Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Anatomy of attitude

Over the past few months, I have been curious to understand how a person's attitude gets formed or how does one become 'cool'. To ease the analysis, let me separate the world into two spheres; one being the Theatre of Perception and second being the Sphere of Reception. The theatre is the sphere where one is being looked at, analysed, dissected and then classified and sometimes crucified. This theatre could be walking on the road, college, office, retail mall , pub, basically any place where public perception is important in determining your worth and coolness. The second, the sphere of reception are places like your home, company of your close friends where perceptions do not matter , 'you are what you are'.
In the theatre of perception, there are three determinants of attitude. The first determinant is DNA. This is like the hardwired chipset of a computer. So suddenly if at age 16 one wants to come across as intelligent, it would be very difficult to do so unless ones DNAs do a trapeze act. Thankfully intelligence is so old-fashioned that smartness and google can get one out of most situations, nowadays. So there is something in the science of genetics which makes people born to a great pedigree cool. Saif Ali Khan is after all a Maharaja's son even though he wears baby pink T-shirts in Salaam Namaste.
The second determinant is your receptivity to the signals God, the world and other mortals keep giving. This is influenced to some extent by the alignment of stars when one is born, so a Leo is likely to be more aggressive. These signs are only indicative, nothing causal. Like good properties or bad properties in metals, they need the right catalysts to come on their own.

The third determinant is finally the softwiring which gets influenced by the catalysts and the ambient environment. The first 2 determinants give an exposed negative with certain characteristics but the third is the developer fluid. The most important catalyst is parenting. A dad who names his son Ramanathan Kosarapalli has killed almost 80% of his son's coolness potential. Unless the son manages to change it to Rock during his college days. Kids who are named Siddharth (Sid) are named lucky instead of born lucky.
The economic conditions of a kids upbringing also matter. A rich kid can be himself since money is not a concern, but a middle class kid has to be what is best for his family. Plus if that means spending more time solving complex differential equations to determine the specific gravity of cow's urine then he has little time to evolve to being cool. Rich kids have huge margins of safety ( euphemism for dads deep pockets).The other influencers are of course peer group, education and exposure to situations. If you hang out mostly with nerds, then your biggest kick would be to complete Age of Empires rather than read Erich Segal's Love Story.
But once you are in the Theatre of perception, looks do matter. There was a statistic that showed handsome and tall men performed better than others in life. So what if you dont have good looks, big pockets or a good name? The only option is to make every act in the theatre count. So the way you carry oneself, the clothes you wear, the way you handle a traffic cop, way you handle your boss, the sum total of all your interactions in a time sensitive world can give you some coolness. But if thats also lost, welcome to the world of uncool.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Career swaps

Imagine the following situation, there is a person A who is bored of a consulting career and wants to experience the thrill of joining a startup with its attendant risks and rewards. There is a person B who has been in a particular industry , but has stagnated a bit and can only join a startup/smaller org at a senior position. But currently his personal priorities prevent him from taking risks and he wants to join a consulting firm as an industry expert. It would be great if a career swap could be arranged for A and B. Like in derivatives, the key issues remain
1. Liquidity: Greater the number of people , greater the possibilities of swaps
2. Information/Credit risk: The more intangible the information, the greater the difficulty in structuring. So unless a proper rating system is established one cannot swap a A rated consultant with a B rated investment banker for instance.
3. Efficient market: Either good intermediaries or an efficient market is needed for such swaps.
One way for such swaps, is to have exchange programs between companies, just like the way it exists in various management institutes of different countries. It would be a great structured way of escaping corporate boredom that sets in a year or two.

Friday, August 26, 2005

100 chances of seeing the same face

The number of channels in India have exploded. But has anything changed fundamentally.
I still see the same faces who were around when I become a TV buff thanks to the pursuit of a boring engineering degree .
Shekhar Suman stole viewers' hearts with Dekh Bhai Dekh as Somu. A brilliant sitcom with great casting. The same Shekhar Suman now desperately tries to be comic on a few new comedy shows on Star One and looks stale and boring.
Sajid Khan is still around. He started with his Ikke pe Ikka on Zee Cinema. And his best probably was 'Kehne mein kya harj hai' on Sony where he used to review movies and pull up everyone in Bollywood. He then went into hiding since he overdid the parody and the flimsy egos of the industry were hurt. Then he made amends and latched on to SAB TV. And now he is back on Super Sale on Star One which vaguely reminds me of Tol Mol Ke Bol one of the earliest shows on Zee TV. What a full circle the circus has come to.
Javed Jaffrey was brilliant in his shows on Channel V in the late 90s. Flashback and Rewind were the best film based shows and his takeoffs on Pran and yesteryear heros was good. He alongwith his brother Naved and friend Ravi Behl gave us Boogie Woogie which was enjoyable for a long time thanks to the ready wit of the hosts and slick presentation. Today the entire set of characters is back on Kaboom a new dance show with Prabhu Deva.
I would not mind if someone got some brilliant TV actors of yesteryears.....Rajit Kapur, Pankaj Kapur ...SRK ??

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gods instant gratification

I had been to a South Indian temple in Mumbai. Matunga to be precise on Sunday. I dont know why some temples make you pray devoutly and some do not. Especially in Mumbai, temples are a commodity, there are more temples than sulabh shouchalays here.
As luck would have it, some key poojari ( priest) had come from Kerala to perform a pooja. As a result the darshan inside the temple was closed for around forty five minutes. During that time, all kinds of thoughts flew through my mind.
First phase was of deep devotion. I prayed for almost ten minutes . Then I started wondering I was either asking too much or repeating too much of the same things. Then I wondered whether I should be global(let me shine in my job) or specific(i should be promoted asap). After that came a phase of exasperation due to the wait time. So everything was cursed at. In an age of instant e-alerts, instant gratification is what the new generation needs. Why cant there be e-prayers or something, why does one have to wait, why there is a pujari between God and me, why should my darshan be dictated by his rituals blah blah.
The third phase of enlightenment dawned after half an hour had passed. He is the supreme Almighty after all. You came to see Him, seek His blessings. One can wait for half an hour for a skin specialist to clear pimples, prepaid call center of Hutch to provide a response, for a meeting which will give business if you listened to some curses, but cant wait for the Lords darshan? "Yaar ariva un maya leelagal, harihar nandanaye" ( who will understand your maya leela , O Lord) . We can all understand a bit if we all listen to the clues He gives all the time.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Independence day irony

A couple of days before Independence Day, the vendors and street urchins who sell lemon-chillies and balloons at traffic signals shift to selling flags and other such memorabilia. In fact they also have moved up the value chain from selling just flags to decorative pieces.
In the few seconds that car onwner gets, he decides either to buy it as a token or really muses what this country has given him. Especially with the Mumbai floods, his view on the country's progress would have taken a nosedive. I would not be surprised if this year flag sales in Mumbai have been lower than last year.
The impact of the vicious circle is so cruel. The people who have been most affected by the floods are the ones making flags, paav, dabbas etc which keep Mumbai running. But the epidemic scare has made people wary of buying dabbas and other stuff coming from places most affected by floods. Thus the affected people face a double whammy. Loss of savings/property plus loss of livelihood due to lower business.
Patriotism still continues to be sold by the people who are the most afflicted by poverty,malnutrition and other problems plaguing India to the people who have benefitted by the globalized and relatively better India. The people living in slums were the first to help the people trapped in cars during teh deluge. The car owners can say they pay high taxes which the government fails to utilize properly, but can they say that slums need to be removed so that faster highways enable better cars to zoom. I believe if this divide is not addressed soon we are going to see an alarming rise in crime or public violence. Just look at the stares when one stands in the separate line for first class to book a railway pass when there is a line of 25 at Andheri station. You will know what I am talking about.

The new 'pub'lic sound

"Tanu kaala chashma lag da ...." "... kajra re"... " deedar de" .. where would you expect to hear these songs?

A. From a Punjus car in Delhi with CDs sticking out on the rear window
B. From an auto rickshaw in Mumbai
C. From the happening pubs in Mumbai.
Its unlikely that your answer would be C. But surprise, surprise its true. If one goes to pubs like H2O in Bandra, the queen of suburbs in Mumbai, one would hear these songs. Its a new trend in a city which sweared by English songs while drinking, but sweared in chaste Hindi after the drinks. Yes there are dudes like Nikhil Chinnapa who say they would puke if pubs play Bhangra music and have gone underground to create some new type of sound. And yes there are some DJs who would refuse to play such songs unless the clock ticks past 11:30 pm or such sacred time. What has started this trend?
If one analyzes the standard clientele of the average pub or disc, its usually the wannable starlet types, or BPO workers smoking away the labour arbitrage or frust MBAs who are reluctant to pay cover charges when couples enter free. Obviously the starlets would find it better getting dance practice for the jhatkas and matkas from Hindi music rather than trance music. The BPO workers represent a generation that during its teens listened to Backstreet Boys, Boyzone and other such boy bands. So they are content with the occassional 50 cents , Superstar and other such hip-hop interspersed with Dus Bahane. That leaves the confused MBAs who listened to rock music during engineering (98% of Indian MBAs are engineers) . They cant go head banging in a disc.Plus years of lack of interaction with the fairer sex makes them gravitate to Hindi music's jhankaar beats with an intensity thats unparalleled.
Plus any DJ worth his tatoo can make extra money when the P-Series of the world make remix albums like Cute Kitten Mix or Barking Hyena Mix. Especially when the Raghavs of the world have attained global fame mixing bhangra beats , nonsensical English and whatever they could lay their hands on. So everybody is following the moolah and consumers do not seem to be complaining.
Tere Music mein aisa khoya jiya , .... ( Raghav you rock dude)...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Family feud unlocks conglomerate discount

Earlier in the 1980s, Wall Street invented the conglomerate discount theory to make sure large conglomerates demerged so that investors could understand the fundamentals of each stock better. Though it was all a stunt to create more fee income. Just like the urge to merge 70s were. In India nobody worries about conglomerate discounts. In fact conglomerates are liked for their financial muscle and growth prospects . Unfortunately there are no Charlie Ergens in India who would launch a DTH platform on a Chinese satellite that had 60% chance of failure. All first generation entreprenuership in India is limited to software services. As soon as an IT guy sees 10 warm bodies who can code, he thinks of starting a company.
I am very happy with warring brothers. Not because they provide great fodder for the media with AGMs that look like soap operas. The Reliance AGM was full of such things, the elder brother holding out his hand to his mom and entering the meeting. Elder brother thanking younger brother for contribution. Younger brother coming to the stage and re-iterating "mere paas maa hai". Great saga. Such sagas are also increasingly global , with Lachlan Murdoch leaving to go back to Australia to his mom.
The good thing about such family feuds is that they unlock conglomerate discounts. Reliance stock moved up from Rs.500 to Rs.700+ , once the feud got over. Plus every shareholders gets some stock in the demerged special entities. And Reliance Capital has been a stock market darling. Ek se bhale do, do se bhale teen..Dhinak din din.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What i fail to understand

I have not blogged for a week due to the torrential rains in Mumbai. I had written on my blog about "Monsoon Menace: The revenge of the pit" on my blog before the monsoon. I never dreamt the revenge would be this brutal. A collection of thoughts I had over the last week.
1. Why does Mumbai get such a step-motherly treatment from the center? Considering its contribution to India's direct and indirect taxes, Mumbai's infrastructure is a national shame. Delhi-ites will continue to remain the country's fat cats with the metros, commonwealth games, wider roads, cheaper cars, etc. But if such a calamity had struck Delhi, there would have been more deaths due to suffocation in cars. Attitude is where Mumbai wins hands down. We might just have 0.03 acres of open space per thousand inhabitants, but we have great space in our hearts. Tales of how Mumbaites helped themselves and fellow citizens abound.

2. So much for Mumbai's resilience.? We will discuss and debate, crib about infrastructure, blame politicians, BMC, Govinda et al but by next week catching the 8:37 local would be the only focus. Mumbaites for all their diligence and professionalism are surprisingly self involved. The truth is apart from the snobbish South Mumbaite and the film stars of Juhu lane, Mumbai is nothing but a teeming ant colony of middle class workers chasing 2 square meals of different sizes and dreaming of buying a flat one station ahead. The others in the city like the mafiosi and Gujju businessmen have other revenue targets to chase.

3. Why did Lord Indra retain South Mumbai's snobbishness? North Mumbai bore the brunt of not only the rain, but the bane of higher FSI and rapid expansion. Why are the mill lands that present a golden oportunity for the city to set right some of its imbalance, being squandered to fill the coffers of real estate musketeers masquerading as messiahs. I thought sale of mill lands would bring real estate prices down but they keep going up.

4. Does the city just have too much money? And does the taste of money leave Mumbai's politicians as toothless tigers ?

5. Lastly. Is chasing 600 sq ft of dreams after sixty fights for every inch every day a happy occupation?