Friday, December 14, 2007

The Nielsen Company Issues Top Ten U.S. Lists for 2007

Are you a "list" person ? interested in knowing what Americans have been upto in 2007 ? what books have we been reading ? what ringtones have we been downloading ? what movies we have been watching ?

Did you know "My name is Earl" was the tv program most buzzed about online ? Well, I won't let any more cats out of the bag.......

If yes you are indeed interested in this , check out :

Nielsen's Top 10 US Lists for 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Snazzy" Stellaris : a combination of form and function

Most of us are used to the drab, boxy looks of surgical, medical equipment. One does not commonly associate the word "Snazzy" with a piece of equipment used for Cataract Surgery .

However Bausch & Lomb , a company based in Rochester, New York seems to have uniquely married form and function in their new "Stellaris Vision Enhancement System". It sure made the writers at the venerable The Economist go ga-ga and describe it as a "snazzy" piece of equipment:

The novelty of Stellaris—which is made by Bausch & Lomb, a company based in Rochester, New York—is that all the pieces of kit are pulled together into a single snazzy piece of equipment. The system can extract lenses, keep the eyeball inflated, and inject lenses in several different ways. The Stellaris has options to use an older or a newer surgical technique, depending on the surgeon's preference.

To read more about the revolutionary technology behind this which will greatly facilitate cataract surgery, follow the link :

The eyes have it
Dec 6th 2007
From The Economist print edition
Medical technology: The techniques used to replace worn-out eye lenses are getting better, making the process simpler than ever

Monday, December 3, 2007

Thoughts for the New Rochester School Chief

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle wanted its Board of contributors to share their priorities and concerns with Jean-Claude Brizard, the new superintendent of the Rochester City School District. Here's what I had to say about it. Personally, I am not effected by this change since as residents of Brighton we are not part of the Rochester City School District :

Equip every pupil with a laptop

With the focus on reading, writing and arithmetic proficiency under the No Child Left Behind approach, the city school kids are in danger of falling behind in computer literacy as compared to their suburban peers. I would expect Brizard to take the lead with some outside-the-box approaches in this area. Maybe partner with business and philanthropic organizations to launch a one-laptop-per-child program. Not only would that provide the children with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves, it would also help improve their reading, writing and arithmetic skills, and maybe also help in keeping them off the streets with a resultant decrease in youth violence. Several U.S. corporations are involved in the $100 laptop project for kids around the globe, so the idea should not be as costly as it sounds.

In many countries around the world, computer education has worked effectively in breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and violence and helping people move ahead in life. It's worth a try here.

—DEEPAK SETH BRIGHTON Seth is on the Board of Contributors. Dec 2,2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Day !!

Happy Thanksgiving !! Here's my piece on who I want to thank on Thanksgiving published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle today :

Brave soldiers

Thanksgiving Day 1994 found me in Tanga, Tanzania, a small coastal town on the Indian Ocean. I was working with a Singapore-based trading firm trying to get a cashew processing unit operational. I had been invited to lunch at the house of one of our local partners. As I got out of the car and walked to his home I saw a small, nicely maintained cemetery across from his home. As I was early and am a keen history buff, I stepped inside. It was a graveyard maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission commemorating Allied soldiers who had died there during the world wars.

As I walked to one of the commemorative walls, and started reading the names, my hair stood on edge. Listed there were countless soldiers from my native India who had died there valiantly battling for their British masters. Turned out, Tanga was an important battle site in the African campaigns during both world wars.

So every Thanksgiving I say thanks to the countless soldiers who fight and die bravely in distant lands, some for causes they believe in and others as pawns in games played by their political masters.

Seth is on the Board of Contributors.

Monday, November 19, 2007

NYC vs. London : Global Financial Capital ?

A very interesting piece by Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London in the Times of India. Ken is somewhat of a maverick, however what he says here makes a lot of sense.

As a New Yorker, what struck me most about the piece was Ken reaching out and writing a piece in India about the long term role of India as a growing economic superpower in the future of his own city : London. A manifestation of long term strategic vision and acceptance of ground level realities while not getting bogged down in talk about a hoary past. Can't visualize Mayor Bloomberg (NYC) doing something like that. NYC ( like rest of the US) seems to have become internally focused since 9/11 and risks losing it's position as the Global Economic Capital.

This should serve as a wake up call to the political and economic leaders here in the US. The world is surging ahead and we seem to have been caught up in a single point agenda : "War". While that may be important, losing the focus on the other balls in the air : Economy, Trade, Global Competitiveness etc. will make us weaker in the long run. Need of the hour is for leadership that has the ability to "multi task". Let's hope 2009 has that in store for us.

Ken Livingstone's piece. I have added some highlights to the points which piqued my interest as a New Yorker. :

Britain As India's Colony

19 Nov 2007, 0000 hrs IST,Ken Livingstone

India and Britain inhabit a world changing so rapidly that to bring out its character let's deliberately put it in stark, even 'provocative', terms. In 20 years time, only three people are guaranteed a place at the top table of the world's affairs - the presidents of the US and China and the prime minister of India. By then, the world will have shifted so much that if there were to be war between Britain and India, Britain would be more likely to end up as a colony of India than the other way round. Fortunately, for everybody concerned with humanity, has progressed to the point where colonies no longer exist and war, while not eliminated, has diminished. But such facts show the intensity of current transformations.

Globalisation, which is the framework for these shifts, cannot be conceived purely as an economic process. Those who believe that we will trade with, and invest in, each other’s countries more but everything else will stay the same are in for a severe shock.

Economic interaction is certainly accelerating. In London, it is a striking indicator that India now has the largest number of foreign inward investment projects after the US, and the spend of Indian tourists coming to London exceeds Japan’s. But overall London’s huge success, with studies showing it pulling ahead of even New York as an international business centre, is primarily due to its understanding of the shifts produced by globalisation.

New York’s dominance as the 20th century’s international financial centre was based on the US generating the overwhelming share of the world’s capital — accessing which was only possible in New York. This is no longer true.

Today, the greatest sources of world growth and capital are India, Russia and China. As recently as 2001, 54 per cent of IPOs of more than $1 billion were in New York.

Last year that fell to 17 per cent. Onerous and protectionist US restrictions need no longer be accepted. Economically the current problems in the US financial system, and the dollar’s, will further increase the attractiveness of London compared to New York.

The ramifications of globalisation socially are equally clear, and most pronounced in the most advanced international business centres. A third of London’s population was born abroad and 40 per cent of New York’s.

No one will solve the problem of having an international city without a very large number of foreigners. This reinforces the cultural, educational, policing and other consequences flowing from globalisation.

Trade always produced cultural influence but in the age of the internet and mass communications the speed of such influence is amplified greatly. Globalisation has not only an economic but also a profound cultural dimension. In the world’s great cities this mutual influence is the greatest.

Young people in London, Mumbai, Delhi, New York, or Paris have lives that are converging rapidly. They use the same technologies to make their lifestyle and have many similar aspirations. That in some cases they cannot yet directly talk to each other is merely a technical translation problem computers will solve during the first half of this century.

Two years ago, a commentator remarked that the lived experience of someone in London is already in many ways more similar to that of someone in Paris than life in London is to that in a small English village. Naturally this does not mean we will all change and become the same.

Culture changes more slowly than economy or politics. Leaving behind eras of conquest and colonialism means that culture change is now voluntary with people integrating from many societies to make their lifestyle - the iPod dominates everywhere while Chak de! India recently became the first Indian film to enter London’s top 10 most watched films.

The most fundamental shift of all is that current transformations mean 500 years of ‘West European’ cultural dominance, linked to its expansion across the world, is ending.

India is not merely a huge economy but one of the world’s greatest cultures. I constantly repeat in speeches in London that if people think the cultural impact of the India in our city is already great, which of course it is, in reality it has hardly begun.

This is the real basis of the new relations of London and India. The pre-eminent position to which India is heading is naturally not determined by the relative worth of individuals in Britain and India - which is entirely equal. It is determined by India’s rapid economic growth and that only partition obscures the fact that the Indian subcontinent already has a greater population than China.

Britain will never again be the world’s largest economy. However, London is the world’s most international city - a reality, not a boast. That internationalisation, in turn, makes London not only the world’s leading international financial centre but simultaneously a powerhouse of creative industries, of design, marketing, advertising and public relations - the best single stop most things Indian companies need to go global.

That equation - India is a rising economic superpower, London is the world’s leading international business centre - indicates the real common interests of both. Mutual interest for the future, not reminiscences about the past, is the firmest basis for friendship. (The writer is mayor of London.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Interesting Op-ed piece from Tom Friedman

Op-Ed Columnist
No, No, No, Don’t Follow Us

Published: November 4, 2007

India is in serious danger — no, not from Pakistan or internal strife. India is in danger from an Indian-made vehicle: a $2,500 passenger car, the world’s cheapest.

India’s Tata Motors recently announced that it plans to begin turning out a four-door, four-seat, rear-engine car for $2,500 next year and hopes to sell one million of them annually, primarily to those living at the “bottom of the pyramid” in India and the developing world.

Welcome to one of the emerging problems of the flat world: Blessedly, many more people now have the incomes to live an American lifestyle, and the Indian and Chinese low-cost manufacturing platforms can deliver them that lifestyle at lower and lower costs. But the energy and environmental implications could be enormous, for India and the world.

We have no right to tell Indians what cars to make or drive. But we can urge them to think hard about following our model, without a real mass transit alternative in place. Cheap conventional four-wheel cars, which would encourage millions of Indians to give up their two-wheel motor scooters and three-wheel motorized rickshaws, could overwhelm India’s already strained road system, increase its dependence on imported oil and gridlock the country’s megacities.

Yes, Indian families whose only vehicle now is a two-seat scooter often make two trips back and forth to places to get their whole family around, so a car that could pack a family of four is actually a form of mini-mass transit. And yes, Tata, by striving to make a car that could sell for $2,500, is forcing the entire Indian auto supply chain to become much more efficient and therefore competitive.

But here’s what’s also true: Last week, I was driving through downtown Hyderabad and passed the dedication of a new overpass that had taken two years to build. A crowd was gathered around a Hindu priest in a multicolored robe, who was swinging a lantern fired by burning coconut shells and praying for safe travel on this new flyover, which would lift traffic off the streets below.

The next morning I was reading The Sunday Times of India when my eye caught a color photograph of total gridlock, showing motor scooters, buses, cars and bright yellow motorized rickshaws knotted together. The caption: “Traffic ends in bottleneck on the Greenlands flyover, which was opened in Hyderabad on Saturday. On day one, the flyover was chockablock with traffic, raising questions over the efficacy of the flyover in reducing vehicular congestion.” That’s the strain on India’s infrastructure without a $2,500 car.

So what should India do? It should leapfrog us, not copy us. Just as India went from no phones to 250 million cellphones — skipping costly land lines and ending up with, in many ways, a better and cheaper phone system than we have — it should try the same with mass transit.
India can’t ban a $2,500 car, but it can tax it like crazy until it has a mass transit system that can give people another cheap mobility option, said Sunita Narain, the dynamo who directs New Delhi’s Center for Science and Environment and got India’s Supreme Court to order the New Delhi bus system to move from diesel to compressed natural gas. This greatly improved New Delhi’s air and forced the Indian bus makers to innovate and create a cleaner compressed natural gas vehicle, which they now export.

“I am not fighting the small car,” Ms. Narain said. “I am simply asking for many more buses and bus lanes — a complete change in mobility. Because if we get the $2,500 car we will not solve our mobility problem, we will just add to our congestion and pollution problems.”

Charge high prices for parking, charge a proper road tax for driving, deploy free air-conditioned buses that reach every corner of the city, expand the existing beautiful Delhi subway system, “and then let the market work,” she added.

Why should you care what they’re driving in Delhi? Here’s why: The cost of your cellphone is a lot cheaper today because India took that little Western invention and innovated around it so it is now affordable to Indians who make only $2 a day. India has become a giant platform for inventing cheap scale solutions to big problems. If it applied itself to green mass transit solutions for countries with exploding middle classes, it would be a gift for itself and the world.

To do that it must leapfrog. If India just innovates in cheap cars alone, its future will be gridlocked and polluted. But an India that makes itself the leader in both cheap cars and clean mass mobility is an India that will be healthier and wealthier. It will also be an India that gives us cheap answers to big problems — rather than cheap copies of our worst habits.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

To Vote or Not to Vote?

A piece by me on the importance of exercising the right to vote as Election Day in the US nears appeared in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle today:

Do not waste right that I as an immigrant have yet to gain
Deepak Seth Guest essayist

(November 4, 2007) — Election Day is poignant for me, for I'm not yet a U.S. citizen and therefore am barred from voting. I must remain a "permanent resident" for the mandated number of years before I'm granted citizenship, with its many privileges, mainly the right to vote.

Making it doubly painful is the fact that I hail from India — the world's largest democracy, though much younger than the U.S. democracy. India's history of peaceful transition through the electoral process gives me a strong appreciation of the power of the vote and the changes it can bring about in civil society. This is in marked contrast to the violent regime changes that plague many countries.

And so, denied for now the right to vote in America, I am surprised by the increasing number of Americans who could but don't vote. The reasons are many, but two of the most common are:

  • Our votes do not count; Big Business, lobbyists and the like heavily influence election results.
  • Elections don't make any difference. No matter who wins, policies, directions stay pretty much the same.
However, in many cases, the truth is that people are so busy that they just don't want to take the time to exercise their franchise. It is indeed a very sorry state of affairs.

What makes it more pitiable is that in the recent years, the United States has taken a leading role in spreading freedom — democracy — to various parts of the globe. Iraq and Afghanistan are cases to point. Meanwhile, in the United States itself, people shy away from exercising that same freedom that was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Politicians themselves have contributed to voter apathy. Campaigning has become very vitriolic and more a fight than an earnest debate. As in any fight, many people just choose to stay away rather than sully themselves in what they perceive to be muck. Some politicians also prefer to deal with the "moneybags" rather than the "huddled masses." But what one needs to remember is that the vote creates the politician and not vice versa. The vote is the most powerful weapon in a democratic society, and one should not be wary of wielding it.

Come Election Day, people should proudly wear their "I have voted" stickers. It is for defending and extending this right to vote that countless Americans have died. As for me, I count the days till I can join this great continuing, evolving endeavor: American democracy.

Seth, of Brighton, is on the Board of Contributors.

Monday, October 29, 2007

To Bee or Not to Bee

As I watched t.v. last night, was pleasantly surprised by the extensive coverage given to the missing bees' and the resultant impact on farmers and food supply. Both 60 Minutes (CBS- "What's with the bees") and PBS ("Nature: Silence of the Bees") ran stories. Finally the media is waking up to this important mystery.

However, the cynical side of me said it was a coordinated PR ploy executed by the makers of Jerry Seinfeld's "Bee Movie" (in theaters Nov 2) - let's get those stories about the bees' going so that there is more audience interest in the movie. No sweat, as long as a good cause is served.

Well, those of you who are avid readers of this blog know that we covered the story much earlier : Of Butterflies and Storms

The most poignant part of the story was the clip about Chinese farmers manually pollinating their fruit trees using a contraption made from chicken feathers. If I remember the stats right, it took them a few days to complete what bees can do in minutes.

Seems like we have not heard the last of this story yet. Bee right back..........

Of Bobby Jindal, Religion and the US electorate

Bobby Jindal recently became the first Indian-American to be elected the Governor of a US State. A remarkable achievement indeed. More remarkable is the age at which he has achieved it (36 years) and the state he has achieved it in (Louisiana - highly conservative,bottom of the rankings on most developmental indices, minuscule Indian-American population) .

Most news commentaries on his achievement have elaborated on the fact that he converted to the Roman-Catholic faith very early in life. They somehow seemed to imply that though he was Indian-American , he was a Roman Catholic and that made him more acceptable, more mainstream. Louisiana is a majority Roman-Catholic state.One would have thought that pledging one's soul to the Pope was not a prerequisite to getting elected. However it is a reminder of the extent to which faith and religion play a role in American politics.

Would be quite an uphill climb for the likes of Mitt Romney (Mormon), Hillary Clinton (woman), Barack Obama (African American) in the presidential races. Kennedy(Catholic) had broken the hold of the WASP(White Anglo Saxon Protestant) male but now it seems like WASE (White Anglo Saxon Evangelical) male is the profile that calls the shots.

But then I may be proven wrong. And I hope I will, because the ideals on which this country is founded -"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are too visionary to be shackled by sex, race or religion.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ever wanted to quiz a Nobel Laureate?

Ever wanted to quiz a Nobel Laureate? Now's your chance. Submit your question to one or more of this year's Laureates, and the most interesting ones will be posed to the Laureates who are participating in "Nobel Minds", an SVT/BBC World TV programme that will be aired in December, or who will feature in a special Q&A article that will appear on this website after the Nobel Prize ceremonies.

The link is here

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cytotron : A cure for Arthritis ??

Very rarely does one come across news items about technology/inventions from the developing world sweeping across the globe. I have recently come across one such invention which can potentially revolutionise the way Arthritis is treated and can potentially alleviate the pain and suffering of millions.

The device is called a Cytotron™( . It uses Rotational Field Quantum Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (RFQMR) for regenerative and degenerative tissue engineering and repair.

As per the inventor- Dr. Rajah Vijay Kumar "The Cytotron™ is now being used for treating diseases like Osteoarthritis and Cancer. The treatment modality is non-invasive, painless and free from side effects. In the Clinical studies it has been demonstrated that Cytotron™ is very effective in curing certain conditions such as a damaged knee by regenerating the cartilage tissue in Osteoarthritis or stopping and reversing the growth of a tumor in cancer."

The technology has been developed by the Centre for Advanced Research and Development (CARD), a division of Scalene Cybernetics in Bangalore, India( .

More details at :

I have not heard much about this technology in the US media and am not aware of how far the inventors have progressed in getting FDA approvals. That would be a big first step before it can enter mainstream medicine in the US.

On another front, as my friend Ajay Singhal who brought this invention to my attention points out " India has come a long way.. from supplying manpower to do the cybercoolie work to Basic Research in cutting edge technology in Medicine. It sure feels nice! "

Latest Update (Nov 23, 2010): Cytotron: Exciting New Development

Monday, October 8, 2007

Today, customers are last in line

My blog readers : You always get to read it first. My blog article : Customer Service : Quo Vadis got published in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle today. I had to tweak it a little to get it down to the 450 words limit and it got a new title . Here's the published version :

Today, customers are last in line

Deepak Seth Guest essayist
(October 8, 2007) — As the leaves begin to turn, the first Christmas trees have started making their way into area stores. The Big Holiday Shopping season is surely round the corner.
What lies in store for the customer? The last year can be described as an "annus horribilis" as far as customer experience is concerned. Long lines, airplanes stranded on the tarmac, numerous recalls ranging from toys to hamburger patties. Why is it that, when there have been tremendous advancements in technology, logistics, communication and others, there has been a steady decline in the quality of "customer experience"?

First, the pendulum has swung too far in corporate America's drive toward enhanced productivity (revenue per employee). Now, it seems to have reached the stage where increase in productivity is being accompanied by a decline in the quality of customer experience.

Second, many companies seem to have outsourced their responsibility for the health of their brands, in addition to outsourcing the manufacture of their products. It is easy to blame other countries for shoddy workmanship or hazardous components. However, the customer is paying good U.S. money to a good U.S. company for what he or she perceives to be a good product.

What can corporate America do to enhance the customer experience?

  • Develop, monitor and report on standardized measures of customer experience. "What's measured, gets managed." These measures in addition to the other indices like profitability; productivity, etc., would be true indicators of the corporate health and viability. Declining customer experience measures for a company with high profitability would be a sure indicator that the good times are not going to last long.
  • Consolidate all "customer experience"-related functions under a high-powered Chief Customer Officer. This officer can be tasked to be the voice of the customer at the board level. This new role would ensure that the voice of the customer does not get lost.
  • Take firm control of the supply chain process. Retain ownership of establishing and enforcing the design, manufacture and product quality standards irrespective of where the products are made.

Maybe it's time for all companies to reiterate this customer-focused pledge, coming from a person very few would recognize as a management guru, Mohandas Gandhi: "Customers are the most important visitors on our premises. They are not dependent on us. We are dependent on them. They are not an interruption of our work. They are the purpose of it. They are not outsiders to our business. They are part of it. We are not doing them a favor by serving them. They are doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so."

Board of Contributor members advise the Editorial Board and write occasional columns.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are

An interesting and sometimes scathing, self-introspective look at "Indians" by an Indian,V. Raghunathan . Some may call it supercilious and others self-flagellating, but there are no doubts that it is controversial and thought-provoking.

Comments like this are sure to raise a few hackles : Privately, Indians are reasonably smart -- in fact, we are as smart as anybody else -- but publicly we are dumb. Our ability to understand the need for cooperation is very low. We believe that cooperation and selfishness cannot go together -- which is not true. We also tend to be very fatalistic in our outlook. We give excuses such as, "What can I do alone? Everybody else is looking out for himself, so why shouldn't I?"

But then, a little introspection and self-criticism shouldn't hurt.

An interview with the author published at IndiaKnowledge@Wharton :

In his book Games Indians Play: Why We Are the Way We Are, V. Raghunathan writes about a farmer whose corn won top awards year after year. When a reporter asked about the secret of his success, the farmer attributed it to the fact that he shared his corn with his neighbors. Why, the reporter wondered, would the farmer want to share his seed when those neighbors also competed with him for the prize? The farmer's reply was, "The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grew inferior corn, cross-pollination would steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors do the same."

That Indians often fail to act like this farmer is the principal theme of Raghunathan's book. Using examples as varied as their tendency to drive through red lights to their failure to protect the environment, Raghunathan argues that Indians often act in ways that focus on winning immediate gains at the expense of long-term benefits. What makes Raghunathan's approach unusual is that his argument isn't a moral diatribe: He employs game theory -- a branch of mathematics -- and related concepts, such as the prisoner's dilemma, to present his case. A former professor at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, Raghunathan in 2001 was named president of the ING Vyasya Bank. He now works for the GMR Group as managing director of GMR Industries, the group's agri-business division, and CEO of the GMR Varalakshmi Foundation. Raghunathan also teaches game theory and behavioral economics at the University of Bocconi in Italy. To relax, he repairs mechanical clocks.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Customer Experience: Quo Vadis ?

As the leaves begin to change colors the first Christmas Trees have started making their way into area stores. A sure indication that the big holiday shopping season is round the corner. What lies in store for the customer? The last year can be described as an "annus horribilis" as far as customer experience is concerned. Long lines at stores, airplanes stranded on the tarmac, numerous recalls ranging from spinach to toys to hamburger patties. Why is it so that when there have been tremendous advancements in technology, logistics, communication etc, there has been a steady decline in the quality of "customer experience"?

Firstly, the pendulum has swung too far in corporate America's drive towards enhanced productivity (revenue per employee). Now, it seems to have reached the stage where increase in productivity is being accompanied by a decline in the quality of customer experience. Unfortunately, while productivity can be easily measured and is reported in financial statements, no effective way has yet been determined to measure or report on the quality of the customer experience. And everyone knows the adage "What's measured, gets managed". Most companies use customer complaints as an indirect indicator of the quality of the customer experience, but that is reactive rather than proactive (akin to bolting the stable doors after the horse has escaped.). Also, periodic customer satisfaction surveys are carried out, however there is no standard methodology of factoring their results in the financial reporting of the company the way other indicators of performance are.

Secondly, many companies seem to have outsourced their responsibility for the health of their brands, in addition to outsourcing the manufacture of their products. It is easy to blame other countries for shoddy workmanship or hazardous components. However, the customer is paying good US money for what he or she perceives to be a good product to a good US company. The US Company has to own the responsibility of maintaining manufacturing and product standards irrespective of where they are manufactured. They also need to ensure that quality standards are met. Products also need to be designed for US requirements. Lately many companies are behaving like importing agents, simply importing whatever is made elsewhere, having it packaged with their own brand label and distributing it to the retailers’ shelf.

These factors have been accompanied by an increase in customer awareness. The customer is becoming more demanding and discerning; and rightfully so. Also, government regulators have become increasingly vigilant following the "rather safe than sorry" approach.

What can corporate America do to enhance the customer experience in the days to come?

  • Develop, monitor and report on standardized measures of customer experience. This would require industry associations and accounting authorities to arrive on a consensus on what those measures need to be for the various sectors. These measures in addition to the normal indicators of corporate health like profitability; productivity etc would be true indicators of the corporate health and viability. Declining customer experience measures for a company with high profitability would be sure indicator that the good times are not going to last long.
  • Most companies have Chief Financial Officers and Chief People Officers, maybe it's time to consolidate all "customer experience" related functions viz. Complaint Handling, Satisfaction Surveys, Post complaint audit, Customer Research etc. under a high powered Chief Customer Officer. This Officer can be tasked to be the voice of the customer at the board level. This new role would ensure that the voice of the customer does not get lost in the pressures of meeting Sales or Production targets as they can sometimes do if the customer experience related functions lie scattered within the Sales or Manufacturing groups.
  • Take firm control of the supply chain process. Be responsible for establishing and enforcing the design, manufacture and product quality standards irrespective of where the products are made. Xenophobic diatribes cannot substitute for the responsibility of being custodians of the brand health.

After all did they not use to say "Customer is King/Queen"? Though Royalty may be a relic now, the Customer still needs to be placed on a high pedestal. Maybe it's time to reiterate this customer focused pledge from a person , very few would recognize as a management guru, Mohandas Gandhi , " A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider to our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Meeting with NY State Senator Joe Robach

"Is Albany in a lockdown because of the Troopergate scandal ?". Well, NO is the answer from Sen. Joe Robach whom I met on September 6 with other members of the Democrat and Chronicle editorial board. Both Democrats and Republicans are working together to progress important pending legislation and finalize key appointments. But one got the feeling that the hatchet is not totally buried yet between Gov. Spitzer and the Senate Majority Leader Bruno.

This was my first meeting with an elected state official and I will say that Sen. Robach brings a lot of passion and commitment to what he does. The recurrent theme during the conversation was the relative imbalance between upstate and downstate NY and the Senator's (as he termed it) "parochial" focus in correcting that imbalance in upstate's and more particularly Rochester's favor. I would term it as an excellent manifestation of "Think Globally, Act Locally". Contradictory ranking of Rochester in various surveys (e.g. "6th best place to live in US" was one of the better ones") came up for discussion. The senator rightly emphasized that irrespective of the rankings the focus needs to continue on improving the local economy , reducing inner city crime and enhancing school performance.

The senator was markedly passionate about a new initiative from his side to increase funding for initiatives for early detection of potential child abuse/mistreatment. He wants to enhance the statewide spend for such services and also to increase Monroe county's share. There was some skepticism around whether this should translate into more funding for county childcare services or private service providers and whether there was going to be duplication of efforts between government agencies. The program as outlined by the senator included early detection by hospitals based on criteria such as low birth weight and follow up visits by private agencies.

Budgetary reform was another area which Senator Robach dwelled upon. He mentioned about his efforts to bring about greater transparency regarding the various line items in the budget. He promised not to vote in support for a bill to raise the Senate' s pay though he supported a pay raise for the state judiciary.

The senator skirted the issue of mayoral or state control of the city school district. However, he did emphasize the need for better accountability and transparency of the spending for funding received by the city school district from the state. He expressed some frustration regarding the slow progress on several school up gradation/construction projects which he thought would not only improve the school environment but also add much needed jobs to the local economy.

The questions were many but the time was short. I left the meeting with a few unasked questions (viz. "Your thoughts on enhancing upstate competiveness to meet global challenges" ) and a better appreciation of what Albany does and the efforts it takes to make our tax dollars work for our benefit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

How to get your iPhone to work on all networks ?

Want to use your iPhone on a network other than AT&T ?

George Hotz has come up with a solution :

Here's how he describes it. I have taken the liberty of presenting it in a straight sequential order rather than the reverse order it appeared on his blog. If you are crazy enough risking breaking your iPhone trying to do this, blame George :-) . He got a car for his efforts, all you may end up with is a broken iPhone:

Step 1
First, I would like to say thanks again to gray, iProof, dinopio, lazyc0der, anonymous, the dev team, nightwatch, and everyone who donated. Without them, there would be no unlock today, and I surely wouldn't be up at 8AM.Second, you may brick your iPhone using this tutorial. YOU ARE WARNED.Okay on to the actual step. Remove the black part, the three screws, and the aluminum case. Disconnect the wire connecting the phone to the case. Do not remove anything else. Comment on these posts if you are with me so far. Once we get a good number of comments I'll move on.

Step 2
Also remove the metal cover over the comm board. This is all the disassembly you have to do. If you feel like being safe, desolder the battery red lead. I didn't :)

Step 3
The red line is covering the A17 trace. In order to trick the chip into thinking the flash is erased in the correct section, you will need to pull this high. Scrape away at the trace with something like a multimeter probe. Then solder a very thin wire to it. Be very careful. Only scrape away at that solder mask above that one trace. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BREAK THE TRACE. This is the hardest step in the whole process; the rest is cake. Also solder a wire to the 1.8v line. Connect to wire coming from the trace and the wire coming from the 1.8v to your unlock switch. Be careful, you only get one chance to do this right. Thanks again to Nick Chernyy for the picture.

Step 4
Ok, time to test what you just soldered. First use the continuity check on a multimeter to make sure the wires aren't shorting to ground or to each other. Make sure your switch is in the off position. Power up your iPhone. Hopefully it didn't smoke :) Now go into minicom to tty.baseband and send a few commands, AT a few times will do. It should respond OK. Now flip your switch, the baseband should stop responding. Even when you flip it back, the baseband still shouldn't respond. Be sure your switch is off, then open another ssh and run "bbupdater -v" You can get bbupdater off the ramdisk. This should reset the baseband, and minicom should start working again. If it did this, your soldering is most likely good, and you are ready to actually start unlocking your phone!!!

Step 5
If it passed the checks in step 4, congratulate yourself. You are a pro solderer. Go eat lunch. If not, don't worry yet. I must've thought I bricked my phone 100 times. First of all, to power up your phone you don't need to reconnect the case with the power button. Just connect it with USB, it'll power itself up. Secondly, don't waste time compiling minicom. Download the binary here, and termcap here.

Step 6
Now, with the switch off, your baseband should be working perfectly. Here you should take a NOR dump of your phone. The dev team's NORDumper is a great way to do this. This is good to have in case something goes wrong. You can extract the firmware from this as well, which we'll get to later.

Step 7
So here is the first tool release, iEraser. This erases the current firmware on your modem. Don't worry, you can always put it back with bbupdater. Here how the bootrom check works; it reads from 0xA0000030 0xA000A5A0 0xA0015C58 0xA0017370 and all these addresses must read as blank, or 0xFFFFFFFF. When you erase flash, it becoms 0xFFFFFFFF. But you can't erase those locations, because they are in the bootloader. So thats where the testpoint comes in. Pulling A17 high hardware OR's the address bus with 0x00040000(offset one because data bus is 16 bit) So the bootrom instead checks locations 0xA0040030 0xA004A5A0 0xA0045C58 0xA0047370, which are in the main firmware and can be erased. Pretty genius :)To use this tool, you need the secpack from your modems version. The erase of this section is protected. Check the modem version in Settings->About. It'll either be 3.12(1.0) or 3.14(1.0.1 and 1.0.2). You need the ramdisk which cooresponds to your version. Then go into "/usr/local/standalone/firmware" and get the ICE*.fls file. Extract 0x1a4-0x9a4 and save it in a file called secpack and place it in the same directory as the ieraser tool. Run ieraser. This should erase the modem firmware and leave you one more step on your way to unlocking.

Step 8
Now its time to patch the firmware. Thanks to gray for finding these patches, this required some very complicated reversing. First, you need to extract the firmware from your nor dump. The range you need is 0x20000-0x304000. Save this file as "nor". The patches you need to apply are as follows. These are offsets from the begininning of the file to saved as "nor". Choose your version, and patch.3.12: (213740): 04 00 a0 e1 -> 00 00 a0 e33.14: (215148): 04 00 a0 e1 -> 00 00 a0 e3Resave the file nor, you'll need it soon...

Step 9
The final tool is iUnlocker. This tool uploads a small program, "", to the baseband using the bootrom exploit. This program needs to be in a dir with "nor", the file you obtained in the last step. You need to have the switch on when running this program. This will download and run the code in "" Then the program will stop and ask to to turn off the switch. Do so. You type any character then hit enter. The nor download starts right away. When the counter reaches 0x2E4000, it is done. Run "bbupdater -v". Hopefully it will return the xgendata. If is does, the nor upload was successful.

Step 10: The Last One
minicom into /dev/tty.baseband. If you already used up your attempt counter, the phone should already be unlocked. If not just run 'AT+CLCK="PN",0,"00000000". That will unlock the phone for sure. Run 'AT+CLCK="PN",2'. It should finally return 0!!!Your phone is now unlocked. Exit minicom and copy the CommCenter plist back to its place. Reboot. iASign. And enjoy your unlocked iPhone.

Monday, August 20, 2007

India, U.S. are pursuing same dream

An article by me published in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle today.

India, U.S. are pursuing same dream
Deepak SethGuest essayist

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(August 20, 2007) — Aug. 15 marked India's 60th Independence Day and hence the 60th anniversary of Indo-U.S. relations — a journey marked with lots of interesting twists and turns.
It started off on a high note with the U.S, Constitution inspiring the framers of India's constitution. But then, India veered onto a socialistic path with state control of enterprises and alignment, albeit loosely, with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The United States also aligned itself with India's then-arch-rival Pakistan.

Since then, much water has flown down the Ganges and the Potomac. The United States now values India as a strategic partner. India has liberalized its economy. The two countries are on the brink of ratifying a nuclear collaboration treaty signed a couple of years ago. Some think this is due to India's growing economic clout as a nuclear power while others think it is a manifestation of America's desire to prop up India as a potential check to China's aspirations as a global superpower.

Trade between India and the United States is booming. A big chunk of Boeing's current order book comes from India. Immigrants from India founded more engineering and technology companies in the United States from 1995 to 2005 than immigrants from the United Kingdom, China, Taiwan and Japan combined. Of all immigrant-founded companies, 26 percent have Indian founders. Locally, in Rochester, India-born entrepreneurs including I.C. Shah (ICS Telecom), Dilip Vellodi (The Sutherland Group), Bal Dixit (Fireproof materials), Ram Shrivastava (Larsen Engineers) and Makhan Singh (restaurateur) have created hundreds of jobs and contributed significantly to the local economy. Indian doctors are strong pillars of the local health care system. As they have worked hard to realize their "American Dream," they have enhanced the prosperity of their adopted land. More than 2.5 million people from India now call America home.

In this era of globalization, the American Dream has become the Indian Dream. The American Dream has spread to all corners of the world due to the selfless actions of the thousands of U.S. volunteers helping with education, health care and disaster relief; the veterans who fought or gave their lives during the world wars to rid the world of oppression and tyranny; the writings of American thinkers and philosophers; American media; the American tourist and explorer who trudge the farthest reaches of the globe; the American researcher and inventor whose discoveries benefit all mankind; U.S. universities, which are a global magnet for students; and, yes, the U.S. corporation that has made the likes of McDonald's and Starbucks global icons.
India faces challenges of elephantine proportions in its march toward economic prosperity for all its citizens, but the world's largest democracy is living up to the dreams of 1947. And it is doing so in close alignment with a country that has championed democracy and freedom for more than 200 years: the United States.

Seth, of Brighton, is a native of India and member, Board of Contributors.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Immigrants revel in U.S. liberty, opportunity

A piece by me ("Rochester eased longing for India" ) was carried by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in its July 4 edition :

Unabridged version of the article is as follows :

We arrived in US on Oct 1, 1999. Me,my wife - Anupa, daughter- Divya (then 7), son - Ishir (then not yet 2) and lots of bags. The trip from India had been a long one (over 24 hours) and a painful ordeal for my son who cried all the way in, I suspect from an ear infection. The last leg from Detroit to Rochester was a painful one for my daughter too as we were booked on a small plane which did not have a toilet.

All troubles however seemed to disappear as we reached our town home (after I had figured out all the knobs and levers in my rental car and drove on the "right" side of the road after having driven the "wrong" side all my life till then) and flopped on to the carpeted floor to catch some much needed sleep. Found out that light switches get switched on when you move them up rather than down. A trip to the neighborhood Tops to stock up on milk and groceries was the next big step. A glimpse of the Indian Tricolor flag in the international food aisle was very reassuring.

I had relocated to the US as the Asian representative for a Global Financial Applications implementation project my Rochester based employer had embarked upon. The decision to move to the US had been a heart wrenching one as we were leaving friends,family and careers behind. Anupa also had her job as a Doctor. And she knew that she had a bigger ordeal ahead of her - qualifying for and repeating her Medical Residency all over again, in case we decided to stay on.

The kids took to Rochester and the US like ducklings to water. Divya loved her school and was quick to make friends. Her education in India had given her a good foundation to build upon and she did not miss a beat. Rochester was at its best at that time of the year - Fall foliage in bloom and we took many a long drive to soak it all in. That we were not prepared for the Rochester winter is an understatement. The cold and the snow was all new to us and even more so was the near absence of the sun. I remember pouring hot water to melt the ice on my porch step only to see it freeze all over once gain (that was before somebody told me about using salt).

We knocked on doors in our neighborhood, introduced ourselves and made friends. Some of those friendships still last even as we moved out of the neighborhood. We were quick to find the India Community Center ; Hindu Temple and Jain Society of Rochester - all of which helped to retain some linkage with the culture and traditions we had left behind. Wonderful community resources like Strong Museum, Highland Park, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester Zoo etc all made the process of settling in much easier. And the people of Rochester topped it all - the warm friendly faces were more than anyone could have asked for. We never felt like strangers.

Had some fun with the initial nitty gritties of getting life organized here - cannot have a credit card since I do not have a credit history and the only way of getting a credit history is by having a credit card. Catch-22. Got past that and within a few months was getting deluged with offers from credit card companies each more eager than the other to sign me up. Welcome to America.

Much water has flown down the Genesee river since then.I am a Permanent Resident ("Green card holder") of the US now with a few more years of waiting before we become eligible to apply for citizenship.Moved into our own house. Anupa completes her Residency this year. Divya is a sophomore in High School and was even elected President of her Freshmen Class. Summer finds us busy with Ishir's Soccer practices and matches. Divya & Ishir never cease to surprise their grandparents with their American accents and ways.

We are proud to be a part of the American Dream. On Fourth of July I think of Fireworks, Festivities, Family, Food, Fun and much more but most importantly FREEDOM. As we immerse ourselves in the celebration of this joyous day I do not want to forget its underlying significance and what it means not only to all of us living in the United States but to countless others all over the globe. The cherished ideals of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of happiness on which the Founding Fathers laid the keel of this great nation have served as shining beacons all over the globe.

Wish everyone a great Independence Day !! Happy FREEDOM !!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fourth July : What it means for me....

Fireworks, Festivities, Family, Food, Fun and much more........ but most importantly FREEDOM. As we immerse ourselves in the celebration of this joyous day many tend to forget its underlying significance and what it means not only to all of us living in the United States but to countless others all over the globe. The cherished ideals of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of happiness on which the Founding Fathers laid the keel of this great nation have served as shining beacons to other countries as they got rid of the colonial yoke and emerged as fledgling democracies. The Constitution of my country of birth - India was inspired greatly by the American Constitution.

In this day and era of Globalization, the "American Dream" is a "Global Dream" and for many of us like me who are not economic, political, social or war refugees, it is this Dream which bonds us to this great nation. A bond which gets strengthened with every passing July 4th.

The American Dream has percolated all reaches of the world due to the selfless actions of the thousands of American volunteers helping with education, medicine and disaster relief; the veterans who fought or gave up their lives during the World Wars to rid the world of oppression and tyranny ; the writings of American thinkers and philosophers; American Media (“Hollywood”) ; the American Tourist and Explorer who trudges the farthest reaches of the globe; the American Researcher and Inventor whose discoveries benefit all mankind; the American University which is a global magnet for students and academia ; and yes the American Corporation which has made the likes of McDonald or Starbucks global icons.

It's not the American Gun but the American Volunteer/ Businessman/ Scientist/ Tourist who has taken this dream to more people and that's the way it should be. We should want people to be peacefully co-opted into the "Dream" rather than being forced into it by "Shock and Awe".

"FREEDOM" is the cornerstone of the American Dream and every July 4 is a reminder to me that, even as we revel on this day we need to be aware of the responsibility placed on us to ensure that these Freedoms we take for granted are not eroded or encroached upon by overzealous leaders in the guise of external or internal threats either to line their own pockets or to impose their line of thought on everybody else. The inherent checks and balances created by the triad of an independent Executive, Legislature (Congress) and Judiciary needs to be preserved at all costs. No Rasputins (extra constitutional authorities) should be allowed to chip away the American Dream.

Wish everyone a great Independence Day !! Happy FREEDOM !!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Immigrants as Entrepreneurs: creating jobs, enhancing prosperity

The immigration debate over the last few months has been focused on illegal immigration, the burdens it places on local economies and the plight of illegal immigrants. What has got sidelined is the continued contribution of legal immigrants in creating jobs and enhancing prosperity. Immigrants have been and continue to be the lifeblood of the US economy. By their entrepreneurial zeal and work ethic they have contributed to the unparalleled stature of the US as a colossus in the global economy.

A recent study report (released January 7, 2007) by a team of student researchers in the Master of Engineering Management program of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University led by Executive in Residence/Adjunct Professor Vivek Wadhwa, Research Scholar Ben Rissing, and Sociology Professor Gary Gereffi, has documented the economic and intellectual contributions of immigrant technologists and engineers to US competitiveness -- to understand the sources of US global advantage as well as what the US can do to keep its edge.

A key finding of the study was that there was at least one immigrant key founder in 25.3% of all engineering and technology companies established in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 inclusive. Together, this pool of immigrant-founded companies was responsible for generating more than $52 billion in 2005 sales and creating just under 450,000 jobs as of 2005. The researchers also estimated, based on an analysis of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) patent databases, that foreign nationals residing in the U.S. were named as inventors or co-inventors in 24.2% of international patent applications filed from the U.S. in 2006. These immigrants come to the U.S. from all over the world to take advantage of the business, technology and economic opportunities in the country.

An interesting finding was that these immigrant-founded businesses are unevenly located across the country. California and New Jersey represented hot spots for immigrant-founded engineering and technology business; Surprisingly, New York despite being the state with the second highest percentage of the population being foreign-born (19.6% vs. 24.9% for California in 2000), only had nearly 25% of its companies established by immigrant key founders (vs. 38.8% for California, 37.6% New Jersey, Michigan 32.8%, even Georgia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Illinois and Arizona fared better). New York (5.2%) also featured third after California (34%) and New Jersey (7.3%) in a breakdown of states where immigrant founded engineering and technology companies are based. California with Silicon Valley appears to be the hotbed of creativity and entrepreneurism. New York has significant catching up to do. Some food for thought for the state's economic policy czars.

I was pleased to learn that immigrants from my country of origin (India) have founded more engineering and technology companies in the US in the past decade (1995-2005) than immigrants from the U.K., China, Taiwan and Japan combined. Of all immigrant-founded companies, 26% have Indian founders. Locally, in Rochester, Indian origin entrepreneurs like IC Shah (ICS Telecom) ,Dilip Vellodi (Sutherland group),Bal Dixit (Fireproof materials) ,Bhoopinder Mehta (Indus Group- hotels and restaurants),Ram Shrivastava( Larson Engineers),Makhan Singh (Restauranteur) have created hundreds of jobs and contributed significantly to the local economy. As they have worked hard to realize their "American Dream", they have enhanced the prosperity of their adopted land.

This research showed that immigrants have become a significant driving force in the creation of new businesses and intellectual property in the U.S. — and that their contributions have increased over the past decade. It also established that the key to maintaining US competitiveness in a global economy is to understand America’s strengths and to effectively leverage these. Skilled immigrants are one of America’s greatest advantages- the US has the unique advantage of having amongst its citizenry people from all parts of the globe. This “integrated diversity” is not yet fully utilized by corporations to its full potential. No other country operating in the global arena has this advantage. You may not find a Fijian or an Icelander in China or India but you would very well do in the US. And that’s a strength which needs to be leveraged.

Let us celebrate the "integrated diversity" of US and the pursuit of the "American Dream". Both of which contribute to the continued growth and prosperity of the US in a global economy.

Link to the Report :

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Are talk show hosts bullies ??

This time around Don Imus has ended with his foot in his mouth. Not the first time and I'm sure would not be the last time other.

Why would anyone in their right mind while commenting on a college basketball match make derogatory racist and sexist remarks about the team ? Is there really an audience for that kind of stuff ? Does it help with ratings ? Does tagging a team with a racial, sexist epithet help in anyway with describing how they are playing or what they have achieved ?

One reason I can think of is that guys like Imus are bullies. They like the feeling of power and control they get from their ability to call people names and get away with it. And like any other bully their pleasure is greater when the other party is weak or is perceived to lack the ability to hit back. I am sure Imus would not have made such remarks about Condi Rice or Al Sharpton or any other powerful people. Hitting out at defenseless 18/19 year olds would have given him his kicks for the day.

My detractors would say that African American rapsters are getting away with using those terms. I agree. Their actions are deplorable too and may have contributed to some of those epithets becoming "mainstream" and being picked up by non-African American commentators. I do hope that African American Leadership would try to end the denigration of women in the current rap culture. Self respect is an essential prerequisite for getting respect from others. And by demeaning a large section of the community (women) they are demeaning the entire community.

However, two wrongs do not make a right. Use of these epithets by rapsters does not in anyway condone their use by the mainstream media. Nobody in their right mind - whether from the majority community or from the minority goes about calling people names. Courtesy and Civility are hallmarks of American social customs and traditions. Public use of these terms is an aberrant behavior which society needs to correct.

Another aspect sure to be raised is about "Freedom of Speech". I respect Imus' right to speak whatever he wants. But am reminded of the age old adage "your freedom ends where my nose begins". Freedom of speech was never intended to be an unbridled right to pillory people. Though Imus might win in a court of law, he is slowly losing ground in the court of public opinion. More importantly he may lose out in the "court of the marketplace" as advertisers pull support from his program. That's what I like about America - Market forces prevail !!!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Of Butterflies and storms....

I remember reading a theory years back about how a butterfly fluttering its wings in Siberia can lead to a storm in the Americas. Had something to do with entropy and probabilities and the like .

Even more so it was all about "unintended consequences" and that's what I wanted to write about today. The idea of piecing disparate sets of news together to make a hypothesis interests me.

Last few days the media here is full of news about the big die-out of the honeybee. A collapsed hive syndrome is what it has been described as. Beekeepers are finding their hives empty and that is leading to billions of dollars in losses for the agricultural sector as farmers and horticulturists try to figure out alternate ways for pollinating their valuable crops.

Another seemingly unrelated news was about the success of experiments to introduce the human insulin producing gene in some food crops. In any case, less bizarre GM ("genetically modified") crops are covering increasingly large swathes of the countryside.

Could the death of the bees and the increase in GM crop acreage be related ? Could something in these crops be interfering with the bee's natural life cycle ?

I am no opponent of GM crops. I think like all other technological advancements they have a role to play in modern society. They may play an important role in alleviating hunger across the globe and may provide a new way of improving health & longevity by delivering cures for diseases. Improving crops through selective breeding has been a human endeavor since prehistorical days and genetic modification is a logical extension of the same.

However, the launch of these products into the food chain should be governed by strong science and not by the lobbying clout of the companies promoting them. Not only the health risks to human but the impact on other species (like our friends the honey bees) and long term environmental impact need to be evaluated. The boll weevil resistant cotton which is so irrigation intensive that it depletes water tables in water starved areas is an example of unintended consequences not being thought through.

From bees to weevils to vultures......... the Indian vulture is becoming extinct. The unintended consequence of a drug given to cattle to get rid of some parasitic worms. The drug gets passed on to the vultures when they eat the dead cattle. It weakens the shells of the vulture eggs which then break before hatching killing the hatchling. Without the vultures to act as scavengers in the countryside, putrefying carrion can contaminate water supplies and cause diseases in humans. Wow, that's an unintended consequence .

Let's be more open about evaluating "unintended consequences". Let the science be out there in the open. Let the government/scientific organizations play their desired roles as referees/regulators rather than just being ticket vendors allowing the highest bidders a seat on the table.

Let the Butterflies flutter without creating any storms.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Being "Sanjaya"ed .........

Sanjaya Malakar has brought the "Desi" (meaning "Asian Indian") face into the limelight in the USA as never before. Love him or Hate him, fans of American Idol seem to never get enough of him.

What is surprising though is the number of conspiracy theories that have started flying around to explain his continued stay on the show despite his mediocre singing talents. Well, sing he can't, though he definitely has a screen appeal for a particular demographic (pre-teen girls and doting grandmas).

The mainstream media has reported one conspiracy theory extensively - call center workers from India were calling in votes for Sanjaya. That one had me in splits. Showed the total ignorance of the media here about the "Indian as a group" psychology. They need to read about the "Indian crab" tale : when shipping Indian crabs , no lid is required on the container. As soon as one will try climbing up the others will pull it down.

I was surprised by the assumption or even more so an almost sacrosanct belief that voters always make rational choices. The "Freakonomics" authors will sure have a lot to say about that. Look at the history of general elections in almost any country and one can conclude that such a belief is a myth. People vote with their hearts and not their minds. Even more so once a wave gets created people would rather ride that wave than apply any wisdom of their own. Media consultants who are experts in creating such a buzz or wave are the part of all the presidential candidates' entourage these days.

Whenever a majority views a minority they always assume that the minority behaves like a herd - "All Indians will vote for Sanjaya". Why they would think so beats me. I am reminded of an experience from my childhood - riding through the Indian countryside and stopping at roadside farms one would see young kids tending their "herd" of buffaloes or cows. While I saw them as a herd, the farmer's kid was always able to identify each animal distinctly and more often than not have a unique name for each of them.

What bugs me the most is that this attitude gets carried over to the workplace also in many cases. People stereotype minorities and try to typecast them in particular roles . "Asians are good in math and science". "Marketing ,Sales, Communication is not Indians' forte". Every person is an individual and needs to be viewed and judged as such.

Sanjaya needs to sail or sink on his own merits and talent. His being of Indian descent has nothing to do with it. If America likes him and is willing to vote for him week after week he will win. Whether he wins or loses, the producers of "American Idol" are laughing their way to the bank. Nothing like some controversy to get those viewership ratings soaring. If none existed they would have created one.

All the best - Sanjaya !!! While you may not have the singing talent, you have shown the world how to keep smiling and fighting in the face of criticism and insurmountable odds. And America loves that.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Have Festivals become too commercial ??

As Easter or any other festival arrives and the malls get decked out months in advance, a debate starts about whether festivals today are getting increasingly commercialized taking away from their "piety" or "old-worldly charm".

I think the phrase "Has Easter become too commercial ?" is an oxymoron since trade and commerce are part of any festival and have been through the ages.

Most festivals originated from the need of human beings to congregate and celebrate season changes (the solstices and the equinoxes) ; crop or herd cycles (planting time, harvesting time, birthing time etc); or rites of passage within the tribe/community (birth, puberty, marriage, death). As people congregated the traders also followed providing the food, clothing, celebratory accompaniments etc. required for the festivities.

These festivals also provided an opportunity for the wealth which had been hoarded by the community to tide over bad days to be brought into circulation again. Society was quick to realize the benefits this circulation of money brought about and the opportunities festivals offered for trades people to sell their wares to a broader populace than what they could ordinarily do. Trade brought prosperity to the communities and allowed the transition from herding/gathering to a more settled life subsequently leading to the city states which aggregated/transformed into the modern nations.

As religions emerged, major religious events also tended to occur around these festival times since those were the times when large number of people had congregated together. The trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ during Passover celebrations or the founding of the Khalsa Panth in the Sikh Religion during the Baiaskhi festival are two examples which prove the point.

This resulted in the symbiotic relationship which exists between trade/commerce and festivals. Trade gains from the increased revenues brought about during the festivals while the festivals gain from the contributions trades people make to religious and social causes. The increased commercial activity in the marketplace represented by decorations, increased product offerings and displays, trade events etc adds to the festivity and also makes the festival meaningful and enjoyable for people who may not be part of the religious tradition to which the festival belongs.

That is why Christmas in the US or Diwali in India or Eid in the Middle East can transcend religious boundaries to become festivals for all people. If the festivals were confined to the church/temple or mosque alone they cannot be the joyous occasions for all , trade & commerce have helped them to be.

In some cases Trade has actually created festivals which did not exist earlier e.g. Mothers day, Father's day etc. But once again they fulfilled a need for publicly expressing emotions which wss getting missed out in the absence of a formal festival.

Throughout the ages there have also been strong undercurrents against the trading class or "money" in general. Tradespeople have generally been placed behind the priestly and warrior classes in hierarchical societies. A perception has been created that one cannot be making money and be pious at the same time which has been extended to the logic that if a festival is becoming "commercial" it is becoming less "holy". I do not subscribe to that logic.

The increased commerce is also a manifestation of the concept of free enterprise on which our economy is founded. No seller would make/sell a product unless someone is willing to buy it. People are not just buying Easter stuff because it is out there. Rather the stuff is being made and sold because the buyers have a need for those products which the sellers are fulfilling. The concept of personal responsibility needs to extend here too- if the people don't need something they should not buy it.

So I believe, trade and commerce are as much part of Easter as they are of any other festival . They make the festival more meaningful and do not in anyway detract from its meaning. What do you think ?

Globalization and Technology

I was recently invited to speak to a group of professionals under the auspices of the International Resources Group Inc at Rochester, NY about "Globalization and Technology". The points I made during my talk can be summarized as :

1. Globalization is nothing new. It is as old as human existence.

2. Globalization itself is neither good nor bad. Like any other aspect of human endeavor, it’s impacts can either be good or bad. And we can control that.

3. Technology is the key enabler of the current rapid pace of Globalization. Globalization and Technology have a symbiotic relationship with each gaining from the other.

4. Maintaining technological leadership is essential to ensuring leadership position in the global economy.

5. “Integrated Diversity” of the US population makes it uniquely poised to reap the benefits of globalization.

The first point surprised a few listeners who had till now viewed globalization as a current economic phenomenon.

I believe that Globalization is as old as humankind itself. Migration of people, ideas and inter regional commerce has been an integral part of the human experience on this planet.

Spread of Christianity, Islam and Buddhism to places far from their places of origin was a manifestation of globalization. As were the journeys of Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, Vasco Da Gama, Magellan and many others who followed in their footsteps.

Even when the earth was considered to be flat , there was always a strong urge to peek just beyond the rim to see what lay there and how one could benefit from it.

I can visualize Geico’s famous cavemen sitting around a fire discussing the impact of writing on clay tablets since now they were no longer confined to painting on their cave walls. And as always, some would have predicted the end of the world and others would have seized the opportunity and tried to make the most of it.

So while Globalization has always been there, what has changed today is the pace with which its influence, reach and impact can be felt around the globe.

The point about "Integrated Diversity" also sparked some discussion. The US has the unique advantage of having amongst its citizenry & workforce people from all parts of the globe. This “integrated diversity” is not yet fully utilized by corporations to it’s full potential. No other country operating in the global arena has this advantage. You may not find a Fijian or an Icelander in China but you would very well do in the US. And that’s a strength which needs to be leveraged .

The rise of India and China is often used to scare people in the US. I do not think that is valid. Technological leadership will determine whether we end up as victims or victors in this race. We have that edge right now and it is up to all of us to ensure that we do not allow our leaders to take their eye of the ball as far as funding technical education and innovation is concerned.

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