Thursday, November 22, 2007

Human Potential - Heny David Thoreau

"What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring out what is within out into the world, miracles happen." - Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Unreasonable Man - George Bernard Shaw

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Warren Buffet on Integrity

In evaluating people, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. If you don't have the first, the other two will kill you.

Source: The Warren Buffet Way

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is one of the best books I have read in recent times. It is a book that most of us can relate to. It seems like the lead character Santiago the Sheperd boy is in each of us. Its a book about finding the meaning of life. Its about living in the present and making the most of it, rather than dwelling too much in the past or thinking too much about the future.

I would summarise this book using two of the following quotes:

1) "Life is a journey not a destination."

2) "In the heart of this moment is eternity. If this moment we have lived well, done our best, then we may very well leave the rest. For nothing better can be done for the future than doing our very best right now."

The Alchemist is a must read for all people who are struggling with the following questions:

1) What is life?

2) What are we doing here on earth? Why are we here?

Happy reading!

Friday, November 02, 2007

A New Business Model

Is it possible not to have a brick-and-mortar office, even the tiniest one, and “yet serve some of the most demanding Fortune 100 customers across the world”?

Apparently yes, if you take the case of Anantara Solutions, a second-generation outsourcing company, whose Founder and CEO G.B. Prabhat categorically says: “This is not a place where we like assets”. And hence his team in Mumbai — sorry no numbers, as this is a secret — works out of a virtual office; “we manage the Mumbai office without any address. Our address is an email id and mobile number and our office is a laptop with a USB card,” says Sushil Rathi, a founding team member.

He explains that with laptops his team can operate from anywhere… “home, footpath, wherever. Most of the time we are at the customer site, or with partners, or looking for business opportunities. When we feel the need to meet, we use CafĂ© Coffee Day, even for conducting interviews, or meet at hotel lobbies.”

All his team members are enthusiastic about this “asset-less office as we save a lot of time on travelling, which is huge in Mumbai. People commute to office whether they have any work or not, are adding any value or not,” he says. His earlier job had a three-hour commute time; “now I can save that time which is spent either with my wife and two daughters or in attending personal work. With flexible working hours I feel less stressed, less tired and can concentrate better.”

Prabhat says that while the Anantara business model has been written about, “what’s not evident is the adaptation challenge and the exhilaration of shifting to a new type of work environment.” His endeavour is to reduce “the asset intensity of doing business. If you take the balance sheet of medium or large Indian companies, 4.5-7.5 per cent of sales is devoted to financing assets — land in the form of hundreds of acres, office infrastructure, a cubicle and a computer devoted to a person.” Given that 80 per cent of the time a knowledge worker works alone, and only 20 per cent in a community — divided between the client and his team — he felt this was “too much of overheads to operate a model like ours.” Huge drops in bandwidth costs ensure an equally good computing environment at home and geographic position is no longer critical to your work performance.

Minimal assets were planned even at Anantara’s Chennai headquarters, where the 35 workstations would normally support 35 people, but because “we use the hoteling concept... notice all the drawers can be rolled anywhere, nobody owns a cubicle, people take whichever cubicle is free and we encourage them not to come to office unless absolutely necessary.” And yet has ended up with a larger office space than required; “almost two-thirds or 14,000 sq. ft of space is locked away and it’ll be 2-3 years before we’ll be able to use it all,” sighs Prabhat.

This is a win-win for both the company and staff; “for us it is less asset devotion, and for them it’s a saving of 2-3 hours of commuting.” Typically, Anantara employees come to office thrice a week for about three hours; the rest of the time they work at home. “That results in tremendous productivity both professionally and in their personal domain. They have more time for personal chores.”

But surely this model works on trust; how sure is he they are actually working from home, or coffee-shops?

Measuring work


Prabhat says work output can be measured irrespective of where the employees are. “Take a global company like Satyam or TCS or Wipro, employees have a certain output to deliver for the day, and even if a person sitting next-door to me in Satyam (where Prabhat worked earlier), I’d check what he/she has done only on my computer. So as long as we all are part of a network it doesn’t matter.”

On why he set up this model at all, he says as the global supply-chain gets stronger by the day, “no one good company is good at everything. So if you want to assemble something that has many different capabilities, source it from the party best at that capability. We saw that opportunity.”

The second factor was that no longer can you distinguish between consulting and IT delivery skills; “both have to blend into one package to improve your customer’s business performance,” says Prabhat, who has already added Malta to his operations in nine countries. Some East European countries and Vietnam are next in line; both promising low-cost delivery of certain services. “Vietnam and China operate between $8-11 an hour, against Indian companies charging a minimum $18 an hour. If they don’t charge $18, they make a loss. Since we are not asset intensive we can do it. We have evolved a new paradigm of efficiency which is we shouldn’t be doing everything, and get some things done by others. But when we do a certain number of things, we do them differently and not within the same asset-intensive environment.”

Small is good


By definition his is an outsourcing company which outsources its work; and in India this is mostly to small companies. A “well hidden fact”, Prabhat points out, is that small companies in India have far higher efficiencies than larger companies, “being focused on a set of niche competencies.” For example, software testing is one of the hundred things a large company does, but “a software testing company does only that and hence does it best. Also, small companies have not acquired the bad habits of big companies… so many acres of land, manicured lawns. People think that manicured lawns come free; they don’t, and are built into the cost the customer pays. But small companies don’t have manicured lawns, helipads, golf courses, all of that is missing.” Also a small company is more motivated to provide quality; “it’s entrepreneurial versus an employee thing.”

In a way, Prabhat’s asset-less model, which sends work right back to even developed countries, could take away some of the backlash associated with the Indian outsourcing story. “We are actually outsourcing back to America, because in some respects the US still remains the world’s best leader when it comes to innovation, original thinking, marketing collateral. We have an ecosystem partner in the US, but can’t reveal its name or the nature of work because of confidentiality.”

He thinks a time has come to move to a “more secular, democratically distributed model in outsourcing, which has no geographic boundaries and simply seeks out the best, assembles it and gives it to the consumer.”

For his Mumbai team, this is a model to die for. “Not only does it make a world of difference in spending more time with your family without compromising on your professional commitment, it also enhances productivity,” says Tushar Dave, who along with Rathi was the first to join in Mumbai. “It was our decision, we told Prabhat we don’t want an office in Mumbai,” he adds.

Birendra Yadav and Anand Vardharajan came on board next and endorsed this decision. In his former job Birendra did a daily three-hour commute and says happily, “There are a host of reasons to work for Anantara, but for this one benefit alone I would continue to work here; my daughter is one-year-old and I get to spend so many more precious moments with her!” Vardharajan loves chess, but for the last three years had to virtually give it up; “now I play chess again!” And, he spends more time with his wife; he got married last year.

Savio Koman, another team member, can finally take lessons for the guitar he had bought sometime ago.

To the question whether they miss chatting/gossiping at the office water-cooler, Prabhat quips: “They do it at the customer’s water-cooler!”

While he declines to disclose the number of employees at Anantara, which is not only lean in physical assets but also the number of employees because “we don’t insist on doing everything ourselves”, Prabhat says he was very lucky to have eight senior executives from Satyam leave with him to form Anantara. “Therefore in forming the management team there was no difficulty at all. We had a good mix of people who took care of geographic responsibilities, competence and verticals.”

While hiring other employees he looked at “strong operational background because you have to improve the customer’s operations, and need to understand manufacturing, financial services, media and entertainment.” Next came people with technology skills and performance management skills. “To help your customer improve his operations, his team has to partner with you. So the ability to manage change in customer locations was necessary.”

Anantara services customers in the US, Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Dubai, India and China; “I can’t reveal names but we have acquired two Fortune 100 customers. These are customers that have contracts with the best of companies in India and multinationals, so they have a choice and they’ve picked us,” adds Prabhat, whose company started operations in early 2007.

As for the future, he says that till now the “outsourcing segment has been averse to outsourcing themselves. Why? Because they think by doing everything themselves they create massive profit enterprises. That is not going to be true any further.”

But won’t others adopt this model too?

“Very likely. But it will take a while because the existing large players cannot embrace this model without dismantling their models with a huge employee base. Our biggest threat is from new entrants. We are not so worried about big players taking on our model. We’ll dare them to — try doing what I am doing… which means they would endanger their current situation. So there is very little incentive for them to do it.”

On his biggest challenge, he says, “We can stumble in execution; if you analyse the merits of this business model as a strategy, there is little room for failure, because though new to the outsourcing industry it is well proven in other fields.

In manufacturing nobody tries to do the whole job himself.” He is not anxious about delivering quality to his end-customers; “right now our scale is so small that by personal monitoring, we can manage for now, but slowly institutional mechanisms are taking over.”

But his one regret is on the gender front, as the male-female ratio of the workforce is 90:10. “We are trying very hard to improve this; for a company that is so democratic in its bias the last thing we want is gender bias,” he adds.

Source: Hindu Business Line

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Narayan Murthy on Respect

It was the latter part of May 1981 when the seven founders of Infosys met at my apartment in Mumbai to decide on the objectives for Infosys. The conversation ranged from becoming the software company with the highest revenue in India to becoming the company with the highest profits and the highest market capitalisation.

After a passionate four-hour debate based on data and facts, in what was to become the Infosys norm, we decided to strive to become India’s most respected software services company. Our logic was that in striving for respect we would ensure that we did not shortchange our customers; were fair and open with our colleagues; transparent and accountable to our investors; fair to our vendor-partners; did not violate the law of the land wherever we operated; and created goodwill in society.

Indeed, these values are at the foundation of our value system – CLIFE (customer focus, leadership by example, integrity and transparency, fairness and excellence in execution). Our vision is to become a globally respected corporation, providing best-of-breed, end-to-end business solutions leveraging technology and employing best-in-the-class professionals.

Why has Infosys been cited as the most respected company more often than any other company in India? It is clearly due to our steadfast commitment to CLIFE. This recognition by Businessworld is yet another pat on our back. Such acts of generosity, kindness and encouragement will keep us working harder and smarter to continue our quest for respect. Thank you, Businessworld. We, Infoscions, are grateful to you.

We emphasise the importance of respect from our stakeholders from the very first day new Infoscions walk into our Global Education Centre at the Mysore campus. I learnt pretty early in my career that the best way to make my colleagues return to our offices happy and enthusiastic every morning was to make Infosys more and more respectable. Every time I address a new batch, as part of the orientation, I tell them that I can guarantee them only three things at Infosys. First, their respect and dignity will be maintained and enhanced in every transaction. Second, the company will always conduct itself in a fair and ethical manner so that they will never have to hang their head in shame in front of their loved ones and friends. Third, and finally, they will be able to learn three times more than in any other environment. Youngsters like it because they are idealistic, the respect of peers and family matters to them the most, and they place a high premium on learning. I am glad that Infosys has lived up to its promises so far.

We ensure that we put the interest of the customer highest in everything we do. The customer champions within the company fiercely defend the interest of the customer in every action of ours. Let me demonstrate this philosophy with an example. In July 1996, we had signed a project contract with a customer in Canada. The customer champion had promised to start the project on a certain Monday. Our project team was to leave India for Canada on the prior Friday. However, there was a delay in obtaining visas from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi.

It became apparent by Wednesday that the team would not be able to travel to Canada on Friday. Our customer champion insisted that we have to start the project the next Monday, else the client MIS Director would look bad in front of his people. Hence, a decision was taken to inform the Client MIS Director that he could start the first phase of the project taken up on Monday with a vendor of his choice and that we would defray the difference between our price and the cost to the customer. As great admirers of Mahatma Gandhi, Infoscions believe that the best instrument of creating trust in our people is to lead by example and by walking the talk. Whether it is coming to the office early, working hard, sacrificing financial and material comfort to reduce costs, or focusing on excellence in execution, the managers at Infosys always lead from the front.

Integrity is the lifeblood of our existence as Infoscions. We can excuse incompetence but not lack of integrity. One of the most difficult decisions we have taken was choosing integrity over talent in the case of an extraordinary individual that we let go several years ago. Integrity is predicated upon our belief that we must always stand by our word. That is why the phrase ‘under-promise, over-deliver’ is a much revered motto at Infosys. Investors understand that every business will have its ups and downs. What they want the management to do is to bring bad news proactively and early.

This is why transparency becomes very important. Our belief in transparency is driven by our desire to disclose when in doubt. Infosys has always believed in bringing any possible bad news voluntarily to its investors. I can recount several examples. Bringing the news of loss of business from our biggest client, our loss due to investments in the secondary stock market, forecasting a slower growth in 2001, and admitting early the possible financial liability in a harassment case are a few of these.

Fairness is the foundation on which all happy and sustainable relationships are built. The best instrument of ensuring fairness is using data and facts to decide on every transaction. My discussions with younger colleagues tell me that they are willing to accept an adverse decision as long as we go through a fair and due process, use data and facts to arrive at a transparent decision, and provide full opportunity to the affected individual to present his or her data. So we live by the maxim: ‘In God we trust, everybody else brings data to the table’.

Excellence in execution is extremely important since brands are built on product or service experience. No rhetoric will convince a customer as much as delivering more than you promised. We believe that our actions speak the loudest and that they create trust in every stakeholder. Hence, the focus at Infosys is on execution rather than words. That is why, even today, we spend most of our time enhancing the quality of recruitment, training and project execution. Every week, we receive reports on how clean our security gates are since they are the first touch points for our stakeholders.

Another important aspect of excellence in execution is the speed of response to requests, suggestions and grievances from our stakeholders, particularly, fellow Infoscions. Every mail we receive is answered within 24 hours with a suitable action initiated, if not completed. In the end, respect comes from creating trust and confidence in every transaction with your stakeholders. Let us remember that performance brings trust and confidence, trust and confidence bring respect, respect brings recognition and recognition brings power. That is the mantra at Infosys.

Source: Businessword

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Godfather

This is one movie which I can say is as good as or better than the original book written by Mario Puzo. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino immortalized The Godfather. There would be hardly any guy who will watch this movie and not like it.

When Harry Met Sally

An excellent romantic comedy about the battle of the sexes. It potrays in the best possible manner how men and women are so fundamentally different, yet how they can't live without each other. Excellent acting by Billy Crystal (Harry) and Meg Ryan (Sally)

Scent of a Woman

Al Pacino plays a blind major who looses his eye sight in an accident. This movie potrays the power of an individual personality at its best. The acting and dialogues by Pacino are abolute fireworks. Other must see Al Pacino movies are Godfather Part 1, Part 2 and Scarface.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Globalization

Got this particular quote while reading "World is flat" by Tom Freidman. This is one of the best books on the topic of Globalization.

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friendship

"A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is one of the best quotes on friendship that I have come across. Most of the times we do so many things we don't like or say things we don't mean just to be agreeable and not go against the tide of commonly held beliefs and opinions.
If you really need to know who your true friends are then apply the above test. It will tell you how many true friends you have.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Live a Life that Matters

Live A Life That Matters, Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear. So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.It won't matter where you came from, or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end. It won't really matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured? What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got, but what you gave.What will matter is not your success, but your significance.What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.What will matter is not your competence, but your character.What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident. It's not a matter of circumstance but of choice.Choose to live a life that matters.

Monday, April 30, 2007

IF - Rudyard Kipling

[IF]

If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don't deal in lies, Or being hated, don't give way to hating, And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and DisasterAnd treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you; If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

Phil Fisher on Investing

15 Points to Look for in a Common Stock
  1. Does the company have products or services with sufficient market potential to make possible a sizeable increase in sales for at least several years?
  2. Does the management have a determination to continue to develop products or processes that will still further increase total sales potentials when the growth potentials of currently attractive product lines have largely been exploited?
  3. How effective are the company's research and development efforts in relation to its size?
  4. Does the company have an above-average sales organization?
  5. Does the company have a worthwhile profit margin?
  6. What is the company doing to maintain or improve profit margins?
  7. Does the company have outstanding labor and personnel relations?
  8. Does the company have outstanding executive relations?
  9. Does the company have depth to its management?
  10. How good are the company's cost analysis and accounting controls?
  11. Are there other aspects of the business, somewhat peculiar to the industry involved, which will give the investor important clues as to how outstanding the company will be in relation to its competition?
  12. Does the company have a short-range or long-range outlook in regard to profits?
  13. In the foreseeable future, will the growth of the company require sufficient equity financing so that the larger number of shares then outstanding will largely cancel the existing stockholders' benefit from this anticipated growth?
  14. Does the management talk freely to investors about its affairs when things are going well but "clam up" when troubles or disappointments occur?
  15. Does the company have a management of unquestionable integrity?

Five Don'ts for Investors

  1. Don't buy into promotional companies.
  2. Don't ignore a good stock just because it is traded "over-the-counter."
  3. Don't buy a stock just because you like the "tone" of its annual report.
  4. Don't assume that the high price at which a stock may be selling in relation to its earnings is necessarily an indication that further growth in those earnings has largely been already discounted in the price.
  5. Don't quibble over eighths and quarters.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Warren Buffetts Rules for Investing Success

  1. Ascertain the true quality of a company and its top managers.
  2. Stockholders are not managers. They should leave the running of the firm to competent managers with integrity.
  3. Don't invest in businesses you don't understand.
  4. Give help and advice if they want it, but let the managers make their own decisions.
  5. Never, ever break the law.
  6. Owners are owners and managers are managers - but they should work as partners
  7. Keep your distance from the market. You will understand the business better !

Friday, February 02, 2007

Theodore Levitt on Data

Data do not yield information except with the intervention of the mind. Information does not yield meaning except with the intervention of imagination.

- Theodore Levitt

Deming on Performance Measurement

What gets measured gets done.

Edward Deming