Are you M positive?

Lincoln on money power

Today, I heard another pitch from an ‘entrepreneur’, and I was reminded of a similar exchange which I walked away from, some six years back.

At that time, I had just put in my papers at Nokia, to start my entrepreneurial journey. And the person, with excellent skills of persuasion and pester power, had cornered me into meeting at a coffee shop. The following discussion, though unimportant, hinged around me, my personal network, and how with just a few hours of work- read display of skills admired above, I could create an income source which grows even when I don’t work.

Today, I heard the same spiel, albeit more tech-savvy. Apparently, there are companies out there which pay people to click on their site and earn from referrals. So, all you have to do is create a network of “believers” online, and as they and you click and buy, you get a commission which pyramids into something substantial, even when you can’t put in an hour.

The catch: as in the previous episode, is you got to put in 3-5 years of hard work, creating, mining, and then exploiting the network. The bait, people like you are doing this, throw in a few big names, make sure you don’t really know them, to build credibility, and the hook, you need money, and your need your own time. If you had money, would you do what you are doing now? And life’s uncertainties are such that money will always be required.

That last thought got me thinking enough to blog about it. In the process, I am getting clearer about why I exist, and why I think the specious arguments in books such as “rich dad, poor dad”, “the secret” and all other self-motivational books are a load of horse manure, which benefits no one but the authors and publishers who laugh their way to the bank, while incredulous buyers and “believers” who subscribe to it, develop into a cult-ish following.

So, here’s what I asked the “entrepreneur”, since, you’re doing so well in terms of network income, what do you do with your time? I got some story about how I spend quality time with family and friends. Felt like saying, ‘been there, done that’, ask any retired person, and they will tell you how they miss the daily routine of doing something, anything. Even friends and family get tired of your ‘quality time’, and with all the money in the world, you will still run out of places to check off your ‘bucket’ list.

Then I asked how do you see yourself as an ‘entrepreneur’? this threw up a bunch of cookie cutter answers, probably inspired by the books and quotes above. The answer formulated itself something like, “I was an employee, want to move from other people owning my time for money; didn’t want to become self- employed and chase people for buying my time and collecting money; entrepreneurs have money because they have a system to get them the money from other people’s time, ala Ambani, Tata, etc. ( quoting big names, shows your benchmarks), and Venture Capitalists and bankers make money on other people’s time and money.

At this point, I think my eyes glazed over, one other person at the table called me ‘intellectually arrogant”, and when I said,” if you really know how to do it, come work for me, I promise you double the money, in half the time”, he actually walked away.

But this exchange helped me clarify in my mind what these words, “time”, “money”, “entrepreneurship” mean to me, and here’s what I understand. And this goes beyond “think, feel, believe”; words which somewhere lose their meaning when constantly examined under life’s shifting lens.

Time: is not linear, period. Sure, I live in India and am totally inured in the “kaalchakra” -cycle of time- philosophy, so the understanding of time in the context of life may be warped. I see time stretching when waiting in queues, and whizzing past when deadlines come up- somewhere that resonates with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. But, I learn a lot more from the under-privileged, and from them I understand, time and life are a privilege, not an endowment, or a right. Life’s misfortunes are just a mis-step away! So, time is an annuity, only when compounding interest. And that is an assumption to enable compounding of interest. Life has a way of holding a mirror up, and throw you experiences, that invert in reflection. If you were once up, you will be down, and if you were down, vice versa. Nothing prepares you, deal with it!

Money: is a marker. All notions of money, wealth and income are a construct. The value of what you do (taking orders from a boss as an employee) or the skills you sell ( to individuals or organisations as a self-employed person) or the product or service you deliver ( as an entrepreneur) or the way you connect money, teams and markets ( as an investor or banker), is what is marked as money. So, a lot of money earned, means you are doing something, producing something, creating a connect which people value NOW. But make no mistake, value is transient, and money moves easily to find the next NEW thing to chase. Money chases value as a marker. And all notions of money making money, are also dependant on someone or something deploying that money in areas where the rewards are so much greater than the risk, that Ponzi schemes are floated somewhere in the world, each day. With disastrous consequences, for the folks who get lured in, when the pyramid collapses or the kite flies out of control. Google up the sub- prime crisis which created yet another financial meltdown, or if you’re interested, follow the mis-fortunes of the poor in India, who bet their savings on high-yield chit funds, which turn out to be “cheat” funds.

I had an interesting discussion on this with an iconic banker, who in many ways, shaped the way the banking industry changed and grew in India, in the post – liberalized economy. And he opined, “personal wealth loses meaning after a point, then you are just competing to see if your value proposition is better than the rest”, flip the thought, and you will notice, as another friend shared on social media, how a minimum wage earning driver practices his singing voice every morning before going to work. Again, even at the bottom of the pyramid, once the daily bread and rent has been paid for, money has no meaning, as all other aspects of life are access controlled. As the character Rancho played by Aamir Khan, put it in the movie “3 idiots”, “you don’t need to pay fees, to attend school, you just need to wear a uniform”. As the middle classes across the world discover, the poor are poor not because they have no money, but because access is denied based on identity or lack of a “place of residence”, or a “place of birth” to put on official documents. The rich, on the other hand, have these handed across to them, in the hope they hand out their money to worthy causes and institutions.

But, all this is changing. Even money can’t justify itself, in the face of greed, which creates pyramid schemes that start from sub-prime crises, and end in almost wiping out all notions of national wealth, ranging from Iceland, Spain, Cypress and so many others. Incidentally, India went through this gut wrenching change almost 20 years back.

As I keep repeating at various fora, India’s economic growth story was never a planned narrative. As a business journalist, I watched up close and in my face, the First Gulf War, that pushed up oil prices, and in consequence, India’s oil import bill to such an extent, that it tipped over the balance of payments, and brought the country to financial collapse. The next few steps, administered by IMF, included shipping all of India’s gold, held in store to guarantee currency, to London.

What happened next is a story of human endeavor, aspiration and effort, which was suddenly unlocked. And industries such as IT, mobile telephony, and IT enabled services, which no one understood at that time, not enough to regulate anyway, boomed. Money and valuation moved from bricks to clicks, till it corrected itself as value and expectations balanced out in the first dot-com bust.

And that brings me to “entrepreneurship”. When I started my career, 20 years back, respectability attached itself to stable jobs in careers around engineering, medicine or accounting and academics. In the early to mid-90’s, the world I exist in, was hit by a severe stroke of “MBA-it is”, which again unraveled  and was quickly followed by careers in IT, BPO, bio-tech, analytics. For the last 5 years, I have witnessed the power of the French word, “entrepreneur” used in every context, so much so, that anyone, without a formal job label, can call himself or herself one. There is one BIG difference! And it’s not about money or time.

It’ about value creation. Am sorry, you may be the largest franchisee of the biggest Ponzi scheme in the world, you are still an agent, not an entrepreneur. You may have the largest organized retail chain, where you sell cheap and buy cheaper, you’re a retail giant, but you’re still not an entrepreneur. You may be the biggest integrated producer of a commodity or product or service everyone buys, you’re an industrialist, but not an entrepreneur.

In my opinion, to be an entrepreneur, you need to be displaying the following behaviours:

  1. You have a view of the world, no one around you envisages. When Bill Gates thought of shrink wrapping and selling software, in a world where both were bundled, everyone thought he was a fool. But, software as a product owes its origins to that disruptive world view.
  2. You have deep insights and empathy with your customer set. I heard an interesting story about Steve Jobs. A bunch of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed telecom executives went from India, to meet and stun him with what they thought was a “killer idea”, an iPhone for India, complete with Indian fonts, scripts, and designs. They came back totally shaken, first because Jobs used language they hadn’t heard outside the playing fields of Bahadurgarh, and secondly, he said, “I build things for my friends in Cupertino, if you like your friends in India, build something they like yourself, stop messing with my stuff”. Others will read this as “intellectual arrogance”, I saw a canny entrepreneur, completely focused on delivering the next NEW thing to fans and admirers, who stood by Jobs even when Apple was down in the dumps.
  3. You have the ability to build teams. Look around every successful ‘entrepreneurial’ venture, and you will find a team, that stood by the vision and worked their butts off, even when there was no money to pay salaries. And that happens, when money and time are not on the table. Ordinary people inspired to work together, can and do achieve incredible things.
  4. You are able to listen intently. The key difference between a Thomas Edison and a Nikolai Tesla, both icons in their thought process and inventions, was just the way they were able to articulate the vision that inspired them and got people on board. That comes from an ability to listen HARD.

So does that make you M ( money) positive? If entrepreneurship is your way of making money, just forget about it. The road is too long, lonely and fraught with risk to even consider it as an option. Is the quality of time you spend at work, and your worries about the future, making you jump in? change your job, or profession, you will be happier. Entrepreneurship needs you to devote your time, energy and money in the pursuit of a vision that you hold, in the belief that if you succeed, you will have stories to share and battles to recount with the folks who fought on your side, and on your behalf, when it seemed too challenging. It also means that you can choose your battles and find new frontiers to work on, for example, Gates’ work on healthcare, Azim Premji on education. And you do it, because you can’t imagine a day without waking up to create value.

So, where does that leave money and time? See above. Money is a marker and time is what you do with it, right here, right now.

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There’s a library at the heart of the global village

Deborah Jacobs (@djlibrarian) was quick to pick up the comment I made, at the last board meet of READ( @READglobal), celebrating seven years of operations in India.

Deborah and a bunch of others are part of a small and significant movement that has been, over the last 20 years, bringing a model of learning that connects with rural communities in far flung parts of the globe.

The story begins with this lady, Dr. Antonia Neubauer, a Lake Tahoe- based travel entrepreneur, who was stumped when one of the sherpas who had accompanied her through a trek in Nepal refused the customary “baksheesh” and made a strange request.

He asked for books, so that his kids could read, remembers Toni, many years later. So she, and her friends, pooled together their resources, and the next year came back with a box of books, but she wanted to see where they would be used.

A visit to the village, convinced her that a book without a way to protect and share it, would soon be destroyed, or sold by the kilo. And that brought in the next play, how about a library? But then, this was Nepal in the ’90s, forget about making a building, who would maintain a library, or pay for electricity or even a person to clean and sweep. There was a war on between the royal forces and Mao-ists raging.

Turns out quite a few were ready. When I first met Toni and Senator Omer Rains, not only had they figured out a way to convince un-lettered sherpa’s to set up libraries for the books they wanted, but also business models to sustain the libraries in the middle of their communities.

The model was elegant in its simplicity. READ would propose to set up the library (aka CLEC- community learning centers) if the community partnered with it. How? Split the cost of the building, the land, the computers, power and other infra. So, READ would provide seed funding, while the community would provide the land, the hands, and other local inputs, the cost sharing 50:50. Then, the community would choose a project which would pay for the READ investment, and also sustain the library and pay for training and salaries for the librarian and others involved with the project.

The first such model in India was at Ullon, a remote village in Sunderbans, where the project scaled and is now The Oceanic Library, and a community hub for education, healthcare and livelihoods, and then a few others strung out in Manipur and Mizoram. In the last 7 years, the movement has slowly but surely gathered steam, has found eager communities finding a sustainable business model to support a library and learning center in their midst.

So, if it’s a dairy farm project in Mewat that supports the library and school, it’s a beautician training center at Badshahpur near Delhi, and then again, a mobile hospital in remote areas in Coorg. Here’s more!

Why do I find it interesting? 3 good reasons. Firstly, it is “inclusive“. Not in the jingo-istic “have’s looking down at have-not’s” way, but right from initiation, the model expects the village to agree on and commit to their project and their activities around it. So, at Geejgarh, in Rajasthan, the women of the village chose a sewing school as the sustainability project, and that’s what they got. The women of Badshahpur, chose a grooming school and beautician training center, with an eye to India’s wedding market and that’s what they got.

For years before this, when handling the CSR roles as part of my many corporate jobs, I would be struck by the top-down approach that seemed to be in vogue when invoking corporate philanthropy. You, mister corporate, tell us what cause you’d like to spend your money on and here we have an option, was what most fund-raising NGO’s would talk about. As if, you could de-link children, from malnutrition/trafficking/ women/ education/ sustainability/ livelihoods/ men/anti-corruption/ environment.

And frankly, my first project, a village school computer learning center at Carterpuri, started with building loos, and putting up a water tank. I couldn’t imagine going to a school which didn’t have drinking water and separate toilets for boys and girls. So, if you start at one place, you automatically impact all others. But, if you build walls, as in, this is only for this community, that age group, other gender, and put locks on doors, you’ve lost the participation that is so central to rural communities.

It’s “bottom up” from start. If the community on ground isn’t ready to put in its own sweat and tears, the engagement doesn’t start. And the time spent in building consensus, which can be acted upon, as I saw at Geejgarh, is time well spent. In India, when folks buy in, and contribute their own land, their own furniture, and fittings, it becomes something they are emotionally tied in to.

And finally, it has “impact“. A well maintained space which the community has invested in, created its own rules, works that much better, than something set up as part of a Five-Year Plan, or with bureaucratic red tape surrounding its usage. At Geejgarh, the women are now making cloth bags that are sold at the Bharti-Walmart EasyDay stores, and are interested in marketing and selling their ethnic handicrafts globally. Here are a few pix!

So what does it mean from the context of the global village where an idea for change can transmit across the world and unite or divide opinion in nano-seconds? Let me summarize; a traveler from Lake Tahoe, meets a Sherpa in Nepal, who wants books for his kids, which need a library, and a librarian from Seattle comes across, and helps with training communities across Nepal, India and Bhutan to manage their rural libraries, and sparks off the need for social enterprises in the local context, in the process enabling corporate sponsors to do well by doing good.

As the saying goes, telecom, internet, social media have brought us closer and we are now residents of the global village. Now, thanks to a few remarkable folks, across the world, there’s a library at the heart of it!

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It’s Complicated!- Media, Messaging, Sustainability and Development

#DSDS2013

This week, I spent some time attending the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit. TERI’s flagship event with marquee names as sponsors and heads of states as speakers, I had expected to be overwhelmed by the quality of thought leadership and statesmanship on display.

I am disappointed. Not merely because I was hoping the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to go beyond hyphenating Global Development with Global Sustainability, a quote which was RT-ed all over, including by yours truly.

I am disappointed, because Minister Jean- Francoise Lisee, of Quebec is. According to him, the ship has sailed, and the last opportunity that the world of global statesmen had to hold the rudder of creating a sustainable agenda of balancing development in the world of climate change, was in Copenhagen 2009.

It’s been 3 years since, and as Minister M. Shakila of Maldives, put it “are we going to travel around the world, from summit to summit, with nothing to show for it?”

The problem according to the Heads of states, of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Rim nations is clear and present danger. Not of rising sea levels, which is what the scientists expected from the melting polar ice caps, but from unprecedented erosion and unexpected changes in weather patterns.

And the problem, is that big growth economies, such as China, which is not part of the debate, India which is, and US which waffles along the sidelines, California being a very sustainability conscious state, while Texas holds the flag for oil-burning growth; are not
addressing the problem.

I believe the problem was actually a footnote in the questionnaire a young TERI volunteer put across. Do GNP and GDP truly represent development indicators or do new indicators like Gross National Happiness, or Gross National Sustainability need to be adopted? and old incremental models junked!

That’s what got me thinking! and I realised that all possible popular approaches are fundamentally designed around the rich nations paying for their consumption and bankrolling poor nations. Robinhood Romanticism is where the problem lies.

And the roots go as far as the Spanish Conquistadores, and the Dutch stock exchange bubbles. History is a bad teacher. The world saw the two approaches of wealth creation almost 600 years ago. The Spaniards rampaged through Latin America to bring in gold to mother Spain and make her the richest nation in the world, while the Dutch created the first venture capital bubble by selling and trading on paper Tulip stocks, where
Tulip prices went so far up, that a bulb could buy whole month’s food. Both economies are a footnote in history. Now, especially, with Spain on the verge of bankruptcy, and Holland with its dykes and dams facing more than its share of climate change.

On the other hand, simple hands at work; building homes and carrying water, brought about a climate of invention and innovation that created the industrial revolution and 200 years of British supremacy and last century’s American leadership.

Clearly, the basic lessons about money and wealth are still to be learnt by humanity.Money grows in its circulation and wealth in the number of people it touches. That should have made a business case for wiping clean the loans of Third World economies, and enabling local populations, with access to micro-credit, to create their own wealth indigenously.

But global governments, are driven by PR, and the need to be benchmarked by the same human development indicators that work for sub-saharan Africa as it does for North
America, even when the baselines in terms of society, security, and aspirations are different.The point made by Minister Gadgil of Norway ( Yes! he is of Indian-origin) is telling. The inequity is not just between nations and their ability to sustain, but within societies. The gulf between those served, and those under-served is growing. It’s NOT about energy, water and food, but basic human rights, and security.

My argument here, is that neither ( rich or poor nations) has vision. If the rich are benchmarking among themselves to get richer, or show their wealth in building unsustainable anthills and naming them “antilla”, the aspirations of the under-served are simply to get rich and display their wealth similarly.

The opportunity, then, is to up-end the argument. And I am disappointed that the statesmen of the land of Gandhi could not imagine or articulate such a discourse.

Gandhi, made it cool to spin yarn at home, grow his own food, and build self-sustaining communities in India and South Africa, nearly a century before the world made sustainability, local produce and ‘forage’ buzz words.

Wealth and currency thought through those lines, would change the benchmarks for growth, development and sustainability. That’s a challenge that has been in front of all the statesmen and their economic advisors, at these summits .

It would probably also be useful for them to examine spiritual texts from all across the world, the basic thought that comes across is – the more you evolve, the less you need.That’s like motherhood and apple pie, and knowing teenagers eat more than older adults. By that logic, US, China and soon India and all the G-20 nations are way, way down the scale of evolution, creating obese and self-obsessed ageing
populations and slipping even faster on the path to sustainability.

Maybe, it’s time to re-examine and change the messaging in the media. Wall Street and Main Street press are not designed for sustainability and happiness- they are designed to shock and awe.

Bhutan with its Gross National Happiness has been a sole advocate of the alternate messaging, maybe its time to make it cool. I believe India in this hall of nations has just the right credentials to own and make the change. Not because the realities of business, and
global laws need it to be so. But I believe it has had all the excesses of falsehood and experiments with truth, for its thought leaders to imagine and live the change we would like to see around us.

 

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Social Media and Censorship- When Private becomes Public

I interrupt the series on Millennial Marketing to share the debate and raise a few questions on the unfolding drama of Social Media censorship. For those interested, you can check out the post on Marketing to Millennials here.

Time magazine put a mirror cover and made YOU, the person of the year and in charge of the Information Age on Dec 25, 2006.

Ever since, governments, traditional media, ISP’s have been grappling with the challenges of regulating content. Till recently, governments controlled all access to media- post and telegraph establishments were privatised after the Cold War in most parts of the world. Internet access, fixed and wireless, is still controlled either directly or through holdings in corporates that serve up bandwidth.

That, however, doesn’t stop or change anything. The Arab Spring phenomenon happened across Tunisia, Qatar, Egypt and Libya ( now in Syria) in spite of the respective governments shutting down cell towers, stopping SMS/ MMS and internet access. A friend in the Gulf just recently shared the spoofing software that she uses in Saudi Arabia to update her Facebook page ( Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries in the Gulf, restrict access to social media).

The US faced by #Occupy Wall Street floated the SOPA and PIPA legislations. Luckily, wikipedia and others saw through the ruse of online piracy and protested, I quote, thus, “SOPA and PIPA would put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won’t have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn’t being infringed. Some foreign sites would be prevented from showing up in major search engines. And, SOPA and PIPA build a framework for future restrictions and suppression.”

How much of the above is linked to the #Occupy wall street movement, or the continuing embarrassment of CIA tapes leaked via Julian Assange’s wikileaks isn’t clear, but one thing is certain, the world of social sharing, networking and media is about to face some major challenges, and perhaps, massive regulations.

Cut to India and last week’s knee-jerk reaction of the Indian Government. It instructed ISP’s to block access to websites, and social media providers such as WordPress and Blogpost. social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook were instructed to remove accounts of a few identified for inciting the mass exodus of Northeastern Indians from cities across India, in the wake of communal violence in Assam. Not only did this bring about a massive reaction from twittering classes likening the ban to India’s Emergency in 1975, it also had the US Government swinging in to support Google, Facebook and Twitter on the issue of Freedom of Expression. Read more here!

That brings me to the crux of the debate – when does Private become Public? It is well understood by most, that in democratic societies, there needs to be a large space for debate and discussion, but there is a basic code that is followed, to remain within the framework of governance and citizenship. When forums for Public discussion are squashed or removed, dissent takes new forms and goes underground. On the other hand, Open platforms, especially, in the nano-second push-button world of micro-blogging, are fraught with the threat of being taken over by rabble rousers, bullies and trolls.

Contrast this, with the ethos and intent of social media and networking. At its core, social media technologies create a virtual space for ‘people like us’ to interact and engage with each other.  In a way this makes your ‘virtual’ drawing room conversations go viral across all your followers and friends creating at its extreme, two behavior types;

  1. The exhibitionist, who leads the show with Facebook Vacations and events mainly to post pictures and tags across cyberspace
  2. The voyeur, who watches and ‘like’s and comments sometimes, re-tweeting or sharing the above content.

I over-simplify, but among over 100 shades of grey, these two behaviours stand out.

On the other hand, there are “people like them”, who gravitate to take extreme positions and make the ‘virtual’ drawing room debate into a ‘vicious’ one, hounding out all contrary opinions, and through sheer bludgeon power, and bullying tactics nullify any and all attempt at moderation. The conversation then, quickly moves from issues to personalities, from commentary to rumor mongering and through cheap and ubiquitous mobile internet and SMS access into fear psychosis.

Expecting Facebook’s 50 million users, and twitter’s 15 million in India, to behave more in line with ‘people like us’ is a wishful fantasy. There is no psychological profiling that is done before YouTube allows users to upload videos of suicide attempts, and/ or mass violence against communities.

In these so-called empowered times of instant sharing and collaboration, the fact of the matter also remains that, driven by SMS’s, videos, and tweets, over 50, 000 people from North eastern India, left their jobs and homes across India to return to their home states, due to fears of reprisal attacks.

Is there a solution in sight? Not when the Indian government finds a conspiracy to de-stabilise the country. This could be as debilitating as the Anthrax letter threat that followed 9/11 in the US.

Will there be similar exuberance of social networking and media usage going forward?Perhaps! But then Big Brother, will be watching. The lesson here for social netizens is very clear. You cannot exhibit ‘extreme’ behavior in public even if you may be doing it in the privacy of your on-ground drawing-room.

In all democracies, as well as in India, forums for dissent are in-built. Traditional media has a strong and protected role in sharing information that can create influence and opinions. And this responsibility is assumed by media, by verifying facts and sources.

And even though, TV debates trade the space for facts for TRP’s , in high-decibel verbiage, online and social media have so far escaped from carrying this responsibility, almost in toto.

In the absence of any effective self- regulation or content cleansing by most popular social media platforms, perhaps, in their drive for users, this is where regulation will come in.

It could be draconian, and it will in many cases, hamper freedom of expression, but when private becomes public, the rules of public discourse will apply.

What are your views?

tx-j

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The Flip Side of Social Media

It’s time to end the silence. And what’s prompting me this time around is the flip side of social media. Having spent almost a year of talking, lecturing,

Debating the worth and RoI of social media, and social networks as the BIG, big thing of today, not tomorrow, or 3 years later, but right now, I thought I’d put in perspective the one thought that seems to come up with increasing frequency.

Human- centred business, and community-powered social change also has a flip side. First, community-powered social change, and you get Egypt’s “first free” elections (really? Egypt’s armed forces have been in power since the end of monarchy in 1953), and news that the newly elected Prime Minister Mursi cannot attend parliament because the constitution is being written by- you guessed right-The Army. On the other hand, brands are busy “humanising” themselves by getting their updates on your Facebook newsfeed with mixed results in terms of footfalls and actual sales. Fed the line that social netizens like discounts and deals, some brands are engaging in ‘harakiri’ by offerring 70% off on flash sales. Small wonder, then if customers rarely visit the store post the off-sales, or at all if there are no sales offers, especially if the brand has no customer care to speak of.

The change we live in, is slowly throwing up new and old questions.

To pre-millennials, such as myself, the word is ‘privacy’! Millennials, or folks who reached adulthood post 2000 CE, won’t bother much with it, as across the world they have learnt to live with Big Brother watching, via millions of CCTV cameras in London, to Homeland Security in the US, to Kapil Sibal and others in the Indian government threatening some kind of ‘censorship’ on the content that is created and shared by you and me on private social networks.

Millennials, on the other hand, have traded off their privacy with ‘instant access to express’, with great enthusiasm. With cheap bandwidth, cheaper tablets,  smartphones, and free apps, If they aren’t sharing their courting rituals on Facebook, they are checking-in Foursquare locations where they may be found doing it, possibly in the hope of bumping into interesting strangers on Twitter. And the journey has just begun, as images make it to open sharing platforms such as Pinterest, while soundtracks and video’s on YouTube.

So what do Millenials think of as the flip side of a world gone Social. One word- nothing! They don’t. Andy Warhol, when predicting that ‘in the future, everyone will have fifteen minutes of fame’ was probably, seeding the algorithm design forTwitter hashtags, which trends every new and infectious bucket of tweets, in the search for virality.

This then, could possibly be the flip side. The wisdom of the crowds searching for instant fame and recognition! The search for unlocking the next Foursquare badge, the addictive need to see more shares, likes, and comments per Facebook update, the obsession with a klout score higher than 70 ( I got an email from a pre-Millenial friend asking me and his whole email address book to follow him, so that he could reach some milestone number on Klout, that would get him onto some other hallowed crowd-sourced event). Another such acquaintance got blasted on Linkedin, for copying all on his Linkedin address book, seeking permission if he could send/ share his blog posts with them. One of the critics was a self-proclaimed minor god of entrepreneurs and social networks.

So, Flip side number one: if everyone is talking, who’s listening? In the search for the pithy 90 character tweet/ or update (twitter does allow 140 characters, but  you need to leave space for a short URL, and for your followers to add comments and RT)

Flip side number two: in the search for mass connect via simplicity are we giving up complex ideas? The market place will recognize the micro wave oven, but not the math and the WW2 radar technology that made its discovery inevitable. And The God Particle is hallowed only in the ignorance of its ‘goddamn’ origin.

Flip Side Three: When wisdom is crowd-sourced, how much of it is either real or visionary?  I recently heard a business pitch to discover and publish authors based on Facebook ‘likes’, if that were so, half of the world’s classics from Shakespeare to Tolstoy and Hemingway to Solzhenitsyn would go unheard, unread, unless backed by a high-decibel team tweeting out lines and quotes. Clearly, then, beyond the immediate benefits of mass sharing, social media does little to discover those unique voices, the dissenters, and the imagineers ( am talking J.K. Rowling, here), till they become famous in their own circles.

Flip Side Four: If all we do is communicate, when do we work? Yup! heard this one, repeated again and again from CTO’s in India to board members in UK and I have no sympathy for the uncommunicative CEO, who wants a generation of Millenials, not to ‘friend’ him on Facebook, not to RT his tweets, or better still, be as far away from social media as possible and hope it all goes away. But, I wonder just how many of the Millennial physicists who run the Large Hadron Collider have an active twitter account, or are Facebook regulars?

Oh, and yes! There are solutions, and arguments that I use to refute almost all the nay-sayers, but I would definitely like to know of your experiences and how you are managing the forces of higher transparency, greater interaction and nano-second reaction times, to converse with the crowd and make a difference.

Just to link back to my last post on Steve Jobs and Apple, they still don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account. Social Media is not about the technology and tools, it’s about how you manage to make the best use of it!

🙂

j@y

Posted in Jay Vikram Bakshi, marketing, politics, social media, social media marketing, Social networking, social networking | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From myCrowd to iCloud- 5 Things iLearn from The Steve Jobs journey

There is so much out in the media about Steve Jobs, his iConic presence in the world of computing, music, movies, mobiles ever since he announced his decision to step down from his position of CEO of Apple Inc, that I thought I’d take a different take and write about what really inspires me about the man and the impact he leaves on lives of many across the globe.

1. Nothing is ever wasted: An insight shared by Steve, about a summer term he spent learning calligraphy before he dropped out of college. Steve, in a later interview stated that the reason that he introduced a number of fonts and templates into Apple Mac’s was that experience.

2. Down is Up: Something that most folks referred to as the -Steve-less years- at Apple when he was ousted from his CEO job, and found alternate plays in NeXT computing and Pixar studios. I believe, those years in the skunk works were Steve’s most creative, where he discovered the convergence of computing, music, entertainment in a completely new Avatar- animated movies.

3. Make things that people want- every one of the products that came out of Apple, were based on real people insights ( even if the people in the room were the 2 steve’s ;-)) Graphic User Interface, Mouse, multiple windows based computing, iPod Trackwheel, multi-touch iPhone, and now, a new category product- the iPad.

4. Make People want what you make- Build powerful niche communities and listen to them, so hard, that even if you turn out duds and work-in-progress buggy products, they still love you and believe that the next release fixing the bugs were their personal contribution.

4A. And Pay a Premium for- remember price is a positioning tool always, and keep the play at the level of the die-hard fan, so that the rest of the marketing is done word – of -mouth ( in the world of social media- on steroids) BTW, Apple doesn’t have a FaceBook Page or a Twitter account, their fans do it for them.

5. Leave when you’re winning- What a way to go! Steve steps down days after having taken the company from a niche player, also-ran of the 80’s to the dizzying heights of becoming the company with the world’s highest market cap on Aug 5, 2011.

Here’s another post from a friend who shared his journey in time, do you have a story to tell?

Posted in communications, Corporate, Jay Vikram Bakshi, marketing, mobile marketing, social media, social media marketing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Co- creating with the Community- Satish Magar, Draft Land Acquisition Bill and farmers of Bhatta – Parsaul

“Can you help us make townships with our land?” asks Ajay Pal Singh, a farmer who has lost 300 bighas of land to Builders facilitated by the Greater Noida Development Authority in Bhatta-Parsaul. Lost? Says Singh, the Government (yes! The land acquisition agency is a government department) acquired his multi-crop trans-yamuna land to convert into housing colonies and office buildings, as part of an urbanization program in Western UP, which outlines the Delhi- Taj Mahal express way as an urban corridor. Incidentally, this is also fertile farm land with irrigation, rainfall, with a river running through it.

Singh’s land was acquired at INR 800 per sq.m, and then re-sold by GNIDA at INR 15000 per sq.m, to builders and developers who in turn went ahead and have developed a concrete jungle selling properties at INR 50,000 per sq.m and above to consumers promising proximity to a Formula 1 race track, golf courses, possibly an airport, and of course, global lifestyles.

So what happens with the farmers?
First, they party! most land holdings are in the 100 acre spread so an average farm sells for Crores, buying expensive cars, houses, next, some of them get into politics, and then finally, blow up the money from selling inherited land, to find they have nothing left, while the developers have been laughing all the way to the bank. This story has repeated itself, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, across North India, one of my rural education projects are in the village of Carterpuri, which is a posh Gurgaon suburb, the conditions of farmers, who sold land in the 80’s for the colony to come up, are simply put, appalling. Most don’t work, some have become call center cab drivers ( explains some road rage, does it?), and others are living off their wives incomes, who work as household help. And these are communities which believe in keeping women indoors.

Satish Magar, now CMD, Magarpatta City, saw this happening in the late 80’s in and around Pune. He and his community, who held 430 acres of land, in the outskirts of Pune, realized that they would be fighting a losing battle against urbanization. The city municipal authorities had already notified their land as part of the city development plans and were allowing each farmer to sell their plots to  real estate developers. Magar, then thought the unthinkable, How about pooling in the land of 85 – odd families, and creating a township for the next millennium. No Government, no real estate sharks, we’ll do it ourselves. The year was 1993!

Yesterday, I met Satish Magar, Ajay Pal Singh, and Ajit Tikait ( son of Mahendra Singh Tikait– the man who brought tractors with the promise to start ploughing Delhi’s boat club lawns, if the government didn’t listen- but that’s another story) among many other luminaries, at the Annual Lecture of BCF ( Business Community Foundation- a non-profit which creates a CSR connect between corporates and community causes). I have been associated with BCF in various capacities, for over 7 years now, and their executive director, Amita Joseph, never fails to invite me for the lecture, remind me and berate me when I miss, or arrive late J.

Satish Magar, started the session sharing the Magar Patta story in PowerPoint. A practiced play, which encapsulates the journey from getting the farmers together to sign on a blank piece of paper, allotting equity on the basis of land holdings, and then going ahead and building a New Millenium Township which gave the farmers over 10X return on investment, created 250 entrepreneurs from the farmers families to support the skill and services required in building and maintaining the facility , and today is being replicated by the company they floated, in two more projects around Pune, sounds like the stuff of Bollywood and dreams.

Implementing that vision, got Satish Magar, several awards in India, and global recognition. An articulate graduate from the Pune agricultural university, his conviction and drive also made him a darling of the media. But, that’s not what I found interesting! What really got me interested was how he

1. Managed to keep an entire community engaged with his dream for seven long years, before the Pune authorities gave him permission to turn agricultural land into a real estate development,

2. How he managed to market and sell his vision to IT/ BPO companies ranging from IBM to Aviva to come and lease office spaces, which in turn drove demand for housing and services in his city.

Co-creating with the community
The first point is the crux of this process of co-creation. Magar said, “we have a local slang word for folks who sold their single plots- one yard minister!” That and the cultural impact of pooling farm produce, the Magars were sugarcane planters, who had collective memories of pooling and exposure into the value- add earnings in the sugar production chain. And as he told me, “The Amul example, was there for all of us to see”. What he did underplay was the change of paradigm, that got farmers to pool resources and then become shareholders in a real estate company, and then become entrepreneurs in the real estate space, learning new skills, managing new cash flows, and then scaling, some of them independent of the project and beyond. While, the outliers were strong- the factors that made it possible for the community to come together and face the challenge created by urbanization, what really got me thinking was the detailing of the journey through the seven-year wait before a single brick could be laid. “We realized urbanization is here to stay, more and more people will migrate to places and jobs which are more complex and with higher pay. The other factor, was that magic word, Liberalisation! Most of the bureaucrats of the time, didn’t know what to expect and so were willing to allow new experiments to happen,” says Magar. I agree! If one looks at unraveling the real story of India’s Liberalisation it will not just be Dr. Manmohan Singh’s Dream Team, but folks like N. Vittal, who championed the cause of telecom de-regulation and IT outsourcing, and the Pune district commissioner, among countless others, who made the story of Satish Magar possible.

Contrast that with the farmers’ agitation in Bhatta- Parsaul, some holding lands 3-5 times the size of the Magarpatta city, but without the leadership, zest or the community spirit which could have changed the way the story of urbanization worked in India’s liberal economy.

Marketing the vision- This was of obvious interest to me, not just because marketing and communications have been of interest to me since my print media journalism days. But, in the world that went and rose up via social media and networking to support Anna Hazare, and the Greater Noida farmers, how was the Magarpatta story told and sold before any of the above- print journalists, TV, online, or social media came in to support or discredit the story. Magar smiles, “I went everywhere that big builders go, and soon enough realized, they were sending agents and employees to sell their story, it just doesn’t have the conviction of being a farmer and investor.” Plus, because they were new in the game, they listened and listened hard. MagarPatta city generates power out of its waste, has solar water heating built-in, Cat 5 cabling built-in for internet and TV and every eco-friendly building practice in use today, planned and implemented in 2001. Where did that come from? From listening to visionaries who would become their customers, and advocates. Here then are the basics of social media communications, as practiced to perfection by Satish Magar.

  1. It’s not about tools, it’s about people
  2. It’s about listening, and listening hard enough to get important and valuable inputs and insights
  3. Making each constituent a co-creator in the process

In life, social media is not about leaders and followers, it’s about co-creation. Small wonder, that the Magars are now into two more projects, having been invited by farmers in Nanded, and Riverside, Pune, to replicate the experiment there.

EndNote:
while I was mulling about whether to blog about this, (there are two more posts, am still working on) I noted that the government had placed a NEW draft to replace the British colonial-era Land Acquisition Act, 1894, on their website. Jairam Ramesh, India’s rural development minister, announced the bill, earlier yesterday (Friday 29 July, 2011) building a possible case for land owners to get more money for the land they are dispossessed of, and some restrictions around multi-crop land sale, but no word on co-ownership, or co-creation. Looks like the expert committee didn’t look hard at the Magarpatta story, else Satish Magar would have told them, what he shared at the BCF Lecture.

  1. Land is not an infinite asset- they aren’t making any more of it these days- so it will go on appreciating
  2. For a farmer, land is inheritance, no one likes to part with family silver
  3. By pooling in land, the Magars made sure, they got an annuity income, in perpetuity from the land- their inheritance
  4. And created new livelihoods, which they chose, are profiting from, and are proud of

Finally, “It is not the government’s job to do business with land. Government’s job is to govern!” says Magar. I looked at the news reports on the draft, and didn’t see a single line which even hints at a model for creating land co-operatives of land owners, who can then work with realtors and corporate. Clearly, there’s more controversy awaiting!

Here’s the recorded webcast of Satish Magar’s  presentation ! look forward to your comments and views!!

Posted in Corporate, India marketing, Jay Vikram Bakshi, Jaywalking, politics, social media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

OMG! Social Media is EXPENSIVE!!

Time to do some myth busting!

Myth 1: Social Media is CHEAP – for almost ZERO media cost and effort you can build massive Brand presence

Myth 2: If people are talking about your brand on Twitter or LIKE ing your FaceBook page, you should be getting great sales, right?

Myth 3: Anyone can build businesses with Social Media

Here’s why! eMarketer projects social media advertising at $3.08 billion or roughly 10 percent of the $31.3 billion total online advertising spend for 2011.

According to a survey by Brandon Hall Group-Covario- As businesses use more Social Media, their social media marketing investment increases.

But, it’s not just the media costs! Closer examination of the major business expenses associated with social media programs shows the largest increases are in

staff, advertising spend, influencer/blogger programs, custom technology, and social customer relationship management (CRM), according to an Altimeter survey shared by eMarketer.

Intuitively, this makes sense since the more involved a firm is in social media, the more resources you need, more supporting marketing and more technology support required to ensure the firm’s systems integrate with social media, especially for tracking customers and sales.

BEYOND THE FREE  LUNCH – here’s how to develop a SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING BUDGET

To truly understand and evangelise social media marketing inside your corporate, you need to know which parts of the sales cycle your program, campaign, process will impact most. Most likely, you will involve Corporate Communications, Online marketing , some sections in IT, pre-sales, and most definitely, customer care. You might also need budget support ,management time and creative talent. So, it’s a good idea to look at the holistic picture, look at your marketplace, your customer, key stakeholders – internal and external, your organization, its current orientation, preparedness and then, incorporate social media as part of a larger corporate plan.

Here’s a look at five budget categories, but there would definitely more, depending on your business vertical, cause organization, consumer segment:

  1. Head count. Social media needs real-time responses from real people. Try manning a live Twitter account for a few days, you’ll know what I mean. For businesses, this often translates to more than just a Social Media Manager. I believe a mix of social media expertise and subject matter excellence is a better for organizations which operate in the Knowledge Economy.

    Staff involved in social media marketing and execution could include the following:

    1. Social media specialists. These employees/ outsource talent represent the firm on a variety of social media platforms.
    2. Marketing/PR Resource. Because social media is integrated into marketing strategy, it’s critical to have one or more people actively participating and managing your firm’s participation.
    3. Creative Talent. These resources may be internal or outsourced in terms of consultants or agencies. They’re responsible for creating content, internal marketing, and social media-related marketing.
    4. Subject Matter Specialist. Depending on your offering, it may be important to have a product specialist who can interact with your customers and the public.
    5. Technology. Includes resources to set up social media platforms and keep them going. Further, they make sure that social media platforms integrate into established company systems and provide sufficient bandwidth.
    6. Analysts. Examine the information collected including the brand monitoring and assess the company’s position and progress.
    7. Customer Service. Due to the fact that social media creates another customer communication channel, involve customer service reps who can write and chat on Twitter/ FaceBook, and other forums.
    8. Legal/compliance. With social media’s ability to stir up a variety of issues, have dedicated legal resources who can give answers quickly and not wait weeks or months for an answer.
  2. Content development. While its optimal to have internal resources create your content, you may need more head count and/or editorial support.
    1. Editorial support. Develops an editorial calendar and provides guidance on the social media content.
    2. Content creation. If employees aren’t able to handle content development, then outsource this function. You can use employees, passionate customers, and freelance content creators.
    3. Copy editing. Regardless of who creates your content, use professional copy editors to make sure your content is well-written and is consistent with the Brand Tone of voice (ToV).
  3. Marketing support. Marketing plug-in helps your social media execution to meet branding, traffic, and sales targets.
    1. Social media branding. Depending on the platform, you may need more creative and support to represent your brand effectively.
    2. Advertising. To drive people to social media executions, options include traditional media, online advertising, social network advertising, and search.
    3. Support marketing. This includes internal marketing such as the website, emailing, and offline promotion as well as landing pages and other internal media.
  1. Technology. Technology is the glue that ensures that your firm’s website and systems connect with the RIGHT social media platforms.
    1. Social media platforms. Some networks may need additional fees or technical support. More over, some tweaking may be needed to workproduct delivery and related tracking into the platform, if you are planning for Social Commerce.
    2. Content management systems or blogging software. Depending on your business’ social media execution, you may need specialized systems to manage your content.
    3. Website integration. It’s critical to make sure that social media participants can seamlessly reach your website homepage. No! Am NOT a fan of businesses who are doing away with this VIRTUAL estate and relying totally on FaceBook Fanpages- remember Geocities?
    4. Systems integration. As with any technology project, getting the different pieces to work together is challenging, especially with legacy systems.
    5. Server support. You need to handle traffic spikes when there’s a promotion or event. Think Cloud Servers!
  2. Analytics. What’s the RoI on Social Media? you do need to go beyond LIKE’s, RT’s, Followers and Comments. Management likes to think in terms of funnels, and believe you me, even Google Analytics doesn’t reach the Board Room unless there is a strong sales/ conversion story.
    1. Brand monitoring. You must track what’s being said about your company, your brands, your senior executives, and your competitors. But, before the fire, you need Online Reputation Management cover ready, ready in case you uncover early indicators of a problem.
    2. Ongoing analysis. At a minimum, ensure that your current tracking and systems can accommodate your social media activity.
    3. Social CRM. Depending on your customer tracking, you may consider incorporating your social media touch points

Regardless of what you expect to spend on social media marketing, it’s likely to be higher. As a marketer, the benefit is that there’s a good likelihood that your social media expense will be spread across several departments.

Are there any other expenses you’d add to this list? If so, what are they?

Read similar posts here

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F@$% FACEBOOK- BUILD your brands in NICHE Social Networks

Time to go beyond FaceBook- for Social Media Marketing

I generally don’t use FOUR-letter words in my blogs, but this one is straight from one of the brand managers, I spoke with following FACEBOOK’s “taking down (of) the official India pages of fashion house French Connection UK and chocolate giant Cadbury’s Bournville for violating the codes governing hosting of such pages and halting the social media promotion blitz that these brands have been riding on”. Read Srividya Iyer’s excellent report for more details.

My Point is that marketers need to wake up to using Social Media more effectively.

How? 3 years back, on a similar discussion with the India head of Nike, world’s largest sports brand, I had advised that social networks such as Facebook, Orkut, Friendfeed, and the like are passing phenomena, but Social Media isn’t!

My proposition, which comes from having been a player and observer in the digital Space since Craigslist started as a usenet group is as follows:

  1. People want content
  2. Content they want to share with other people relatively easily
  3. Which in term creates higher engagement between people

The whole phenomena of ‘likes’ and ‘fans’ mean nothing if people aren’t interacting with each other on a common platform- provided by the brand, NOT facebook, and on common or divergent interests. Look at the number of posts and likes on your own FaceBook posts and then visit a Brand Fanpage and you’ll notice the difference. Your posts get you more comments than likes, its JUST REVERSE for Brand fanpages.

So, while the hype and hoopla around FaceBook corporate pages went North, I with my Social Media Conversations Startup, Cloud9Media, advised brands to go Deep.

The result: 3 Niche social networks, which are now, interaction zones for people who are interested in following their interests in these areas, meeting with people of similar interests and creating Brand engagement beyond the social/online/digital play.

  1. www.epl4india.com, is a Global Soccer community, where followers of clubs as diverse as deportivo,and Manchester United, exchange notes, set dates for joint viewing, as well as chat about the latest team movements, along with the usual ‘play’ dates.

  2. www.highstreetperk.com, is a Fashionista hangout, where women mostly, share and connect with each other on latest fashion trends and styles, as they roll off the lines in Paris, Milan, and Tokyo, as well as the best deals for last season’s timeless classics, along with a coffee date, for joint shopping expeditions or even ringside passes for the upcoming India Fashion Week.
  1. www.eatoutdelhi.com, is a Foodies social network, where people discover new chefs, new cuisines, restaurants, and share via blogs and videos, and also set up dates and trips to explore new culinary experiences in and around Delhi.

All the above have Facebook pages, some have twitter handles, but the important thing here is that it’s not about the number of likes and fans per page, its about the engagement which these niche social networks provide for the users and their interests, as well as the platform they provide for their brands.

What’s more, this approach, which I should have patented J is now playing out among brands, and brand managers are slowly realizing its not about the reach and visibility that the digital audience, is supposedly providing.

What the social media space actually allows brands to do is to build a positive experience zone that can bring more and more like- minded, People with similar interests onto a positive BUZZ and sales spiral. My experiences in the last 3 years, suggest that for every brand that we have built niche social networks for,  sales have spiraled across all channels.

The Reason? Social Media is WORD OF MOUTH on Steroids. You share something on social media- be it on a network like FaceBook, or an Innocuous tweet, and the whole world of people like you, and who like you, gets to know. It doesn’t matter if you’re announcing a new romance, or sharing your heartache, or even stating common cause with the young and the elderly, people in your brand target group know each other, within seven degrees of separation, and therefore they know. When that happens, you see demonstrated behavior from across all categories, i.e. the trend we called in 2009 on Gladiator shoes in Highstreetperk, quickly became such a rage, that the brand which we were advocating told us that they were all sold out.

The Lesson? Build your own garden, use the fundamental truths of Social Networking, and allow your users to bring in more people like them because you provide a common platform which becomes shorthand for excellent lifestyle experiences around your brand.

And, of course, read The Economic Times report again on FaceBook rules and regulations, and ask your eager beaver social media agency to provide you documentary evidence that they know what damage  you might have to bear, before you spend millions of dollars just to be where you think your brand might get visibility.

Remember, visibility and interaction are at different stages of the sales cycle. On social Media, its all about discovery and bonding with who or what you discover.

Last word: Many years back, at a meeting in SFO, a colleague who had flown in from Washington DC to meet me had said, “am here, because you cant fax a handshake!” I believe, social networks do fill in some of the interactions, but you still need that physical connect.

Posted in Corporate, India marketing, social media, social media marketing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I am Anti- Anti: Building a Case for going Pro-

Sri Sri RaviShankar breaks Ramdev Fast

Mother Teresa is supposed to have said, ”  I will walk with you if you change the name of the rally you are holding.  I don’t walk for anti-war protests, I walk for Pro-Peace“.

I might have re-phrased it a bit. But   as far as I’m concerned this whole protest culture, streaming across from the Gulf of Mexico’s BP Oil spill, to wikileaks- inspired Arab Spring revolutions, and now in India as Anti-Corruption movement and soon to erupt across South China is supposedly brewed up by access to social media and social networking, and definitely attributed as popular and mass appeal by traditional media, is fast losing appeal. (sorry, got carried away in that long sentence!!)

As it should! It’s like this. The more you shout and scream of stuff you dont like, the larger in life, the stuff you protest against gets. And that keeps people, society, economies from fulfilling their destiny. Am assuming that most people would like a better life style, and societies feel safer and secure, and economies less risky and more wealth- generating.

Am sorry, I really dont get how being anti- something, actually stops it from getting bigger and more loathsome. I would rather be pro- the opposite. And I don’t believe am mis-representing Gandhi, who is attributed with creating most innovative styles of peaceful and non-violent protests. I believe the core principle of non-violent protest is Satyagraha- quest for Truth. And that I don’t think comes from stopping the wheels of progress. I would rather posit that, it comes from changing the intent by holding firm on the steering wheel and changing direction.

and that unfortunately, isn’t happening!

The opportunity then is to consider the opposite! Is it better to have leader-less revolutions as in Tunisia, Egypt, soon Bahrain, Syria and Libya, and civil society, along with judiciary and media activism going against the grain of democracy in India, or rather bring in the change from inside?  To Quote Gandhi, “Be the Change, you want to see in the world”. Gandhi’s world vision,  based on frugality and thrift, clashed against the world, which then and now, is hurtling along the path of human aspiration – an ancient Athenian motto, now adopted by the International Olympic Committee-

Citius, Altius, Fortius- Faster, Higher, Stronger.

Herein lies the rub! It starts by assuming that all resources are finite, the sun will die out, fossil fuels run out, not enough food to eat, so on and so forth. What if, we actually pondered and realized that Human Aspiration works better with being Pro-.

Green revolutions have kept millions in india from starving because it made good economic sense to fertilize farms with ammonium nitrate, use better seeds, pesticides, and get better yields. The energy paradigm has already shifted three times in the last 200 years- from brake horse power to steam torque to internal combustion and jet propulsion.

And its already on its way beyond. That doesn’t happen when you say NO! to horses, or coal and steam, but say YES! To gasoline, and then safe nuclear fuel, rocket fuel, now to Hydro-fuel, and solar.

Same story with the issue of bringing “Black Money” Indian for undeclared wealth, back from Swiss banks to India. One guru says that will equate the lowly Indian Rupee to the Mighty Dollar. The man doesn’t realize, its exactly the current exchange rate, which brings cash into his devotees’ wallets and his donations.

Its all about the mindset! If we flipped the original assumption- from scarcity to abundance, from competition to creativity, the whole basis of the Anti- movements would disappear, IMHO.

Interestingly, the flip would probably be that the folks who are currently siphoning off, would invest more in the effort to spur more creativity, which in turn would give them better returns for their undeclared stash, while creating more fulfilling lives, safer societies, and stronger economies.

Think about it!   Am thinking of going PRO- the opposite of all ANTI- as in Anti- corruption becomes Pro-Efficient, inclusive governance. Can think of a million other causes which would benefit if only we went PRO-!!

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