Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year 2012

At the time of writing this blog, new year has already arrived in Hong Kong, Melbourne and in all the countries east of India! Soon it will arrive here in Kolkata. On my way home after dinner half an hour ago, I saw people, kids, youth excitedly waiting for the new year to arrive. They were dancing, drinking as the loud speakers blared latest spicy Bollywood item numbers. As the clock hand hits 12, there will be crackers bursting, people cheering!

What amuses me is how we divide time a continuous variable (too technical, eh!) into millennia, years, months, days and so on. I try to imagine how it would have been to live in a world without the cyclical weeks, months and years! But periodicity is in nature's design. Earth rotates and it revolves around the sun - consequently the sun rises and sets, season changes - all these in an unmistakable pattern.

So we get a new day, a new week, a new year to make amends, resolve and move on, though somewhat oblivious of the fact that in absolute terms we have moved quite a bit across the universe and in life!

As a new day of a new year dawns in few minutes, I wish all my readers a happy, prosperous and peaceful new year - 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Major ICT events of 2011

Here is the round-up of major events in the world of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in 2011. Feel free to add more in the comments.

Product Launches 

Apple iPhone 4S

This fifth generation of the iPhone was launched in the US in October. The device runs on iOS5 operating system with A5 dual core processor making it one of the fastest iPhone ever. Siri, the voice recognizing and talking assistant App is the most liked and talked about feature that comes with iPhone 4S. Its 8MP camera allows 1080p video recording.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Pole Star

Among all the stars in the sky, Polaris, the pole star is my most favorite one. Everyday it remains in the same place. If I am watching it through my telescope, unlike for other stars and planets, I don’t need to constantly rotate the lens to keep the star in view. In the past, sailors in the sea used to look at this star to determine direction (North). It’s a reference point – an anchor in life.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

If 2012 be the last year!

The Mayan had predicted it. There are lots of doomsday theories doing the round which back this up. The date given is 21st December, 2012, the winter solstice. Scientists and astronomers, however, do not see any impending calamity to cause the 'apocalypse'. They term all the apparently scientific reasoning to substantiate the 'end of the world' and New Age phenomena as pseudo-science. You can read more details at Wikipedia (2012 Phenomenon). I hope you also watched the movie - '2012'!

But what if the scientists confirm that the world is indeed going under in 2012. How would we react and behave? Read on.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Do you 'Follow' your manager in Twitter?

Have you added your manager and colleagues to your Facebook friend list? If yes, you are among 58% of the employees in the age group 21 to 29 in India. If you have a Twitter page, you are among the 42% of the employees in the above age group in the world.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Markha Valley Trek



Juley!

The monsoon regained strength in the first week of August. Heavy sustained rain braced the City of Joy. My day of departure for Delhi neared but the rain didn’t show the sign of subsidence. Preparatory shopping became painful.

On eleventh, I left office early afternoon. The sky was overcast but fortunately it didn’t rain. I rushed to my apartment, picked up the packed rucksack and set out for the airport. The Taxi driver overcharged me, as they normally do for airport or railway station drops. But I reached quite ahead of time. The SpiceJet flight was one and half-hours late.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Agricultural Bengal


For the last few weeks South Bengal is receiving good amount of monsoon rain. Though the rain is playing spoilsport for urbanites and causing all sorts of difficulties - pot holed & water logged roads, erratic public transports among others, the bengal farmers are more than happy. This is the perfect condition to sow the paddy saplings of Aman variety. On last Saturday, as I rode the bus home, I saw plenty of women with colorful dresses silently sowing saplings in the vast swathe of muddy paddy fields on both side of National Highway 2. An wonderful view indeed!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Get Inspired

"Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions." - Dalai Lama

Everyday Pravs J sends its subscribers (yours truly is one of them) an inspirational message. [Now a days they are a bit erratic, though]. Recently, Lord Richard Layard, professor of Economics at LSE and his co-founders created a movement called Action for Happiness in UK.  Its members try to create more happiness in the world and less misery - at home, at work, within their community - through the way they approach their lives. The website mentions following 10 things as keys to happiness - 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Example of an efficient social media communicaton

I am a long time Standard Chartered bank customer. A couple of days back I found out from the bank's net banking website that they had launched a mobile banking microsite. The mobile banking facility can also be availed from Android phones using the App called 'Breeze India', available in the Android Market. The equivalent App for iPhones would come shortly. I was delighted at the prospect of using the App on my HTC Wildfire Android phone.

Use social media to your advantage

CareerBuilder.com survey found that more than one in five employers use social media in the hiring process. Some of the information that employers look for in the candidates' Facebook or MySpace profiles are related to alcohol or drug use, inappropriate photos or contents, poor communication skills, bad mouthing about past employers or fellow employees, inaccurate qualifications, unprofessional screen names, notes showing link to criminal behavior etc (See New York Times blog). Not only at the time of hiring, but many companies also keep a tab on their employees' social behavior. There are firms like Social Intelligence Corp,Tandem Select etc who performs social media background checks for their corporate customers. Social media background check is not limited to US or other developed countries only. Even in India there are firms like Seth Associates which provide employee background check service including search in the candidate's social networks.

Monday, June 13, 2011

12 June: World Day Against Child Labour

The owner of the garage where I take my bike for servicing employs a kid as his hand. While the owner of the barber's shop I visit cut the customers' hairs, his underage child do the shaving for his father. UNICEF statistics shows that India has 12 million child labour (2001 data). National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) puts the current figure much higher. Yesterday(12 June) was World Day Against Child Labour, launched by International Labor Organization(ILO) in 2002 to highlight the plight of the children. But I doubt how many knew about it. (I didn't know myself; found it out from today's newspaper only). Incidentally, the Bollywood movie 'Stanley ka Dabba', which highlights the issue of underage children being forced into manual labor released just a month ago, on 13th May.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Troubled Teens

Today's teenagers are ahead of their ages. Thanks to TV, mobile and internet, teenagers of even small towns and prosperous villages know more than what their parents knew at that age. They challenge the grown-ups in knowledge and skills. Most of us were introduced to mobiles and computers in colleges. But now a child is born to parents with mobile phones and if she is lucky, in a home with a modern computer! Parents are now more conscious about wholesome education and development of their children. They encourage the kids to participate in extracurricular activities and competitions. The result - smart, educated and suave teenagers. So far so good.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My take on Ramdev

Few years ago Ramdev was known to be the person curing diseases, some severe and life threatening, through Yoga.  People flocked to Haridwar, his abode. At that time news kept on coming that by practicing yoga people with even cancer got themselves cured. His popularity increased. Mesmerized by his charisma, some people went and learnt the techniques from him and opened Patanjali Yoga centers in local neighborhoods through out the country. Don’t we remember the early morning loud laughter practiced by his followers? Kapal Bhati became a household term. Doctors got nervous as people practicing yoga apparently fell sick less. Ramdev started traveling around the country and other international locations to organize Yoga Shibirs and his Aastha channel kept on broadcasting it every morning. My parents also got on board thanks to one of their friends.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Surviving the Information Age

Is it not wonderful to witness the flurry of events happening in and around us at micro and macro levels? By micro I mean at our personal lives, whereas macro indicates at broder global social, political, economic levels. Just count how many big-bang events happened from the beginning of the year - civil war and unrest in the middle-east countries, India winning the world cup cricket, Indian political leaders going into jail for scams, IMF head Dominique Strauss Kahn's sex scandal, killing of Osama Bin Laden, 75 years of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, end of 3 decades' communist rule in the state of West Bengal, hunger strikes against corruption by Indian social workers and gurus, sky-high inflation in the emerging markets, death of legendary painter M F Hussain - it's a long list. Events in our individual lives are happening continuously. The most surprising thing is most of us are cognizant of most of these external and internal changes.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Are we too old to acquire Emotional Intelligence?

I just finished reading a book on Emotional Intelligence by the famous psychologist Daniel Goleman. In the book he questions whether EQ (Emotional Quotient) is more important than IQ (Intelligent Quotient). He sites many studies which show that people with average IQ but high EQ have outsmarted (in study and career) those with high IQs but below average EQs. The corollary, therefore, is that Emotional Intelligence is as important if not more as Intellect.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Another dimension of human evolution

We burnt up half of the fossil fuel and then realized that it was in short supply. The realization gave rise to a new business opportunity - producing renewable energy. A substantial portion of the power sector is now after solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear energy. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Emotion in the IT hubs


I was walking into my office yesterday afternoon after visiting a bank.  A few feet away from the gate, I spotted a girl crying inconsolably on the phone hiding herself behind a telephone pole on the pavement. A few tear-soaked words which I could hear gave the vague indication that the emotional outburst was over a relationship. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

What's your calling?

I wonder how many of us ultimately end-up doing what we really want to do i.e. achieve the 'Self Actualization' need in Maslow's Need Hierarchy. How many of us know what we want to do? And how to know what we want to do? The answer to the last question probably is trying as many things as possible. But how many of us try different things? Many often we mistake a particular liking as our calling.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Google Guru


Want quick information about cricket score, weather or need to translate a sentence? Just ask your Google chat friend, guru, who is always online and blurts out the reply immediately. This is an experimental service Google is trying out. You need to send a chat invite to guru@googlelabs.com, and guru will be visible among your chat friends. Ping him with the message ‘score IPL’ and see the latest IPL results! This is particularly helpful if you are logged in from a smart phone. Find more at http://guru.googlelabs.com/.

Monday, April 04, 2011

A Sunday Evening

I had decided to spend the Sunday evening at home. The month long cricket world cup had ended the day before with India lifting the cup after 28 years. I, generally, do not watch TV unless for news and sports. I figured out that there was no better way to spend the evening than watching a movie on my laptop.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My wandering mind


I had two options – to go back to sleep or dig out a novel from the huge bag on my lap. It was Monday morning and I was riding the 7.30 bus back to Kolkata after spending the weekend at home. Whenever I travel, I carry couple of novels in my bag. I am not good at smalltalk and find it absurd to strike up a conversation with a stranger. The books are my best friends at these times. When the bus races on the endless monotonous roads, I roam around the battered battlefields of nineteenth century Atlanta or trek the Khyber Pass on the way to Peshawar from Kabul. But today, neither did I bring out the book nor did catch up on the unfinished sleep.  I stared out the window as the vast grey fields hurried towards the opposite direction.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Visit to the Axis Bank

I needed to go to the Axis Bank on Saturday. My DEMAT account is with them. They had a partnership with Geojit BNP Paribas to provide the online trading platform, which I was using. But this partnership will cease to exist from 20th of March. Axis has come up with their own trading platform, called Axis Direct. I was to close the Geojit account and open a new trading account with Axis Direct. In the two hours I required to finish up the account opening formalities, I came to know a few unrelated things as well.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Bamboo Bridge


When everybody was asleep, I woke up. It would have been a few hours past midnight. It was silent except the continuous buzz of the insects in the distant bush.  The sky was clear. The dazzling Venus was already up on the eastern horizon. The Milky Way was faintly visible thanks to the bright moon. I put on the slippers and set out.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Possessions...


Possessions can make life difficult, particularly when you have to move with them. I learnt this firsthand as I shifted to a new apartment yesterday. This was my fifth or sixth move in the last ten years. Earlier, I didn’t have much of a luggage. Changing address was as simple as picking up two trolleys, dumping them in the dickey of a taxi and unpacking them in the new place within twenty minutes! But over the years, one by one my possessions increased - a TV set, a steel almirah, a refrigerator, gas oven and cylinder, mattress, tables and chairs – so on and so forth and accordingly increased the difficulty of changing homes. Now, I need to hire a truck and laborers. I need to pack, load, accompany, unload and unpack so many of my ‘assets’ (or liabilities?). It takes enormous amount of effort and energy. After yesterday’s whole day of toil, my limbs felt numb when I finally managed to go to sleep. 

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Budget and the Indian IT sector


The Indian IT sector is not very impressed with the budget finance minister presented in the parliament on 28th Feb. IT companies, mainly small and medium ones, are disappointed as the tax incentives under Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) scheme have been withdrawn after 11 years. The tax sops under STPI were intended originally for 10 years. But last year the government had extended it for one more year. It will end in March, 2011. There are 51 STPIs. IT companies’ effective tax rates currently depend on the portion of their units which are under STPI scheme. Discontinuance of the scheme would increase their effective tax rate, unless they move their businesses to Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

Friday, February 25, 2011

“Co-creation” within the company

Management gurus, late C K Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy, introduced the concept of co-creation in 2000 in one of the Harvard Business Review articles. Co-creation is the philosophy of involving the customers and consumers in the product or service creation and delivery processes. It requires a new form of interactions between the company and the customers. Customers are no longer passive. They are part of the product creation process. The value created through co-creation is shared by both the customer and the company. Customers get personalized products and unique experiences. Companies enjoy enhanced revenue, superior market performance and learn new things about the consumers. This is a win-win situation for all.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Evolution of Recommender System


While buying something from Amazon.com, many of us probably have seen the section called “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”. This is the famous recommender system. Amazon was granted a patent in 1998 for this “collaborative recommendations using item-to-item similarity mappings”. This technique has now become ubiquitous. Most of the e-commerce sites currently offer recommendations based on customers’ purchase history. Even the matrimonial sites took up this concept. Alongside the profile you are currently viewing, the sites display a handful of additional profiles under the heading, “Those who viewed this profile also viewed the following profiles”.

This is how it works. Suppose you are buying the book ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. The system checks which other customers had bought this same book. Then, it finds out what other books those customers had bought in the past. If the current buyer is yet to buy those books, they appear in the recommended list. As evident, the process works based on a large pool of consumer behavior data, rather than any sophisticated algorithm.

The precision and usefulness of the system increase as the customer base and individual purchase frequency increase. In addition, the more information you share (by way of mentioning your preferences, rating a purchase etc) the more relevant recommendations you get.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Six Thinking Hats


Six Thinking Hats method is pioneered by Edward De Bono. The uniqueness of this method is that it prescribes systematic thinking as against prevalent argumentative Western thinking. In argumentative thinking, people put forward their points haphazardly and make counter arguments as soon as a point is made by the other party. These consume considerable amount of time and result in poor, suboptimal outcomes. De Bono says that the Six Thinking Hat method will result in quick solutions. It can be applied by all be it individuals, corporate or lawyers. Some of the companies which use this method for business decision making are NASA, IBM, DuPont, NTT, Shell, BP, FedEx etc.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

“Self” Expectation Management


I write a blog article and expect that it would be appreciated by the readers. I write an exam and expect that I would get good marks. I send a mail to a friend and expect that she would reply soon. I post a tweet and expect that people will re-tweet  it. I update my status in Facebook and expect that people would comment on it. I expect favorable results from meetings - personal as well as official.

We have expectation from events. We have expectation from people. We have expectation from our own actions. 

Monday, February 07, 2011

Childhood Returns

Yesterday I visited my maternal uncle’s house (mamar bari) after close to a decade.  My eldest uncle is terminally ill. I was to see him.  He is an important figure in my life. I remember learning English words sitting on his lap. He accompanied me when I went to take admission at IIT, Kharagpur.  He always encouraged me to pursue higher studies. If I think a bit more, many such sweet memories will surface for sure. Though the scene was somber, I found pieces of my childhood scattered all over the place.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Crisis in Egypt and its implication

The middle-east countries are in turmoil. Civil war is spreading from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen to Jordon. Freedom has eluded the people of these countries for long. The dictators, be it Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia or Hosni Mubarak of Egypt ruled for decades with the help of the army. They created political parties to suit their purposes and blatantly rigged elections to win year after years. Though the people of these countries are apparently happy and well placed (e.g. Tunisia has 75% literacy rate and GDP per-capita of $9500, whereas for India it’s only $1176), but only at the cost of sacrificing their liberty. Any resentment by the people resulted in torture and detention. These despotic regimes created many extremist groups like the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Republic Day Out

My friend, Avimanyu, and I were initially planning to visit the Red Road area to witness Republic Day Parade on 26th January. But I was unwilling to get-up early on a holiday. Avimanyu too later remembered that his cook would be coming in the morning. Hence, after our hour-long chat on 25th night, we kept the option open for the next morning.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wedding Season

It’s wedding season of the year. Two of my friends – one from my engineering college, another from the business school – got married this week. So I got to attend two back to back receptions yesterday and the day before.


Apart from the gala Bengali dinners, what excited me most was the opportunity to meet with lots of old and current friends. Being in the job, we hardly get time and opportunity to meet with the friends we once cherished and had fun with. Office colleagues take the place of our friends for all practical purposes. Hence, occasions like this assume such importance in our busy lives. I met a handful of friends on both the days and got the update of a dozen more.


In all, it was great fun, food and friendship and it has whetted my hunger for more such get-togethers! Best wishes to the just-married couples!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ditch New Years Resolution Day

Somebody put up the Facebook status message proclaiming that today, 17 Jan, is the ‘Ditch New Years Resolution Day’!!! Well, most of us come-up with a laundry list of resolutions on the New Years Eve but ultimately ditch them sometime during the year marking them as unachievable. Some of the common broken New Year resolutions are losing weight, quitting smoking, learning something new, saving money, spending time with loved ones, traveling to some new places, drinking less etc. But why can’t we keep our promises?