defines your career choice. It is only now that children have started experimenting with choices they like. Marks tell you were you are likely to study and the specialization you are likely to do. While applying for jobs after college, the Campus Recruitment processes defines the kind of company and profile you get into. The only icing would be the CTC that you bag. This continues during the early employment period when money is the driving force for most youngsters. If it comes with a profile you like then that is the icing on the cake.

Another aspect that does matter in today’s time is “Leisure”. With a stressed work environment Leisure is what de-stresses you. The “Me Time” helps you unwind and recharges your battery for better performance. Even if the workplace is stressful, your happiness at home will help you tide over the challenges.


Dos and Donts of Getting Hired for the Best Job

Dos and Donts of Getting Hired for the Best Job

We always wish our meetings, conversations, journey which were delightful, could have lasted a little longer.  Paucity of time, space, money etc might have played the spoilsport, but had we had the choice we would have continued. Same goes with our interview of Mr. Abhay Kumar, which was very informative and useful for me as well to the readers of my blog. We had a lot to talk; I had a lot to ask and he had a lot to advice, but we couldn’t have packed everything in one interview, so, we broke it into two parts.

First part you can find here: http://reviewboard.in/Blog-Details.aspx?Blog=8-Points-You-Should-Keep-In-Mind-To-Get-Hired-And-Stay-Happy

In the first part of our interview, we talked about some of the points. In the second interview, we have picked up from where we had left. Let’s dive directly into it:

Mukul: There are lots of advices available on internet to how to get a dream job, which makes people dream about it. Does really any dream job exists or it is just a dream?

Abhay Kumar: Dream job???? How do you want me to define it?

Mukul: Whichever way you wish to…..

Abhay Kumar:  Dream job is a very subjective word; it varies from person to person. For a person fresh out of college, anything which gives him the money and the time to spend may be his dream job. For a middle management level employee getting a senior level profile may be his dream job and so on so forth. So, it is very difficult to define a dream job; a dream for you may not be the dream for me or someone else.

So, I would rather advice people not to fall in the trap of these good sounding words. They should focus more on the jobs which fits into their long term career plan and also which allows them the money and time to carry out personal responsibilities.

Mukul: It automatically answers my second question. I believe that a dream job is something which adds value to your professional life in terms of money and growth and personal life in terms of basic quality time with your family.

Abhay Kumar: Yes, it’s all about progression. A job may be a dream job at the time of landing it but after joining if you are not conducting yourself well or if your immediate boss is not in sync with you, you might get into a very uncomfortable situation. Then you start cribbing and plan your exit. We have created lots of hype around it. I would say that any job which gives you financial, physical and mental comfort and continues to do so over sometime, is a dream job for you.       

Mukul: You have been working in the field of manpower planning and recruitment for close to twenty years. What are the steps you would suggest to prospective candidates, from writing resume to facing interviews and negotiating salaries?

Abhay Kumar: One needs to have two set of targets; quantifiable and non-quantifiable for both short and long term. Coming back to question you have asked I would say that first one should have a very clear cut quantifiable short and long term target of money he want to earn, the house he wants to live in, the car he wants to drive, holidays he wants to take etc. Benchmarking is one of the key points of success, whether you are benchmarking against yourself or someone else. These quantifiable targets help you in measuring your success. Moreover, first four needs of hierarchy, as defined by Abraham Mashlow, i.e. Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging and Esteem are deeply connected with it.

Second, he should fit in his education, expertise, company, profile etc. into those long term and medium term targets. If someone doesn’t have these things properly drawn out on paper, then he will drift from one place to another for a few thousand rupees growth and will end up messing his career in the long run.

Now, you will have to bring in the five points which we discussed last time. All those five points needs to be addressed every time someone prepares himself for the next job. (Those five points are reproduced here for the reference of readers.  Link of the previous interview is given in the beginning itself.)

“First and the most important point for a prospective employee is ‘Know your profile’. People actually spend least amount of time on their CV. They do not read it and very often they are not conversant because professional writer/external help is taken to prepare/write the CV. So, it is very important to read and understand one’s CV, the words written in it, the projection you are trying to make and the goal you want to achieve.

Second is ‘person should be prepared very well’. Before going for an interview, the candidate must know the company very well; the kind of business they are into, product or services they are providing, who are the competitors etc. This would prepare him/her for the questions which would be posed in the interview.

Third is ‘have a positive outlook’. Many a times it so happens that the interviewer cross checks you on various aspects of your personality by throwing challenges or situations; whether you are ready to work hard, are you ready to experiment, whether you are ready to take new challenges etc. Any kind of laidback or lethargic response would put you down in the eyes of a prospective employer. So your words and body language must communicate positive frame of mind and positive approach.

Fourth is ‘long term picture’. It is imperative that people have a very well defined goal or a long term picture in mind. Often people have a very idealistic picture of their career. They want to be at the top in no time. They don’t realize or often forget that there are many steps to a stair between the first step and top of the ladder and every step is a process in itself. And he/she has to go through every process to reach the top.

Fifth is ‘planned approach and open mind for salary negotiation’. Throwing any random number can’t get you hired. Before salary negotiation, it is very important to be realistic and be prepared with your expectation. You should have all the details of income which you are drawing from current employer. You should be aware of the market trend etc. You also need to keep in mind that you need to deliver in multiple times of what you are asking from your prospective employer.”

 

I have seen people throwing whimsical numbers as their expectation which are bound to be rejected.  And even if, by any chance, any of these numbers gets accepted, it puts extra pressure on the candidate to perform and bring out revenue in many multiples of the salary being paid. So, it is always advisable to understand that what you are asking depends on what you are bringing to the table. It makes sense to checkout the market trend, industry trend to zero down on a realistic expectation.

Mukul: After getting selected for a new organization, leaving the earlier one becomes a challenge. What would be your advice to the candidates to handle this situation amicably and in friendly manner, without trying to get even with immediate superior? Could you lay down few rules for ‘Exit Interview’ which every candidate must follow?

Abhay Kumar: Employees leave any organization primarily for three reasons; growth in money terms, growth of the profile and continuous disagreement with the immediate superior. In all the scenarios, it becomes a bit difficult or sometimes very difficult to leave the current organization. So, it is very important to be transparent at the time of negotiating a joining time frame with the new organization. All the eventualities like serving the notice period or buying the notice period should be discussed in advance, so that everyone is on board. 

As far as rule for ‘Exit Interview’ is concerned, there aren’t many except one, “don’t burn the bridges”. It has been witnessed often that outgoing employees, in the case of tiff with the immediate superior and which again is quite frequent, tries to run him down or create a bad impression. Whatever is the situation this kind of hit-back should be avoided at all cost. You never know when you will bump into him in the future. He may become your boss in the next organization or may be he might be friends with your new boss. Not only that, your new organization may like to take a feedback about you from your boss, colleagues or the organisation and your action may simply put them off and would end up in getting an unfavourable feedback. Further, if you want to come back at a future time for whatever reason may become impossible if you have burnt your bridges.

Mukul: Employees leave their present organization in a stressed environment most of the time and most of them end up taking the wrong decision. I have seen people burning their happiness and energy out due to the wrong decision they take. What would be your advice to such people?

Abhay Kumar: When you are in an organization, you are with competitors who are all striving to achieve success from the same pool. So, there is bound to be friction sometimes more than you can normally bear. But, that’s the situation everywhere. You can’t run away from each and every tough situation or you can’t have the best shot all the time. To play your best shot, you will have to wait and sometime, this wait may seem lengthy. You will have to bide your time and wait for your moment. It is easier said than done, but that’s the only way. 

Mukul: New organization is always complete with new people, new environment and new rules. What would be your suggestions to new employees to handle the new situation?

Abhay Kumar: People are often short on three virtues; patience, ability to observe and ability to listen. In any new environment, these three virtues come as a very big help. When someone joins a new organization, he must know that he has joined a new space which belonged to others till sometime back. Everything will be new for him from his workstation to coffee machine to the cubicle, not to mention his colleagues and the boss. It requires a lot of getting use to. 

So, my suggestion to everyone joining a new organization would be to wait, have patience and observe the people and the new environment, listen and understand everything, then open up. It will help them to avoid many unpleasant situations.

Note: Abhay Kumar can be reached at sales@teamrecruiters.in         


Retail Sector An Insiders View

Retail Sector: An Insider’s View

Retail Sector of India, with gross revenue of more than $641 Billion (As per IBEF report), is one of the leading employment provider. It accounts for 8% (As per IBEF report) of the employment of India. It will cross $1.6 Trillion (As per IBEF report) by 2026. The numbers being churned out by retail sector could have been bigger, had government taken serious policy decisions related to this sector and had taken measures to implement that. ‘Make in India’ is good policy initiative, but it could have been great, had another policy initiative ‘How to sell Made in India Goods’ taken place.

I talked to Mr. Sanjeev Jha, Category Head-Staples with Vishal Megamart about the journey of modern retail in India, its challenges and future. He has worked for more than twelve years with top retailers of India, he is expert of this field, and he holds leadership role in the industry. Even prior to joining organized retail, he worked extensively in the field of commodity sourcing, trading and an innovative concept of retailing, i.e., Raytu Bazaar. You might have read lots of research reports, but we bring you the opinion of an insider:

Mukul: Modern retail has traveled quite a journey in last decade. Where do you see it going in next decade, say by 2025?

Sanjeev Jha: I would like to put my answer this way. Modern retail actually didn’t have ‘quite a journey’ in the last decade. Yes, it was a journey, but filled with uncertainty and unclarity in policy regarding FDI and other matters of concern, which were needed for the growth of retail sector. As FDI was allowed in automobile or IT sector, which led to their exponential growth, it should have also been allowed in retail. In absence of that, retail sector suffered the lack of funds to remove the bottlenecks of sourcing, storages and supply chain.

Regarding second part of your question, especially for brick and mortar retail, I see two or three strong players in the field with one or two new entrant. Consolidation has been the hallmark of this sector since beginning as you might have noticed. That is the scenario which is firming up. This is about the players.

Now, what shall be the strategy for incumbent players? In my opinion, they will have to grow horizontally, they will have to and they will be going to Tier-II and Tier-III cities, because organized retail is still more off an urban phenomenon. That’s the kind of compulsion will be in front of them. I am not talking rural India. Entry in rural India will take another 20-30 years due to many reasons. Let me tell why they will go there. Few good things have happened recently and one of them is GST. GST has made movement of goods and warehousing easy and these two things are very important for start and growth of retail. Earlier, they were facing challenges on these two counts in every city. But even GST can’t solve all the problems, unless there is policy support of state governments along with central government. A collective policy involving other aspects retail, such as, real estate, employment etc. is still to come up. Retail could have been even bigger employment provider and it has pointed out by Niti Ayog as well sometime back.

Clarity in policy initiatives and earnestness in its implementation by government brings in lots of other things with it, like institutional support, banking and financial support etc. and if that comes in, then the growth of this sector will be phenomenon.

Mukul: Taking a cue from what you just said, it seems funding is a major problem for the growth of this sector. So, do you want to say that retailers in India have found their success matrix and funding is the only problem, which can be achieved by FDI?

 Sanjeev Jha: No, FDI won’t sort out problems of retail just like that. Foreign players have had their share of experience and whenever they decide to come back, they will surely employ their experience and learnings. I am talking about Pre-GST scenario, where moving goods from one city to another city was a challenge. GST is a good policy initiative which will boost retail, but a lot more than this is required. Government will have to take it as a project and give their more than 100%. Like in other sectors, take the example of mobile phones or pharmaceuticals or automobiles, state governments also chipped in as they gave land, gave tax holidays, made employment laws conducive for starting up the business, a full fledged coordinated support from state as well as central government is needed. And when this happens, it will be the biggest employment generator for the country. Lots of state governments still have their own reservations and lack of coordinated effort is pulling things back. These are the important points to bring in FDI, otherwise I see it more as a domestic player driven sector, where they will be consolidating. But this consolidation exercise must make their business viable. After consolidation, they will tap the market for their funding requirement.

Mukul: Online retail had serious impact on organized retail. Some of the sectors like electronics shifted majorly from organized retail to online retail. Do you see any course correction happening, because most of the small to medium online players are out of the market due to various reasons?

Sanjeev Jha:  Very interesting thing has happened in India as far as retail sector is concerned. Both modern retail, the brick and mortar one and online retail has entered in India around same time, with just 5-6 years lag. As you have said that most of the small or medium online retailers have shut their shop; they were expanding at a very fast speed and as were their speed of growth, as were their speed of burning the cash. And I see online retail space as more consolidated one than modern retail.

There won’t be more than 2-3 national level players along with some niche players and they would also be prone to challenges of logistics and taxation like modern retail. Another area of challenge for them is IT infrastructure and internet speed. With 4G, things are looking better for them. Moreover in India, online retail is mobile driven and smartphone sales have seen exponential growth in recent times, which is bonus point for them.    

Now coming back to your question, I don’t have the specific data, but it seems, mobile and its accessory’s sales has shifted to some extent from organized or pop and mom store to online retail, but the extent can be debated. Eating up the market share or having pole position will depend on many more things like what value proposition they are bringing in for the end consumers and how they are involving the consumers in their sales process. Innovation in customer acquisition and customer retention strategy will be key for them, because they are not seeing their customers face to face. Simply replicating the strategy of pop-n-mom stores or modern trade won’t bring them success in the long run.

In the present market scenario, everyone is growing; general trade is growing, modern trade is growing and so is online retail and every sector will continue to see consolidation. Don’t you think that general trade is also consolidating? There is hidden unemployment in general trade as well and unviable players are exiting the business. Either those businesses are acquired or those spaces are filled but consolidation is happening there as well. In my opinion, all three spheres of retail are growing and will continue to grow because India is growing.

Mukul: While talking to you right now, one thing came to my mind that mobile phones with complete packet do not weigh more than 500 grams, which makes transportation easy from one location to another. Does this mean, weight of the product play a role in growth of online sales of the product?

Sanjeev Jha: Look, online retail provides the instant reach to millions of customer with less hassles of distribution network. Taking the same product to consumers through pop-n-mom store or modern trade will take more time, more investment and more effort than online retail. Yes, size does matter in logistics, which brings the cost of logistics down and so the overall cost to the end consumer. In this age of smartphone and technological advancement, consumers are well aware in advance about the product. Product companies are also going a great length in making the details of product reach to the consumers. So, what is left for consumers is saving of money in their hand.      

Mukul: Government is pushing for digitization of payments. Demonetization, payment apps, UPIs etc. and incentivisation by the government to promote digital payments can be seen as actions in that direction. Amid slow adoption of technology and not so good penetration of real banking, what is the future of digital payments in next 5-7 years time?  

Sanjeev Jha: I will put it this way. India is a unique country and people are very smart here. They like to squeeze as much benefit as possible from anything. Simply because something is changing and that change is promoted by government, they won’t accept it. For digital payments to succeed, government will have to eliminate the cost of digital payment. Right now, either merchant or the customer, or ultimately the customer is footing the bill of digital payments. Unless this anomaly is corrected, digital payments won’t succeed. In whatever way possible, government should incentivize the digital payment, not charge it. Though I have heard that ADHAR based payment system, which is on the anvil, will have this benefit.  Otherwise, cashless payments will take its own time to grow than present growth rate of 16-17%, which may increase by 2-3% more, but phenomenal growth can’t be expected.

Mukul: Multichannel sales is picking up. By multichannel sales, I mean to say that organized retailers have come up with online portals as well as mobile apps and some of the online retailers have started having their physical presence. Do you see it as a sales model for future or these are one off cases?

Sanjeev Jha: See, one size fits all doesn’t work. Just because someone has adopted one sales model, doesn’t mean others have to adopt it as well and they will succeed is also not guaranteed. If an online retailer is starting its operation in organized modern retail, then they will have to be as invested and as efficient like them, otherwise they will fail. Similarly, if a brick and mortar retailer is entering into online retail, then they are entering into the domain of FlipKart and Amazon and they will have to be as good as these online retailers, which is very unlikely to happen. Unless any of the players decides to have a specific plan for multichannel sales, I don’t see it is future of retail. This space is very ruthless and people won’t go and buy from you just because you are good at one thing or in one sphere. Customers go to different sphere due to different requirements and different mindset.

Mukul: What will be challenges in front of retail sector per se in next decade?     

Sanjeev Jha: Part of answers of this question I have given in your first question. I will bifurcate challenges into two parts. One part in government policy, because I believe that government is still not very convinced what this sector can do. Even if they are, it is not visible from their actions. And if that does not happen, the market scenario will mostly be domestic player driven.

Next point is, as I have discussed earlier, growth of this sector will come from Tier-II & III cities. Though GST has set the ball rolling, but retailers will have to move to these towns with finding the viability of business. Steps have been taken by incumbent players and Tier-II & III cities to some extent are being served but speed is what matters. But again I would say that these players don’t have leverage of huge cash to burn for speedy expansion in these smaller cities. So, we will have to see how everything pans out in the light of two things which I have mentioned earlier as well as now.

Mukul: One last question; do you see modern retail replacing pop-n-mom store completely in India, may be in 20, 30, 40 years?

Sanjeev Jha: Never. No company has wherewithal to reach every nook and corner of India with all the product consumer needs. Moreover, pop-n-mom store comes with their own set of advantages like location, speed in decision making, connect with locality etc., which can’t be matched by big modern trade retailers. Again, as I have mentioned earlier during our conversation, all three spheres of retail will grow, because India is a huge market and it is growing.

Disclaimer     

1) Figures of revenue from retail in 2016 and 2026 and percentage of total employment provided by retail sector has been taken from the website of Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF).

 2) Opinion expressed by Mr. Sanjeev Jha is strictly his personal and does not reflect the opinion of his present or past employers.          


Lost His Brother But Got The Purpose of His Life

Lost His Brother, But Got The Purpose of His Life

This is the story of Chandan Kumar, Sub-Inspector with Bihar Police, who is known more as a staunch environmentalist and physical training evangelist than anything else in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. He believes in ‘Karma’ and ‘making things happen’ than ‘waiting for others to do’ and ‘waiting things to happen’.

What inspires a person to do something good for someone or for the society; a monetary or emotional consideration probably or may be, he wants to do the right thing and whatever he is doing is the right thing to do. 

Dasrath Manjhi, The Mountain Main, carved a road in the mountain because his wife Smt. Falguni Devi died in absence of medical facility at opportune time due to bad road and that mountain made the road bad. There was the emotional consideration to do so, but he continued doing so for twenty two long years, which means he thought he is doing the right thing and he made doing this right thing his life. There may be few other examples as well. One of them is of Chandan Kumar, a resident of Vaishali District of Bihar.   

Chandan Kumar, while cremating his elder brother, mentor, guide, father figure and Indian Air Force personnel Mr. Sanjay Kumar, felt that planting tree was right thing to do when he saw people scurrying for tree shade to avoid overheated soil in the hot summer season. Since then, he has planted more than 5000 trees himself, and while working as Physical Training teacher with a school at Muzaffarpur, motivated many of his students to save money and plant trees. He has vowed to remain unmarried and work towards this cause.

Let us know more about him in detail.

Family and early childhood

Chandan Kumar is born to Shri Narendra Narayan Singh, Ex-Controller with Kanti Thermal Power, Muzaffarpur and Smt. Anusuya Devi, housewife and has one younger brother Kundan Kumar and one younger sister Vandana Kumari. But he has most special place in his heart for his elder brother Late Sanjay Kumar, who was proud soldier of Indian Air Force.

Childhood spent in his village Birpur Singhara, Mahua of Vaishali district, Bihar propped up his love for nature, especially trees. All the fun of climbing up on mango and guava trees made him fall in love with them. But he was not aware then that trees will become the passion of his life.

Chandan Kumar remembers himself as a naughty child and bundle of stupendous energy, who was disciplined by his elder brother Sanjay Kumar, not in the traditional Indian way of disciplining, but by directing his energy towards sports and physical training. Sanjay took him to cross country running in 1986, when he was probably six or seven year old. Though he couldn’t win this six kilometer race but the participation and completion of the race was enough to get him hooked to it and thus started his journey as sportsperson. He started participating in state level events couple of years after that.

Journey forward as a Physical Training Evangelist

It was around 2001-02, he was asked to train underprivileged children for a sports event at Muzaffarpur. He took it up as a challenge and toiled hard with them who were just between 10 to 14 years of age.  Some of his students, despite coming from poor family background and no amenities to support them as a sportsperson did well and won medals. This event and result inspired him to drop his own ambitions as a sportsman and become sports evangelist. He has trained hundreds of them, who are employed with different organizations, especially police and army. What makes him happy is that his efforts yielded positive results as his students joined different sphere of the society and working towards its better future.

From this point he understood that if he works on himself, he will get only one medal, but if he work on more and more students and train them, his medal tally can actually be more than one. So, he stopped expenditure on himself and started supporting and working on anyone and everyone who came to him seeking help. He has a strong belief that like ‘sun’ nourishes this planet ‘earth’ with its warmth and light, physical fitness nourishes human mind, body and soul. According to him, nothing can replace the physical fitness aspect of life.

His work led him to teach more students as he joined as Physical training teacher with government school in village Rajepur Lakhna, Sahebganj block of Muzaffarpur district. Though he was surrounded by the students in his school, quest for teaching physical fitness didn’t stop there. Every morning and in the evening, before going to school and after coming back from school, he made a habit to visit stadium to help children of Ambedkar Nagar, largest slum near Muzaffarpur stadium. While their energy had infectious impact on him, their plight of poverty and associated bad habits like drugs, gambling and fight bothered a lot. He made a conscious effort to interact with them and become Sanjay Kumar for them. As his elder brother guided his energy towards a better and purposeful life, he started guiding these children, not only with his physical presence but financial involvement as well. He used to spend his own money, even if small it was, to buy clothes, chocolates, shoes, medicines etc for these children to keep them motivated towards sports and disciplined life. This way, he changed the lives of many.

What turned his focus towards trees?  

In 2005, Chandan lost his mentor, guide, philosopher and elder brother Sanjay Kumar, who was working with Indian Air Force. Standing in the cremation ground, he saw other people who were there to cremate their relatives, scurrying for cover to protect their feet from overheated soil due extreme temperature of the hot summer. This gave him the purpose of his life, though not immediately. In order to impart knowledge of physical fitness, he had been taking students to the field, where trees played a key role in giving respite to the tired souls. He had read somewhere that tree’s canopy can act like parasol and block out up to 90% sun’s radiation. Moreover, the shade of tree can reduce our physiologically equivalent temperature by between 7 to 15%, depending upon our latitude. Trees can also cool down buildings- especially when planted to the east or west- as their shade prevent solar radiation from penetrating windows or heating up external walls. Armed with these learnings, he went on with vigor. As the time progressed, trees started becoming kind of fixation for him and he started taking matter in his own hand, by not waiting for others, especially government to take the lead in planting trees. He started planting trees at the places where he could tend it. As his personal efforts were constrained by his desired availability at different places, he started motivating others to plant trees. To make it more meaningful and special, he tied it to the events of people around him, like birthday or marriage anniversary or any such event. Not only he motivate others to do so, he goes extra mile to plant trees at the special event of other’s life, if they request him to do so, by spending from his own pocket. In order to make it a mass movement, he planned a program and started propagating it through his students. He gave this movement a name ‘Gullak Yojna’.

Gullak Yojna 

Gullak, as most of us Indians know that it is a piggy bank made out mud clay and looks like earthen pot. Making earthen pots were bread and butter of ‘Kumhar’ community in India. For some of them, it is still the bread and butter, but metal piggy banks have taken their place. Gullak, like piggy banks were used to instill the value of thrift and frugality among children in rural areas and small towns in India. But urbanization and consumerism changed the habit 360 degree and habit of thrift and frugality became alien to today’s children.

With this movement, he envisions to bring back old habit of frugality, which will not only have positive impact on children but revive the livelihood of ‘Kumhar’ community. But how is all this connected to environment and what is salient features of ‘Gullak Yojna’? They are as follows:

  • Everyone should own a Gullak. As mentioned this will create livelihood of one who makes it.
  • Everyone should save just one rupee every day. This will encourage the habit of thrift and frugality among people.
  • With the savings of just one rupee per day, a person will be able to save at least Rs.365/- per annum, which will sufficient to buy and plant more than one tree. This will not only protect the ozone layer of the earth’s stratosphere, it will have cooling effect on planet earth by blocking out sun’s radiation, limiting the use of air conditioners, which in turn will limit the use of electricity, which are mostly generated through fossil fuel. This way, in an average lifespan of 70 years, one individual can plant at least 70 or more trees. If you multiply it with the number of people in this country, then you can very well imagine the kind of greenery which can be created.
  • The amount of money saved and the trees planted can create multiple earning opportunities, further boosting the economy.
  • Moreover, just one rupee saved every day by every Indian can save and plough back more than Rs.360 Billion in the economy.

Let us acknowledge, propagate and give a helping hand

These are small talk, small money and small effort, but if we pivot it at one place, it becomes huge. One man has taken the pledge, one man has given his life to the cause of making this planet earth in general and our country in particular a beautiful place to live in, let us contribute our effort towards his cause. After all, this is matter of our life, our happiness. Let us commit to give healthy and happy environment to our future generations. Let them remember us as someone who really cared.

 

You can reach out to him at + 91 9973658390 and chittu18bittu11@gmail.com and be a part of his wonderful journey.


A Raahgir e Rahguzar From Place Called India

A ‘Raahgir-e-Rahguzar’ from Place called India

I immediately liked this man when I met him for the first time around seventeen and half years back. He was my kind of person; simple, jovial, full of fun and had the prowess of making every moment light and full of happiness for the people around him. This liking developed into pride, respect and admiration six years back when he published his first novel ‘Chasing Maya’. It was a beautiful story woven around the mirage of happiness of modern lifestyle. I loved the novel because somewhere it was my story as well. He is back with another beautiful creation ‘Rahgeer-e-Rehguzar’, a compilation of Urdu poems, which is quite an achievement for a person from north-eastern part of India, for whom even Hindi is a learned language!

He is an amazing storyteller and his command over multiple Indian languages like Marathi, Gujarati, Bangla, Assamese, Sanskrit, Urdu, and a bit of Punjabi too, not to mention Hindi and English, takes his storytelling abilities to entirely different level. I requested his audience before he gets busy with the publishing work of his new English novel – his third book in a span of seven years. I got an opportunity to talk to him this week. Let me bring you the excerpts of my riveting talk with Mr. Rohan Gogoi, my immediate senior from the business school we both went to, and the celebrated author of ‘Chasing Maya’ and ‘Rahgeer-e-Rehguzar’.   

Mukul: To write a story, a poem or novel, one needs an inspiration or a moment or an event. What was your moment, event or inspiration which launched the beautiful spring of words?

Rohan Gogoi: When I finished writing Chasing Maya, rather recurrently, over multiple media interviews, I shared with my journalist friends that ‘my frustration is my inspiration’! I had walked quite a lot in the journey called life, despite the fact that I was just a 28-year-old when I had started writing Chasing Maya. I had everything which could label me as successful in the milieu we live in. I had a beautiful family, great friends and a reasonably fruitful career, yet I was not happy. It seemed as if the rigmarole of everyday life was making me a prisoner of a rat race, which I never wanted to be a part of.

Being a Corporate Communicator, I was writing a lot for my employer organization’s endless internal and external communication pieces. In fact, for the love of writing, I had opted for a career in communications. I enjoyed telling stories. And when, chronic frustration and refusal to live as per societal expectations fuelled an untamable desire to find my true self, I started having deep conversations with myself; and soon, I started writing them down too... Words turned into sentences and sentences turned into pages. Eventually, I discovered that it was sounding like a story. People around me loved it and ‘Chasing Maya’ thus happened!

When the book came out, there was a sense of overwhelm, because many people reached out to tell me that they could find shades of their own lives in it. These intriguing words served like the answer I was seeking for so long! I started looking forward to every moment that could grant me an opportunity to write, tell a story, compose poetry, sing or simply just spread the my wings of imagination

Mukul: You started your journey as an author with ‘Chasing Maya’, which was quite urban in theme. What made you transition from English and urban themes, which you have strong command over, to the profound subtleties of a classical language like Urdu, which, I am sure, was never your language of communication?

Rohan Gogoi: Well, the success of ‘Chasing Maya’ exposed me to a whole new spectrum of experiences. It was kind humbling to see readers taking the pain of finding and reaching me through rather unbelievable means. I felt encouraged like never before and I started working on my next novel.

One of the characters of my second novel, which I started working on, and is now in the concluding stage, has his roots Uttar Pradesh – who writes and recites Urdu poetry. To make him sound real and authentic, I had to make some effort to learn the language. But I was rather surprised that it turned out to be a much simpler exercise than what I had expected. And reason I finally figured out was kind of amusing… My father, who couldn’t speak a word of Hindi, used to be an avid follower of old Hindi film songs. He loved Urdu ghazals too. So, I was raised on a very healthy dose of the immortal creations of Kaifi Azmi, Shahir Ludhiyanvi, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Shailendra, Ghulam Ali, Mehndi Hasan etc. and I too grew up becoming no less a fan of those great maestros. I think my creative bent of mind took baby steps then and there. Had I not written ‘Rahgeer-e-Rehguzar’, I wouldn’t have been fortunate enough to appreciate the profoundness and subtlety of this great language. This book is a kind of an ode to my love for purity of language, poetry and literature.

Mukul: In this age of hardening regional and language identity, you are perfect example of openness, oneness and Indianness. A boy from North-Eastern part of the country, for whom even Hindi is a learned language, writes a book in ‘Urdu’, which is quite unfathomable but really commendable. What would be your message for the youth of today’s India; most of them are outraged most of the time at one thing at other?        

Rohan Gogoi: I was a simple small town boy, who wanted to see the world, meet different people, tell my stories and listen to theirs. During my professional life, I have travelled extensively, not only across the country but around the world as well. I have seen people of extreme riches and also those living in abject poverty. I have slept under open sky on the white sands of Rann of Kutchh and I have also spent days with people in Kalahandi who were almost clueless about their next day’s meal. These experiences brought forward many facets of reality in front of me.  

The first thing I learned in this process is to be open and accept the people the way they are, the way they live, the language they speak, the food they eat. India is our country and we need to accept the way it is. India is complex… Multiple ethnicity, multiple languages, multiple faiths define us. Even the core Indic philosophy puts forward multiple ways to reach the ultimate truth. That’s what we are as a nation and that’s what we will always be.

You know me; I have always been a person looking for joyful moments to be happy in life. I don’t chase accomplishments. I don’t have big dreams. Music, poetry etc. are a part of my daily diet. I knew for the fact that if I want to be happy, I will have to seek my kind of happiness. Conflicts, debates and disagreement couldn’t have given me the happiness I was looking for. So, wherever I went, whomsoever I met, I tried to find points of agreement and this comes spontaneously to you when you start respecting other’s perspective, life, language, food etc. You will notice that people notice how you respond to their food, their language, their philosophy of life... Once they observe your positive gestures and accepting face, they start opening up and welcoming to you!

Wherever life took me, I made genuine efforts to accept and respect the local culture, language, food etc. I may not be a master, but I can speak Marathi, Gujarati, Bangla, Urdu, a bit of Punjabi, and of course, my native Assamese, Hindi and English. I also attempt at speaking a sentence or two in Malayalam, Oriya and Bhojpuri.

Mukul: What message would you have for the youth of this country………….

Rohan Gogoi: I don’t know if I am qualified enough to do so but I can certainly share what really worked for me, and that is – travel, meet new people, talk to them, listen to them. Understand the real India. Observe the world around. If one wants to be accepted and respected, one has to first be open to accept and respect other’s perspectives. “Holier than thou” attitude has never worked in India. We have to respect and celebrate pluralism. India will always remain diverse and that makes it uniquely rich. Taking pride in your identity is great, but being confined to it will make you closed and captive.

Mukul: Please let us peep into your future plans?

Rohan Gogoi:  Well, as of now, I want to do my bit to bring Assam on to the Hindi and Urdu literary map. So, Hindi-Urdu escapade continues. I am also working on making my Urdu poems more lyrical so as to adapt them into songs. Besides, I just finished writing the lyrics for an Assamese music album, scheduled to be launched sometime this year. This album would in fact feature Assamese trans-creations of 8 timeless Bollywood classics with the same essence and purity so that people get to relish the rich aesthetics of old Hindi music in their native language as well.  

I am in the last phase of writing my second English novel and I will get back to finish that one sometime soon.   

For all those poetry lovers, who often say ‘My Hindi is not good’, I am translating my Urdu poems into English and planning to bring out a bi-lingual collection by mid-2018.  

Mukul: What is your advice to budding writers like me?

Rohan Gogoi: People often tend to believe that writing a novel, or for that matter, any creative feat is just about being creative; which it is not completely true. Any creative pursuit demands more than just creativity. First of all, you need to be disciplined. If you are writing poetry or articles, you can manage with shorter attention span; but for a novel, you need to research, write hundreds of pages, edit, adapt and keep going back again and again to check the consistency and continuity. And this won’t be possible discipline and patience. Writing novels also require you sit for long hours with unbroken attention, which means you also need to ensure a fit body and a healthy brain. So making meditation and physical exercise a part of your everyday life also contributes substantially to your success. Creativity, I believe, is always triggered by experiences – the range of emotions we expose ourselves to. It is critically important for writers to observe the world around, meet new people, welcome diverse perspectives and have deep and meaningful conversations wherever possible. Besides, as we all know reading forms a crucial part of the writing process. The more you read, more proficient you become in your writing. 

Note: Rohan Gogoi can be reached on www.facebook.com/rohan.gogoi.14


5 Chargers to Boost Your Content Management Strategy

5 Chargers to Boost Your Content Management Strategy

I conducted a small quiz on my social media accounts of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to know which class of media, people trust more to know about their preferred product or services: Online/Social media or Mainstream media. According to my estimate, after all the sharing, re-sharing, tags and getting it shared by friends etc. for a week, this quiz got around 2000 views (Twitter and LinkedIn shares the statistics of  post views. For Facebook, an estimate has been made taking comments, votes and Likes resulting in possible reach to my friends in my network and friend’s friends in their network, into consideration).

Total responses minus ‘Likes’, ‘Share’, ‘Favorite’, ‘Retweets’ from all the platforms stood at 34, which is 1.7% of the total views. While 28 persons voted directly on the quiz, 6 chose to privately respond on Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn Messenger and Twitter Direct Message, because they didn’t find the options they wanted to choose in the quiz I had posted. I shall share the inference of quiz in terms of effectiveness of class of media in some other blog; here I will talk about ratio of views to response.

There were few things missing in that post, which led to not a good response by my target audience. There are few more things which play a key role in audience engagement through content. Let’s dive straightaway in to some of them:

  • Authority: Though I used to work in the field of e-commerce and inbound marketing till few years back, but I went off the grid for good three years. During this period, on Facebook and Twitter, I was mostly sharing my political views, thoughts emanating out of my personal life experiences and some useful informations published by some business magazines. On LinkedIn, there were hardly any interactions during this period except sending few invites to stay socially alive.

It means my authority to ask or give an opinion from or to my network on this type of content has been eroded due to inconsistency in communication about me. It looked like a one off event than a regular meaningful one. People prefer to pay attention to hear from someone who has an authority on the intended subject.

  • Consistency in communication about self: Whether someone writing under his name or pseudonym, a consistency in communication about self is very much important. Topics chosen to write about acts as communication about self, if someone is trying to reach out to his audience through written words. If someone chooses to reach his audience through spoken words, then other things like voice modulation, postures and gestures, appearance, facial expressions etc. will also matter. It will lead people to know where to go to seek the answer of their questions. Repetition lays out the print of your brand road map on your target audiences mind.
  • Freshness of Content: Question which I asked has been asked many a times before by many organizations whether they are involved in Marcom or product or services marketing. Social media platforms also keep asking questions on the similar lines to get the user feedback and make their offering more engaging to their users.

There was no freshness in my content. If someone ‘has been there and done that’, then what is there for him to chip in and give his valuable time. One may not have new idea to write about all the time, but an old idea can be written about in new style, in a fresh format to engage the target audience. I could’ve done it better, might have added something more, innovative and engaging, but I didn’t do and that’s why, the response was according to my effort. It is a long drawn process but worth acting upon.    

  • Adding Value: You have to add value to someone’s life to seek value for your life from them. It is all about doing to good to others; good karma always comes back to bless you. All three previous points clearly suggests that this quiz was not adding any value to my network. It was acting more like asking for a favor, which some of them did and responded to my quiz. Numbers which I got as favor is no less significant.
  • Not everything gets registered in people’s mind: Most important of all, though previous points are also equally useful and important, but this one needs special attention: not everything gets registered in the people’s mind which reach him trough the five senses. Estimates of neuroscience experts give various numbers about what is getting deposited in the first layer of retina and what reaches to visual cortex of the brain, but all estimates clearly suggests that our brain receives very impoverished representation of the world.

Continuous flow of humongous amount of data and mental manipulation based on past experiences, education and knowledge distorts the clear representation of intended idea in its true meaning. So, everything written in previous four points becomes even more important. One needs to continuously and consistently communicate about self to create a voice of authority and keep creating fresh, useful and engaging content which adds value in the life of target audience.

 

I love talking about people, their brand, their idea, their product and their services. If you want me to write about you, please feel free to reach me at mukul.bharatiya@gmail.com. You can also drop your message at my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/StorytellerMukul. Connecting with you at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mukul-bhartiya-184799b/ is all my pleasure.

                             


Rebooting Education An Innovative Way Part II

Rebooting Education An Innovative Way Part II

In his book “Differentiate or Die”, world famous Marketer and Management consultant Jack Trout has written; “Your competition can copy your product, copy your strategy, but they can’t copy your level of commitment and passion”.

There are many who are using technology to solve the problems which are plaguing our education system. Some of them are successful; few more may succeed and may create a Billion Dollar Unicorn but how long they will stay in this business will always remain a question. Present culture of VC funding and Angel Investment may force them to cash out and either exit the business or hand over the management control to the investors. They may not be able to match the commitment and passion of Mr. Sandeep Srivastava. He runs an investor free and debt free organization for the last 14 years. He has been earning and putting it back in the organization he has created. That’s why I avoid mentioning it to be his business.

In first part of the interview, we talked about why and how he started his journey as a social entrepreneur. Link of the same is here: Rebooting Education An Innovative Way

In the second part of his interview, we will know about Sandeep’s opinion on Education System and its impact on Job Market and how can we set things right.

Review Board: Is there disconnect between our Education system and the Job Market? Though employment data may be saying something else but the real unemployment in the country is huge. Underemployment is a huge problem in our country….

Sandeep Srivastava: Underemployment is much bigger problem than unemployment……..Why won’t it be??? It goes back to the basics….There is a staircase with steps of success to go up in life….. Pre-school, Primary school, Middle school, Secondary school, Senior Secondary school, Under Grad, Grad….so on and so forth….

And what we are saying or doing….. First five-six steps are damaged, so, remove those steps and directly jump to Graduation or level above or level just below. How can this help? It is bound to make students weak.

Look, we can’t do better if the basic school deficit is not fixed. The school deficit can’t be 100%. There may be some deficit…but not of this magnitude. Today morning itself, I bought some snacks from an up-market store in Kailash Colony and the person at the cash counter asked me for “Ek kum saat sau sathh” (One less than Rupees Seven hundred sixty). This is the level of education, in Delhi, in an up-market place like this. The person was not able to speak numbers properly and that too in Hindi. That’s the situation….

Review Board: If this is the situation in a place like Delhi, then what will be the situation in other parts of the country? I was reading somewhere a few days back that India produces around 6.3 million graduates every year…..what quality of students this system might be producing?

Sandeep Srivastava:
India needs to create 1 million jobs every month. Around 12 million people get added in the supply side of job market every year.

Review Board: It will be really chaotic situation; someday somewhere…..it may burst out on the streets.

Sandeep Srivastava: Hasn’t it been happening already? Have you read the newspapers of yesterday? Trains were stopped by people seeking jobs in Mumbai….Apprentices were on the railway tracks demanding jobs.

……. For me, it boils down to getting the three languages right.

…….The First language of human is art and music. You might have seen children spoiling the walls with their drawings when they first start learning something. Music is the other one………It is proven fact that music plays a big role in developing a child’s brain. 

.......The Second language is a person’s mother tongue. It is also called the natural language. In our country, we have stopped using the mother tongue and have created a conflict; because in our country, language of academics is English, which is NOT the natural language. We have not developed any other language of our own country which can be used to teach Medicine or Engineering. Even if we start now, we can’t teach these courses in any of our languages and it would take centuries to reach there.

…… The Third language is the universal language and it is called language of Mathematics. Two plus two is equal to four, is same anywhere in the world. Only how you write numerals will change, otherwise everything will remain the same. Lot of subjects become easy when you write it mathematically and there are a number of subjects which are Mathematics based. Physics is actually Mathematics. Einstein didn’t do any lab test for his formulas; he only found answers through mathematical formulas and all his greatness are outcome of mathematics only.

These three things need special attention and needs to be corrected. You will be surprised to know that there are only twenty countries in the world where their mother tongue and language of academia is different. In a country like Thailand, even medicine is taught in Thai…..they have made their language so rich. I was shocked when I heard this…..we couldn’t take any of our languages to that level. This is not the problem of developed world. This is the problem of these twenty countries where the mother tongue (first language) has not been taken to the level of the second language i.e. English. And if we are able to do these things in our mother tongue, say Hindi or Bangla or Tamil or Telugu….. It can easily be transferable in the second language, i.e., English.

For all of it to happen, we need to create a country of readers. We never read as a nation…..only 5% of the population i.e. the Brahmins read……otherwise everywhere else there was an oral tradition. Time has come for us to start reading!!

Review Board: Sir, this brings me to my next question. We need money to educate ourselves and we need jobs to earn that money back. It is like the cycle of zero sum game. Especially in our country, when a child is born parents are ready with a list of career options and all of it ends with a job. The Indian education system is creating a country of job seekers. Barring IITs, which are giving a good leverage to entrepreneurship, almost all other educational institutions in India are producing consumers for the job market and this has been continuously creating havoc like a very high unemployment rate, poor mental health of many which no one is ready to talk about and lack of inclusive growth across all economic strata of population. What steps should be taken to make this system capable enough to make our country a country of job creators and what role entrepreneurs can play in it?

Sandeep Srivastava: This is a very interesting question. We are celebrating the fact that we have a very expanding middle class. There are around 350-400 million people in the middle class; though there is huge disparity in this class itself, but we have defined it on a certain basis and reached this number. Now we are happy….This number is big…even bigger than the population of USA…..world is looking at us….beautiful…..But there is a flipside……and I call it “Curse of the middle class”. In this class, people look for and cling to security. We want our EMIs to be paid on time; we want a life where our children will keep paying their EMIs.

The Goal of education has become limited to “financial security”. It has stopped being the source of becoming human and an understanding of life; what else can be done with education. The curse of expanding middle class is that as it is expanding the points of this financial security are narrowing and converging. We are zeroing down to the most secure point where we can live a financially secure life and everyone is chasing those points only. We are bothered about adding something to it but not risking anything out of it to create something new…..one more house, one more flat to earn an extra rental income….that’s all we want.

In past fifteen years, professionals like Doctors, Engineers, CA’s etc., have made more money outside their profession. You will often hear a statement from people that “my hobby for Saturday and Sunday is to search property for investment”.

Review Board: We are busy securing money…..but that is not creating anything.

Sandeep Srivastava: That is the middle class curse…Business is all about coming out of your comfort zone, taking risk……….but middle class is risk averse. And with this expanding middle class, we have become more risk averse as a nation. Even if we want to do business, we look for Angel Investor first. We don’t want to take risk on our own money. The moment you get money from someone, pressure starts building from the day one. Obviously it will happen because when we have taken money from someone, we will be under pressure to pay him back……so rather than the idea behind the business, money becomes the priority. So, this whole expanding middle class becoming risk averse has repercussion on others.

Lower class people are watching this and they realize that if it is the goal of the middle class, then it must be the best solution for aspirations of life. And that’s why; the entire nation is looking for jobs, rather than thinking about creating one.

There is an electrician in my office who is on the retainer basis. He has been coming to me and crying that his son somehow cleared the tenth grade and now he does not want to study and also does not want to work with him. He wants to get a job. That is the situation everywhere. So, this middle class has created a risk averse education system and social environment where the financial security tops everything and that is a huge problem.

Review Board: And how will it change?

Sandeep Srivastava: If we are able to understand it then we will solve it. But, there are elements to it…..steps to it…..and Parenting is the first step. Education should focus on overall growth of the child. We need better education system which promotes innovation, which promotes change, which promotes entrepreneurship. Without giving any benefit, government is putting all the pressure, its responsibilities on entrepreneurs. It should not happen. An entrepreneur, who is barely surviving in order to create something must be supported and not pressurized to share the social responsibility of the government.

Review Board: So we have two takeaways from it: one, we have created a country of risk averse middle and lower class and second, if someone wants to create something….take a risk….then the government is piling on them the pressure of social responsibilities.

Sandeep Srivastava: I would like to put it this way……small entrepreneurs should not be treated as big corporate, at least for the purpose of sharing government’s social responsibilities….for example opening a crèche or giving a nine month’s maternity leave to a pregnant woman. Normally a woman comes back to work after a couple of months of delivery. She also does not want to be left behind in the career by staying out of the work. An entrepreneur also can’t go without a resource for nine months.

Government should first allow the entrepreneurs to reach a level where he can carry the burden of social responsibility. As an entrepreneur, I shall be given the same amount of privileges as big corporate. My degrees, my knowledge has no bearing on my capacity of raising money from the bank. It will only look at the collateral I can provide to the bank. Though people who can and have influence are able to get or manage the credit line. If there is no value of knowledge assets then what’s the point in creating that knowledge asset. By giving it no value at all, the government itself has put a question mark on the education system it has created. If all these things are happening, then how can a country of job creators be created?

Review Board: Sir, I won’t talk ask about policy decisions to improve the education system of India. That’s government’s prerogative and responsibility. But in this prevailing situation, what advice you would like to give to the students who aim to get the best education, which can give them best return of their investment in terms of time and money and keep them productive till end?

Sandeep Srivastava: Beautiful question again……..A child learns when the family learns. There is one approach since eternity where parents tell their children to read……It is “Go and study”.

How will your children go and study when you are either watching TV or talking to someone or doing something which is not related to study. A child imitates their elders. So, to educate a child, elders need to sit and learn and get educated again with them. Even if they are highly qualified, they need to do it again. First time they did so for themselves, second time they will have to do it for their children.

If as a parent they can’t do that then they won’t be able to make the life, purpose of life and goal of life clear to their children. An uneducated parent may face the challenge, but who are educated, must focus on it. As I have already told you that to get the education level of a family right, at least 3-4 generation is required. So, if someone is at the first level of this ladder, a lapse can very well be expected and can be accepted…..but not with the parents who are already well educated.

Once they start sitting with their children, they will understand them well and guide them with all the love and care. During this course, they will be able to get all the best learning’s of life to their children which will be with them till the end.

Review Board: Sir, you have already answered my last question. I want to ask this question again but from the parent’s point of view.

Sandeep Srivastava: We have already discussed that present education system and quality has degenerated to such a level that we need a completely new system. I will again reiterate that onus is on parents to seek better life for their children.

Better life doesn’t mean fighting tooth and nail for already narrowing career options and making it narrower by driving more and more people towards it. Purpose of life should not be to get to a situation were one is depressed or becomes a heart patient by focusing more and more on monetary aspect of life.

So, my request would be not to add anything more into it of that sort. Don’t reduce the human life to the level where only money matters….. Understand the very first fact that we are humans…….We have come to this world to evolve as a better human being…..not as a machine or an animal…..


Madhubani Painting as a Career

Madhubani Painting as a Career

Paintings: Language of Culture

Best character our country is its diversity; we have so many stories to tell, so many cultures to follow, so many places to visit, so many languages to learn and speak, so many delicacies to eat and everything is in continuity for tens of thousands of years. There is no place like our country on this planet earth.

 Our ancestors, other than being greatest minds, were greatest story tellers as well. Their teachings are in the form for numerous books, which are foundation stone of our culture. Contents of these books are not only spoken about but sung and presented in the form of pictures as well.

Madhubani Painting: Origin and Theme

One such book is ‘Ramayana’ depicting life journey of Lord Ram. Mithila is the second axis of three axes of Ramayana, because Goddess Sita was born here. Other two axes, of course, are Ayodhya and Lanka. In Present day parlance, Mithila is spread over Janakpur and nearby area of Nepal to Madhubani, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga districts of Bihar and nearby areas.

Mithila Painting nowadays is more popularly known as Madhubani painting, because this place has long been the capital different kingdoms of Mithila.

Mithila is the seat of Tantra and Goddess Kali is its presiding deity. ‘Worship of Goddess Kali’, ‘Life of Goddess Sita’ and her ‘Marriage to Lord Ram’ are three dominant theme of Mithila culture in order and so is of Mithila or Madhubani Paintings.

Madhubani Painting: A Career Option

To draw a Madhubani painting, you need right kind of pen and color, lots of finesse and most important of all, complete understanding of Mithila’s culture. All of it comes with your close association with it. Noted Painter of Madhubani Paintings and owner of Mukta Rani Creations (www.muktarani.com) Mrs. Mukta Rani says,” Unless you understand and imbibe the culture of Mithila, you won’t be able to paint its art. If you look at our daily life, you will find the distinct and subtle scent of feminity as well as her ferocious strength. All of it gets reflected in our paintings”.  

She further suggests following steps to make Madhubani painting and art as a career:

  • An understanding of Tantra as a spiritual practice is very necessary. Tantrik symbols like Fish, grain, eternal love of Shiva and Shakti, subtlety and ferocity of feminine power etc. are core of Madhubani paintings and art. These symbols have layered meanings, but an honest effort to understand them will help to feel the essence of culture of Mithila.   
  • A good reading of Valmiki Ramayana is necessary. Ram Charit Manas written by Tulsidas falls little short on the glories of Goddess Sita, the Princess of Mithila. Further, Valmiki Ramayana gives good narration of marriage of Goddess Sita and Lord Ram. 
  • Natural colours give an earthy look to the paintings.
  • Paintings can’t be methodical; it has to come straight from the heart.
  • Patience and practice are the biggest virtue for a painter. Success comes with finesse and maturity.

Madhubani Painting: Market Size

Villagers of Madhubani and Darbhanga district, mostly women are engaged in the profession of Madhubani painting, but it is not out of bound for men. Paintings fetch between Rs.1000/- to              Rs.1, 00,000/- depending upon its finesse, size and of course place. Japan, Singapore, China, USA other than India are its main market. Japan has a museum dedicated to Madhubani paintings. Madhubani paintings adorn the marriage of all the Maithil (Domicile of Mithila). As migration is a big reality and many of them have moved out of the boundaries of the Mithila for employment and have eventually settled in other big cities of India as well as other countries. So, there is a huge opportunity to be tapped.

Government is also making serious effort to organize this sector, so that finances can be made available to the painters. While elaborating the plan to strengthen this sector in a seminar on the “future of Madhubani Paintings” held on 9th November 2017 in Madhubani, District Magistrate of Madhubani, Shri Seershat Ashok Kapil told painters from across the district that a new web portal is coming up, which will have their profiles and few samples to showcase to potential buyers. Commerce Secretary of Bihar advised the District Magistrate to find a place for an Art Village, which should come up on NH-57, which connects Bihar with West Bengal, Odisha and Assam and goes through Madhubani District. Villages are being identified which can be promoted as culture tourism. Every house and building of these villages will adorn Madhubani paintings and funds from “Swachha Bharat Abhiyan” will be used to keep it clean and tourist friendly. Jitwarpur, a village very popular for Madhubani Paintings has already been designed on this line. Painters from across the district painted entire Madhubani Railway station with and it was first district in the country to do so. Four more railway stations in Bihar will adorn Madhubani painting.

Conclusion:

 If you take effort to understand the Mithila culture, then Madhubani painting can be taken up as a career. Government is making serious effort to uplift and strengthen it and your maturity and finesse of painting can fetch you good price as well. So, what are you waiting for…..    


Personal Branding Why

Personal Branding: Why?

This story is bit old though totally relevant to everyone. It was early 2008 and I had joined the food retail business at middle management level of a leading business house of the country, having their interest in cement, chemicals, apparel, commodities, mutual fund and many things more. Though I was part of Category Management team, but as a part of my induction program, I had to go through training at couple of stores for three days. It was early days of the business, that’s why, probably some of the things from the “must have” list were not in place.

In the evening of one of those three days, I was standing in one corner of one of the store assigned for the training. Suddenly I heard someone shouting at one of our Customer Service Associate. I rushed there to understand and solve the problem, because, after all, despite being the new employee, I was a senior level person having authority over many such stores. As I reached there, harried and insulted CSA hid behind me and explained the situation. I tried to calm down the customer by assuring him prompt action on his complaints. This particular situation was definitely the result of poor or no communication between store and category team. Though customer’s anger was justified, but poor CSA had no control over this situation. Customer was unplacable and I had a serious task in my hand. I had to show my team down there that I can not only handle the situation but act like a leader and solve their problem. In order to calm the customer down, I said, “Sir, I understand that our team somewhere has failed us, but this is a big company, a big brand promoted by a very big business name, not only in this country but in world as well. I request you have trust in that name, if not in us.” Hearing this, he promptly said, “Yes, I trust that name and that’s why I keep coming to the store despite not finding the services up to the mark and yes, I don’t trust the people like you who jump from one organization to another for few lakh rupees. For people like you, it’s the next car, next vacation, next big thing matters but not the loyalty and trust.”

His diatribe against professionals like us was totally uncalled for, but I somehow managed to calm him down. At that point of time, one point struck me very hard and that point was we all, the employees of the organization, were working really very hard make this business take shape, succeed, make shopping experience of our customers pleasant, but for any failure like above mentioned, it is only the people on the ground and like us are getting blamed and not the top boss. First strike of this point was disheartening, but second strike was enlightening. The man, the business owner, had an unassailable name built over years and through generations. They have stood for certain values, come what may, over all these periods and throughout many generations. And that’s what has made his audience trust his name so inexplicably.

A brand is just not a name, or a picture or a sign; it is a communication of certain values and certain benefits, which helps the people in solving their day to day or long term problem and helps them grow for betterment. And if this communication is for the person, then when established, helps in tiding over many troubled phases. ‘Nano’ car project failed, but no one questions the strength of ‘Tata’ brand, several of spaceships could not take off, but no one questions the innovative skills of Elon Musk. You may find many such cases, where the brand of business owner helps the actual business to tide over troubled times.  That’s why building a personal brand is very necessary in these days of ever changing life and business scenario, where nothing else is permanent. We all are now forced to be in startup mode all the time, mostly by technological upheaval taking place all the time. Casually we are creating our personal brand when we write our resume, create our LinkedIn profile, post updates on Facebook or Tweet, but are we making a serious effort to do it properly is a big question. A casual effort will always yield casual result. This leads us to know that why some personal brands are much more powerful than rest of the lot.

Personal brand is very important arsenal to win over the competition and will gain more prominence in coming days because period of long employment has long gone. No organization will have the time to assess all the skills of its employees, nor it will have the business interest. Technology will keep forcing them to innovate and as the innovation will continue, demand for new skills will keep emerging, forcing the earlier one out of the system.       


Negotiating Salary


This article is written by Mr. Abhay Kumar, Head-Operations & Business Development, Team Recruiters, A Delhi Based HR Consultancy company.

You may also like to read Dos and Donts of Getting Hired for the Best Job

Negotiating the “Right Cost” for the right resource is as crucial to the employer as is the “Right Salary” for the prospective employee. Employers tend to prefer those candidates who already earn a good income. While these candidates cost more to employ, their higher incoming salaries are assumed to reflect greater competence, initiative and achievement. Hence, salary negotiation is crucial for a win – win situation for both employer / employee. 


Zero down on an expectation

Never underestimate the importance of negotiating salary in an interview. It's in your interest to pursue income increases at every legitimate opportunity.

It starts before going for the interview. A crucial part of your research is the salary range for the position you are applying for, given your background and experience. Have a salary range in mind and be prepared to discuss these figures once salary negotiation has come up.

Know your bottom line

Be clear on what is your minimum salary expectation. Decide before you go in for the interview, what salary you want to earn, what you need to live on, and what you will be willing to settle for.

Never discuss salary till it is raised by the prospective employer

If you do, you could price yourself out of a job before the employer is convinced they need you. If pressed by the interviewers, tell them you're flexible and would be happy to discuss salary when you learn more about the job.

Market yourself

It’s about selling your skills and ability at the best possible rate. Emphasize why you suit the requirement. Document your skills and accomplishments, and be prepared to talk about them.

When questioned about desired salary

Avoid a specific salary and put forward a pay range instead or discuss in terms of an expected growth in percentage terms on your current drawings.

Don't forget the value of benefits and perks when negotiating a salary

Sometimes the salary offered may seem low, low enough for you to turn down the job. But the benefits and perks can add up to your basic salary. Some benefits are fixed, but others are negotiable such as stock options, bonuses, employee discounts, training, holiday time and sick leave. Quantify your current benefits for a better understanding of what is being offered.

Make the salary discussion a friendly experience

Be amicable when discussing salary. You should make the employer feel that you are on the same side and working together to find a package that would satisfy everyone's needs.

Don't say yes to an offer right away

Be enthusiastic and appreciative when you get the job offer, but ask for at least 24 hours to respond. This gives you time to get over your initial joy at being selected. If you feel the salary is insufficient, express your concern to the employer when asking for time to consider the offer. You'll find out right away whether the salary quoted is fixed or is flexible.

Declining an offer

If you decide not to accept the offer, make sure you leave on the best of terms. Treat every offer seriously and graciously. You can never tell who you may be doing business with in the future so don't burn any bridges. Decline the offer giving concrete reasons for doing so.


Creativity is the key to a successful Life



We are more than seven and a half billion people on this planet earth who use hundreds of different electronic devices daily. These actions result in creation of infinite permutation and combination of actions, reactions, results and probability of results. How can an individual brain with definite space cope with all of it???

By forming patterns, deciding priorities and repetition…….

The above mentioned three actions create blocks in the mind to process information in a systematic manner and make life easy, but it happens only when life is easy!! As there is an infinite possibility of unexpected challenges and outcomes; pattern and blocks most of the time creates road blocks rather than working as anything else.

This brings us to “creative thinking” …….the right brain thinking…..out of the box thinking…..but not many people know what it is and how to make it work for themselves in order to find solutions to unexpected challenges…..

Gaurav Bahl; the name brings a huge smile to my face. He can write poetry, he can sing, he can make you laugh at the drop of a hat……..No no….He is not an actor, poet or singer….. He is a Creative Leader and Founder of Quirkee, a Gurgaon based Integrated Marcom Agency, who has worked with most of the top advertising agencies of the country. Percept, Leo Burnett, Mullen Lowe Worldwide, Hammer Communications, K Factor and Bounce Design to name a few showcase the skills of the man for more than 14 years. While we were chasing our corporate dreams, he left his well paying job, took a sabbatical to detox his system and then re-joined with a very small advertising agency after sorting out his priorities in life. The money which he was making from this job was not good enough to cover even his travel expenses. But, he sorted out and went on to do what he enjoyed doing. A very strong communicator and a patient listener, who has handled team and situations and has delivered best of results because of just one thing…..He is supremely creative….he gets into the mind of his clients to know what they want and deliver exactly the same.

That’s why I chose to talk about creativity with him. Let’s read what he has to say:

Review Board: What role creative communication plays in building a brand?

Gaurav Bahl: You have asked me what role creative communication plays in building a brand. Answer to your question rests in the fact that if you look around and see at today’s brand communication scenario, every person is flooded with too much of ‘Look at me’ objects everywhere. He goes on road and finds hoardings and banners at every nook and corner, he opens the newspaper and finds advertisement on probably every page, he opens a website or his social media account and finds advertisements flowing down from every corner. A person is having too much of it…. Literally.

Review Board: To substantiate your fact, I was reading a report claiming to be based on MIT Research; we humans are creating 2.5 Quintilian bytes of data every day on internet itself. So, completely agree with what you are saying….

Gaurav Bahl: True…..now just imagine how tough it has become for Brand Managers to cut the clutter and make a way for their communication. Here comes the Creative Communication in picture to play its crucial role.

For me, simplicity of the idea and its communication is of paramount importance. That’s what most of the iconic brands have been doing and that’s what has made their communication stick with their target audience. The more you make your audience stretch the limits of their brain, the more they will avoid your brand communication.

Most of the brand communication fails because they try to tell a lot in 30 seconds. Please understand that this time period is too short to tell your entire story. So, one should tell exactly what is needed to be told effectively during that time span. The approach of ‘make them understand’ or ‘confuse them’ strategy rarely works. The main objective of any brand communication is to sell a product or service. Someone who is paying for that product or service may get fooled once but not always. Moreover, in the case of confusion, he may choose not to buy as well.

If you remember the Vodafone advertisement of a small boy being followed by a cute pug……what message it had???? “Wherever you go….our network follows”. What is expected from a telecom operator???...... Network……and it was saying just that…..and in cutest way!!!

If you see a failed or bad brand communication, please understand that other than the creative lead, everyone else has contributed in it and creative lead has failed to take his/her idea forward. Everyone thinks he/she is creative and takes pride in creating something and wants it to be appreciated. A hoarding, a banner, a poster or a TV ad or a radio jingle all works....... I am not saying it is completely wrong to have a creative streak. Sometimes a creative lead gets different perspective at the discussion table itself. But, all of them would agree to this one point……….All of the ideas one puts forward on the discussion table can’t go in one single communication…..and if it is made to go, then it will only create confusion.

Review Board: Creativity is one of the key pillars of success. How can one become and remain creative in communication in daily personal and professional life?

Gaurav Bahl: We have already discussed that every person in this world is flooded with too much of information in the form of news, advertisements, inputs for his own work requirements at personal and professional front and many things more. All these information further become the basis of many information and ideas in their mind, which keeps looking for an outlet. Everyone wants to talk and take his ideas to the top, but that doesn’t happen all the time with everyone. Something which happens very rarely is called either ‘luck’ in most prevalent term or ‘fluke’ in crude term.

To take any idea to the top one has to remain patient and committed towards it. Now, how will this happen if someone is always willing to talk and let everything out.

So, what works for me and I think it should work for others as well; be observant of what others are doing or talking about, be patient with other’s ideas, be receptive to other’s opinion and master the art of listening. All of it will give you lots of clues, experiences and answers to your problems and challenges. All of it will automatically help you in prioritizing your work and improve your focus on the solution of problems or challenges you would be looking for.

Apart from that, though I am not much into it, following extra-curricular activities like outdoor sports, or music or travelling etc. can help your mind to relax and avoid overdose of information processing. I listen to music, watch movies and play; some people find cooking therapeutic…..and of course, Yoga is an all time favorite of many……..Your brain consumes more energy than any other part of your body and as your body’s energy saps, mind starts slowing down, it starts jumping to conclusions because it wants to work less and it starts priming. So, it is very important to look after your brain….

Fundamentals of creativity can be summed up under the following points:
-Observe people and situations around you.
-Listen to what people around you say
-Be patient; don’t jump to conclusion and become an answering machine
-Be receptive to other’s ideas and opinions and respect them.
-Prioritize your work
-Focus on what you are looking for
-Relax your mind; do something which can help you to enjoy life and take your focus away from finding solutions and being creative all the time.

Review Board: What are the other factors one should keep in mind while creating his/her own personal brand?

Gaurav Bahl: Your personal brand can’t be built in air. There has to be some substance in it. So, for a person who has some experience in his industry, his achievements, his educational qualifications, his soft skills, his accreditations, his credentials in the eyes of his business associates like colleagues, peers, seniors, suppliers etc. will form the founding stones of his personal brand. There has to be some meat in the plate to eat, otherwise your guests will remain hungry.

Now if you bring the answers of previous two questions and merge it, then you will have the complete picture. Put all your substance together which I just mentioned. Listen to people around you, observe what they are doing, be patient and respectful to their opinion, focus on their need and then create simple and neat communication for them. You will have to see that communication has to be consistent without being overbearing. Building brand is not a one time effort, so you will have to be consistent with your communication and at the same time you will have to see the product remains same, what is being promised.

The formula is applicable to newcomers as well….in fact for everyone.

Review Board: Thanks a lot Gaurav for taking your precious time out and talking to us.

Gaurav Bahl: Pleasure is all mine.


How to Apply for a job and Prepare of the interview


This article is written by Mr. Abhay Kumar, Head-Operations and Business Development, Team Recruiters, A Delhi based HR Consultancy company. This article first appeared on www.teammentors.in.
 
Interview-Applying and Preparation
INTERVIEW - APPLYING & PREPARATION

A call for an Interview from an organisation can mean that you are the right candidate or certain aspects reflected in your profile suit the current requirement of the organisation. In fact, it is estimated that 80% - 90% of the candidate’s profiles are rejected at the application stage. This happens for the simple reason that the Candidates don’t screen the Jobs they are applying for. It is imperative and more so at Middle or Senior Management positions to study the Position Advertised or forwarded through a Consultant thoroughly. The Job Description, Experience parameters, Location, Qualification & skill sets required or desirous by the organisation for the position are studied and matched by one’s own profile.

Applying:

  • Screen the position Advertised or forwarded by a Consultant.
  • Gather all relevant information related to the Position – Designation, Reporting Structure, Job Profile, Experience, Qualification, Salary fitment range, Location, Joining Time etc.
  • Study the Company website, the Product & Services, clients, performance and any other relevant information related to the organisation.
  • Evaluate all information available. Apply only if the position fits your profile, Career prospects and you are serious about the change.
  • DON’T APPLY: If you are not contemplating a change, the position doesn’t fit into your scheme of things or just applying for the sake of testing the market.

Corporates have interviewers who are Human Resource professionals along with the Technical professional, both of whom are trained and experienced interviewers, so expect the interview to be very structured to obtain the maximum from you. In smaller firms you are more likely to be interviewed by a Partner who may not be a trained interviewer. It can be a good idea to try to steer the conversation towards the topics you have particular strengths in, highlighting your good points.

Depending on the kind of Interviewer, the process can be categorized into broadly 4 segments.

  • Where you are asked questions around your CV, both generally and technically.
  • Where you will be asked to give examples of how you meet their criteria e.g., of teamwork, negotiating, leadership skills etc.
  • Where you might be asked some bizarre or random questions to see if you can think on the spot and how creative/logical you are.
  • Where your views will be challenged or ridiculed and you might be goaded into an argument. If this happens to you do not lose your cool, it is to test how you react under extreme pressure and to see if you can hold your own.

Preparation:

  • KNOW YOUR CV. Read and reread your CV.
  • One should be ready to talk and justify whatever one has mentioned on the CV, like, the job changes, choice of organisation etc.
  • Have a structured CV. Prioritise & focus on things you want to talk about, areas you want to highlight, your USP’s. Present your CV in the format which focuses on your areas of strength so that you initiate discussions on your thrust area.
  • Anticipate and prepare a set of questions likely to be asked. Prepare answers and REHEARSE.
  • Go through the Company website thoroughly. Read Vacancy details, skill sets required, Product & Services etc.
  • Be decently dressed, arrive on time, have a positive Body language & carry a set of your papers and any other document as specified by the Company.
  • Be HONEST & ready to sell one-self. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarifications or any other relevant information related to the company, position or job. Thank him / her for his / her time at the end.
Some sample Questions:
  • Tell us about yourself?
  • Why did you choose your degree and what have you gained from it? What has been your most important achievement in life so far? Why?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why have you applied for this job / what do you have to offer us?
  • What are the current issues in this sector of work?
  • What experience do you have of working in a team and what role did you play in that team?
  • Describe a project you have successfully completed. How would your friends describe you?
  • Describe a situation you have found difficult. How did you overcome it?
  • Any questions would you like to ask us?


What ails Agriculture Market


According to Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, Private Final expenditure of India on Food and non-alcoholic drinks was Rs, 18,21,510 Crore in 2014-15. If we factor in the population growth and rate of inflation, we get the estimated expenditure in 2017-18. If we add to this Rs.18,000 Crore spent on alcoholic drinks, tobacco and narcotics, which finds its origin in Agri sector, then this expenditure will be close to Rs. 20 Lakh Crore. So, it is safe to say that the total Indian market size of agricultural produce is around Rs. 20 Lakh Crore. If we add the size of agriculture input, then it will be even bigger. 


A market of this size is bound to have complexities and that too in a country as diverse and complex as India, where a large section of the population is dependent on it for employment. There are many questions regarding agriculture in India and each one can have different perspective. We also had many questions for Mr. Amit Mishra, Founder- Director of Agrius India Private Limited and Founder of Ambrocia Seeds Producer Company Limited. Mr. Mishra is an Agriculture Graduate from Jawahar Lal Nehru Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, Jabalpur and PGDM-Marketing from VAMNICOM. Prior to taking up the challenging route of entrepreneurship, he has worked with GCMMF, Perfetti Van Melle, Pepsico India-Tropicana, Commodity Futures Exchange MCX and News Distribution Company Thomson Reuters. So let’s start: 


Review Board: You are an Agriculture graduate and a M.B.A and have worked with some of India’s top companies as well as a Commodity Exchange and news Distribution Company. You started your entrepreneurial journey two years back and are pretty well settled. What difference do you find in the business process of both the sectors? What can Agricultural Input Marketing learn from FMCG Food marketing of the big players?


Amit Mishra: In my opinion, the first difference is in the product itself. If we look at the flow of taking a product to the market, it looks like         Product > Targeted consumer> Marketing & Communication> Distribution network 


….the agricultural items are distributor or channel driven product while FMCG are consumer driven products. Consumer demands the brand or the kind of product he/she wants if it is FMCG product but distributor normally takes the demand in the case of agriculture product.


Review Board: Is it so? Tell us more? 


Amit Mishra: Yes, the education level of users and involved technical details of the agricultural product make it more of a channel driven product. It is very difficult for most of the farmers to understand the product detail, so, they depend on the advice of distributors. Whereas consumers are well aware of the FMCG products they want to buy. Marketing communication of FMCG products have been done so since the very beginning. 


For FMCG products, people are the primary as well as ultimate consumers as against agriculture inputs whose primary consumers are trees and plants. FMCG products, whether food or non-food, are procured on only two premises: need and aspiration. A product has either to fulfill its consumer’s need or provide aspirational value. There is not much innovation and experimentation in these products, because they are directly consumed and there are many checks and balances which need to be adhered to. Innovations are mostly focused to help make the product natural and safe for human consumption. 


As against that, Agricultural input procurement goes through four stages…  


First types of buyers are innovators; they are always on the lookout for new technology, new variety of seeds etc. to boost their produce. They enthusiastically support and participate in any kind of technological advancements. Around 0.5% of farmers in India will fall into the category. Second types of buyers are early adopters. These buyers are at the footsteps of innovators and adopt any new technology or variety immediately after confirmation of its success. They normally adopts a new technology within 1 to 3 years. They constitute roughly 4-5% of total farmers in India. Third types of buyers are late adopters. These buyers are good 3-5 years behind the innovators and early adopters. So, to them the technology is no more a new technology as it is already there for long. They constitute 50 to 55% of total farming population of India. Fourth and the last type of buyers are laggards. These buyers look for anything which has been around for long or may be there for a good 5-10 years. Surprisingly a good 40-45% of farming population of our country falls into this category. So, you can very well imagine how difficult it is for a company producing agricultural input to directly reach out to the end consumers, i.e., buyers or design a common marketing communication for them. That’s the reason why they target distribution channels and work closely with their channel partners to not only sell their products but disseminate product information. 


Though marketing efforts may be same for both the categories, but marketing communication channels and their target groups are different. Dissemination of information of agricultural input is like medicine. You don’t start consuming a medicine just because you have seen its advertisement; you get it prescribed by a Doctor. Similarly, on the basis soil type, crop etc., Agrochemicals are suggested by Distributors, backed by information provided by Agricultural Scientists as well as by the government. If anything goes wrong, then all the effort of the last six months will go waste and so will the expected income. This however is not the case with FMCG products. You see an advertisement of a chocolate; you go and buy it from a nearby store. Since there are checks and balances in place for making the product safe for human consumption, you may not like the chocolate or find it not as you assumed it to be after seeing the advertisement. But in the case of an Agricultural Input, a farmer runs a lot of risk on his investment and his future income depends on it too. That’s why he prefers to be sure before buying it and the retailer or distributor from whom he buys, works as an expert, guide and an assurance. 


One more factor that plays an important role in his buying decision is “personal acquaintance”. Since a number of farmers fall in the category of laggards and late adopters, personal acquaintance with the retailer or distributor works as a guarantee for them.


So, all of this boils down to two things: 1) Level of education; and 2) Personal touch


….. And these two things have been mastered by FMCG companies and the Agriculture Input companies can learn from them. Though it is very difficult and time consuming, but a step a day can move mountains.


What we have started doing with our business despite the fact that our resources are limited is that we have started educating our end consumers about different aspects of farming along with the products we are selling. It is addressing both the above mentioned challenges of agricultural input business. However, we know that this is a tedious task and requires lots of resources and effort. But we as a team believe that if we focus on education and training, then the late adopters can become early adopters and laggards can become late adopters thereby increasing our sales and boosting our productivity with our research work. We are planning to adopt a village pretty soon to experiment with our idea and make farmers of that village educated and aware about every aspect of farming and its business. In my opinion if business houses along with entrepreneurs like us backed by government take up this challenge, then a decade is enough to change everything, especially in a time when smartphone penetration is very high, data price is at its cheapest in the world and both of them put together is rapidly changing the human behavior. 


Review Board: So far, we have talked about Agriculture Input category vis-à-vis FMCG products. Could you please expand this discussion to include Final Produce Segment like rice, pulses, wheat as well?


Amit Mishra: Final Produce segment also carries a different behavior pattern from FMCG products. Other than Atta (Grinded wheat) and grinded spices known as C(Chili) T(Turmeric) C (Coriander), mix grinded spices known as ATC spices, other produces have not seen much success as far as branding is concerned. I have travelled extensively in urban as well as rural areas and have seen the change in pattern of packed Atta consumption. Demand of packed Atta is growing in rural areas as well; even in normal packing. But same is not reflected in pulses or rice, because packing material only adds price and not the value. Basmati rice is considered a luxury and is not consumed daily. People are consuming more of Pusa Basmati rice rather than original basmati rice. Organic foods are also in the luxury product segment, because health benefits, as promised depends on other aspects of lifestyle like complete food habit, nutrition intake, exercise routine etc. So, paying double the price than what is to be paid for normal agriculture produce is something Indian customers have not been able to make peace with.


Brand helps you to command premium, but how much and for what? You will have to show value…And in the case of commodities, it is purely transactional value. If you are changing the shape and form of the produce, then branding seems possible as you can see in the case of packed Atta or grinded mix spices and consumers are willing to pay little bit extra……. But if you are packing the whole produce, then there is no value addition.. 


So, the message is loud and clear; as the life of Indians are rapidly moving towards urban centers and rural life is following the urban life, agriculture produce marketing needs to change; it needs to change the shape of produce. If we go for processing and bringing in innovation in that, then not only will it increase the life and value of the product, but will give more money in the pocket of the farmers.


Review Board: I always felt that the biggest challenge Indian agriculture sector is facing is integration of produce and products with the market. While consumers are paying but farmers are not getting the right price. What should be done to address this problem? 


Amit Mishra: This is a very difficult question and the answer is very unpleasant for many. On the effort part, there are many steps which have been taken by the government. Many farmer-producer companies were formed in places like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka etc., Rytu Bazaars were opened to facilitate farmers to sell their produce directly to the consumers and their are thousands of cooperative marketing societies……Despite all of this, problems are still there and their has been no change in the last seventy years. Some of it has done well, but overall if we look at the collective magnitude of challenges, they remain the same as they were after independence. Now why it has remained same…….because individual interest has always taken precedence over collective interest. If you look at the structure of these cooperative marketing societies or farmer producer companies………….you will find that these are normally led by big farmers or local politicians, who serve their interest first and member’s interest later or may be never!! 


It seems to me that the government doesn’t look interested in addressing this issue because wherever there is a poor person, there is politics involved. If things becomes better, then what will you change? If despite so many programmes, projects and billions of dollars spent on agriculture, why post harvest losses are still huge? Why are farmers still battling for loan waiver, better seeds and better price? Along with asking for these issues to be addressed, farmers also need to ask questions to politicians that if these issues have been vital in every budget and election, then why there is no improvement? Why, even after seventy years of independence, farmers are committing suicide? Self sufficiency in crucial items like pulses and edible oils are still missing by a huge margin????


There are many such questions….. Am I disillusioned??? May be yes….may be no……but the way opportunities are getting wasted for personal and political gains, problems will take such a huge proportion that solutions will be impossible!! 


But you have asked me for solutions….. And they are: 1) Educating farmers and innovation in food processing needs to be very urgently done. What is dragging farmers behind is their knowledge of different aspects of farming which includes food processing and marketing. 2)While there are rapid advances in technology supporting farming, but its real users are somewhat still disconnected with that. We as entrepreneurs will have to take lead and make farmers understand the use of technology and its integration in every aspect of farming business. 3) Hold the policy makers and politicians, who have spent the nation’s wealth in the name farmers and agriculture, accountable. They must answer us about the money spent and give us the productivity report. 4) Forget personal interest for some time and work for collective interest. 5) Along with seeking money, seek answers regularly from policy makers and policy implementers.  


These are the main solutions to problems in agriculture sector in India. On paper, there is nothing which has not been tried……but there is no account of what has been achieved vis-à-vis money spent on it. 


Review Board: Can technology help in solving the problem of integration of agricultural produce to its market? And what role entrepreneurs, private business houses and farmers themselves can play in it?


Amit Mishra: This question is connected to your previous question, so, a large part of it is already covered. Technology as required to assist the agriculture production and agriculture produce marketing is already available……And innovator entrepreneurs are playing their role…..But the size of complexity and the challenges are so huge and efforts required are of such gigantic magnitude that solo efforts of entrepreneurs will be lost. Government will have to stop thinking of it as a milch cow and work towards solving all the challenges once and for all. Otherwise solutions will be there, but in bits and pieces, as provided by entrepreneurs at a local level. 


Review Board: True. Neither have we done our bit nor have asked the right questions to our policy makers and policy implementers. Thanks a lot for taking your precious time out and talking to us….


The Art of Politics in Analysing and Predicting to a successful Career

The Art of Politics in Analysing & Predicting to a successful Career!!

Both the George’s; Orwell and Bernard Shaw presented pictures of politics in a satirical style of their own, at times even bordering on being cynical. George Orwell, in one of his many memorable and quotable quotes had said, “Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from conservatives to anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind”.  George Bernard Shaw was equally contemptuous about politics and once famously opined, “Politics is the last resort of scoundrels”.

Politics is a multifaceted word. It has a set of fairly specific meanings that are descriptive and nonjudgmental (such as "the art or science of government" and "political principles"), but often does carry a connotation of dishonest malpractice. It is very often said that politics is all about power and money!!

It is not that they are not true and more so in the Indian context, but with changing socio- economic scenario, quite a few things have changed and a number of things are in the process of changing. The best part of the change is that in the last decade experts from diverse fields and backgrounds have initiated into active politics. However it is not implied that change has been restricted to the last decade rather it has been gradually evolving with each passing day with the strengthening of the Electoral Politics and the process.

The advent of Shri T. N. Seshan as the Chief Election Commissioner revolutionized the Electoral process in the country. Further, the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), 24X7 Media coverage and active reporting of political development by numerous vernacular newspapers have added to the good work which was already being done.

However, the Parliamentary Elections of 2014 and every election after that has seen a sea of change in how elections are being fought in India. The Election Management, Communication Strategy, Technology, and use of Social Media are the new buzzword…..new and different from the way it was being done earlier. The “War Room” and the use of 3 D Hologram technology which was attempted for the first time in political rallies ever across the world connected candidates to voters at PAN India locations. The “War Room” of different political parties had more professionals from technology, analysts and media field working on strategies than politicians. This election of 2014 and beyond has opened the gate for professionals who want to contribute to Indian politics without participating actively in mainstream politics.  

We had many questions in our mind related to the subject and the participation of professionals and experts from different fields opening up new career opportunities for many more, got us looking for someone who could answer authoritatively. So, when we got the chance to meet Mr. Sanjay Kumar, we were more than elated.

Mr. Sanjay Kumar is Professor and Director, Center for the Studies of Developing Societies (CSDS). CSDS is India’s premier Institute for Research in Social Science and Humanities. Trained in survey research, his research focuses largely on the issues of Electoral Politics, Political Mobilisation, Indian Democracy and issues concerning Indian Youth.

He has authored several books, edited many volumes, published articles in various national and international research journals and is a regular on various TV channels as panelist for the discussion on Indian Politics. His books include “Post Mandal Politics in Bihar: Changing Electoral Patterns, Changing Electoral Politics in Delhi- From Caste to Class (With Praveen Rai), Measuring Voting Behavior in India (With Peter R DeSouza and Sandeep Shastri), Indian Youth in a Transforming World: Attitudes and Perceptions, Indian Youth and Electoral Politics: An Emerging Engagement (With Chritophe Jafferlot), Rise of Plebeians? The Changing Face of Indian Legislative Assemblies (With Suhash Palashkar and Sanjay Lodha) and Electoral Politics in India: Resurgence of Bhartiya Janata Party”. He keeps writing in various newspapers and graces TV newsroom with his opinion on different socio-political issues.

Let’s hear him speak and enlighten us with his knowledge:

Review Board: There is a famous quote in ‘Animal Farm’ written by Mr. George Orwell, Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He doesn’t give milk, he doesn’t lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he can’t run fast enough to catch the rabbit. Yet he is lord of the animals. He is sets them to work, he gives back to them the bare minimum that will prevent them for starving, and rest he keeps for himself.  Doesn’t it find a resonance in India politics? Aren’t we as a nation given the bare minimum to survive and we remain busy in the quest for survival while our leaders enjoy life and keep everything with them?

Sanjay Kumar: It will be very unfair to politicians if we say that this happens only in politics. This situation is prevalent everywhere in the society where resource and material benefit generation is of prime concern. Without taking any names, if you look around, even in business or any profession for that matter, owner or the management keeps the maximum for themselves, giving the bare minimum to the workers but only to such an extent that it keeps them running and inspired to come back to work the next day.

Review Board: We were talking to an Agri-business owner from Bhopal sometime back and we asked him a question on challenges faced by farmers in terms of getting returns for their produce and hard work despite the fact that the consumers pay the maximum they can. His answer was “this question needs to be asked to our policy makers that why even after spending billions of rupees our farmers still commit suicide, why there are huge post harvest losses, why we as a country are still net importer of crucial items like edible oils and pulses”.

Sanjay Kumar: See, agriculture is a different ball game. Farmers are always living on the edge, facing a new challenge on a regular basis. If there is drought then they lose their crop and all the input they have invested in. Same is the case when there is a flood. So, when there is no crop, there is no money. But their condition is no different when they have a bumper harvest because the prices go down drastically.

Add to that the storage facility in our country needs a lot of improvement. You gave the example of pulses and edible oils. Situation is not good for even paddy and wheat. If you go to various parts of Punjab and Haryana which produces maximum rice and wheat, you will find the produce stacked in open air, sometimes covered with a tarpaulin and sometimes not. And in case of rain, there is a huge damage to these produces kept in the open.

Hence, there is always a demand for Minimum Support Price for farm produce and it is not that the price is not there, but it serves the purpose of an added advantage. So, infrastructure needs to be ramped up or there should be more food producing/processing units, where raw produce can be converted into food which can be stored for little a longer period.

Review Board: That’s his main contention…….why even after spending so much of money and so much of time; we are forced to see this situation….

Sanjay Kumar: Again I will reiterate the point that this is not the case only with politics. This is the case everywhere. Some politicians will admit off the record that there is a problem, but if they solve all the problems at one go then what will they promise next time around when they go for elections. They know that if they don’t deliver they won’t get the vote. But if they deliver everything, then what will be the aspiration level of voters from him for the next election. That’s why they deliver in piece meal.

Review Board: Again I am clubbing two quotes of George Orwell from his book ‘Animal Farm’: Let’s face it: our lives are miserable, laborious and short and Can you not understand that liberty is worth more than just ribbons?” If we look back at the last seventy years of our independence, these two quotes seem so relevant.  What workable changes do we need to bring in ourselves to come out and move forward towards a better life?

Sanjay Kumar: Answer of this question is very complex. I always give the example of sports or from the field of medicine. It is not so simple a case where you can take some quick fix medicine, pop in and you will get better.  If the problem becomes chronic, then just one antibiotic will not help you to recover completely; a few more medicines will be required along with numerous tests preceding such medication…..And then also, it will take some time. Similarly, take the example of hockey. India used to dominate the world hockey, but not anymore. Now, if someone says, change the goalkeeper or change the center forward and things will improve; it will not happen. There needs to be various steps which have to be taken to bring Indian hockey back to its glorious days!!

There are many things which if it gets better; life will be easier and better. These things are very basic and of the nature of daily use if you look at it. Basic infrastructures like house, clean water, health, road, electricity, education etc. which are necessities and are at the top of the demand list of a common man. Other things which are bigger in magnitude on the scale of perspective, like job creation, foreign policy, industrial development, foreign direct investment etc. are also very important, but these things are important in the long run.

One very important subject is connectivity. We keep talking about Bihar. People say a lot has changed in Bihar in the last 10 years. What has changed; road infrastructure and law and order situation. This has changed the whole scenario. Earlier, people used to be scared of travelling even small distances due to poor condition of roads, which is not the scene now.

People have very basic needs and whenever they meet policy makers, even of the stature of the Prime Minister, who is the top man in the country, they come out with very basic demands like road, electricity, health, law and order etc. They hardly come up with an immediate demand for a job, though the demand of job is equally important.    

Review Board: Otto Von Bismarck had said, Politics is the art of possible, the attainable- the art of the next best”. While the next best in Indian political scenario may remain a question, what attainable expectations should a common man of India have?

Sanjay Kumar: There was a good amount of talk on electrification of all the villages of India, which is great thing to happen. But clean drinking water is even more important, which is still not available to majority of Indians. We can live without electricity but we can’t live without water. So, everything comes back to the basic requirement!!

If someone is claiming that nothing has happened in the last 60-70 years, then I beg to differ. I am sure 90% of Indians have moved upwards in their life when compared to their father or grandfather. But as the time changes, aspirations change and it is bringing in changes in our demand pattern and social behavior. Someone may ask whether Delhi still has electricity or road related problems. But this may seem inconceivable today. However, around 30-40 years back, when people started settling across the Yamuna river, it was told that there are ‘N’ number of problems in trans Yamuna area. Before facilities could be provided to those people, Delhi expanded even further to areas beyond. That is the case with the whole country. Level of education and connectivity with rest of the world has increased, which in turn has increased the level of aspiration and demand and it will keep on continuously increasing in future. But for a good amount of time, basic necessities will be the main demand, because India is still a third world country with multiple layers of economic strata.

Review Board: Due to deep rooted barriers within our social system and the continuous aggravation of those barriers by our political leaders, very few of us are capable of expressing equanimity opinions which differs from the prejudices presented by our social environment. We have reached so far and efforts are definitely on to take us even farther. Your take on the subject…..

Sanjay Kumar: Look, you will have to see the entire situation in the backdrop of changing socio-economic scenario, large population and rapidly increasing educational infrastructure of the country. Social fault lines which used to exist earlier like discrimination on the social level have reduced. Now people don’t care much about the things like untouchability i.e. you can’t eat at my home or I won’t drink water offered by you. I am not saying that it has ended for good, but it is lesser than what it used to be earlier.

Now this fault line has shifted from the social front to the economic front. A section of the society, which was marginalized for long, needs a little protection and support to come up in the ladder of life.

Till three four decades back, though creation of job in the market was low, but candidates looking for the job were also low in numbers, so the dissatisfaction level was not as high.

Review Board: We talked to Mr. Sandeep Srivastava, a Social Entrepreneur and Founder of IYC World a month back to discuss the numbers which we had read that India produces more than 60 lakh graduates and 14 lakh post graduates every year. More than 10 lakh persons are added in the job market every month, which makes it about 1.2 crore per year. Our question to him was what has gone wrong with our education system which is creating a country of job seekers and not of job creators?

Sanjay Kumar: Current dispensation has, kind of, acceded to the fact that they can’t create the job for such a huge number of people. They have not actually said it so, but their economic policies suggest the same. It is next to impossible to create such a huge number of jobs every year. Even if we club together the maximum number of job government can create by itself and by facilitating private sector, then also everyone can’t be provided with a job. That’s why government is putting so much of emphasis on entrepreneurship.

Due to uncertainty in agriculture and longevity of work lifetime in private sector, everyone is looking for a job in the government or public sector. Who could have imagined the landed farmers of Jats and Patidars community agitating for a stake in the government jobs and reservation? Twenty years back, they used to laugh at government job, but not anymore, because agriculture has become costly and less remunerative. Similarly, there is also a degree of uncertainty in private sector job.

In contrast to all these opportunities, salaries in government and public sector jobs have increased. With the increased competition, social fault lines which were of different nature earlier, has changed and become stronger. Though rational thinking may say that people from the weaker section may need some extra help from the government, but all the rationality goes for a toss when people see that due to these things, their life or their children’s life is becoming a tough battle.  

Review Board: 2014 General Elections were different from any other elections ever fought in the country. From the Election Management perspective, for the first time I believe experts from different streams like Advertising, Marketing and Digital Media etc. were part of the war room of BJP. Later on, other political parties also adopted this strategy. You have also written about it. This has created a new career opportunity for our youth. Could you tell our readers what are the streams of education whose students can look for a serious role in election management bypassing politics as a career opportunity?

Sanjay Kumar: Students from a number of fields can now find a career scope in politics other than active politics. Some of them you have already mentioned in your question. One more stream for which requirement has come up very prominently is Engineering; people who can read and analyze big data and come up with the conclusions. Finding out the topics to fight election, establishing winnability of a candidate, creating catchy slogans etc. are important, but even more important is analysis of the factors of every election and their outcome. If you go to the election offices of political parties, it has started being called a ‘War Room’ and you will find more techno-savvy young people there than actual politicians.

Sometimes back a boy came and told me that he wants to follow in my footstep and do Psephology. He was expecting that I will give him the name of some fancy books to read. I asked him to read newspapers, understand what is going around and learn the skill of understanding the factors that affect elections and analyzing the data. For Psephology, you need to know how to read the numbers. With so many data points to read and analyze, understanding of tools and technologies have also become very important.

So coming back to the main point, students of Marketing, Management, Engineering and big data along with Political and Social Science can find good scope in politics, without getting into active politics.   

Review BoardIn your article “The Damned Science of Psephology” in Open Magazine, you discussed the topics of ‘sample size’, interviewing ‘right kind of people’ and ‘voters not telling their preferences truthfully’.

We have three specific questions emerging out of it:

  1. Political parties also do their internal surveys. What are the factors which they take into account while conducting their internal survey? How do they safe guard their survey on ‘sample size’, interviewing ‘right kind of people’ and ‘voters not telling their preferences truthfully’?
  2. Organizations like CSDS, Today’s Chanakya and other media houses also conduct pre-poll and post poll election surveys. How is it different from surveys conducted by political parties in every aspect?
  3. What are the skills required for the science of Psephology other than statistics? And what are the factors other than ‘sample size’, ‘interviewing right kind of people’ that should be taken into account while going for this kind of a survey. In my opinion, this will be helpful not only in predicting more accurate result of elections but also in product and service marketing.

Sanjay Kumar: We are an Institute dedicated to study various social issues and design strategy for developing societies. Our prime objective is not making predictions about election outcome, though we also do so, because we collect data to study the various factors which have been impacting Indian society now and how they stand in comparison of past. Since social issues are part of election outcome, their study becomes very important.

In 1977, there was no election survey done. So, we take the factors of that time and see their progress in today’s time to assess their impact as well as see their relevance now.

Political party’s main focus is to find out the winnability of a candidate and what are factors which can be used to win the elections. Their focus is the outcome of election. So, their study revolves around the factors which can be used and identify the person who can use it better than others.

TV Channels and other research organizations objective is to find the outcome of elections.

So, the very objective is different for all three sets of organization.

About the skill set required to do so, we have already discussed in previous question.

Review Board: You are Sun Tzu of Indian politics. What suggestions you would like to give to youngsters of India who want to make a career in mainstream politics?

Sanjay Kumar: If anyone comes to me to understand what is required to learn to enter politics, I will wholeheartedly welcome him. Because I believe that if you don’t like something, then rather than just criticizing, try to correct it.      

In my entire career, only one boy has come to me and told me that he wants to join active politics, and that also, couple of months after working with me.

To get into active politics, one needs to have lots of patience and communication skill. Elections are conducted after every five years. So, after one election, you will have to wait for another five years.

Apart from that, there will be lots of allegations and counter-allegations, which most of the time will flare up to become bigger issue if you don’t have patience to answer them at the right time. Also to deliver a message or counter an allegation, you need to have good communication skills. Communication skill doesn’t mean English only. It can be in any language which helps you to connect with your voters.

Review Board: Thanks a lot Sir for giving your valuable time. 


Why You Must Go For Personal Branding

Technically, ‘brand’ is a name, image, sign or symbol of any product or services, but actually it is a story of promise and commitment about quality, relevance and value told by its owner to its user. And as application of this theory is good for product or services, it is good for person as well. In the country like India, where the act of ablution and sacrifice are given paramount importance in human behavior, talking about oneself is considered highly inappropriate. Instead, people prefer others to talk about them and that also….always good.

But time has changed….and has changed drastically and exponentially. We are more than 1.3 billion people in this country, who are fighting for their share in the available limited resource. Our education system, our capability evaluation system and our intent to find the right fitment between requirement and capability demands serious attention. That’s why change in certain aspect of human behavior is also needed. Unless and until we get up, raise our hands and shout out that we have the capability to do certain kind of job, someone else with limited or no knowledge of the job on the offer will get up and claim it, doing complete injustice not only to us but the job also.

Dotcom Ascendancy …..

Though the period of late nineties to year 2000 is called the period of first dotcom bubble, because valuation of companies working in digital space were skyrocketing, but I call it the period of dotcom ascendancy. Internet changed everything after that; they way live, the way think, they way we eat, the way travel, the way we shop, the way we talk…and even the way we choose our life partners……just everything.

Skynet might have missed its target of taking over the planet and raging the war against humans by many decades and might not wage the actual war at all, but it has won the humans already without shedding a single drop of blood.

Avalanche of choices and standing at information super highway!!!

Internet has made these limited resources available through multiple channels at the doorstep of who can afford it and it has also made many things very affordable which was earlier available to exclusive group of people. It has put everyone on the superhighway of abundance of choices. Our way of seeking everything has changed…..so has changed the tool of seeking anything. Everything has come on internet now….

It is crowded place: Everyone was writing; now they have started talking….

We are uploading quintillion bytes of text, millions of photos and videos every day and millions of query every hour on internet. Earlier we used to write; now we are talking to our machine. ‘Cortana’ of Microsoft, ‘Siri’ of Apple with ‘Echo’ of ‘Amazon’ is giving tough competition to market leader ‘Google’, which is in the market with ‘Google Assistant’ along with its famous search.

But is our mind capable enough of handling all of it???

But, is our mind capable enough to process this much of information overload and multiplicity of choices? Our mind responds according to different hormonal secretions, many illusions and many fallacies created over a period of time through family and social environment, education and experience. Though it is capable of moving the mountains, but it is never willing to do so…..It doesn’t want to address any complicated scenario unless forced to.

Are our clients listening???

Then next question comes; are our buyers listening what we are saying, be it about product, services or the person? May be not….may be yes….even if they are listening, they are not understanding it…..for many reasons…..

Reasons….

We already talked about the amount of information being uploaded on the internet in the form of text, images, audio and video. It is just too much for the human mind…..moreover there are too many like one…….because the system we have built puts everyone and everything about everyone into manageable number of categories and then generalizes everyone falling into one particular category.

Storytelling is an art, which very few people know. While writing resume, creating profile on social media networks, uploading photos on Instagram or Facebook and uploading videos on YouTube and Facebook, people do tell their story, but in very scattered manner, making it look like a puzzle which no one is interested in solving.

So…..

Creating a firm but fluid story is important; with all the beautiful imageries, sound and videos. It has to be compact…..it has to be unique…it has to stand out, so that it sticks well with the target audience and that also on continuous and sustainable basis.

Finding out the the right audience and listening to what they are talking about and what they are looking for is equally important…..Otherwise even the best of story, best of beauty will hold no meaning.

Then comes the storytelling……… the introduction, the drama, the connect, the relevance, the pause, the ending…..everything has to be perfect…. ……..

And if is not perfect, then correction and re-telling needs to be done with utmost agility.

It is beneficial

Your life journey adds lots of monetary premium to your profile. If you fits in to someone’s focusing illusion and halo effect then it will create optimism and distinction bias towards you and change utility theory about you positively…… Or in other words, you will become their prime focus, they will create an optimistic bias towards you in their mind and will start seeing your more meaningful utility as compared to others.

But….professionals needs to be hired

It takes good amount of effort; everyone can’t do it of their own. They will be required to hire professionals, because it needs lots of effort in creating a story, finding the right kind of audience, listening to what they are talking, telling them the story, keeping the story engaging which remains connected to their mind and heart, recreating and re-telling the story if mood, taste, time, micro and macro environment changes.

It is always better hire a professional jockey if you are putting your horse to participate in a derby.


RESUME WRITING TIPS


One of the most important factors for landing a job is your Resume. It is often the first impression that a potential employer has of you. In fact, it is estimated that 80% - 90% of the candidate’s profiles are rejected at the application stage. Therefore your resume must capture the employer’s attention. You should have a very structured CV, prioritise & focus on things you want to talk about, areas you want to highlight, your USP’s.

Present your CV in the format which focuses on your areas of strength so that you initiate discussions on your thrust area. These details will enable you to prioritize your work experience and achievements in order to make your resume crisp while providing relevant information to the potential employer. Keep it brief and concise. Highlight any goals which you achieved ahead of time or any special cost-cutting measures spearheaded by your department.

Starting on your Resume

  • Make a list of your experience along with the responsibilities handled and achievements if any.
  • Identify your areas of strength. This may vary from individual to individual. Some might focus on organisations in their profile, some on achievements, others on education and somebody else on the profile handled.
  • List out the training, projects, special skills or any other information.
  • Collect all other relevant data like educational background, address etc.

Identifying the Focus

  • Prioritize & focus on things you want to talk about, areas you want to highlight, your USP’s.
  • The format which focuses on your areas of strength can help you initiate discussions on your thrust areas. This can help you start an Interview feeling really positive and confident.

The Format

For Senior & Middle Management Professional


Summary / Synopsis

  1. Prepare a synopsis / summary of your experience in bullets.
  2. Mention couple of your professional achievements in the summary.
  3. Try to sum up your profile handled overall.
  4. Clarify locational expertise, if any.
  5. Highlight any value addition in skills or qualification etc.

Professional Experience

  1. Mention the current organisation first and continue in reverse order.
  2. Mention the current designation, period, location of posting and reporting hierarchy.
  3. Highlight the current job responsibilities and additional responsibility if any separately. Do not mix the main responsibility with the additional.
  4. Jot down all relevant achievements in the current profile. Be specific. 
  5. Continue the same pattern for all other professional experience.

Educational Qualifications

  1. Mention the last qualification, university, with the year of passing and marks obtained.
  2. Go maximum till the !0th standard level.
  3. Mention separately any outstanding educational excellence.
  4. Mention separately any additional qualification.

Personal Details

  1. Mention your Fathers Name & permanent address.
  2. Date of Birth & Marriage status.
  3. Contact details with mail ID.
  4. Professional Reference if specifically asked for (Otherwise be ready with 2 Professional References at the time of Interview.)

For Fresher

  • Have an objective / aim at the start.
  • Pay special attention to the Format. If your strength is your educational qualification have it first or have your Summer Training or your Part time assignment first if that is your USP. Focus clearly on your strength.
  • Present your Training Assignment in such a way that it stands out and gives the Interviewer scope to question you.
  • Write relevant points in your CV.
  • Be thorough in what you write.
  • Mention your strength if any and be ready to defend it.
  • Be precise in Personal details. Some Do’s
  • Answer your phone professionally and be ready to jot down any relevant information.
  • Check your resume for proper grammar & correct spelling.
  • Connect your skills to your job history
  • Include industry keywords in your CV.
  • Keep references ready but provide only if asked for.

Some Don’t

  • Do not use long-winded sentences and old-fashioned language.
  • Eliminate unnecessary resume details.
  • Do not fabricate.


Investment Strategy for Better Future


An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”- Benjamin Franklin

I made a killing in the stock market; my broker lost all my money, so I killed him.” –Jim Loy

First quote holds the forte of truth everywhere and more so in financial investment and wealth management, probably with greater importance.

Second quote, though on a lighter note is another aspect of the stock market; if you don’t invest in educating yourself about fundamentals, probabilities, permutation and combination, you will lose whatever you have earned and much more.

Internet has made all the information available to us on our fingertips, but unless and until the information is vetted by a person of authority, they are meaningless. That’s why; we decided to cut the clutter and take you away from routine and bring you the wisdom of someone who has been in this industry for close to two decades.

Mr. Sameer Kapoor, CEO of Elite Wealth Advisors Ltd. has close to two decades of experience in the Financial Market. He has worked as Senior Vice President with Religare Ltd, VP – Online Business with HSBC InvestDirect (India) Ltd., ILFS, Mansukh Securities and Mefcom. For majority of the time he was building up and growing the Online Business on pan India basis.

His LinkedIn Bio reads,”Blogger by choice, Finance Enthusiast, Speaker”, and believe us, he excels in everything that he has written. But what he modestly didn’t mention in his profile is that he is an astute and avid inbound marker, helping the information to spread and businesses to grow. His two blogs www.simplypaisa.com and www.mysharebazar.com provides great insight of the financial market and handholds the end users in the process of intelligent investing. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) from ICFAI, Masters of Financial Management from Pondicherry University and B.Com from Delhi University.

Let’s learn together from his knowledge and experience….

Review Board: Journey of investment sentiment in India starts from greed and reaches indifference travelling via fear and despair. Is it the scenario only in India or also in the rest of the world? Has intelligent investing ever been a pattern or will it ever be the pattern in future and if yes, then what does it look like?

Sameer Kapoor: Any investment that makes decent returns can be considered as intelligent investing and if I guess it right, Indians have always made decent money whether it is in Stock Markets or with Real Estate. The only difference of opinion comes when you actually wish to evaluate your decision.

The invested capital in couple of days may be giving different returns in terms of IRR as compared to that of couple of years. So it is important for investors to define the tenure of investment before investing.

Upcoming breed of Wealth Management businesses are very well articulating these things and will surely redefine the perception.

Review Board: What advice would you give to small investors for intelligent investing?

Sameer Kapoor: A small investor looking to invest should clearly define and most importantly correlate Risk, Return expectation and Tenure. Any uneven proposition giving very high returns may not be recurring or may not be true also.

I haven’t seen Super Heroes in my entire career so only capabilities seemingly true for a human should be trusted upon.

Review Board: Mess in the Indian financial system and the mistrust of common man in the people running this market is largely of their own doing. Their greed has definitely done a huge damage. What are the short and long term steps that need to be taken to restore the faith of common man and strengthen the structure of financial system once again?

Sameer Kapoor: Greed of little better returns brings everyone to these markets so nothing bad in this. Difficult part is that very few people with limited capital exposure and practically no discipline in their investing approach tries to represent the very large mass of small and big investors. Increasing market capitalization with more and more IPOs/Public issues getting over subscribed reflects confidence of people only. Historically, we have seen returns of people invested in businesses through stock markets have outperformed that of any other financial asset class like FDs or Gold.

SEBI always keeps bringing measures to bring more and more confidence of investors and is doing a great job.

Review Board: Whatever happened in 2007-08 due to US Subprime crisis is nothing when we compare to something like China, US and Global debt scenario. Chinese total debt crossed $33 Trillion few years ago, which is three times more than their GDP. Global debt stands at more than $217 Billion against the Global GDP of around $65 Trillion. What is your opinion on that? How long will this bubble sustain? What is your advice to common man to safeguard himself from any such eventuality?

Sameer Kapoor: I guess Global debt figures are in Trillions and I think it stood at $237Tn for Q3 2017. See, high debt figures are always alarming and creates a risk of afloat.

A major component of this debt comes from Governments who borrow money to fund social schemes. Here you will find few which will have extremely high debt and few with very manageable debt.

As an investor, I would like to be in a place which are producing growth and using debt to manage that growth. Others which are using debt just to fund their facilities are bound to see a bad day in future times. This may be very high depreciation in currency or extreme inflation or total economic fiasco. However, few hard workers will sustain their growth and come with some amazing numbers.

I would certainly be on the side of these hard working borrowers rather than crying on few lethargic borrowers. Similar to this, investing in such companies always yield good returns as their management understand how to sail through difficult times and grow business.

Review Board: Under the current Market scenario when SEBI has been proactively tightening the rules and regulations for Market Operators reducing the maneuverability, how do you see it impacting the Brokers?

Sameer Kapoor: Definitely, it is going to impact the complete broking business. I feel broking business is going through a big change.

It is getting primarily divided among investors and traders. While Traders are getting more focuses on derivatives and automated trading. Investors are trying to outsource their direct interaction with markets to Portfolio Managers and Investment advisors. Both sides are witnessing a big growth and newer technological advancement.

A traditional way of calling and servicing clients is slowly getting outdated and speedily getting replaced with self service or completely outsourced approach.

Review Board: In this digital era, customers are educated and informed. It has made customer acquisition easy and tough, both at the same time. Easy, because sales team is not required to spend good amount of time on educating the customer about the product or services and tough, because customer is already informed and has multiple choices. So, what would be your advice to anyone looking to acquire new customer?

Sameer Kapoor: Business never gets tough with customer education rather one needs to find a way to service this educated customer in a most cost efficient way and reduce cost associated to such customer education.

Online has come up as a most preferred way for individual investors as it brings convenience to access and operate, freedom to choose own investing method and cost efficiency with reduced pricing models. It is now a proven fact that Online is not only better than in Brick and Mortar model in Acquisition but also in Servicing.

Businesses now see a lot of competition on online space also but the smarter one still find their niche and create acquisition spree. Within Online, now there are multiple ways to generate opportunities but cost efficiency is the name of the game.

Online Marketing is not like what it used to be 10 years back but has changed shape. My three key advices would be

  • Never hire any person for Online marketing who do not understand the Industry.
  • Maintain your online reputation as the recourse from bad reputation in online space is very difficult.
  • Never rely on business model which depends on customer ignorance as awareness spreads very fast online and will eventually destroy your business.

We had great time talking to Mr. Kapoor and few things which came out prominently from our discussion were:

  • Educate yourself about the battle you are getting into.
  • Whoever you are; evaluate the risk, reward and time frame.
  • Stick to the normal, expect what is humanly possible. -
  • Little bit greed is good, because that’s what brings you to the market, but overstretching is not only bad for you but the market as well.
  • Online marketing has changed what it used to be ten years back.
  • Keep a close eye on your online reputation. A small mistake and lethargy can cost you the reputation built over years of hard work.
  • Never rely on the business model which depends on consumer ignorance because awareness increases faster in online domain and anything wrong can destroy your business.

As we enjoyed our discussion and learnt from his experience, we are also sure that you will find it informative and valuable.

Note: To read more insights from professionals working in different field, keep visiting www.reviewboard.in . You can ask us about our services at mukul.bhartiya@reviewboard.in and sales@teamrecruiters.in. 


How to Train Human Mind for Best Result

Human Brain is perhaps the most complex machinery in this universe and no one till now has been able to comprehend all its wonders!!

Nobel award winner Daniel Kahneman, renowned Professor of Psychology and Emeritus Professor, calls our conscious braina machine for jumping conclusion” while the unconscious braina lazy controller”.

Now, in a training session, the trainer is continually aligning the conscious and the unconscious brain of the audience. This requires being adept at communicating, anticipating and processing thoughts real time. The complexity doubles multifold when you are doing so to a bunch of trillion thoughts running in the mind of all the learners gathered in a single room. And well, if a person is successful in bringing it in line for this bunch of people, then you can only put her on a pedestal!!

Anu Binny comes with more than 15+ years of experience in Research, Training, and Transformation Projects and has extensive experience working with global clients in Asia and Middle East. She is known as ‘Change Agent’ as she lives determinedly to bring ideas into realization and building people.

She has completed her Post Graduation in Engineering (Mumbai) and additionally attended Certifications programs from IIM and others in Strategic Management, Instructional Design, OD Analyst, Psychometric Testing, HR Analytics and Metrics etc. She has travelled across countries and handled multi cultural, multi audience Training projects with resounding success. She has also worked as a Consultant for an international Knowledge Management Project for the Capital Market Authority of Saudi Arabia which was widely appreciated by her client. As the Head of Training, she has been instrumental in helping and setting up training centers in all the organizations she has worked.

An inspiring speaker, she believes that every individual carries a seed of greatness within and so no training is complete without an attitude change. All her leadership programs inspire participants to unlock themselves and are highly action oriented. She has also mentored many aspirants who are today successful trainers in the international arena.

She is an ardent researcher and has been invited to speak at various conferences. In her precious free time she is either blogging, cooking or going out for a movie or concert with family & friends.

We talked about different aspects of Training and Development with her. Our objective was to find answers for existing and future trainers, employees and working women….

Review Board: The most complex machine in this universe is the human brain. And to train a human brain, one needs to understand it first. How do you set the pace of your training program so that participants allow you the access to their brain?

Anu Binny: 
Every training is unique in its own ways. The situations that a trainer comes across may vary. The first and the most important element in any successful training is the pre-prep of the trainer and her ability to adapt the delivery to ensure learning in the participants. I feel accountable for the knowledge and also the transfer of learning. I prepare for Knowledge correctness and conviction. Before I enter my training room, I ensure that I fall in love with the topic in hand and believe that it makes a difference to my participants. If I don’t believe in what I am training, I know the participants are not going to believe in it either. So I get back to basics again and research more till it gets me up and stirred.

To adapt the training delivery you must know the receiver i.e. your audience, their names, their experience etc. It stands in good stead during my short chats and to personally connect to them. Moreover, if they ask me a question during the session, knowing their context helps me to respond with the better fit answer or solution. I often send out a questionnaire prior to session so that I know their learning style. Do I change the curriculum, NO but yes I change my approach to the delivery to one that will facilitate learning. Trying to get all of them interested is not easy but there are some tried and tested methods.

In case there are more activists I keep a list of role play, activities (aligned to my training objectives) so that I can make use of the de brief session and pace up the learning if required. For the reflectors I keep a few interesting facts and figures ready. A few videos, case studies are a must to get the theorist to scratch his brains and few practical sessions from the pragmatics.

For any training program, the trainer’s passion and the acceptance of the delegates are the key success factors. I believe the trainer’s passion about the subject, her understanding of the audience and her ability to address the ‘What is in it for me” for the delegates is what helps her in steering the pace of a training program.

Review Board: Our socio-economic environment, education and experience train our minds the most. While learning new things which are necessary to carry out the work, we also need to unlearn a few things which we have learnt. How do you help your participants unlearn what is not needed or required?

Anu Binny
: Life is all about change and hence unlearning is a very important skill. It’s not that the old knowledge is obsolete. I usually set an empathetic chord with them because I understand that they owe their professional existence to that knowledge and may get a bit emotional and threatened with a feeling that they are getting obsolete. It’s in fact an opportunity for the trainer to boost their esteem and help them discover their potential.

Recently when I was working on a Lift and shift model I faced a similar challenge. But we designed and delivered the whole training in such a way that they were ready to jump onto the bandwagon and saw it as an opportunity to prove themselves. It is a win-win for all and was widely appreciated by the participants. The customers saw the output and it was a resounding success.

Understanding the challenges, breaking those barriers or resistance and bringing in a positive perspective of the participant is the key to successful session.

Review Board: Counselling, mentoring or a personal coach, all guide and give direction to a professional’s life and it can’t be achieved without touching the person’s life. Share your experience how and in what way you touched the life of participants of your training programs?

Anu Binny
: I guess I have this knack of understanding the potential of a person. The domain and functional knowledge can be learnt and even tested with set benchmarks. But to be an influential leader there is a need to understand your intrinsic qualities.

I have had the opportunity to work with different kinds if audience and so am able to understand the reason behind a behaviour pattern. I try to map it to facts and evidences during my interaction. Every individual is born with the right intrinsic qualities to sustain and be successful in his life. All that is required for him or her is to discover it. I am surprised when people come back and tell me that they have never been appreciated or they had never known that they had a particular competency.

We as trainers just show people the mirror and help them see their beauty. I feel satisfied when my training makes the participant feel empowered. He leaves the training room a much better and competent person. I have helped people build their career, helped them understand their weakness and identify their potentials and sometimes even helped them heal their inner self. An influential learning and development leader is one who inspires and builds his team to move towards excellence.

I have most of time worked for listed organizations but have got the opportunity of setting up their training team just like one of a start-up. It has given me an opportunity to work with young people who have really helped me to build an entire training centre. In the process they have become assets themselves and are today doing extremely well for themselves. So it’s not only in the classroom, but every person of your team needs to be one up. Building people and empowering them to play their roles and contribute significantly is a lifestyle for me.

Review Board: The likes of Bill Gates and Satya Nadella strongly feel that Artificial Intelligence is going to change the nature of workforce and work environment and to cope with and stay relevant, re-skilling of manpower for the new environment is very much necessary. What advice would you like to give out to people about re-skilling; why it is necessary, what will it achieve for them and how should they approach it? You hold your job for the contribution you bring to the organization.

Anu Binny
: We are all aware that traditional skills are becoming less relevant with each passing day as newer process or technology gets evolved. Artificial Intelligence is going to change the nature of workforce and work environment soon but then so did the advent of computer a couple of years back.

Re-skilling is required in this “survival of the fittest” game. Organizational researchers argue that the shelf-life of a learned skill in today’s world is around five years. The most in-demand skills today are also very different. Career progression and a secure job lies in one’s ability to adapt and learn in sync with the demands of the job market.

My advice, look for internal job postings and enrol for an internal re-skilling program. In case the company you are working is not coming up with offers suitable to your competencies, start looking outside. Please don't continue in job where you are not contributing. It will hit your self-esteem and the off side comments will make you feel humiliated, unworthy and dependent on your senior’s favour. I tell you that it is not a comfortable space to be in. Trust me it can break your self-confidence beyond repair. It might be wiser to invest in re-skilling through an external training. Do your research and ensure that the skill you choose has more stability and longevity among the multiple options available. Don’t feel demeaned in case you are not fitting in, remember Talent is contextual. Truly speaking today, job security lies in your ability to learn a new skill on a regular basis throughout your career. Invest in yourself it will help you live beyond just breathing.

Review Board: The training industry still faces the challenge where the decision makers themselves are the biggest hurdle or bottleneck. To convince them of their and their organizations needs for training or re-skilling is an uphill task. Your take on your experiences with decision makers in your career.

Anu Binny: Yes, sometimes it is difficult to change the mind-set of a decision maker who is too traditional, not open-minded and rigid in his approach. But looking from another perspective is to look at this way. They are running the businesses one must go back and think - why are they not convinced? What am I missing here? If you believe that it’s a must to have, then you need to go with the numbers, statistics and a benefit statement. Present it to them.

You can brainstorm it with a couple of people before approaching them. Their inputs will be valuable in putting across your points in the way they understand. Take the help of a senior member who believes in it and can help you get the management buy in. In case it still doesn't work out then, DON’T delete it. Instead create a backup, save it. Boy you are going to use it someday for sure! Trust me your time and chance will come. It has always happened with me!!

My advice....never give up without trying!! I remember in one of the organization I worked, I knew that there was a need to digitize learning and work on the training content to build a robust training centre. For the digital learning, I did my thorough research found a cost effective solution. To back up, I was ready with a comparative statement too. I used a trial version and created a small knowledge byte. My MD liked it and he Okayed it immediately. It was a great success. The word spread and today it is the default animation software used by many departments in the organization.

But a few months later, under a new leadership the goals changed and digital learning took a back seat. It hurts at a personal level to realize the efforts did not get to the finishing line but you have to take that with a pinch of salt. Also in case the management is not convinced and you know it is a need, you can set it as a small internal miles stone and make it happen. I did it for the content development. I was ready with a new set of training materials for all my trainings. I was able to pace up the scope of my training delivery, number of trainings for each trainer and improving their productivity double fold.

The hard work may go unnoticed but not the quality it brings to your work. Also celebrate it with your teams, be happy you are building assets for the company. It gives a tremendous amount of job satisfaction when you realize the training centre is moving fast paced toward excellence. Things really go really adversely only if you have a poor Boss. But you still have a choice. I guess in matters of management you can chose to change but in matters of principles stand like a rock.

Review Board: What specific skill of yours has helped you achieve the position you have in your profession? Any specific advice you would like to share with aspiring Trainer.

Anu Binny
: I have a collection of personal letters written by participants describing the impact the session has made on them. Most of them define it as a life changing moment!! My ability to connect to the audience is definitely my USP. I am an avid reader and I love reading biographies as I believe that to be a Learning and development specialist you should have a desire to make a positive difference to peoples life. A biography gives a sneak preview to a real journey of struggle, victory and helps you understand human psychology better.

From the delivery perspective I am very detail oriented and quick learner. I am able to process complex concept, logically break and explain it in simple words. This probably comes from my pursuit of continuous learning. I believe a trainer should be passionate and display a calm demeanour. It is an unmistakable trait that leaves an impression on her participants. Training is the best way to touch lives and bring meaning to your own.

Review Board: Dr. Indra Nooyi, Chairperson of PepsiCo, when asked, “What’s your opinion about whether woman can have it all?” had said “I don't think women can have it all. I just don't think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all."  Quite a few people agreed to the response but surprisingly there were quite a few who disagreed. What is your personal take on the same?

Anu Binny
: Love and compassion are very relative concepts and not scientific principles. They do not have perfect definitions. Every individual perceives it and defines it differently. I gave up a career in research to be able to give time to my kids. Is it a sacrifice or my duty? Opinions may vary.

I did my full time Master’s degree from Sardar Patel College of Engineering because that had become a mandate for teaching in college. I would take lectures in Vivekananda Engineering College where I held a job which is located at Chembur and after finishing my whole day of work, travel all the way to Andheri to attend my lectures. And of course I would be late to reach home.

How did I manage? I had found a great support system. I had a very good baby sitter who was always there for kids. Do my kids ever complain – No! But I am sure I must have missed out on many special occasions in their lives. Do I gloat in guilt? No. Instead, I try and recreate special occasions, celebrations, cook a special dish, go on a short drive etc. I know I chose what was best for the family. Life is a roller coaster ride, let’s not complicate it, give your best and enjoy the ride. All is required is a good ecosystem of love and care to pass on the timeless truth of life and hope to the next generation!!

Review Board: You are a mother to teenage kids; an age which challenges a parent in all possible ways, from multiple sources of distraction to new found confidence and individuality. How has the experience helped you in man managing your professionals or vice-a-versa?

Anu Binny
: They say a mother is born...the day a child is born. I am blessed with a daughter and a son. The first time you hold a baby in your hands, you realise the fragility of life and that the child has not come down with a user manual. You are on your own, but you pick up real fast. As you wade through months, you are able to exactly interpret the different messages the baby communicates through just one single loud wail. With every single wail, you become adept in looking around for clues and reaching out to keep the baby calm. Is that finding solutions to unstructured problems? Possibly yes!! My time spent with my kids has taught me to be sensitive to them. One can easily use words to make or break them!!

Being a mother to two teenagers has exposed me to the possibility of two exactly opposite perspectives for the same situation. Each sees a different world. They are adorable in their own way. They know the exact lines to say that will melt your heart or the cutest smile to display before you fall into the trap of saying a "YES". Initially you end up pulling your hair but soon one starts to get a feel of it and you start enjoying it.

Now they are grown up - teenagers. They are made up of the same number of bones but distinctly different in their need and expectation. This is the age where they are trying to find their own identity, steal a limelight and trying to carve out a new identity in this swarming world. They exhibit sporadic spurts of aspiration, confidence, a streak of independence, childishness, maturity, confidence all at the same time. Life is a roller coaster ride of emotions. They are emotionally on a high, full of energy & life at one time and within seconds fall into despair, anger, frustrations and leave us with no chance to enter into their little world with the announcement of the final verdict' You won’t understand".

Handling my kids has given me a deep insight to human behaviour and has made me realise that each individual is unique. Interaction with them at different slices of their life have helped me understand human needs and behaviour. This experience is very unique and helps in building up a response pattern to an audience across different age categories.

In fact it has helped me immensely in managing people and has taught me to think on my feet!!


Retail Trends in India by 2020


Different estimates put Indian retail market size between USD 600 -800 Billion and it is projected to grow more than USD 1200 Billion in next three years. There are many things like investment in technology pertaining to this sector, warehousing, tax simplification, 4G mobile network, consumer awareness and confidence, growth in consumption at bottom of the pyramid and increase in education level boosting the retail sector in India. Year 2018 has been very important for Indian retail sector. Walt-Mart gave humongous valuation to homegrown unicorn FlipKart, Amazon bought more. and made strategic investment in Big Bazar, not only that, if Industry rumors are to be believed, it is in talk with Spencers for buyout. Kedaara Investment and Partners Capital acquired Vishal Megamart from TPG, Alibaba showed confidence in BigBasket and Softbank sided with Grofers with big money.

Retailers seems to be convinced that there is nothing called online of offline retail anymore, ultimate battle is for share or control over consumer’s expenditure. Consumers are out there with their money and if you don’t reach out to them, someone else will. Time is over for supplier or retailer driven market; now customers are spoiled with choices. All of it will make big changes in Indian retail sector very soon. I am seeing following trends in coming two years:

1)Bots will replace humans in the job of Category Management: Category Management and persons manning it are backbone of the retail business. They own the business; rest plays the supporting role. But modern organized retail in India has come a long way from 2005-06, supposedly when it made a big entry in the country. After that it has seen many ups and down, but one thing it has ensured is humongous amount of unstructured and ever flowing data of human buying pattern. Now with lots of hard work, research and investment going into retail analytics, a powerful bot probably might have started replacing Category Managers in one corner of offices of Wal-Mart (Read FlipKart), Amazon in Bangalore or Reliance Retail, Big Bazar in Mumbai.

2)Supply Chain will gain more prominence: Role of supply chain in brick and mortar retail was limited to getting the product either from warehouse or wholesale market or distributor’s point to retail point and taking back. In the changed scenario, where estimated e-commerce retail sales in India in 2018 as per India Brand Equity Foundation is $ 32.8 Billion led by FlipKart and Amazon, role of supply chain personnel is rapidly changing and it is doing the multiple role of salesman, delivery boy, pick up boy and cashier. According to Indian Brand Equity Foundation, Indian e-commerce market size is slated to grow to USD 200 Billion by 2026. With manifold increase in delivery points, delivery timings and load, work of supply chain will be more demanding, challenging and prominent and it can’t be automated in chaotic country like India.

3)Hyper local will be new frontier: Though Grofers had to pull out of it, but there is no other option available to retailers other going hyper local. So far, items which had margins to afford the supply chain cost are getting sold more through online retail, but the next frontier to win for e-commerce players are grocery retail, which is of low to very low return. It will be very difficult for retailers to work in inventory led model in grocery retail and expand to Tier-II and III cities. Armed with incentives for service providers and consumers both like what taxi aggregators like Uber and Ola or restaurant aggregators like Zomato and Swiggy, retailers will have to fight for customer attention and retention.

4)Massive Investment in technological Infrastructure: To cater the huge and well spread market and humongous amount of bills, technological infrastructure will be key of survival, which will require massive investment in technology build up, many more server farms across country huge demand of electricity. Without this arsenal, everything will fail miserably.

5)Private Label will uproot Brand’s hegemony in retail shelf: Big brands monopolized the consumer market. They actually forced the retailers to behave they wanted them to behave. But things are already changing and will change a big time in coming couple of years. Online and Offline retail are now run behemoths like Wal-Mart, Amazon, Reliance, Big Bazar and Alibaba, who have deep pockets to create the block or blocks of loyal customers and use it to fight the might of big FMCG companies. Success story of hitherto unknown mobile brands like Redmi, Realme, One Plus etc. using online retail platforms FlipKart and Amazon in Indian market, which has the negative impression about Chinese products, shows that Indian customers prefer feature, quality and value at an affordable price than the big brands. In fact, everyone working in retail field would be witnessing this pattern in different categories.

6)Getting into consumer’s pocket will become more important than getting the business model right: Shopping isn’t offline, online modern organized retail, pop-n-mom store, network marketing etc. anymore. Nothing is working in isolation and nor it will work in future. In fact, none of it worked ever in isolation in the past as well. Though each one of it might have created value for the founders, but none of it guaranteed long-term profitable venture. Each of the business models, alongside the in-model competition is vying for the same consumer expenditure. For example, a customer who has planned to buy a TV can buy it from various brands available in many retail outlets of her city or the online marketplace like FlipKart, Amazon or the company’s online portal; she is deluged with the choice. Now for everyone, money coming out from the customer’s pocket is very crucial to survive and grow. That’s why we are seeing acquisitions of brick and mortar retail companies by online retailers and vice-a-versa.

7)Small Players will have to fight for their survival: Battle ground is already drawn and warriors have taken their side. Individuals with limited capacity will have to take side in the battle, otherwise they will be crushed, because money riding with big players is too huge to be ignored.

Please leave your valuable opinion in the comment section. You can also reach me at mukul.bhartiya@reviewboard.in.


10 steps to enrich your WhatsApp group and make it more meaningful


I think most of us in this networked world are part of one WhatsApp group or another and I bet all of us crib most of the time being the part of those groups.


Few years’ back I had written an article on LinkedIn titled “7 To-Do List for Creating Meaningful WhatsApp group”. Idea to write that article originated from my disenchantment with a WhatsApp group of my old colleagues from one organization we worked.


You can find that article here:7 To Do list for creating Meaningful WhatsApp Group
 


As a quick recap, I am listing out the points which I had mentioned in the article:


1)Don’t create a group when your objective is not clear

2)Don’t assume; ask

3)Group must have some degree of homogeneity

4)Don’t create a group which you can’t control and lead

5)Consider the limitation of the platform while creating the group

6)Do lots of research to be admin of the group and earn respect

7)Have the ability to break the monotony and generate interest


Now, along with above mentioned points, I have few more to add which I learnt from more groups I have been part of after that either created by me or someone else.


1)What is there for me: No one will do anything without the sight of tangible or intangible outcome and benefit. No result will come without a preceding corresponding action and when there is an action, it is bound to bring out the result; positive or negative and that’s the rule. If you have added someone in the group and asking him/her for something, even to read what you have written, you must show and prove that he/she has something to gain from it. No one works for free. Even charity is done for supposed better afterlife, whether it exists or not can be debated. So, if your group members have nothing to gain from your group, then either they will sit dull or they will exit.


2)Don’t involve monetary transactions if you haven’t built a team of evangelists of your cause: If any of your message/post ideates about monetary transaction, then the first point will come very strongly in force. People will start asking multiple questions to justify the value of money they are being asked to spend. Many more dimensions will come to complicate the matter even more. So, don’t bring out any proposal which involves money without being sure of loyalty and devotion of group members.


3)Agree to MVP: If you are looking for 100% participation in your proposal, then you are looking at and lurking around impossible, which will not happen. So, agree with Minimum Value Proposition of your proposal and Minimum Viable Participation to make your proposal successful.


I will keep repurposing these points as the time progresses to make it more meaningful to the readers. In the meantime, you can interact with me for personal branding services and inbound marketing at mukul.bhartiya@reviewboard.in .


Ecommerce Delivery Boys Would Not Remain Delivery Boys Anymore


Few days back I was pleasantly surprised to see someone with blue knapsack on his back and “Ecom Express” written on it, riding the bike on the dusty roads of my village in Madhubani district of Bihar, near to Nepal border and around 200 Kilometers away from state capital Patna.

I know for the fact that e-commerce is rapidly reaching out to every nook and corner of the country, but I was considering it still an urban and semi-urban phenomenon but thankfully my unfounded perception got corrected.

Courier business is still a semi-skilled low paying hard labor job, which involves carrying huge knapsacks filled with merchandise and riding bikes, earlier it was riding bicycle. It needs to change now and change for good before it becomes one of biggest bottleneck for the growth of e-commerce in India. Despite all the hype around AI, assortment, merchandise mix and marketing, e-commerce’s success boils down on completion of the transaction which means delivery of merchandise to end consumer, collection of payment and repatriation of collected amount to company’s account. If this last part is not good, note worthy, pleasant and successful then entire operation done before it is a big failure. Different estimates put India’s e-commerce retail sales in the bracket of USD 30-35 Billion in 2017 and expect it to grow to USD 200 Billion by 2016.

So, one can imagine how much pressure will be the team which has to make the final closure of the deal. So, the person who brings your merchandise to your home is no more a delivery boy of erstwhile courier era. Now he is a salesman, a cashier an accountant and the storekeeper; not only he brings your order to you, but collects the cash and maintains the account of collected cash as well. And completion of transaction and satisfaction of consumer out of completed transaction depends on him only.

Two years back, I had purchased a mobile phone from a leading e-commerce site which was to be delivered at Madhubani district. Delivery boy asked me to give him tip of Rs.100/- because I had made a purchase of Rs.15,000/- and I should be feeling happy about it. Moreover I had to literally make several calls to him to deliver the mobile phone which I was excited to hold in my hands. His insistence for the tip annoyed me and I had decided then to report the incidence to the retailer. Somehow I forgot to write to the retailer but I didn’t purchase anything from them for almost a year. We all must have seen few incidences of wrong/damaged product or sometime brick/stone/soap reaching to customers. So, goodwill of any e-commerce company depends on their tail of the value chain, the “delivery boys”, as they are popularly known.

So, the companies should:

1)Treat them as salesman, not the delivery boy
2)Train them as salesman, cashier, accountant and marketer
3)Use them for up selling with digital devices in their hand ( He is the person who can drop a hint about matching product or any product complementing the purchase or what the community is buying to the buyer and his recommendation will carry more value than the online recommendation).

Rest everything can be automated. AI can do the merchandising, Natural Language Generators can write tag lines and blogs, programmed drones can take pictures which can be directly collected from them, so on and so forth.

Now, time has come to see the role of delivery boys in different light, in shinier and brighter light. They are most crucial part of value chain of an e-commerce company and they will remain so for long because now customers have become very demanding and will not accept any inefficiency in any of the operation.


Idea ReviewBy Mukul Bhartiya / February-12

Creativity is the Lever of Success



We are more than seven and a half billion people on this planet earth who use hundreds of different electronic devices daily. These actions result in creation of infinite permutation and combination of actions, reactions, results and probability of results. How can an individual brain with definite space cope with all of it???

By forming patterns, deciding priorities and repetition…….

The above mentioned three actions create blocks in the mind to process information in a systematic manner and make life easy, but it happens only when life is easy!! As there is an infinite possibility of unexpected challenges and outcomes; pattern and blocks most of the time creates road blocks rather than working as anything else.

This brings us to “creative thinking” …….the right brain thinking…..out of the box thinking…..but not many people know what it is and how to make it work for themselves in order to find solutions to unexpected challenges…..

Great things can’t be accomplished by those who surrender themselves to trends, fads, mundane routine and popular opinion. Great things can’t be achieved also by impulse, but series of small but patient observations and follow up actions brought together.

Cure of boredom is curiosity but curiosity has no cure and you know what; curiosity is the foundation stone of creativity. If you don’t want to know more, you won’t find more. So, get curious, get angry with status quo and create chaos to bring out the new normal. Whether you succeed or not is immaterial, because, believe you me, there is no such thing. Making your hidden self known is the important thing.

And what more….

Here, the quote of T.C.Boyle brings in his great insight which I would like to reproduce; “In order to create you have to believe in your ability to do so and that often means excluding the whole chunk of normal life, and, of course, pumping yourself up as much as possible as a way of keeping on. Sort of cheering yourself in great football stadium of life."

So, the question boils down to how can you be creative? Answer is very simple and it can’t be taught in rigid corporate environment where you have to decipher data, analyze trends and make predictions. There is no creativity in it.

There is no step by step rulebook to be creative; it comes with randomness and it comes with flying away from mundane routine. But it has to start from somewhere. I asked Gaurav Bahl, Founder of Quirkee, Quirkee
a Gurgaon based Integrated Marcom Agency, about how one can be creative in personal and professional life. Gaurav has rich experience with top advertising agencies like Percept, Leo Burnett, Mullen Lowe Worldwide, Hammer Communications, K Factor and Bounce Design to name a few.

This is what he has to say, “This world is flooded with too much of information in the form of news, advertisements, inputs for his own work requirements at personal and professional front and many things more. All these informations further become the basis of many information and ideas in their mind, which keeps looking for an outlet. Everyone wants to talk and take his ideas to the top, but that doesn’t happen all the time with everyone. Something which happens very rarely is called either ‘luck’ in most prevalent term or ‘fluke’ in crude term.

To take any idea to the top one has to remain patient and committed towards it. Now, how will this happen if someone is always willing to talk and let everything out.

So, what works for me and I think it should work for others as well; be observant of what others are doing or talking about, be patient with other’s ideas, be receptive to other’s opinion and master the art of listening. All of it will give you lots of clues, experiences and answers to your problems and challenges. All of it will automatically help you in prioritizing your work and improve your focus on the solution of problems or challenges you would be looking for.

Apart from that, though I am not much into it, following extra-curricular activities like outdoor sports, or music or travelling etc. can help your mind to relax and avoid overdose of information processing. I listen to music, watch movies and play; some people find cooking therapeutic…..and of course, Yoga is an all time favorite of many……..Your brain consumes more energy than any other part of your body and as your body’s energy saps, mind starts slowing down, it starts jumping to conclusions because it wants to work less and it starts priming. So, it is very important to look after your brain….

Fundamentals of creativity can be summed up under the following points:

  • Observe people and situations around you.
  • Listen to what people around you say
  • Be patient; don’t jump to conclusion and become an answering machine
  • Be receptive to other’s ideas and opinions and respect them.Prioritize your work
  • Focus on what you are looking for
  • Relax your mind; do something which can help you to enjoy life and take your focus away from finding solutions and being creative all the time. “

To sum everything up, I am bringing up the quotation of God of Martial Art Bruce Lee, which reads “Important thing for you is to be alert, to question, to find out, so that your own initiative can be awakened”.


Idea Cost and Solution of Universal Basic Income in India


Cost of Universal Basic Income in India


Idea of Universal Basic Income has been floating around in the world for quite sometime. It has started gaining traction in India as well because a national political party has proposed Universal Basic Income of Rs.321/- per day to every unemployed person of the country if the win Parliamentary Election 2019.


Let us delve into the details of cost and impact of this proposal on the economic health of this country. According to www.tradingeconomics.com, India's labor force participation in 2018 was 52.5%, which on the population of 1.284 Billion population, works out to be 674.1 Million or 67.41 Crore. Unemployment Percentage stood at 6.1% in 2018 which is highest in recent past and works out to be 41.12 Million. In 2018, workforce employed in agriculture sector in India stood at 42.5%, which works out to be 287.84 Million. This number can very well be put under underemployed workforce.


According to a report published in Times of India on February 5, 2018, workforce engaged in sectors other than agriculture but falls under unorganized sector stood at 111.1 Million on 11.1 Crore. Out of this number 60% are employed in it, which brings the actual number at 66.66 Million. So, roughly 354.50 Million of 35.45 Crore people can be brought into the category of underemployed.


Low skilled workers earned average Rs.10,900/- per month, though it may be lesser in rural areas. Proposed Universal Basic Income is Rs.321/- per day to unemployed people. If we work it out on annual basis, then total immediate cost will be Rs.475183 Crore or USD 67.31, which is 2.28% of India's GDP of USD 2948 Billion. But this is just one side of the picture. A big chunk of workforce who are underemployed will gradually start leaving the work and opting for proposed Universal Basic Income. This has the potential to take away Rs.4096610 Crore or approximately USD 580 Billion and it works out to be 19.86% of GDP of 2018. Let’s bring in one more perspective.


Since most of the low skilled workers are engaged either agriculture or manufacturing sector, this proposed UBI will pull down efficiency and productivity are of both the sector. Moreover, this proposed amount being not huge enough to encourage capital expenditure at family level, this will only increase consumer expenditure especially in food. Drop in supply and increase in demand will have magnifying impact on food inflation.


Challenges of Creating Employment


India’s unemployment rate was 6.1% and GDP grew at 7.3% in 2018. A simple thumb rule is, if GDP grows by 1%, it creates additional job by 0.5%. So, to cover up this job gap of 6.1%, GDP needs to grow at least by additional 12-12.5% immediately, which is not possible. India produces around 65 Lakh graduates and 15 Lakh Post Graduates every year. Moreover, it add around 1.2 Crore workforce in the market every year, which is roughly 2% of present workforce participation.


 It means, to cover this job demand growth, India’s GDP needs to grow by at least 4% from the present level. To cover the job demand growth, India’s GDP is required to grow between 11-12%. To cover the gap of additional 3% from this present gap of 6.1%, GDP needs to grow further by 1 to 1.5% for next 6-7 years. So, we can conclude that, solve the India’s job demand problem, GDP needs to grow by 13.5-14% for a period 7-8 years, after that it can settle for 11-12%, nothing less. 


If we add the underemployment problem, the situation will become quite sever and looking at micro and macroeconomic environment, this is an impossible feat for any government. Actually, the socialist economy we chose to become after independence made us a risk-averse nation and we as a nation become the country of job seekers. To consolidate our financial and social position, we kept adding degrees to individual kitty. We kept adding slabs to make our position higher and make it difficult for others to reach, but we remained committed to be servant and subservient someone or other. Entrepreneurship is the only option and the environment should be made conducive for it. “Ease of doing business” comes later; government should focus on “ease of starting business” and “ease of sustaining business for initial years”. Parents also need slow down in chasing this engineering and seven figure salary dream for their ward. They must not set the value of life in terms of money only. 


Land Reform as a solution


India’s total workforce is around 675 Million, out of it, 42.74% or 288.11 million are employed in agriculture, 23.79% or 160.37 million are employed in manufacturing sector and 33.48% or 225.69 million are engaged in service sector. Agriculture sector contributed 15.87% of GDP, which in real terms for 2018 will stand at USD 468.85 Billion. Manufacturing sector and services sector contributed 29.73% and 54.40% respectively for the same year which in real term will stand at USD 876.44 Billion and USD 1603.71 Billion. If we extrapolate these numbers, then we find out the productivity of a person employed in agriculture sector and manufacturing sector stood at USD 1623.85 and USD 5465.17 respectively against USD 7105.86 of service sector. 


We all know that more than anything else, the size of land holding and land holding pattern of the country are biggest bottleneck of increasing agriculture productivity. According to Agriculture Census, operational land holdings in India are 138.35 million hectare with an average size of 1.15 hectare. Out of total holdings, 85% belongs to small and marginal farm categories with less than 2 hectare. This size is hampering the mechanization of agriculture in big way hampering not only production but overall productivity as well creating income and social disparity, which often forces workforce to abandon field and move to urban areas in search of employment, creating even bigger problem of underemployment. Though small scale industries can help in solving the employment problem to some extent, but large industries are required for capital formation, job creations at all levels and have multiplier effect on the nation’s economy. But establishing big industry has been facing the biggest challenge of land acquisition. Since this issue is connected with small and marginal farmers, it gives huge political opportunity any political party. Singur in West Bengal is latest prime example of challenges of land acquisition in the country. More than anything else, education and transparency in dealing are two prime steps which should be taken by the government. Since size of landholding is very small per farm household and their dependency is huge on that small land, parting away with it becomes more of a emotional challenge than financial challenge. The fear of going broke completely can be aroused in the owner’s mind. Second challenge is the circle rate. Normally, lands are registered at very low value in government records than what actually it has been sold. If the circle rate is very low than “prevailing market rate”, then obviously it will create a problem because government compensation will depend on the circle rate and not on the “prevailing market rate”. In every business transaction, all the parties look for something extra, so, if there are employment opportunities or the opportunity to provide services which can be given to locals, either after training them or by without training, then it must be discussed in advance and in transparent manner with complete agreement. And all of it needs to be told to the land owner in no unclear terms and in fact it must be the part of information which should be inculcated to every Indian like it has been done in the case of polio immunization or similar drive. This will not only help manufacturing sector but agriculture sector as well. Increased production will mean increased productive participation, increased productivity, increased income in the hands of workforce and new employment opportunities.


Unemployment Challenge Of India


Economists classify "Unemployment" into three categories; frictional, cyclical and structural. 


Frictional unemployment is least of economists worry because it occurs due to incessant movement of workforce from one location to another or due to different stages of life cycle or students leaving job to pursue higher studies or woman leave the job for child birth. 


Cyclical unemployment is much more serious problem and it occurs when economy dips into recession. This kind of unemployment macro-economists world over has spent most of the time trying to solve. 


In the increasingly technological age, third type of unemployment occur and that is structural unemployment and this needs much more attention now a days. This kind of unemployment occur when there is a mismatch between available jobs in the market and workers skill. Structural unemployment often results when technological change makes someone's job obsolete. Structural unemployment also occurs when there is a mismatch between location of job openings and location of job seeking workers. 


Now, if we look at the Indian job market, we can find the mix of cyclical and structural unemployment patterns. Though if we mix economics with politics in the discussion, then we may not get the right answer and solution. 


Indian economy has been going through quite a roller coaster ride since economic liberalization in 1992-93. Economic liberalization exposed Indian to new kind of economy and that service sector economy. Everything was going on well but dot-com bust post 2000 gave a big jolt to world economy and India could not remain untouched. Though this dot-com bust was largely concentrated to USA, but when US economy sneezes whole world’s economy catch cold. 


Economy picked up steam once again but 2007-08 subprime crisis of US market again shook the financial and job market world over. Estimated cost of this crisis for this planet earth stood somewhere around USD 15 Trillion and 80 Million job.


Almost every country pumped in billions of dollars into their economy to keep it afloat and drive consumption to drive manufacturing to drive job creation. Before India could recover from the jolt of US Subprime crisis, series of corruption cases against the then incumbent government started surfacing and that led to complete policy paralysis. It, in turn hurt the investment and business scenario very badly. 


In 2014, new government took over with new hope to revive the economy. Business scenario again started looking up but two decisions in quick succession gave a big jolt to the economy running on cash. Now each side can give the opinion for and against these two decisions and both can be right.


Apart from all this, India became the hotbed of technology based economy. By the beginning of this century, we were struggling to get the proper electricity and landline phones even in big cities and by 2004-05 we had cheapest call rates and by 2016, we had the cheapest data rates. 


Before organized retail could even find its foothold, e-commerce changed the market dynamics completely. 


While half of the workforce was still lumbering in the muddy fields, India joined the league of countries adopting technology at super speed. India couldn't have left one and chosen other but challenges posed by mix of both needs to be studied, understood and solved carefully, without playing politics around it. New generation is not illiterate as their earlier generation of 70s or 80s of last century were. Social media and digital world has ensured one thing is that everything mentioned here gets recorded and indexed by one platform or other. So, there will be no escaping for anyone in coming five years time. Division on religion or caste lines won't work because technology will bring more transparency and newer generation will be more educated. So, political rhetorics won't work for long.


How to handle the situation of conflict and extreme provocation


I am penning down my opinion purely from Personal Brand Management perspective; nothing more, nothing less. I am writing this caveat in the beginning itself because what I going to write has serious political and emotional angle, which whether I like or not, will come up in the reader’s mind beforehand reading the whole article.

Two incidents which played out in neighboring states of West Bengal and Bihar last fortnight shook the entire nation. In NRS Hospital, Kolkata, an eighty five year old person died due to some medical complicacy. His relatives brought in two truckloads of more people and brutally assaulted the doctors and hospital staff, putting few of them in ICU, battling for their lives. Doctors protested and demanded security along with bringing culprits to face law of the land. Chief Minister of West Bengal, Ms. Mamata Banerjee descended on the spot, blamed doctors for playing politics and threatened them instead for grave consequences, if they don’t withdraw their protest. How far it is true I don’t know, but some reports suggested that senior officials at ministry were about to resolve the conflict, but sudden outburst of Ms. Mamata Banerjee changed it all. It led to widespread and nationwide protest by doctors; common citizens and media all across also joined it. Situation became grave because in response of Chief Minister’s threat, doctors of West Bengal started resigning from their job. While emergency services were not hampered but other medical services were badly impacted.

Sudden outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome at Muzaffarpur, Bihar and resultant death of more than 140 children led widespread criticism of Chief Minister of Bihar, Mr. Nitish Kumar along with Health Minister of India and Bihar state. Mr. Nitish Kumar was getting hammered from all side for lack of expertise and facilities at Muzaffarpur to handle this situation. But rather than rushing to Muzaffarpur immediately, he allowed the situation to come in control and anger to subside and when he visited, he promised to make Shri Kirshna Medical College and Hospital, Muzaffarpur 1500 bed hospital bed along with 150 beds ICU. There was extreme provocation from all side for him to respond but he kept silent. He talked in the last but talked only what was needed.

Both the examples throw few interesting points on how to handle the “situation of conflict and extreme provocation”.

  • Assess the situation before responding.
  • While responding, don’t allow your biases and heuristics take over your brain and don’t allow your heart to get better off you.
  • If you don’t have immediate solution and someone else has, then allow that someone else to take the lead and find the solution.
  • Allow the situation to settle down. When things are blowing up, you may not know when it is going to end and if you respond when things are blowing up, your response may stir counter response.
  • Choice of words is very much important. Engage someone more capable to write your words.
  • Deliver the final solution and walk away. If you stay there for long, people will have the availability of pain fresh in their mind and more than your solution, they will focus on the pain.

Personal brand management can yield you immense benefits if you are in public life but you need to in awareness stage all the time. You will have to continuously work on it and communicate it to all the stakeholders. If you are finding it tough to handle yourself, then engage someone to handle it but do it diligently.


Growth Strategy

Growth strategy of any business organization should keep following points in special consideration; budget for customer acquisition, cost per customer acquisition, merchandize value per customer, margin per customer, natural churn (a segment of fleeting customer who will never be yours. They keep experimenting and pricing is their key nudge to buy any product or services) and cost of customer retention. If the cost of successive customer acquisition is lower than retention of a loyal customer, then going all out aggressively for customer acquisition makes more sense ignoring the complaints of existing customers for sometime than staying conservative to build the business. By doing so, you will still have more customer despite natural churn and exit of few disgruntled customers than your conservative growth strategy.


If you remain focused on providing value to each and every customer (Though this should be your ultimate goal) before moving ahead, then you will be stuck at very small scale; low sales and low margin making your interest in the business dwindle. If you leave your target customer unattended, then someone else will come and make them their customer. It will make customer acquisition more difficult.


If your customer’s gross merchandise value is very high and they are very sensitive towards being served with full attention, then aggressive growth strategy will kill your business. For obvious reason, a customer spending big amount of money on buying a segment of merchandize on the regular basis will be high net worth Individual with the circle of similar customer base. If you lose attention on any of them, then you will lose business of many of them.


Five Rules to Sell Yourself as a Consultant


It is very easy to present yourself as a consultant but very difficult to sell yourself as a consultant. Every individual has a thinking brain which acts according to situation, time, resources, past experiences, educational qualifications, biases and heuristics. Those actions may or may not yield planned positive outcome all the time.


Whenever the outcome is not as planned, then thinking brains sit down to find the answer, which they call brainstorming. And when they fail to find the answer and demand of the expertise is for long period of time, they opt for a new employee, but when the demand is for the short term, then they opt for the services of a consultant. As mentioned in the first line itself, presenting yourself as consultant is very easy but selling yourself as consultant is very difficult. I have broken down the answer of this challenge in five parts:


-If organization perceives the problem as complex, so make it complex for them: If you make the problem easy to understand, then why would someone hire you. Let the problem remain complex for them either resources wise, time wise or knowledge wise.


-Don’t go for discovery journey: C-Suite people don’t enjoy being questioned. They assume that person coming to him/her has already done the research and ready with the answer. This may seem against the established sales norm, which demands us to know the customer’s need, but these customers don’t fit into that category and more so when it is about their business.


-Only you are the right person: Consultancy proposals are sold to C Suite people who are already well informed but have paucity of time to address the challenge. So, discussing numbers with them won’t cut the haze. Present your credentials, talk about the insights and offer the solution.


-C –Suite professionals have complex ‘Status Quo Bias’ – While a C-suite professionals hate status quo bias among his employees, but they like to maintain status quo for themselves. So, it is very important to know as maximum as possible about the person you are going to meet.


-Use loss aversion bias in your favor- Though everyone hates to lose money, but in an organization, a lower level employee will be more bothered about doing his/her part of job than its financial implications. Only C-suite professionals hold control over financial matters and they need to be convinced that any delay in applying the solution will cost the business dearly.


Challenges a Manager Face in Personal Branding

Eureka moment of personal branding struck me around twelve years ago standing in one of the stores of my employer at that time. A customer was aggressively rebuking one of the Customer Support Associate for something which he had no role to play. It was my second day in the organization. I tried to intervene but only thing happened was direction of his ire got diverted towards me.


Organization is an established Indian MNC with diverse business interest spread across the world, but the business operation which I was part of, had started the operations around six-seven months back. I can vouch for the fact that everyone I met during those two days and had been meeting earlier also were doing the maximum best to create the best consumer experience. But since this operation was expanding at break neck speed, many a thing which needed attention was not getting attended on priority. 


The customer probably had a grudge towards new generation of professionals who are career oriented and keep striving for financial growth. His views were preposterous but since he was the customer, I listened to his verbal aggression patiently, appreciated him for taking time out to register his protest, immediately informed the concerned Category Manager and assured him to address his challenge. Initially I disliked his words about the professionals like me but when I pondered over the event and his outpouring against us and not towards the business owner, I realized that the business owner has reputation consistently build by him and his previous generations over more than hundred years which we don’t have and that’s why this customer and many others like him are ready to put their faith in business owner and not in us. After that I started taking my personal brand a bit seriously. Though certain exigency took my time off from my endeavour towards building a solid personal brand but I kept talking about it with other professionals since then. I also started helping them in crafting their personal brand strategy. Since then I have talked to more than a thousand people and have realized that only leaders can think about creating his or her personal brand, not the managers. Managers live their personal and professional life with many self imposed mental constraints. Some of the prominent mental constraints I have come across are as follows: 


- Managers dislike questions- You are a leader when take your people along, lead from the front and relegate yourself in the background at the time of claiming the reward. Once I came across an incident where new CEO of a reputed organization gave continuous lecture to employees about integrity and scope of the meaning of integrity according to him. He forfeited the incentives of all the middle management and lower level employees to the extent of seventy five percent in the name of poor financial condition of the organization, but rewarded himself with the hundred and twenty percent incentive. This news of course got leaked in the organization led to disgruntled murmurs but since it was the time of financial crisis due to US subprime crisis and many were losing jobs across the industry and in the said organization also, so no one talked and eventually this act got buried down in no time.


They doesn’t entertain their critical evaluation from their people to make themselves more likeable and approachable. This is something which is missing in the managers. They assume that they have been hired by the management to guide his team to targeted result and that’s why they must have all the answers ready to not to let any question arise. Though they like to call it being pro-active, but they create the question beforehand for their answers.


-Managers hate criticism: - Criticism, even the honest one hurts the emotion of managers. Since they are know-all people, they don’t accept the fact that they can go wrong. They have strong confirmation bias, where they often lead their decisions to. Recently I posed a question on social media to a senior professional about something related to his area of expertise. I agree to the fact that though question was related to his area of expertise but it required to think thoroughly before giving the answer. Since that professional falls into second level of my network, I got the feedback that he was afraid to answer my question in the fear of going wrong and inviting either a counter question or a rebuttal. This is just one of the many examples. 


-Managers don’t create a feedback mechanism unless and until it is forced upon them: Due to above two reasons, managers don’t create feedback mechanism unless and until it is forced upon them. Even in the case of forced feedback mechanism, organizational culture doesn’t entertain criticism of senior professionals in the name of discipline. This leads to strengthening of behavioural status quo bias among managers.


 -Managers like controlled environment where only they can talk:- Though managers pretend to encourage discussion and opinion sharing but they don’t appreciate it in reality. They like the controlled environment where only they get the chance and authority to speak. 


In 2017, a Google employee James Damore wrote an anti-diversity memo at an internal platform, which was considered misogynistic. Somehow it got leaked in the media and employee was fired. Sundar Pichai, CEO of the company, came out with a statement in media that he don’t misogynistic opinions and comments in the organization and that’s why that employee was fired from the organization. My point is; the organization like Google, which has invested billions of dollars in neuroscience research and has infinite permutations of human behavioural data, could have countered the arguments with facts and research, instead he was fired unceremoniously. Had he been countered by the organization with research data and facts, it could have settled the debate of difference between man and woman in tech industry probably once and for all.  


Steve Balmer groomed Satya Nadella for the position of CEO of Microsoft. If you read the book “Hit Refresh” written by Satya Nadella, you will find him very critical of the organizational culture he inherited from Steve. Not only he brought in three sixty degree shift in organizational culture but reversed the business decisions of Steve. You listen to Steve Balmer and you will find nothing but praise for Satya Nadella and pride in his achievements.


-Managers don’t appreciate something which doesn’t fit into their scheme of things: For a manager, everything is a resource which he has to use to achieve his objective. If something is not serving a manager’s purpose, it won’t be appreciated even if it is highly valuable to someone else or had been highly valuable to the same manager in the past.


I was talking to my ex-boss sometime back. He told me about the organization where he worked and helped to build robust sales figure for seven years. Two successive government decisions of demonetisation and implementation of GST brought in huge shock in the market. These decisions impacted also impacted his business and initially he was cold shouldered and ultimately had to leave the organization. I asked him whether he was disappointed the way he was treated. He said that initially he was of course disappointed but accepted the fact that he is just a resource which has to return the value of salary being paid to him.  


If anyone wants to stick to above points as their core guiding principle of professional life, then they can be successful managers but not the business leader and definitely not fit for creating personal brand, because people will follow their business success not him.


Idea ReviewBy Mukul Bhartiya / September-11

Customer Engagement Acquisition Delight Organizations are need of hour


I am writing this blog drawing inspiration from one book and few incidents of my life. Around a decade back I bought a path breaking book “New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-created Value through global network” written by eminent Management Experts Late C. K. Prahalad and M. S. Krishnan. This book was published in year 2008 and for me then it was another book from the world renowned experts which I must have in my shelf. Until last year, the theory of “N=1 and R=G” was another management jargon for me to make me look like updated management professional in the meetings. But before proceeding further, this piece does not represent the exact management philosophy conceptualized and propagated by both the experts. I am using it to only drive across my point.


I don’t remember but sometime in April or May last year, I bought a 500 ml copper water bottle to carry during morning jogging schedules from one of the two leading online retailers of the country. Next time when I visited the site after making the purchase, I saw a notification with the communication, “people who bought ___, also bought ___”. First space was carrying the image of water bottle I had purchased and second space was carrying the image of three water bottles made of copper in different designs. Now, if at all they apply simply their head and not the much talked about analytics probably based AI, I wouldn’t have been recommended what they had recommended me. My purchase history with them was mostly books, few clothing for myself and dry fruits. Seeing that, anyone can make an assumption about me being a bachelor with very limited needs. And let me tell you, this is not just an isolated case.  


There is another experience which is around twelve years old and I assume things might have changed now. There were couple of grocery stores in Gultekdi Market Yard, Pune, which used to do more business than any of the store of modern retail. I am sure they must be doing more business than what they were doing then. If you had visited the store, you would have found a format mentioning all the items in their store, along with column for quantity, price and total price. There was also a board hanging outside the store indicating the current price of items whose prices were volatile. Now what you were supposed to fill the details of quantity against each item, handover that sheet to a staff in the store and sit on the chair lying outside. Store staff packs your merchandize, raise the bill and call your name to pay the bill. Since our store was nearby and these stores were competition, I used to benchmark these stores regularly. 


Around five-six years ago, I was talking to one gentleman who was heading sales and business operation of a retail company engaged in selling premium furniture in Delhi. He told me that he doesn’t ask his sales team member about his/her sales numbers for first six-seven months of joining. Instead, he sends them to foreign tours to understand the taste of rich and famous, because his clients are rich and they demand exclusivity. For his clients, money comes last in order of concern; they first look for exclusivity of design and material. Moreover, these clients can’t be found buying their toothpaste in the nearby grocery store and they don’t allow everyone to get into their circle. So, for him and his team to sell furniture to these set of clientele, it is very important to understand their need and get into their proximity. 


Having been connected to retail industry for so long through either work experience or colleagues working at different senior positions in different retail organizations, I never had experience of either asking my customers about their monthly basket and their other shopping needs as above stores I mentioned or being myself asked by any retailer. We let incoming data to do the talking. Asking about the family profile of the customer seems out of bounds for any retail organization. They again depend upon the incoming data to do the talking. 


It is important to note that “Data leads but incomplete data misleads” and that’s why a multinational retail company with billions of dollar suggests a consumer with no dependent family member to buy four copper water bottles of 500 ml each. That’s why all these sound around AI based retail analytics will be helpful only when incoming data is complete. Why retailers don’t ask about the monthly basket and family profile of their customers may best be known to them. I assume they may be finding these questions as intrusive or another tedious task supposedly not core to the business, but asking AADHAR details for Payment banks are more intrusive.


Now let me bring back the reference of “N=1 and R=G”. Central thesis of the book is exhorting companies to customize their products for each customer by gaining access to assemblage of suppliers. “N=1” requires companies to focus on the importance of individual customer experience and tailor their product accordingly. It requires companies to be resilient, dynamic and flexible in their business processes and approach to reach the level of customer delight. They also advise companies to be very strong at analytics to allow management to discover opportunities and unique trends and enable companies in product co-creation. 


Though theory focuses on one experience or one problem at a time, but I am talking about the all the challenges of one customer at one place. Deployment of this idea will definitely have area and location challenge and scaling up will again lead to automation, standardization and templatization of solution reducing the human connect, but if this idea is deployed in smaller geographical area, it will bring in immense result. 


“R=G” requires companies to take horizontal approach to supply rather than vertical integration. The focus should on obtaining the access, rather than ownership, to the resource from assemblage of suppliers from outside as well as inside of the company. 


In today’s time, probably a marketer has every tool to connect and engage with the customers. If anything is missing, that can also be developed without much hiccup.


If you look at all the marketplace companies like Ola, Uber, airbnb, Amazon, Flipkart etc., you will find the examples of idea pioneered by great management thinkers. While Ola, Uber, airbnb are solving one challenge of a customer while Amazon and Flipkart are trying to solve many. Just look at the business opportunity and look at valuations; they are humongous.  


But in order to scale up at exponential speed and capture the global market, their customer engagement and delight exercise seems limited to quiz contests on app or sending promotional emails. Though primary challenge gets resolved but even entire exercise doesn’t push the market imperfections surrounding primary challenge much away from where they were. That’s why, one can find consumers having multiple apps for same services in their smart phones and browsing for best price and availability. Price and availability becomes front face of conversation between retailer and consumer. Service providers are deliberately anchoring their customers in this direction, knowingly deviating from the fact that customers buy a service or a product to solve their problem in hand and not to get the discount; discount is extra advantage. If someone is booking hotel room using either OYO or Goibibo or Makemytrip, he or she is booking the hotel room; that is the primary challenge. First priority of the customer goes to place to stay and relax, next priority goes to safety and cleanliness, third to food and of course if all of it comes at a good price, then it is considered the best deal. That’s why customers look for fellow customer’s rating of facilities, images of hotel and facilities etc. before booking the room. But in many, service providers jump directly to pricing. While writing this blog, I opened the website of a prominent travel and ticketing portal. I selected the location, but didn’t do any other activity for couple of minutes. Immediately a page dropped down anchoring me to take the bite of 25%-50% discount or straightaway Rs.1350/- discount at certain level of booking amount. Further, if you look at the event of recent acrimony between Zomato and Restaurant Association of India, the bone of contention was deep discounts offered by Zomato to its customers for Gold membership. If a food aggregator like Zomato in India thinks of discount as the first and foremost incentive to its premium customers, then nothing remains premium and exclusive in that offer. This is the not just the case with Zomato; almost all the service providers have reduced their customer engagement and delight activity limited to offers, extra money and savings. It leads market imperfections to remain not far away from where they were before these companies started their services.  


With this attitude, companies will keep burning money. Someone with better connect with deep pocketed investors will stay afloat for bit longer, but they will also have to make money and for that they will have to anchor their customers not towards discount they offering but how they are helping them in solving their primary challenge. According to Hubspot, leading inbound marketing and ERP company of the world, chances of converting a satisfied customer for a new purchase is 58% against 20% chance of acquiring a new customer for a new purchase. It makes all the sense to look beyond loyalty points getting converted in extra monetary benefits. 


It gives the rise to the idea of Consumer Engagement, Acquisition and Delight organizations or a department separate from traditional sales and marketing, because both the departments often suffer from traditional definition mindset. While one keeps trying to increase the adrenaline rush in its team members, other remains busy in writing slogans and jargons. More appropriate will be to bring sales and marketing under a separate CEAD department to bring synergy.  


A separate organization can also be very apt option in this entire gamut of sales and marketing, because then companies involved in buying and selling or creating marketplace can remain engaged in their core business. The challenge of data ownership and security can’t rule out the necessity of this set up. Challenge of data ownership and security will be of utmost importance without negating the importance of customer engagement and delight. This will require very strong analytics and lead to best Artificial Intelligence driven results. 


Customers need attention and solution of their problems and companies need reduction in the customer acquisition and retention cost, increase in revenue and margin, which only this vertical can guarantee.


Is Indian Economy Under Slowdown or Crisis


Politics can’t be without economics but economics can be without politics; if we choose to practice so. Political economics focus solely on getting elected and re-elected by the political parties. Though economics is the second word of political economics but when it comes to objective, economics becomes third or distant last in the priority list.


Fidel Castro, famous ruler of Cuba (Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and President from 1976 to 2008) and noted communist famously said, “I became a communist by studying capitalist political economy, and when I had understanding of that problem, it actually seemed to me so absurd, so irrational, so inhuman, that I simply began to elaborate on my own formulas for production and distribution”.


What he did not tell all of us that every individual action depends on psychological functions which further depends on numerous biases and heuristics created by demographical, social-economical, educational etc. nudges and interventions applied by different forces every moment, which further fires many chemicals known neurotransmitters laying down new memories, creating new biases and heuristics or strengthening the earlier one. Hasn’t this become a heady cocktail of jargons and words, very difficult to understand? That’s what political economics is; very difficult to understand.


India as a country is as diverse as the word ‘diverse’itself can be and it is as multidimensional as‘multidimensional’the word can be. Indian economy is complete reflection of the country, giving scope to every party to claim what they want to claim and most of the time each one of them may be completely true or true to some extent or completely wrong.Since economy is what matters to everyone the most, it becomes imperative to make this cocktail light, if not nectar, for everyone to consume, I talked to Mr. Suraj Sharma, who is an authority in this field.


Mr. Suraj Sharma is Chevening Financial Services Fellow, hosted by Kings College, London and IIM-Kolkata alumni. He also holds PGDM from Centre of Management Education, VAMNICOM, Pune. Presently, he is Chief Executive Officer of Punarvasu Financial Services Pvt. Ltd and also one of its board members. I had couple of straight questions to him and he cleared the haze overstate of Indian economy. Here we go with our discussion…..


Mukul Bhartiya: What is your opinion on current economic situation of the country? Would you call it “slowdown” or “crisis” and what are the factors which led to it?


Suraj Sharma: Current economic situation has the symptoms of “slowdown”, which if ignored, can develop into “crisis”.


Now, issues constituting second part of your question are crucial, poignant and present a paradoxical picture at the same time; issues which impacted or is impacting the economy needs to be divided into two parts; short term and long term. Short term issues are the policy decisions and long term issues are collateral effect of some other major domestic and transnational events.


You will agree with me that Indian economy, despite demonetization in 2016 is still largely a cash economy.Since ages, few individual who knew or probably still know how to leverage their connections with higher echelons of decision making bodies pockets the benefits meant for all. Incumbent government took certain policy decisions to streamline and make business activity transparent. Some of the decisions can be debated for its necessity or effectiveness, but rather than getting into details of the decisions, let’s understand what happened after that. It will help us to speed up our discussion.


Let’s begin with short term issues.


On 8th November 2016, Government of India took a humongous decision of calling back all currency of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 from the market. Whether objectives set by the government were met or not can be debated separately, but it led to massive cash crunch for SME and MSME sector which we agree or not, but were largely running on cash economy. This impacted the overall economy because money from the market were getting sucked in, demand of everything except necessary food items slowed down and job were cut on massive scale.


Before economy could recover from the impact of demonetisation, Goods and Service Tax became operational from 1st July 2017. GST Act is an excellent step by government of India to boost the ease of doing business in the country and bring in more transparency in the Indirect Tax regime. It was needed not only to remove friction in business operational activity but bring more and more business transactions under tax net.


But shift from one policy structure to another of such a humongous nature needs at least few business years to settle down and is implemented when economy is growing, not when it has slowed down. Here, government introduced not one or two but three policy changes of big impact in quick succession.


During this period itself, on 10th March 2016, Upper House of the government passed Real Estate Regulation and Development Act (RERA), which became effective from 1st May 2016. By this time, out of 92 sections, 56 were notified. By 1st May 2017, all the sections were operational. Real estate sector before bringing this act was unorganized, which was not only leading to exploitation of home buyers but restricting investment in this sector preventing credible and rated developers from sourcing money from the market.


Unregulated market was allowing many developers to manipulate the home buyers by channelling fund from one project to another without completing the earlier one, working on multiple projects without availability of required fund and many things more. Since there were many such developers and many such projects, this sector proved to be one of the leading employment providers, which it actually is, along with textile industry and after agriculture sector.


After implementation of RERA Act, many real estate projects were shelved and many developers defaulted.


Demonetization had maximum impact on SME, MSME and real estate sector the most because it dealt in cash the most. Implementation of GST forced them to put their business in a structure to be system compliant. Again I would say that it was good step but it delayed the sales activity. Since this sector makes a huge contribution towards employment generation as well, not only it had clear slowdown impact on economy but growth in unemployment as well.


All these policy decisions have not only stretched the business environment straight in the country but has also brought banking sector under lot of stress, which anyways is under lot of stress due to NPAs and toxic assets under control of banking sector.


That’s why I told you in the beginning itself that issues which led to slowdown are crucial, poignant and paradoxical at the same time. While decisions taken by Government of India are on solid merit points but Indian economy has never been in such a shape to absorb body shot shocks in such a quick succession.Though these decisions were right but the timings were questionable.


If we expand this discussion a bit more and go ten-eleven years back, then we see that world economy suffered a body blow due to US sub-prime crisis. Though it did not impact the Indian economy much but how can it remain unharmed because it is not insulated from the world economy. Efforts were made to boost the purchasing power and economy was on revival path, but many scandals tumbling out of government’s closet led to massive anti-corruption movement in the country. This movement brought in a kind of policy paralysis, where decision makers became afraid of taking decisions.


Mukul Bhartiya: Here I would like add something; there are many estimates of total business and employment losses due to US sub-prime crisis. I have read somewhere that business losses stood around USD 15 Trillion and employment losses around 80 Million. Further, in my opinion, Supreme Court gave the body blow to whatever was left after the impact of this financial crisis and policy paralysis, by cancelling 122 licenses of 2G telecom spectrum in February 2013. Foreign investors had shown their faith in Indian economy and telecom scam was the internal matter of the country. Without providing adequate relief to the investors or even thinking about them, Supreme Court gave harshest blow to the economy.


Suraj Sharma: There is no denying fact that impact of US sub-prime crisis was huge, but I would refrain from giving specific numbers in the want of accuracy or lack of it. What you said about the impact of Supreme Court’s decision on cancellation of license of 2G telecom spectrum and coal license cancellation may be right.


Though India was not influenced much by US financial crisis, but credit easing did happen here as well during that period. Most of the power, infrastructure, steel and other big projects were financed during that period itself. And because most of these decisions got entangled in court cases, projects either failed to start or got delayed putting humongous stress on the banking sector. Most of NPAs of Rs.14 Lakh Crore which is being talked about were financed during this period only. On top of it, this IL&FS crisis has adversely affected the business sentiment. In 2018, 40% of the incremental consumer financing was done by NBFCs and not the banks. Since mutual funds used to buy NBFC papers and give them money. A good share of NBFC money was coming from mutual funds, but IL&FS scandal turned the applecart upside down.


Look, every other business sector’s health depends on the health of financial sector. Though NPA problem has been resolved to certain extent but challenges are still there, NBFC crisis arising out of IL&FS scandal, freeze on payments to the account holders due to scam in PMC Cooperative bank, low capital ratios at Yes Bank and how it went unnoticed for so long, continuous defaults by real estate and infrastructure sector etc. have put banking and financial sector as a whole under huge stress. Government needs to see that how quickly it brings the economy out of this rut.


But we are seeing growth quarter-to-quarter basis, though slowed down andthat’s why we can’t call present situation an economic crisis.


Mukul Bhartiya: What should government do to reverse the situation and increase the opportunities of employment?


Suraj Sharma: Government has taken many steps to revive the situation but if things don’t start improving in next eighteen month or so, then as I mentioned earlier, it will trigger bigger crisis.


Infrastructure/real estate/industries/power etc. projects should not be financed by commercial banks. Instead, they should be financed by long term investors through debentures .You tell me which bank accepts fixed deposits for 20-30 years and which infrastructure project becomes cash positive in 5-6 years? Even residential projects of real estate sector take more time to complete than that.


Apart from bringing in RERA for removing the frictions of real estate sector and pave the way for more legitimate funding, Government has created the necessary rules and policy structure to encourage REIG(Real Estate Investment Group) investing to clean up the real estate investment, bring more transparency and make real estate projects more viable. Recently announced Rs.25,000 Crore Priority Debt Fund to revive stalled real estate projects is a critically important decision. It will give relief to much aggrieved home buyers. All the steps taken by government will bring synergy between investors, developers and sellers and foster growth. Now, only thing is to be seen is how quickly all these steps fructify result.


Barring 4-5 banks, all nationalized banks have come out of NPA mess. To make liquidity available in the market, government is aggressive on repo and other fiscal rates.


Boldest of all the step is corporate tax to be levied on new manufacturing set up to come up after 1st October 2019, which is 15%. If you add cess and all, then it will not be more than 17% and it is lowest in the world. Government might have done so keeping US-China trade war in mind, expecting companies flying out of China may land up in India for setting up their infrastructure. I can’t comment right now about its impact on fiscal discipline.


Helping banks to clean up NPA mess, recapitalization of banks, aggressive interest rates, aggressive corporate tax, reduction in base corporate tax, creation of fund for interest subvention scheme for GST registered MSMEs, holding hands of real estate sector through RERA, REIG etc., government is doing many right things.


Though government has taken many steps in the right direction, but all of it has to bear the result very quickly. A lot of time has already lapsed and things can’t be delayed anymore. Liquidity crunch has prolonged for too long and media sentiment has been depressed for too long. Remember that negative business sentiments have domino effect on overall business scenario and one fall triggers others to fall. Liquidity crunch does not happen just because of unavailability of funds in the market, it also happens because of unavailability of intent and courage among the investors. If it continues, then SMEs and MSMEs will start defaulting and since most of government’s lending are to this sector, it will create the challenge which no one has ever imagined.


Further, government shall bear in mind that Indian economy has never been in the stage where policy decisions of such a humongous nature can’t be implemented in such a quick succession. Implementation of GST will take at least three to four business years for everyone to see which direction it will move. Business community will get adapted to its implementation and government will be able to plug the holes and explain it clearly to them. Similarly, real estate sector will take time to work on the lines of guidelines set by RERA.


Government and RBI shall see that credibility and reputation financial sector is restored and that also on priority basis. They must see that without any delay depositors’ interest is protected and they again repose their faith in country’s banking sector. Business decisions can fail but business decisions quite adverse to very common business sense shall not be acceptable. Promoters shall not be allowed to have executive position in private banks and no executive should be allowed to hold the top position for more than 10-15years or so. Government and RBI shall see that executives holding highest position in banking industry must get enough time to execute their decisions but must not get time to be synonym with the organization itself. Government shall also see that individual account holders shall have insurance cover of at least Rs.10 Lakh or even more for the deposited money with a bank; right now it is Rs.1 Lakh and it is very less. Government and RBI shall work towards rebuilding trust of depositors towards banking and financial system of the country. If it doesn’t happen, then nothing will happen.


Success Stories of Make in India Campaign Bishanpur Natural Foods Pvt Ltd


By a rough estimate, India produces paddy, wheat and whole pulses together worth Rs.5, 34, 020 Crore, calculated at MSP for paddy and wheat and bulk price of pulses in whole form. If we take the data of public consumer expenditure for the year 2014-15 made available by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in public domain and extrapolate the impact of inflation every successive year, India’s private final expenditure on food and non-alcoholic drinks may stand around Rs.18.9 Lakh Crore. It gives a glimpse of scope of business opportunity it provides.


Mr. Nitin Kumar, Company Secretary by qualification and investment and start up expert by profession has worn many hats; but when this time when he told me about his new venture Bishanpur Natural Foods Pvt. Ltd., I would be lying if I say I was not surprised. Since beginning of his professional career, he has been through and through finance professional helping his clients to make money in stock and/or real estate market or investing in general merchandise, education or health start ups. But this time, he not only invested but has been successfully running the business of speciality flours, fox nuts and flax seed. After talking to him I could understand his passion of bringing healthy food which our previous generations used to eat and has disappeared from our plates with changing time. But why was I surprised; because sales of food items demand combined of physical and mental hustle than the just mental one required in financial or real estate market. But as Ann Landers had said “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them”, he chose the hard work way and entered into this business. He is CEO of Bishanpur Natual Foods Pvt. Ltd. 


I asked him straight three questions to understand why is he in this business, what he has to offer, how it will benefit his consumers and where does he see his business in short and medium term. 


Mukul Bhartiya: You are finance professional by education and experience. What led you to venture into food processing, distribution and marketing business and that also, niche products like Chana Sattu, Makhana and Flax Seed?


Nitin Kumar: When I tell you the reason behind it, you will also empathise. Though I am from Bihar but I have lived better part of my life in Delhi and Gurgaon. Who better than person like me can understand the importance of healthy food and healthy life. For us, even pure air to breathe has become a scarce thing. You might have seen the images of hazardous foam emanating from River Yamuna during Chhath this year and let me tell you that this not something new as phenomena. This has been the scene for so many years and it is also open secret that most of vegetables coming to National Capital Territory market are grown in the river base of Yamuna. 


All the trappings of modern lifestyle has taken one thing from us; our time for ourselves. We are always in the rush to reach one place or another, barely taking time to breathe. In order to reach somewhere, we have moved as far away from the nature as possible. And look what it has done to us; it has not only taken us away from nature but has taken away our physical and mental health. 


Having lived a life with these trappings around, we have realized that answer of healthy life is to slow down, look back and find what we lost in the rush of reaching somewhere. Retracing healthy footprints are always good. Our older generations lived life closer to nature. There were no mechanized machines to grind the food; so, most of the nutrients were retained in the food for our consumption. We are making a genuine effort to dig deep, research and find out the natural food for you. We are reclaiming our past with pride, we are reclaiming our health back and we reclaiming our life and the battle start with food.


At Bishanpur Natural Foods Pvt. Ltd, we follow every process to retain the natural nutrients every food has to offer by cold press milling technique. Words become command, command becomes commitment and commitment sets the direction; and our commitment is to take our food habit closer to nature.


Mukul Bhartiya: Please tell our readers about your products and how they benefit from it?


Nitin Kumar: We are in constant search of food which are healthy, wholesome and queen of plates of older and previous generations. I am keen on that. Our first product is Chana Sattu


Though there is no specific mention about the origin of word ‘Sattu’, but looking at the nutritional values it provides, it must have come from Sanskrit word ‘Satvik’, which means ‘pure’, ‘complete’, ‘ontological’. No other cereal or pulses is as complete and wholesome as ‘Chana’ or ‘Hoarse Gram’, because it has right amount of Protein, Dietary Fiber, good Carbohydrates, low glycemic index and absolutely no unhealthy unsaturated fat. While almost all the cereals and pulses provide between 150-350 calorie per 100 gram with cereals providing extra carbohydrate and pulses providing extra protein, ‘Chana’ provides energy exceeding 400 calorie. These nutrients build your muscles, make your bone strong, help in preventing constipation and keep your stomach healthy, regulate fluids and blood pressure of the body, fights diabetes and give you the energy to stay active whole day. There are numerous benefits of Chana Sattu.


Some of them are as follows:

  • You can drink and eat it both.

  • It is high on calorie with good amount of whole carbohydrate, dietary fiber and protein.

  • It is gluten free.

  • Carbohydrate in Sattu is soluble and ingestible carbohydrate, which is very much required for energy. It is a fallacy that low carbohydrate diet is good. If you don’t get the energy, then how will you survive? Your food should have 45-50% whole carbohydrate to keep you alive and active. 

  • It keeps your stomach healthy by preventing constipation. You may be aware that constipation is the cause of many bowel related ailments including gastrointestinal diseases, which has the capacity hurting other part of bodies as well. -It reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity. 

  • Zero saturated fat in Sattu makes it an ideal food and drink.

  • Protein in Sattu makes your bones hold the muscles and keep your liver healthy. It makes you look healthy and young. 

Our second product is Makhana or Fox nut. ‘Makhana’ is amalgamation of two Sanskrit words: ‘Makha’ and ‘Anna’. ‘Makha’ in Sanskrit has two meanings ‘sacrificial oblation’ and ‘active/moving/to go/move’ and ‘Anna’ means ‘food’. So, one meaning of ‘Makhana’ is a food which is offered for sacrificial oblation or which is offered to god. Another meaning of ‘Makhana’ is the food which keeps you ‘active’ and on the move, which means it keeps you energetic. Makhana is rich source of protein, calcium, dietary fiber, good carbohydrate and absolutely zero saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. With total 350 calorie per 100 Gm, it is good for your bones, muscles and gut and helps you fight diabetes and blood pressure.


Darbhanga, Madhubani and other parts of erstwhile Mithila Kingdom or present day Bihar produces ‘Makhana’ the most and has been consuming the most as well; now whole world has realized its importance.  


You can eat Makhana raw or after