Raj's Lab

Strategy and Entrepreneurship

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Is lack of ‘collaboration’ killing us?

I recently heard a business school professor ask the question that most of us ask ourselves quite often: why Indians perform so well as individuals but as a nation we are far behind? Why is it that Indians shine outside of India, but fail to do so much when they stay back? He seems to attribute the problem to one word: collaboration.

Here are some points worth pondering on:

To shine in India, we need a better ecosystem. Why is it that Indians in America do so well, it is because the ecosystem allows them, encourages them, celebrates them and enables them to continue it. The same level of people in India, somehow lie low, not known, and many times under performing in relation to their potential. So, if we want our potential to be utilised, our country to see its citizens thrive from within its borders, we need to create a mode conducive environment.

To shine in India, we also need a better mindset. A mindset that has to be inculcated right from younger ages that if we collaborate, we can achieve more. Our mindset teaches us (reiterated by parents, teachers and society at large) that to do well, we have to beat others. This gets ingrained in children by the time they reach high school. Hence sharing drops, and this leads to lone performers. But this does not help in the long run, where big projects require people to work along with others, to make their work successful.

If both these are not done in large quantities:

  • A conducive environment for allowing, encouraging, recognising, and celebrating entrepreneurial thinking and action
  • A collaborative mindset amongst the people (especially the younger ones)

It could result in a total mismanagement of our demographic dividend. An asset that requires some serious chiselling to derive value out of, else it could turn disastrous.

Think about it!

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Character is what one does when he or she is not being watched. When people are watching, most of us live based on what we want others to think about us. But the real character of a person is when he or she is doing the same when they are not being watched over or supervised. So one need not ask anyone else about whether their character is strong or weak, because one knows it for oneself. See what you do when you are alone by yourself – that is your real personality, your real character.

There are people who don’t eat unhealthy food when they are in the midst of people. The moment they get to the room, they hog on all the high calorie, high cholesterol, and extremely unhealthy food. It happens even in the case of people when it comes to non-vegetarian food. They act like they are vegetarians when they are with people and make up for it when they are alone. But who you are as a person is fully displayed when no one is watching! What do you eat when you are staying alone in a hotel room? That is your real personality, your real character.

The more you live away from your character the more you will be agitated. It is better to live the life based on what you inherently believe in. This will bring you to the ecosystem where others acknowledge you for who you are and those who don’t approve will leave you alone. Above all you will be at peace with yourself, with no one to prove to about your beliefs except yourself.

Try to be who you are – it helps in gaining peace and eventually happiness! First find who you are inside and then be sincere to yourself.

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Christmas 2013 and a giving routine..

The season around 25th of December every year brings to the mind colorful people. brightly lit streets, decorated churches, stars givingof all sizes, Santa Claus, gifts, wishes, happiness and celebration. Also inevitably one word that every person acknowledges thinking about is “giving”. However giving is reduced to what is shared with the downtrodden outside churches, outside homes, on our routes that we take. Take a moment and ask yourself ” Are they the only people who need?”

Why don’t we take a different walk this day? Why don’t we see the Lord in the first stranger who asks for help? Why don’t we stop judging if the person really requires our help or not? Why don’t we do this daily? Why don’t we start a small giving routine daily?

This can be to stop  holding back or delaying of payments for products/services that we have used/bought. This can be to stop negotiating with providers for little savings which are insignificant to you;  but giving it to the other man (knowing you are giving more) to whom it could be more significant.

So let’s start this Christmas a nice little attitude shift towards giving, towards sharing with all who we can.  But it is easy to start with people who are already asking us. The most important thing in practice of giving; is to do it without judging.

Seasons Greetings and Merry Christmas!

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Gandhi Jayanti 2013

2nd October every year is a national holiday in India. The reason we have declared this as a holiday is (I assume) for every one of us to remember the contribution of this man for what we have today – independence. While we were young we used to watch the famous movie ‘Gandhi’ almost every year. It is touching, provides fresh messages every year since we get older every year. The life of Mahatma Gandhi is a case study on life and living. Here was a man who took up a single cause in his life and gave up his life for that cause. This single pointed effort with extreme conviction in the action is what gave him the strength to stand up against all odds till the goal was reached.

I still watch Gandhi every year as the movie continues to get screened on some channel or the other. And to my utter amazement every year a fresh message triggers in my head. But among many things that I admire of this great man who walked the same land as we do, is his audacity to court truth and actually live it. ‘My Experiments with Truth’ is a brilliant view of how true he was to truth itself. Every page in the book has lessons that can be culled out. A simple example is his reading of ‘Gita’ every time he had confusions in life. Do you have a scripture that you have identified for yourself to seek clarity during difficult situations in life? Nobody said ‘Gita’ is the only book we must use, but we need something to be grounded. Gandhi found the ‘Gita’ – how about you? Find one for yourself.

I hope we spend a little time this Gandhi Jayanti and reflect on what ‘independence’ really means. The forefathers of this nation have sacrificed a lot for giving us this wonderful gift. If we understand and value it, we will understand the responsibility that comes with it. Gandhi’s life and his autobiography is just a reminder to us about this inherent truth. Watch the movie, read a few pages of his book and experience the power of ‘ahimsa’ and ‘truth’!

I cannot forget the widely quoted words about Gandhi attributed to Albert Einstein – “Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.”

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Drinking water at the new airports!

As more and more people are taking their first flight journey, airports are getting busier. It takes a lot more time at the check-in counters and the air carriers are being tested daily for their efficiency and effectiveness. The airport authorities also have a tough time managing the crowd especially the facilities namely toilets, general cleanliness, and drinking water. Interesting drinking water got me all worried this time!

In my attempt to consume less plastic and be as environment friendly as possible i have over the last few months stopped buying and carrying water bottles. I try to consume water at safe points, especially at the airport water dispensers. But this time around i stopped in front of the water fountains and left without drinking. The new airports in line with the international standards (or whatever that means) have replaced the water dispenser taps with little fountains, where you press a little button and water comes out of an outlet like a fountain, we can consume it keeping our mouths to the water flow. But this time around i found a man (ignorant one though) putting his mouth to the water fountain itself and then pressing the button. I stopped, i saw and i left. His explanation to the person next to him was – don’t waste so much water. To drink a few mouth fulls why are you wasting so much water that is flowing.

I don’t want to debate what is right and wrong! But i definitely want to raise the question of culture. In India we are used to drinking water out of a tap. In fact in many homes people don’t even sip water from the glass! Where has all that cleanliness gone? Are we aping the west wrong? While we may be given to understand that a few thousand paper cups may be wasted in an effort to dish out water at the airports – this effort to make them drink water directly from the fountain will lead to a much greater cost – cost of health, which in my opinion is much larger than a few thousand cups every day.

While someone may argue that the ideal way is to teach and educate the air travellers the importance of hygiene, one must accept that it is fairly impossible in the short term; especially in a multi-lingual, diverse, multi-cultural, fast developing economy like India. I am sure it the case at many other places too. Sometimes we need to assess the total cost of environmental efforts – being green is important, but not at the cost of new communicable diseases. Design thinking needs to consider the downside of ignorant users too. Many times i am beginning to feel that sticking to basics is a lot better.

For now i have decided to have water at the home / hotel and then stay put till i get into the aircraft to have my next glass. In case of an emergency there is always the bottled water.


What must we NOT Google?

It sounds so anti-thesis to what anyone would think in today’s world. But that’s what i learnt over the last few weeks.

NOTE: I am a big fan of Google, its services and its entrepreneurial approach to everything. So this advice is NOT against using google. But how to utilize the power called Google in the RIGHT manner.

A young man experiences a symptom. A few years ago if it was bothering him he would go to a doctor to seek advice. But now he goes online first – Googles the symptoms and learns about the possible problems. He doesn’t understand half the words in most articles the way a doctor should – but yet arrives at some solutions. He decides to take some tests online and concludes he/ she has a particular disease.  This creates more psychological damage than having a disease will actually create. With this information (partial and misunderstood) within reach, people today feel they know what even a doctor declares he is still not sure about.

When information was not democratized ignorance was bliss. Now with information access almost unstoppable, we need better maturity to acknowledge the limits of information and our ignorance of the knowledge. If we don’t accept the limitations of our individual knowledge we will not surrender to an expert to help us. We will question everything they say – in fact in one such conversation at a doctor’s clinic, I heard the young patient (who i accompanied) actually ask the doctor why he is prescribing this medicine and if this was not for some particular disease which he had read online. Will this half baked and misunderstood access without any quality check on the source harm more than benefit. This only time can tell. But in the mean time its worth learning first:

  • What someone should search online?
  • What someone should NOT search online?
  • When someone should stop the search and seek help?

Atleast let us not try to Google to learn medicine as patients!

To start: Google to know & locate. Ask to learn – and ask someone who knows.

If you have any advice and/or experience on how to use search services please do share them!


My Inspiration this morning

After a couple of days of continuous rainfall this morning as I drove down to the airport, the dawn was such a welcome experience. The sun brightened up the day and the sky looked more beautiful than ever. Through the entire drive I kept looking back at the horizon wanting to see the sun come out. Blue, White, Orange, Yellow! The sky kept changing colors, the brightness of the day kept increasing and the darkness of the remaining part of the sky kept receding. It was a beautiful movie at its best. Silent but loud enough to send the message to every viewer!

The birds were beginning to signal daybreak, while the sun was slowly making its way out of the horizon. How did the birds know that the sun would come out? The entire period of an hour and a half remained a period of intense seeking. It was a period of intense inspiration in the hope that the day will break. The sounds of the birds kept increasing and finally with the sun fully out, their sounds stopped. The sounds of cars and people took over. The beautiful period of a different type of silence was over. Was it inspiration?

Yes it was! For me, yes it was!

Every day we have many such instances, which inspire us. Every day we have our own sources of inspiration. I always keep reading and asking people, what inspired them? And the ones that depend on nature for inspiration, seem to last the longest. No! I am not talking about longevity of life, but about the longevity of the inspiration. My big example here is Ruskin Bond!

Find your inspiration – something that will make you move. Something that will give you the hope to take one more step! Don’t ask me towards what, you will have to find it out for yourself. If you figure it out (and the source of inspiration is something in nature) you are saved, for a very deep inner reason, which you will know when you find yours.

Think about it!


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