This is a live recording of the interview that was aired in the USA on WPON AM radio.
This is a live recording of the interview that was aired in the USA on WPON AM radio.
As a year (2016) readies to say goodbye it is normal to reminisce and be grateful for many things. It is also the time to look forward and think about what can and will be.
I don’t want to dwell on the past because it can’t be changed. I have learnt to let go and not get overly emotional (positively or negatively) at that which is gone forever (the year). There is however a lot to be thankful about. The most important of all is to be thankful that I am alive and healthy. This is perhaps the greatest lesson learnt over the last two years and not something that was unique to 2016.
I am thankful that there are many folks who think I made a difference in their life. It only reminds me of the responsibilities I carry. It cautions me to tread carefully in the minefield of decision making. It warns me that I am constantly under scrutiny. But most of all it doesn’t deter me from doing what I should be doing. We spend most of our lives fearful of consequences whereas the fear is only in our minds.
I remember those that have passed on because it reminds me that one day I will too. Death is perhaps the greatest leveler and instead of fearing it, somewhere I think it is worth embracing, when it arrives. And one day it will arrive. The memories I hold are to cherish what these folks were to me and in many ways, they continue to be alive because I think of them. There are a handful who are too painful to remember and it is best they are let go.
I have often heard people talk about their New Year Resolutions and I have never really understood this phenomenon. Curiously I resolved to do something this week and by the time I implement it, it will be the New Year. Whether a New Year Resolution or just a resolution that happens to be in the New Year, I resolve to write at least once a week. Writing is a passion and over the last couple of years, time has not allowed me to pursue this passion. It is less about receiving accolades but more about learning. I learn from the comments and the views these posts get. I learn what people like or dislike. I learn that sharing is the greatest learning of all.
There aren’t many other resolutions that I dwell on. I would like life to surprise me.
I am not a soothsayer nor a guru who could give you some sage advice. I am perhaps a realist and a positive being. I like to spread cheer by my actions and deeds. Here is my message for you on this the last Friday of 2016 – Be good, be safe, be happy but most of all feel alive.
Thank God it’s Friday…
Friday 16th December 2016, my birthday.
What is it like to receive about 500 wishes on the day you were born? I can answer that question from first hand information. About 150 wishes came through email, SMS and social media. About 350 came from one common source, my colleagues at SAGE. They came with flowers and with messages scribbled on a card or sometimes on a small piece of paper (I don’t accept gifts). These were the ones who came to see me in person. There were the lot in the Dehradun office who insisted I get in front of a video conference unit to receive their wishes. There were videos made with images that folks could find and videos made where even parents of SAGE employees wished me. It is difficult to describe what it feels like to be wished with so much heart but I can safely say that there isn’t another feeling that comes close. This page is dedicated to my friends, my colleagues, my partners and everyone at SAGE in success. Without them, I am less than an ordinary human being.
Thank you all for making my birthday so special. Here are some memories that are very precious to me.
The video created by the Dehradun team
Compared to any Tata company, I head a miniscule one at best. I don’t have any pretenses about who I am personally and professionally. But I am a powerful entity when I adorn the hat of a customer.
Long before the Ratan Tata / Cyrus Mistry war broke out, I as a customer knew that something was radically wrong at one of the Tata group’s flagship venture; the Taj group of hotels. A Tata venture is regarded as a ‘safe pair of hands’ when it comes to business ethics. The Tatas are quiet philanthropists who believe in giving without sending their PR department into a tizzy. But something changed over the years. The focus of the hotel moved away from ethics and came to reside purely on the profit motive. The legendary Taj hospitality lost its sheen. The entire ‘can do’ attitude and customer centricity simply faded into the background. Poor performance was camouflaged by trying to ‘pay’ the customer off. I should know, I experienced it first-hand.
I sent an email to the then Chairman (Cyrus Mistry) along with a copy to the Chief of the Ethics Committee at Tata Sons recounting my experiences over a period of 2 years. This was well before the spat broke out. These were not small indiscretions; they were monumental shifts in the way Tata conducted their business.
The gist of my experience was this.
In mid 2014 we contacted the Taj Group for SAGE’s 50-year celebrations in March 2015. There were various events planned around a particular Delhi venue. The team at SAGE worked with the Taj team to iron out details and a contract was issued. Discussions were on and when the contract was to be signed, we were informed the venue was no longer available. It had been contracted out to someone else. Naturally we were shocked and inquired as to why. Ethics vanished and the legal team took over. They found one clause in the contract buried between the pages. It basically stated that from the date the contract was issued (read sent to the client), if the contract remained unsigned OR even if it were signed and no advance sent within a specified timeframe, the contract was void. I questioned my team who produced several emails volunteering to pay the money but the Taj representative (who had since left the company) had stated ‘there was no rush’.
The Taj group gave us an alternate venue within Delhi. My team documented with them that Sara Miller McCune couldn’t climb stairs and needed wheelchair access. They assured us that this existed. The day Sara arrived, the wheelchair access was ‘under maintenance’ and ‘would be ready in a few hours’. It wasn’t ready for 2 days. There was no access from the hotel rooms to the banquet area. Sara had to take a service elevator to host the event. I cannot imagine a more humiliating experience for anyone. There were other slips and Sara did register a formal complaint with the hotel.
In 2016 SAGE India was to host a joint meeting with the Asia Pacific team. My team started a conversation months ahead of the scheduled date in September 2016. About 3 months prior to the event, I visited the property to finalize the agenda and review the arrangements. Over the better part of the morning, we talked through minute details. When we finalized the agenda we were told the venue was NOT available on the last night and we would need to spend the last day at an alternate property in Delhi. I was livid that the same sort of treatment was being meted out again. We ended up hosting the event at another property.
I don’t know if Mr. Ratan Tata is right about Mr. Cyris Mistry, I am not privy to their exchanges. But as a customer I can clearly state that there was something wrong at the Taj group of hotels.
Yes, I received a response from a senior executive at the Taj group who apologized profusely. He wanted me to believe that these were 3, one-offs (I know its laughable). I don’t think anyone was made to pay for these trespasses and I don’t know if any internal processes were strengthened. True to my word, I haven’t stepped into the Taj for any personal or private event since August this year. I did oblige a visitor by having a cup of tea with him there.
As the CEO it is important I am honest with myself. I also need to take responsibility for the actions of my team mates.
If a customer has been wronged, first apologize in writing without fear that one day the letter would come to haunt you. I never received a response from the people I sent the email to. The response that came to me was over a phone call. I didn’t offend the caller but I didn’t really think the apology was genuine. I did learn something valuable from these experiences though.
Here is what I learnt:
If I have done wrong or have strayed from the path I was expected to walk on, I would acknowledge my mistake.
If there is retribution, I would be ready to do what it would take to set things right.
If I haven’t done anything wrong, I don’t care who is in front of me, I stand tall and I know I will never stand alone.
I hope Mr Tata and Mr Mistry sort out what the institution (Tata Sons) needs. It surely doesn’t need dirty laundry being washed in public. It’s just not what the Tata’s stand for.
As I pen this, we are in the 4th night of the great demonetising crisis in India. Social media is polarized, the media is polarized and the nation is polarised.
There are tales of hardships faced by the masses and yes I still am part of the masses. There is talk of what next and there are voices of what now. In all the chatter the main purpose of the demonetising is being forgotten.
I am no Raghav Bahl with my own news channel to talk about Shyambhai and Rambhai.
I am no Raghuram Rajan who said demonetising any currency is not worth it.
I am no Appu Esthose Suresh who claims that the move MAY FAIL to win the war against war (Don’t know Appu? I don’t either. But Hindustan Times thought it fit to give him space to air his views).
At best I am a blessed Indian. At worst, I am an average Indian. The key to me is (and I say this with all humility), is that I am an Indian (Indian = above average human being)
Here are some facts that I would like to seek clarity on. I am sure my own understanding is skewed.
In his article in Bloomberg Raghav Bahl talks about black money being used to buy a Jaguar XF. For a moment lets agree that some dubious dealer is accepting the entire payment in cash. Here is what the transaction involves.
Sorry Mr. Bahl, I don’t think you have made any arguments here.
Mr. Rajan has left for Chicago University and its best we let him pursue his academic interests. His work is done. His opinion noted but he isn’t here feeling the pain. He is best left where he is.
Mr. Appu talks (like many others) that cash is only a fraction of all ill-gotten wealth; 6% I believe. The rest is in gold, real estate etc. So his point is that only 6% at best will be the %age of what gets captured in the demonetising exercise. I am dumbfounded and I must explain why. I will use the analogy of a business to explain the point.
In any business you need capital (read cash) to do business. Cash is spent in two ways. The first is to buy machinery, buy computers etc that are classified as purchasing fixed assets. Cash is also used to buy raw material, pay labour etc to end up with a final product that gets sold or traded or otherwise converted back to cash, at a profit.
If Black Money is the primary product (or raw material) and gold, real estate etc versions of how black money is stored then it is important to never forget that it still is black money! So if Black Money was used to buy gold and real estate, the reverse is also true. You will need Black Money to convert the gold into cash and real estate. Let’s never forget, we are NOT in a barter system where I could walk into a Jaguar showroom and buy many cars by ‘trading’ my apartment papers for it. The showroom would have to show cash/check/transfer, CURRENCY of some sort of to be able to let me drive that Jaguar out of the showroom. Here is a simplistic way to understand the cycle.
What begins with Black Money has to come back to Black Money. It cannot be converted to White Money that easily. Yes there are conduits and agents and someone’s aunt who will do this. They have always existed and they always will. But that isn’t the point of the demonetising exercise. The point is to find out ways to make these agents/conduits/aunts irrelevant. And that is the point that is being sorely missed.
When the money is to be changed and or otherwise deposited in accounts, the existing systems will capture the transaction. There will be questions asked and there will be answers sought. When there isn’t cash in the system, it is pointless to ask for it. Going back to the SME analogy, the two types of use of cash are classified as FIXED ASSET PURCHASE and WORKING CAPITAL. In an SME the working capital requirement is HIGH. But in any business if WORKING CAPITAL = TOTAL ANNUAL REVENUE (money the business generates by selling its products in a year) then the company will fold within 3 months of its operations. In a small business it is normal to turn the Working Capital 4 times in a calendar year. This means a business with Rs. 100 as working capital will try to generate Rs. 400 in a year. Large businesses will be around the 10 or 12 mark. The outliers turn their working capital beyond 20 times in a year.
Yes Black Money is a super-efficient business every Rs. 6 turns into Rs 100 every year. But the key is to remember, it all starts with Rs. 6!!! Black money is further disadvantaged because for the Rs. 100 revenue to turn a profit, it has to go back into the system as Black Money. Too complex? Here is a simple way to understand it. A flat purchased at Rs. 1 crore White and 20 lakhs black can only be sold at more than Rs. 1.20 crore to show a profit. Every investor wants a profit so lets not split hairs that there is no profit motive. Even if the White component is close to Rs. 1 crore to avoid taxation, someone HAS TO have more than Rs. 20 lakhs in cash to buy the property so that the seller makes a profit. Modi’s action hits at the Rs. 20 lakhs. The Rs 1 crore will automatically take care of itself.
Let me explain this with another live example.
With Modi’s demonetising Shaymbhai no longer has cash. He wants to buy the apartment but wants to pay in WHITE. ABC Builder has two options – he agrees to sell or he doesn’t. In the time before demonetising, ABC would wait for a Krishnabhai or Jigneshbhai to come along and agree to his terms. But post demonetising there isn’t anyone left to agree to his terms. Then what? Will ABC still sell at Rs. 6000 per sq foot or would he opt to take Rs. 4000? The answer isn’t that simple and I am not going to attempt to answer it here. The point however is, the Rs 2000 has walked away from the system. And that is the point of the demonetising.
I want to share two recent experiences to show what black money is all about.
I was recently stopped by a cop for what he thought was a violation of the RED (TRAFFIC) LIGHT. I showed him my dash-cam and that it wasn’t plugged in or his claim wouldn’t stand trial. I knew I hadn’t violated the RED LIGHT, even though he thought I had. I removed my wallet and said that I was willing to pay the fine. The cop sized me up, the size of the car, the size of the wallet and asked to see my papers. I removed a large file while handing him over my Driver’s License. The license was valid. He had to go through a mound of papers. I had next to nothing in cash but had enough credit cards. I volunteered to pay the full fine against a receipt. He asked me to leave without asking me for anything.
I came from Bali where I had bought a beautiful wood carving. I walked across to the Red Channel at Delhi Airport. I declared the value of the carving, it was well within my duty free limit. The customs officers asked me to put this through the X RAY machine. The lady at the machine salivated looking at the wooden carved dragon; it is a magnificent piece I admit. It was well packed and she asked me to open it. I politely refused. I stated clearly, that if she wanted to open it she would pack it herself. She said she wouldn’t. I whipped out my camera phone and told her that I would record her opening it and I would leave the carving with her AND not take it back unless it is packed. The alternative was that I would send a large car to pick it up the next day but she would be responsible for it overnight if she opened it. It was minutes before the customs supervisor showed up and asked me to leave with my dragon.
The point is, we need to stand up for what we need to believe in. At least with the cop I am sure I was let go because he could see I would rather pay the full fine than slip him some money. The same is true for black money. You cannot spend what you don’t have.
I am truly sad that people are suffering. My own hired help at home are live examples for me. But when they had the opportunity, I forced them to open bank accounts. I have got them into the habit of receiving their salary through a bank transfer and for them to withdraw cash only when they need it. They represent the absolute bottom (or near absolute bottom) of India’s tiered citizenship. Today they hold their head high because even if they don’t have hordes of cash, they have enough to keep their noses above water. This phase too will pass and I ensure I make them believe that.
But first I must believe in it myself.
In 1992 when I was struggling with the excise department and its intervention in the food processing unit I was associated with, I witnessed a demure Sikh finance minister of India remove excise duty from a category of processed foods that helped me. I became his ardent fan. He sought to bring in reforms that ensured that I would have a future. I owe him a lot.
He was followed by another finance minister who wore a traditional South Indian dhoti. He continued with the reforms and ensured that banking interest rates were brought down. It helped me in the work I was doing.
I dreamt of the two as a dream team. The duo would change India forever I believed. But when the two came together, they disappointed fans like me. I have met them both personally and I have conveyed my gratitude. That hasn’t changed the fact that they couldn’t continue the work they had started.
Modi is a person I have not been a fan off. I have found him to be boorish and his secularism questionable. Then I met the man. I listened to him in private. I watched his eyes glistened when he talked about the hardships he had to go through to get through life. He wasn’t a hot-shot lawyer or Western educated economist. He was a simple Indian. He walked the talk. He did what he thought was right. He will err and he will stumble and he may even fall. He is human after all. Meeting him reminded me why I left the USA, a cushy job, a house, and a potential green card to come back home where I spent close to 14 years in humiliation and borderline penury. I was reminded of a Gandhi who said (paraphrasing what I heard) “my India is young. My India dreams of a future that is devoid of poverty. My India needs to rise above its past.” As a student in NY, I sat transfixed in the visitor’s gallery where India’s youngest prime minister was giving his maiden speech. In 1984 the seeds of my return were sowed even if the return had to wait until 1987.
Modi’s demeanor reminded me of the words of a foregone era. His actions talk to me of a better future.
Modi’s actions have led me to believe, India just might make it to becoming what its citizens want it to be.
I know I don’t want to pay a bribe. I don’t know if demonetising will make it go away but I believe it will surely make the asker and the giver pause to consider if they can or should (consider a bribe).
I know black money won’t be wiped out by wishing it away. I don’t know if demonetising will make it go away but I believe it is surely going to make things more WHITE.
I know people will face hardships. I don’t know how many can face it but I know this too will pass.
I know that this is at worst, just an act. I don’t know if it will achieve its objectives but I know it is better than not acting at all.
For too long have I sat and wished things were different. Its time I stood by those who want to get off their behind and try to make things different. I don’t want to sit and watch my country’s dream go by. I want to take part in every small way that I can. If this is a pipe dream then I don’t really want to wake up.
This is the headline in most newspaper articles. No, this piece is not with me wearing a publisher’s hat. It is me wearing an author’s hat.
For the moment let’s park the issue of how this judgment affects publishers, this is about authors and especially for aspiring ones.
The judgment has expanded the interpretation of Section 52(1)(h)(i) of the Indian Copyright Act 1957. To understand what has happened, it is important to read this section. The Section reads
“Certain acts not be infringement of copyright …
(h)(i) the reproduction of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction OR as part of the questions to be answered in an examination OR in answers to such questions.”
For students of English this is a test case. What is the meaning of “the reproduction of… in the course of instruction” mean? Here is what the honorable judge has said. The judge has stated that this means that when a teacher is teaching or a pupil is learning, either can go to a library, borrow a book, go to the campus bookstore, photocopy it for himself/herself AND for the entire class, perhaps even for several classes. Sounds so nice and that is why students are celebrating.
Like I said let’s leave publishers out of it.
I am an author of a novel (a literary work) and this is how it affects me. If a student of literature is prescribed this book (I know it’s far-fetched but please indulge me for now, thank you), the student doesn’t need to buy the book if the library has a copy. The teacher can go to the library, borrow the book and make copies of it for the entire class he/she is teaching.
Yes, you read it correctly, the ENTIRE book.
It’s gratifying that my book is being used at the university level. It could be even at the school level. My years of hard labor, is finally seeing the light of day in classrooms and I should be happy with that. But I have now lost the right to ask my publisher for royalties because royalties are subject to sales and sales are now clearly just one or two copies in the Delhi University library.
But I protest that my book is being used by literature students so it has value and I should get the value for it.
Not according to this judge; according to him I the author must be satisfied with the fact that my book is a classic being used by tens of hundreds of students. I should view the book as a labor of love and not chase “the evil money”.
Had I quit my day job and wanted to become a full time writer, I would now have to tell my family that they should be proud I am doing social work. My daughter should perhaps do her bit by not going to school or rather going to a municipal school, probably one that doesn’t even have a roof or teachers. Her education would remain at the primary level because that is all we will ever be able to afford.
My parents wont be able to afford health care because they rely on me for it…
I could go on and on painting a sorry picture and rue the day I decided to become an author. But the question goes beyond an author’s sorry plight.
Society has some basic rules we live by. One of them is “no one will illegally profit from the labor of another.” So how come my book is making the photocopy shop all the money while I, the creator of the content languish?
This case has a lot of emotional attachment for the students, the teachers, the publishers and even some authors. I am sure there will be an appeal and the matter will be revisited. But that again isn’t the point.
The basic question remains unanswered, how will anyone want to be a writer if he/she cannot be rewarded for it?
Oh yes, I am aware that Rameshwari Photocopy shop along with all the students and faculty are talking about course packs but the judgment as it reads entitles one to copy entire books. Please be aware it allows you to copy ANY book on this planet!!!
Bollywood is not exactly the breeding ground for leaders. There are the many who leave films to become political leaders but the corporate world has yet to see a thespian become a great business leader. However, Bollywood stars of today are business leaders in their own right; some better than others.
Here are some traits they share with business leaders
I try to find lessons wherever I can. I recently learnt something from the 3 Khans. They are not business leaders and you love them or hate them but you surely can’t ignore them.
He is the perennial bad boy of Bollywood. He wants to be human but ends up more alien than others. His life has been a roller coaster ride and I don’t need to talk about it here.
He shot into the news making a comment which basically equated physical exhaustion and “exhausted because of being raped”. When put this way, I agree it sounds bloody absurd. I tried to rationalise the thought process behind this comment and to rationalise its existence. When we talk about leaders we first think about credibility. I examined this comment from the point of view of credibility. There are sufficient who regard this Khan as a leader (please don’t ask me “leader of what?”)
I could easily relate to the muscular body and the hard working human being who could experience fatigue and exhaustion. The body is exhausted in two types of work done by this Khan; it gets exhausted in the gym and it gets exhausted on the sets of a movie. No questions asked, this Khan knows what he is talking about when it comes to these types of exhaustion. He is credible.
However, I struggled to find credibility in the second type of “being exhausted”. I am not sure if this Khan has ever been raped, so first hand data is out of the question. Disclaimer: I don’t have evidence to show he has never been raped. I am relying on facts in the public domain to assume that he hasn’t been raped. I am happy to be corrected. On the assumption though that I am correct, first-hand experience of rape is ruled out. It is possible that the experience was gathered from a second hand source. I searched the net and couldn’t find any evidence to demonstrate that this Khan had interacted with rape victims. I couldn’t find any evidence to suggest that he even read about rape victims and how they felt after being raped. There was absolutely nothing that remotely suggested he had done any sort of research to arrive at how a body feels when it is raped. At best he is assuming a body is exhausted or is relying on someone else’s words or research to create his own assumption. And to remind you the assumption is “a body is exhausted after being raped.”
He is the Baadshah of Bollywood. He is the actor that most actors hate because wherever you turn, he is there. This is the Khan who endorsed everything from men’s fairness cream to luxury watches. He has wooed women half his age and even made a parody on himself. He has been accused of being many things. But the one thing he definitely is, is a smart businessman. He is the true tale of rags to riches; of an outsider who made it to the very top. He is suave, he is articulate and all of this with just basic formal education. He is the centerpiece of most award functions and every woman on this planet that I know of or can think of, would love to have him serenade her.
This Khan was asked to comment on the first Khan’s rape analogy. This Khan listened, shrugged his shoulders and in his charming style took the questioner down the garden path. He did everything but comment on the comment. And he did it in style. No, I am not one of his fans and I am not one of his detractors. I am at best, (this) Khan neutral. The response this Khan gave, has got me leaning towards the phrase ‘like him’.
He said (and I am paraphrasing) that he shouldn’t be commenting on a comment that the first Khan made simply because the comment has stirred a controversy. The fact that a comment has stirred a controversy reminded him of the various comments he had made in the past that had had similar reactions. He said that as a person who has made comments that didn’t go down well with the public, he was not qualified to comment on a comment that was equally controversial.
There it was, plain and simple.
He didn’t preach.
He didn’t defend his once cold-war-adversary-turned-friend.
He moved the conversation away from the other individual and turned the focus on himself. He spoke about a subject he was well conversant about, himself. He didn’t come across as a defensive person nor did he come across as Mother Teresa.
This one is difficult to understand. He wants to project himself as a perfectionist and some say that he is the ‘perfect actor’. I am all for this tag for his on-screen presence. I wonder if reality blurs for him because as an individual, and as an icon for the star-struck, he is far from perfect.
He is a fellow batchmate from school but we didn’t study in the same classroom. His landmark film was made by another classmate of ours. I have so far seen him at one class reunion although I have seen pictures of another that he has attended. The point is I do have some first-hand knowledge of this Khan.
This Khan was asked the same question that the Baadshah was asked. This Khan responded first with a disclaimer (nice!) – he wasn’t present when the comment was made so he is going by what he has read (he reads too?). He followed it up with the words “insensitive and unfortunate”.
So what was unfortunate?
This is ambiguous. “Unfortunate” that the remark was made or unfortunate that such a remark was made? One can always interpret it as one would like, after all it is the Perfectionist Khan saying the words. The other word is even more ambiguous. “Insensitive” – what is the context of the word here? Is the analogy insensitive since it talks about victims and how they feel? Or is the speaker insensitive about how sensitive people are?
For a moment pause on this Khan’s public persona. He is no doubt a good actor. He acts even in real life. He has time to support a former porn star but no time to even acknowledge that his classmates exist (he is a private person, you see). Somehow we (the public) are more to blame than any star is – we (the public) tend to treat them (movie stars) as super humans. You wouldn’t get a peep out of this Khan even if you tried, but if you happened to be in the same airspace he would treat you like his long lost brother (yup, I have experienced this first hand).
This is also the same Khan whose wife suggested they move to a ‘safer country’ for the sake of their child. He feels secure enough to comment on comments made by others but insecure about living in this country. Well, really!!!
But there is a bigger lesson that I personally learnt from this entire imbroglio. The background to the learning is that the movie around which the original rape comment was made, has grossed INR 3 billion (about US $45 million) and counting. The lesson learnt is – who gives a damn about what anyone says, at the end of it, people will still go watch the movie no matter which Khan is in it!