Archive for October, 2011

Why #iDontLike Steve Jobs

Monday, October 31st, 2011 October 31st, 2011 J Jagannath

You tend to take people for granted as long as they are alive: be it your parents or, as it turned out to be, Steve Jobs. At least that’s what I gleaned looking at the outpouring of grief on social networking websites. #iSad was a top Twitter trend and that gloomy emoticon all I could see on my Facebook timeline. Once the brouhaha subsided I asked my friend, who is an avid Apple fan, what he loved about Steve Jobs. He said that his products were otherworldly, compact and any gadget freak’s dream.

He was one of those mule-headed people into whom I couldn’t instill any sense of this madness and this is what I would have told him. Steve Jobs is not a visionary like Thomas Edison as those fawning newspaper obituaries would have you believe. Edison created electricity. In comparison, Jobs only had to offer digital knick-knacks like iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Have they made any profound difference to anyone’s life is a million-dollar question. Electricity, for sure, did. Jobs is at best a terrific salesman. Like any astute salesman he made us believe that we needed these products that we didn’t even know we needed at all. He commodified music through his ginormous devices to the extent that the current generation doesn’t even know what it like is to listen to an original lossless track. He combined his sense of calligraphy and fine arts to create these sleek devices that are good but I doubt if they are ground breaking. The current fad for size zero figures has its roots in the way Jobs made us believe that sleek is the new cool.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wasn’t terribly impressed with Jobs either, “The iPhone and the iPad may be aesthetically perfect, but in an otherwise stagnant society their charms can be an invitation to solipsism — holding up mirrors to our vanity, instead of opening windows to breakthroughs more impressive than the latest app.” Here was a man who ensured that the sweatshops like Foxconn in China met his unreasonable demands. So excruciating were his demands that workers of Foxconn killed themselves. Why didn’t he generate jobs in the USA where the unemployment rate has for long been plateaud at the ten per cent mark? Why generate more jobs in downtrodden countries like Philippines where there are more Apple employees than government employees?

So as you see he was just another businessman who doesn’t deserve to be lionised as the poster child of modern-day technology. He never propagated open source software. It took lot of chivvying from his cohorts before he deigned to release iTunes for Windows users. Don’t get me wrong here, I have nothing against this man and the eight-billion-dollar fortune that he amassed. No one can deny the fact that his products are incredibly good.

It’s just that we need to realise that there’s a fine line between fandom and naivety.

Power Play

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 October 25th, 2011 Shibangi DasShibangi Das

It is surprising to observe what power or access to power can do to most human beings.

Some friends and I were standing outside a mall, saying those extended goodbyes that come about when college friends get together and reminisce the good old days. There was a lady with her shopping cart full of things, waiting for her husband to get the car from the parking lot. Out of nowhere, an old SUV comes along - full of women in the backseat and driven by a man who looked positively inebriated - in reverse and bumps the lady to catch her off guard. She begins to shout out to the driver, who is oblivious to her shock, anger and the glares of the bystanders. He continues to take the car in reverse. While the lady moved aside, she couldn’t pull her shopping cart out of the car’s way in time, prompting everyone around to start shouting out to the driver to watch where he was going.

The driver stopped. Dazed and obviously simmering from being told that he was wrong, he looks out of his window and asked in a sinister tone, “what’s wrong?” He clearly was warning us against telling him what was wrong. The matter then escalated to a full-blown argument between him and some five of us among the bystanders. None of could understand how he was so unapologetic about his carelessness and moreover so arrogant. Even the mall’s security guard stood timidly in a corner, saying nothing. Knowing that this was going to be a futile exercise, the public decided to ignore the drunk driver, who then had no choice, but to go back and drive his car.

It was obvious afterwards why so. The number of his car revealed he was associated with a major political party with considerable clout. The man was very evidently nonchalant about his mistake and his unwillingness to even come anywhere close to accepting it. People just deiced to go their own ways after helping the lady with her shopping cart.

It took me back to a certain case study discussion that dealt with power and access to power. While the concept in sociology is quite contested and does not have a particular definition, certain situations bring power play among social group to the fore very prominently. Marx’s sociological theory of conflict with the ruling class oppressing the subject class by virtue of its ownership and control of resources fits in here to quite an extent. But the resistance, and the subsequent lack of attention to the “ruling class” member here reflects the general state of affairs in the country; in fact all over the world. It is not long before the indifference will turn into a raging movement that will turn the entire power game topsy-turvy.
Had the public decided to bring the man to task, I am fairly positive he would have preferred to made a half-hearted apology than be stubborn and get his bosses involved in a matter so trivial. But in this case, indifference was the best solution, since the man was revelling in the attention. It was a smart move to deny the very thing that was proving the fuel for his arrogance.

This is a subject very often talked about. What I have written has been very often said and written about too. We see new agitations brewing up in every corner of the world every second day. Dictatorship doesn’t work any longer - look at West Asia and North Africa. From the looks of it, neither does democracy - look at the US and India. All other prevalent from of governance seem to be exposing their flaws big time too. We need clarity in thought, freshness in execution and the optimism to see it all through.

On a lighter note, the first two are amply available on social media fora like Twitter and blogs such as these. I wonder how we are still as pained and wronged a society as we claim to be despite the pearls of wisdom floating about in the all-pervasive cyberspace.

But, to put in a serious thought, we need the third to make it possible.

What’s wrong with the IITs?

Thursday, October 20th, 2011 October 20th, 2011 Kalpana PathakKalpana Pathak

The IITs and IIMs are every government’s darling. So it is understandable when a politician such as Mr Jairam Ramesh, an IIT alumnus, for no apparent reason, declares that IITs have world-class students but not world-class teachers.

What comes as a surprise though is when figures like Mr N R Narayana Murthy say the quality of IIT students is sub-standard.

Coming from someone from an industry that knows the pulse of engineering institutes, it is rather disappointing to hear Mr Murthy’s comments. Specially, after knowing how the education sector has suffered at the hands of our revered politicians.

And what are we talking about. Isn’t it true that for the majority of students, an IIT degree is all about getting a big fat pay cheque from an MNC bank or consulting firm? So where does being a “quality engineer” come into play?

Can we explain why 80 per cent of IITians go to IIMs? Why don’t they pursue their masters degree and seek a career in teaching or research?

Also, why do most recruiters go gaga over these not-so-good engineers or managers?

Or better still, why don’t majority of IITians opt to work for Mr Murthy’s company and prefer going to companies like Google instead?

The state that our IITs and IIMs are in today is largely because of the our politicians and their policies.

Can institutes which seek every penny from the government and its permission even to spend it, be expected to compete internationally?

Why do people not question various governments and their MHRD ministers who have always considered it their right to meddle into the business of these institutes (introducing SC/ST and OBC quotas for instance). Stifling their growth.

Can some one explain why a decade old institute like an Indian School of Business finds its place in international rankings but the 50 year old IIMs can’t?

Why the IITs have been slipping the international rankings and today none of them figure in the top 200 engineering schools in the world?

The IIT directors will tell you that most students who can afford to pay better, never come to the IITs. They go international.

Quality is a good word but not thought of when it was decided to admit one half of IIT students via reservation through SC/ST and OBCs; when the student teacher ratio deteriorates from 6:1 to 12:1 and when there are no teachers to teach and still new IITs are set up (taking the numbers from 6 to 15).

Take any corporate czar and you know his children are studying at the prestigious Ivy leagues. Why can’t they study at an IIT or an IIM?

The problem with the IITs and IIMs is that every government loves them so much that they can’t let go of them. And then there are industry heads like Mr Murthy who do nothing much beyond giving public speeches on their quality.

There are hundreds of management and engineering institutes which are in a mess but no one, including the government is bothered. The AICTE gives clearance to new B-schools year after year, without considering the demand factor.

Leave the IITs and IIMs on their own, and you may see another Harvard or MIT in the making.

And I witnessed history

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 October 19th, 2011 Namrata Acharya

Last month, soon after a visit to the Liberty and Twin Tower Memorial, I was having my favourite flat bread sandwich at Subway with Pakistani and Argentine journalists, when a sudden march of more than a dozen New York policemen and women, gigantic by all standards, turned everyone’s head.

The scene resembled some typical Bollywood flick where policemen in disguise of buying a sandwich were on the look out for a possible convict who had just managed to dig a tunnel and slip out of the jail.

Outside, right at the heart of America’s financial district in Manhattan, young American Turks were shouting anti-establishment slogans. It was anyone’s guess that the Police had come to look for some protester, rather than a bite of Subway salad that afternoon.

It was September 17th, the day, the Occupy Wall Street Movement had started. That day I read the protests as nothing more than ruckus by bunch of college kids, throwing tantrums on rich parents on a Sunday afternoon.

Now, when I see those scary images of riots on local television channels in India, I realise, I witnessed history.

Back at Manhattan, The New York Stock Exchange Building that day was as silent as the Calcutta Stock Exchange (a regional stock exchange in India, dysfunctional over the last decade), encircled by half mast American flags, due to the commemoration week of the 10th anniversary of 911 attacks. The Wall Street Bull was bearish with Police escorts on all sides.

Just a day before, as a spectator at the New York Times morning edit meet, I remember one of the stories being pitched for the front page was the beginning of an era of democratic protests, with Anna Hazare in India as one of the examples. However, the story had no mention of protests in the biggest democracy, the United States of America. At that time, (only about four weeks ago), the protesters were seen as a group without leadership, fascinated by the revolt in Egypt, deserving no comparison with the Tea Party movement.

“Inspired by the peaceful occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo, tonight we are are coming together in Times Square to show the world that the power of the people is an unstoppable force of global change. Today, we are fighting back against the dictators of our country - the Wall Street banks - and we are winning,” said Linnea Palmer Paton, 23, a student at New York University. (This is from the Occupy Wall Street website press release).

About fifteen days later after my New York trip, I was in Chicago. At a strategic location between the Chicago Federal Reserve Office and the Chicago Board of Trade, I saw similar protests, although with more caustic slogans. “Say Goodbye to US$”, and “Free Market, my A$$” and Hitler’s bankers - Wall Street” had replaced “Wall Street is destroying America”, and “people over profit”.

By then, these Young Turks were in the Wall Street Journal, if not in Wall Street, and Tahrir Square was relegated to the inside pages of most American newspapers.

But, inside Chicago Mercantile Exchange, it was a different world. It is one of the few exchanges where open outcry still is in vogue. Behind the chaos of screaming brokers and the red and green flash lights of price movements, and paper bits scattered all over the floor, some of biggest trades of the day in Soya and Corn were going on in perfect harmony.

Again a few weeks later I was back at Minnesota on the last leg of my fellowship and I heard protests in this pristine city of the Midwest.

Now, back in India, I hear what started as( what I thought ) as tantrums by errant kids, has spread to Europe and Asia. From London to Rome, there are scenes of violent protests.

So my Subway sandwich was indeed historic!

Let’s see what’s in store for India. Occupy Dalal Street or Mint Road?

The Great Vietnamese Balancing Act

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011 October 18th, 2011 Devjyot Ghoshal

 So there have been threats, and veiled threats. Then there have been warnings, covert warnings and, if may I add, overt warnings. There have also been confrontations, demands, posturing, assertions and increasing aggressiveness.
 
In fact, the waters of the South China Sea have seen more action in the last three months than any other littoral zone in the Asia Pacific.
 
Starting with the report of an Indian naval vessel, the INS Airavat, being “confronted” by an unidentified Chinese ship (thereafter conveniently branded as a Chinese warship) off the coast of Vietnam in August, sections of the Indian media have hee-hawed at every instance of Beijing making a statement about the disputed waters.
 
After years of near-complete neglect, the Indian press literally wiped the dust off its maps of the region and Vietnam suddenly returned to the news agenda. Almost overnight, there was a magical mass realisation of the country’s pivotal position in India’s Look East policy and the economic (and historical) ties that exist between the two nations.
 
And if Foreign Minister SM Krishna’s visit to Hanoi revived interest, Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang’s arrival in India stoked further curiosity.
 
It’s an almost forgotten matter that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee have made separate trips to the country in the last 12 months. Chief of the Army Staff General VK Singh, too, dropped by last year, the first by any Army chief in the last 15 years.
 
But in all the excitement over India’s purportedly rediscovered partnership with Vietnam, one crucial development has been virtually overlooked: the Great Vietnamese Balancing Act.      
 
Almost at the same time that President Sang made his pitch for closer cooperation with New Delhi, Hanoi despatched Nguyen Phu Trong, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, essentially the country’s top leader, to Beijing.
 
And as President Sang reinforced his country’s interest to continue its economic relations with India, particularly oil and gas related exploration activities in the South China Sea, Secretary Trong settled on a six-point agreement for creating a mechanism to try straightening out the maritime dispute between Beijing and Hanoi.
 
Days later, all the diplomacy of the previous weeks is now seemingly forgotten. Xinhua, China’s official state news agency, reports that Beijing wants “other countries to respect its agreement with Vietnam on maritime issues” after the Philippines, also a party to the South China Sea dispute, demanded a multilateral resolution.
 
And the India media has not only jumped on a commentary in China’s Global Post newspaper that denounces India’s interest in energy assets in the waters off Vietnam, Indian correspondents from Beijing report that Chinese state-controlled media is making a case for Vietnam to backtrack on its recent oil and gas deal with India.
 
So there: we are back to the threats, and veiled threats. And Vietnam continues to walk a fine line.
 

Bring back the single screens

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 October 11th, 2011 Aabhas Sharma

When I was four years old my parents took me to watch Sholay in a theatre where it was running for the last 11 years. They made it a point to take me and my brother every year to see Sholay in the hall, till they stopped playing it. I am not a huge movie buff in the sense that my life is not incomplete if I don’t watch a movie every weekend. But yes, I do enjoy watching movies and at times I eagerly wait for certain movies to release.

As a teenager, I used to have this fascination of watching movies “first day, first show”. It used to make you feel superior to others who still hadn’t seen it. (Confession: I have actually seen some of the worst movies of all time — Sharukh Khan-starrer Oh Darling Yeh Hai India and Katrina Kaif’s forgettable debut flick Boom – first day first show). Don’t judge me but yes as a teenager in a small town there are limited options of entertainment. I bunked school with friends and watch movies in the hall and I used to enjoy the going to the movie hall.

But these days I hardly go out and watch movies in the hall. Not because the quality of cinema is bad or I have lost interest in movies but I just find going to a multiplex in a mall a big pain. If it’s on the weekends, then there’s nothing more annoying than actually going to a mall for a movie. Parking is a pain, there are too many people and invariably watching a movie becomes exhausting. Not to forget, on weekends the tickets are a rip-off in multiplexes. I mean Rs 275 for Zindagi na Milegi Dobara is daylight robbery. It happens sometimes when both me and my wife are keen to watch a particular movie.

This Sunday, me and a friend visited the book market in Daryaganj and we crossed Golcha theatre which was playing the John Abraham-starrer Force and I saw loads of people waiting for the ticket counter to open. There used to be a certain charm that standalone single screen theatres exuded. The crowd, the atmosphere, the hooting and the whistling just added to the experience of watching a movie.

I would be lying if I said that I don’t enjoy the comforts the multiplex provides but as I said it’s too much of an effort to watch a movie in the hall these days. So while having multiplexes in malls is wonderful, there is a need to keep the single screens alive as well. Sometimes the experience of watching a movie is better than the movie itself. And that is something a multiplex can never provide.

Lone ranger

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 October 11th, 2011 Pablo ChaterjiPablo Chaterji

‘So, where are you travelling to this month?’ I get asked this question very often, and not just on a monthly basis; it’s normally a feature of most conversations I have with friends and acquaintances. I can almost predict the exact moment in a conversation when the query will arrive – that’s how often it happens. I usually smile to myself and answer as truthfully as I can; I say ‘as I can’ because I usually don’t know where I’m going to go until the very last minute. The next question that normally arrives is ‘Are you going to go alone?’ I’ve learnt that this is a no-win question. If I say ‘No’ then they’re disappointed, because I’m obviously going with someone other than them; a ‘Yes’ answer leads to yet another question – ‘But don’t you feel lonely?’ 

 

I always answer in the negative to that question, but I have to admit that it’s something I think about, every now and then. Is it nicer to travel on your own, or is the presence of a travelling partner preferable? Back when I first began doing road trips for BSM, my preference was very decidedly for the former. I had never before been given an opportunity to go forth and explore the country, and I was determined to do it all by myself; I didn’t want to be tied down by the preferences of a fellow traveller, selfish as that sounds. Thus I hit upon possible destinations at the last moment, often with my finger tracing patterns on a map, and set off for said destination, full of beans. In many cases, I never ended up at the point on the map that I had selected, because along the way, a right turn leading to a completely different place had looked more interesting than the left turn going to the original spot. 

 

This kind of thing is really only possible if you’re on your own – no debate, no weighing things up with someone else, just turn the wheel and go. The same thing applied once I had arrived at a given destination – on my own, I was free to explore at my own pace (or, indeed, to lie in my hotel bed and watch a cricket match, as I have done on occasion), without having to take anybody else’s opinion into consideration. Being a person who’s pretty intensely protective about my privacy, this works rather well for me. 

 

On the other hand, I would be lying through my teeth if I said that travelling companions are not fun. Two of the best trips I’ve ever done were memorable not so much because of the places I had gone to, but because I had travelled with my best friends; one of them later died in a car crash, so the memories from those trips remain deeply etched in my mind. When the Mahindra Xylo had just been launched, I ferried a close bunch of friends in it to Goa and back, and it was definitely a rip-roaring journey. Sure, multiple people (and their spouses) meant multiple points of view and various suggestions about everything from toilet-halts to how much fuel to fill, but we laughed and bickered through everything in a manner that was mutually acceptable to all, as it were – and I would definitely do it all over again, given the opportunity. As for the question of ‘feeling lonely’, I think the best answer is that I’m not lonely when I travel, I’m alone – and there’s a big difference between the two. 

 

I Have Been Blacklisted

Friday, October 7th, 2011 October 7th, 2011 Praveen Bose

I have found some recognition. Nonetheless, it comes from the cobbler who runs his trade quite close to my house.

The cobbler, who I have known since the year 1990, does not consider me a stranger. Not that he smiles when he meets my eye. But, we recognise each other.

Over the years, he has gone from running his trade on the footpath, under the open sky and just the tree for shade, now has a tin shed or what can be called a cabin. He would definitely call it a cabin. So also has he graduated from mending shoes and ‘chappals’ to mending bags and travel bags and suitcases.

Not that he has given up on footwear altogether. He prefers to build shoes from a flat piece of leather and design footwear that he likes to see on people’s feet. He doesn’t like to even look at what others may have stitched together into a shoe.

“I have black-listed you,” he said the other day day when I went to get a shoe of mine mended.

Gone are the days when it was “cobbler, cobbler mend my shoes. I will come by half past two. Stitch it up and stitch it down. Then I will give you half a crown.”

Our man probably teaches his kids “client, client buy your shoe. You better come half past two. You open your mouth, and, you be sure I will break your crown”.

“You don’t tell me what to do or what a footwear needs. Am I the shoemaker or you?”

“I don’t want to see you again. Take what I give and at the price I give you. I don’t like people who bargain.”

Now I am left dragging my shoe whose sole has come off for over a kilometre just to get get it repaired. I have to find a cobbler now who doesn’t recognise me.

Jobs and his impact on Indian CEOs

Friday, October 7th, 2011 October 7th, 2011 Priyanka JoshiPriyanka Joshi

Sitting in Cupertino, he visualized how people across the globe would alter their gadget habits and predicted what they would appreciate. That was Steve Jobs. Mass-market was a term he did not live by and we’re glad he chose quality over everything else.

Even though we may argue that India never became that “consumption market” for Apple devices, the 56-year old visionary sure made an impact that multiplied virally among the young consumers and got our globe-trotting Indian CEOs hooked to the brand.

Here are some voices that you would be glad you read.

***
Raj Nayak
CEO, Colors

I woke up this morning to see an email from my daughter in Los Angeles letting me know that Steve Jobs had died. My twitter was abuzz with tributes to the man who some say was the greatest visionary of our time. It occurred to me that even though I had never met the man, he influenced me and so many others in a profound way that I cannot fully express with words. Jobs, and by default, Apple revolutionized technology as we know it. From the iPod that changed the way we listen to music, to the iPad that changed the way we live our lives, his creations were the stepping stone to technological advancement. He made computers user-friendly to the point where everyone from the age of 4 can now skill fully use one making even a person like me feel tech savvy.

I don’t think there is any place one can travel on the face of the earth that has not been touched by Jobs and his work. Although Jobs was primarily known for Apple, he was also the creator of Pixar, an animation company that gave us Toy Story and Finding Nemo, movies that played a pivotal role in the lives of so many of our children. In India too, he was the icon of the educated young generation.

However, Steve Jobs will stay with me forever not because of the achievements he made in his career, but rather because of the philosophy that he preached, one that we can all learn from. His 2005 Stanford commencement speech is perhaps one of the most eloquent and meaningful speeches I have ever heard.

When addressing the question of death, he simply stated “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

“There are many people who get recognition when they are alive, only a few get recognition in death & those who do, become immortal. Steve jobs is one of them, as someone said on twitter today, he will trend forever.” I may not have known Steve Jobs, but I do know that he is one of the few great men who had the courage and conviction to follow his heart and for that he will always be an inspiration to me.

***

Alok Kejriwal
CEO & founder, Games2Win

I have had some amazing experiences at the Apple iStore:

Once, when I was looking for an iPhone accessory, the usual friendly ‘Blue Tee’ Apple store employee came up to me and asked me what I wanted. Before I answered, I felt a little uncomfortable – he was not looking at me while speaking but rather to the side. In the another second, a large Labrador dog brushed passed me and that’s when I realized that the employee was sight impaired and the dog was his guide. The person helped me like any other employee did and I was stunned – because this taught me that the world’s greatest tech companies puts what matters first – people

In most Apple stores, I had got used to standing quietly in queues and then approaching the counter for the product and making payments etc. In the Santa Monica store, the store assistant asked if I would like to ‘pay’. I bit confused I said ‘yes’ and gave her my credit card. She swiped it on her iPhone there and then (using Square -https://squareup.com/) and then came the best part – the small invoice (which also now I only request via e-mail) printed under the table via ‘hidden’ printers. So, this store had NO ‘cashier’ counters – no real estate that had nothing to do with the product!

What I like about Apple Stores the most is their ability to surprise. Once I returned a pair of earphones whose side ‘rubber’ rim had worn off. The employee took the ear phone inside, and then returned saying ‘Sir, these are 1.6 years old – they are beyond the guarantee period but here is a new pair just because we love you.

***

Jaspreet Bindra
Regional Director: Retail, Entertainment & Devices: India at Microsoft

Steve Jobs was a visionary – he rewrote the rules of the music and the communication business, and helped shape the PC and technology industry to what it is today. To me personally, his biggest impact was to bring a sense of product design and aesthetics to what were considered as ‘industrial’ products. This is reflected in the almost austere simplicity he brought to technology – his products look good and work well. His famous Stanford address encouraging people to ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’ has inspired me not to be afraid to challenge the status quo, to think out of the box, and celebrate creativity and innovation.

To quote Bill Gates, “The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had…for those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor.” For those who were not lucky enough to work with him to, it was an insanely great honour too.

***

Devita Saraf
CEO, Vu Technologies

We lived in the time of Steve Jobs. Great human beings go down history when their actions have a profound impact on the lives of the people in that era. Steve Jobs’ products, through which
he expressed his creativity and leadership, are about complex technology that have been made simple. Simplicity itself it’s a great challenge. Two weeks ago I was in a restaurant in Lower Parel where the waiters were taking the orders on an iPad. None of them seemed computer literate but the ease with which their fingers tapped away just showed the brilliance of Apple’s products. I hope that schools and colleges will be inspired by Jobs’ style of creative leadership and pass it down to their students, and say that its ok to be different. The path to succeed is not only about being the best, but also being comfortable in being different.

Thank you, Steve for your living example.

***

Nishant Verman
Associate at Canaan Partners India

Here’s an easy exercise. Think of a CEO who is more worried about delighting his customers than pleasing Wall Street. A leader bold enough to reinvent established markets because he truly understands what his customer wants. A founder forced out of his own company, but his passion for his ‘baby’ brought him back, and led him to greatness. I am sure there’s only one person that comes to mind – Steve Jobs.

For me, Jobs embodies the most important characteristic of a leader, founder and CEO – the almost maniacal focus and drive to rally his team around understanding and fulfilling customer needs. From my iPod to the iPad, each device is testament to Jobs’ vision to make my experiences as a consumer rich and enjoyable. Many years ago when I first heard of the iPod, I never realized how deliberate the “i” was in the branding. Today I look back and the vision is simple and clear, each promise that was made has been fulfilled. I start my day jogging with Apple, at work call using Apple, and at night browse in my bed using Apple. I am a fulfilled customer.

For India and Indian companies, Steve Jobs holds an even more important aspirational role. At a time when we are transitioning from services to products, he is our guiding light for what a customer driven process should look like. That KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is not a bad thing. That your product can have all the bells and whistles, but not everything needs to be poking the user in the face. And of course, the importance of generating passion for your offering – can you get your customer to wait in the freezing cold overnight just to get their hands on your product?
I will miss you, Steve Jobs – as your loyal customer and ardent admirer. But you will live on forever in your products, and in the millions of products that you inspired. RIP.

***
Salil Bhargava
CEO, Zeebo Interactive Studios

I read about the passing of Steve Jobs on my iMac. As I think of the impact Jobs has had on me as a person, my 5-year-old daughter is doodling on the iPad and my 2½ year old son is playing angry birds on my iPhone. The beauty of his genius lies in the simplicity of the products he designed. If you can create a device that a 2½ year old to an 80 year old can use instinctively, then the people in between are merely a cake-walk.

It was his genius, which revolutionized the music industry with the iPod, and then again the gaming industry with the iPhone, iPad and the iTunes store. He gave a new lease of life to the mobile games industry and inspired a lot of us in the business to stay the course.

He was often quoted as saying, “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” I think he created a new universe. He was obsessive about product quality and built things to delight a consumer and empower actual users. The success of kids apps on the iPad made me believe that there is a huge untapped market for this space in India and led me to my current gig at Zeebo. One of the greatest joys in my career was to once be named by Mobile Entertainment magazine on a list of ’50 most influential people in mobile entertainment ’- simply because the list was topped by Steve Jobs. To my mind he was the greatest entrepreneur of our generation.

Shine on you crazy diamond. Ad-iOS

***

The Achuthan Da Vinci Code

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011 October 5th, 2011 Sundaresha Subramanian

In 2009, when late C Achuthan set out to rewrite the most important code (arguably, of course) for corporate India, he did not want it to be anything like the existing code, which some people say is as puzzling and intriguing as the Dan Brown thriller “The Da Vinci Code”.

The takeover code was then twelve years old, written roughly around the time I left junior college and probably conceived even earlier – clearly a relic of a bygone era. Subsequent amendments, explanations and informal guidances (whatever that means) provided by the regulator every now and then had made it such a maze which even experienced lawyers, with problem-solving minds to match the ‘Da Vinci’ hero Robert Langdon, would find hard to navigate.

Achuthan himself was very unflattering of the old code. “Clarity is lacking, and even the user constituency is not clear, and the regulator is also not clear at times,” he had told a TV channel soon after being appointed head of the Takeover Regulations Advisory Committee (TRAC).

And to be fair, he put in his best efforts and vast knowledge at work. A team of magnificent dozen toiled with him through almost a year, taking views and suggestions from every corner of the corporate world, academicians, lawyers, bankers, regulators, and investors  to sculpt a new brand new draft word by word. “It would have been over earlier had we gone suo motu,” Achuthan would tell me later.

When I had called a couple of Achuthan’s colleagues on the committee soon after his untimely death couple of weeks ago, first thing they recalled was how meticulously the TRAC chief ensured that all possible permutations and combinations were explored before each provision was finalised.

“We have made it more structured and easy to understand,”  Achuthan had told us, when myself and a former colleague, had caught him on camera soon after the draft was released on July 19, 2010.

Achuthan was a man of his word. He had promised us the first interview after the draft was released, at noon. We almost missed it having to race all the way from BKC, where the Sebi press conference was held to Nariman Point, where Corporate Law Chambers had its office.

We knew the man of few words had kept his word, when we saw editors and crew of a top channel walk in to the lift, we got off from after canning the QnA. “We’ve got global exclusive,” we pump fisted jokingly. Unfortunately, we could not release it on the paper’s website immediately due to some technical and procedural hiccups. By evening, Achuthan was on every channel and by morning, all over the papers. Our masterpiece got delayed, it got cut and by the time it got posted, we got a practical understanding of the phrase “Pyrrhic victory.”

We knew not then, the fate of our video was a precursor to the fate of the code itself.

It was no doubt a “Pyrrhic” one year and some for the new code having lost crucial body parts along the way, the agony completed with the loss of the chief author himself, four days before it saw the light.

Apart from the extensive rewriting, which Achuthan himself was visibly proud of, three defining elements of the new code were the new initial trigger at 25 Percent, a mandatory open offer for 100 percent to allow all shareholders an equal opportunity to exit and a wider definition for the term “control”.

But two of these key elements, the 100 percent offer and the control definition, were knocked off after lot of lobbying and some half-baked explanations.

While the loss of these key provisions no doubt affected the spirit of the code, even the letter of the code stands exposed today after additions and amputations done over the past year.

Provisions regarding to voluntary offers, delisting and creeping buys are some of the areas where the code reads either ambiguous or illogical, sometimes even both.

“Sebi has clearly missed the bus,” a TRAC member told me recently, when he agreed to my view on one of the above areas. He, however, completely rejected another interpretation, which some other lawyers said, the language of the new code had created.

It is precisely this, the possibility of a seemingly correct second answer, makes any puzzle that much more difficult to crack. It is precisely this –the possibility of more than one right locations on the same Rose line — made The Da Vinci code, frustrating for protagonists, though intriguing for readers.

This is probably what Achuthan wanted and toiled to avoid in his code when he spoke of  “clarity”. Unfortunately, and certainly for no fault of his, that was not to be. Like in Dan Brown’s code, the grand master is no longer around to solve the riddles.

Therefore, like in my high school days, corporate India will continue to be at the mercy of its ‘Robert Langdons’ to find a Holy Grail for its takeover trail.