GriffinWorx – TIE – eBay Foundation: New Learning for Mentors.

This past weekend, I have been through an experience most fascinating, rewarding and humbling.

I was asked by my cycling buddy Kumar, to come in and be one amongst several Mentors in a program called “Start Up Cup Challenge Extreme – Build – A – Business Weekend”.

This is a first in India, and is a partnership between TIE (www.tiemumbai.org), eBay Foundation  and GriffinWorx. This was such a privilege, especially because, for the last couple of years, I’ve grown a bit tired of the routine around the corporate world (bring me something challenging), and find myself inclined to teach, to coach, to mentor, and participate in causes that have social and environmental impact. My role as strategic advisor to the Smart Commute Foundation, does give me such a sense of fulfillment. Give me more.

The Startup Cup Challenge, was a two-day event, very intense and fast paced. This is how it panned out. TIE invited applications from startups from almost any field or domain, but its special emphasis was on the “underserved” startup community. This is a community of underprivileged, not affluent, but hardworking people and groups, who have novel ideas to do business, some commercially, some socially inclined. Therefore there was a very diverse mix of applicants, somewhere 200+ in number, of which 105 were selected to participate. Rather than steal their thunder, I had best reproduce verbatim, what the program is all about.

“The Program

The  ebay.StartUpCup.com Challenge is open to anyone, with any type of business idea and from any background. This internationally recognized seven-month acceleration program is proven to grow businesses and accelerate the development of revenue. Through a highly experiential and mentor driven process.

Select business teams will be invited to an Extreme Build-A-Business Weekend, which will take place on 27-28 May, where the Top 25 business teams will be selected to advance into the competitive process.

    • Cash Prize for the First Three Teams* – First Place: USD 10,000, Second Place: USD 5,000, Third Place: USD 2,500
  • Learn Business Model Design Through Visual Thinking
  • Clarify How You Create Value and How to Reach Your Target Customer
  • Learn Go-to-Market Strategies That Will Produce Revenue and Avoid the Need for Traditional Fundraising
  • Learn How to Design a Circular Economy Based Business
  • Connect with Like-Minded Entrepreneurs from Your Community (There is no need to feel alone or isolated as an entrepreneur)”

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The rather intense weekend started off on Saturday at 8. 30 am,  when we were given the lay of the land by Sean Griffin of GriffinWorx.

He’s a fantastic, charismatic fellow, and has oodles of experience at this, having run such programs in some 60 odd countries. Turns out we have both worked in several common locations globally, and had some amazing stories of our escapades to compare over dinner.

Now despite having been quite a successful mentor myself, I have never really used a standard methodology and Sean exposed us to and trained us on his patented methodology. Fascinating, to say the least. I really benefited from this approach, and all my skills, tools and techniques, saw themselves falling into various buckets within Sean’s methodology, and I even picked up some cool new tips and tricks along the way. Just when you think you know a lot, someone comes along and teaches you something new!

So this went on until 10 am on Day 1, and then we were let loose to play our mentor roles to about 105 startups. Some merely at an idea stage, some a little beyond, some with a little business already in flight, some more advanced. In the mix, were technology startups, most notable amongst them an enterprising young man, who is on the cusp of launching a ring, a wearable device that can do much more than just payments. Then there is this For Profit Social Enterprise founded by 3 charming and dedicated girls providing consultancy in the CSR space. There were housewives too with small businesses, all catering to the underserved market. Did I not mention the waste based manure business, others in analytics, and what have you. One even planned to hire eunuchs in their workforce, to serve those underprivileged human beings.

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Mentoring such a diverse set up people (some unable to communicate in English), diverse business models, was quite a task, and a clear case of overload. But what was really exciting was the level of energy in the room and the sheer enthusiasm amongst the mentors, the mentee, Sean and Erin, and the TIE team who provided such superb facilitation. I came away with quite a few learnings, especially as this was the perfect opportunity to compare attitudes, behaviours, business, technical and marketing acumen at one go. I found some promoters simply full of themselves, some so glued to their ideas and ways of doing things, others who was a bit overwhelmed (and that’s an understatement), some simply unable to give responses to pretty basic questions. Yet I found others, willing to be mentored, to learn, to listen and move forward.

The challenge then, was to navigate all these attitudes, etc, cut to the chase, and compel self discovery based on the methodology, not with a view to run anybody down, or undermine them or their ideas, but to urge them to think things through based on a tested model.

What was really neat was that we put our votes basis several parameters into an application, and thank God for that! Imagine remembering the interaction with so many groups in such a short span of time! Actually, that may have been fun, come to think of it, come up with unique business models, by mixing up stuff amongst several businesses 🙂 I think I mentored about 40 participants, on day one itself, and added a few on day two.

Day 2 started off with some advanced techniques, basis the experiences from our Day 1 interactions, and we were let loose once again. A bit more relaxed, a bit more structured, both the Mentors and the Mentees, and at around 3 pm, we were ready to wind down.

Votes all case, now it was time to collate, score, debate and discuss on the final shortlist of 25 business builders who would go through the next steps.

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That done, the next item on the agenda was to break the news to the participants, issue certificates to the participants, the shortlisted business builders, the Mentors and do the photo sessions. The outcome was joyful faces of the ones who made the cut, and disappointment from those who didn’t.

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And with that the festivities came to an end, and we all parted ways….two intense days, well spent, several new connections, some new friends, and promise of more interactions in the days to come.

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I came away particularly pleased when asked to play the role of Judge in future interactions, since the program will run till September. I hope to write about how things pan out as we go through the rounds of eliminations, and arrive at the three final winners, and log further experiences as we go along this journey.

I’ve been fortunate to have some great mentors, some international luminaries…the then Deputy Managing Director of State Bank of India – P V Subba Rao (God Bless His Soul), Rumi – my Boss and CEO of HSBC’s Global Technology Centers and his successor and my next Boss – Ignacio Vera from Argentina. On the personal front, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be blessed by my Spiritual Master (now departed) His Holiness Sridhar Swami, and receive mentorship at the hands of my father, a most noble, kind and patient teacher.

This experience has only served to add to lifelong learning, and yet, my insatiable appetite, leaves me yearning for more…..

Canto – Restaurant Review

Being a “foodie” seems to be the in thing. A connoisseur, even better. Of food, of restaurants. Yeah well.

What is a “foodie” really? Well, we will come to that, and only because I am gonna force my opinion on this unwitting lot of readers.

I’m no “foodie” in the popular sense of the manner in which this work is being bandied around. Do I know food? Yes I do! I cook, see, and I may add, I cook very well, if I may say so. And just so the peoples’ know, this is not just self-appointed, or rather anointed mantle….I have the permission of several substantial people to say so. If you can count the following as substantial, then good for us all. The staff from the Crowne Plaza, in London, my neighbours, who would pop by for a midnight snack and/or meal, several friends and colleagues, from several parts of the globe….Pune to Chicago, London to Singapore, Abu Dhabi to wherever. All places where I’ve lived.

More important, there is my darling Mudder (of course), who is a fantastic cook. Now before you peoples’ say, “Oh yeah, you’re a guy, of course you love your mother’s cooking”, let me say, and say objectively, she is a fantastic cook, and I will join issue with anyone who don’t agree!  Now, if she is able to say I cook well, then who gives a rats ass about other permissions? Maybe, I should mention my kids, my cousin sister, Shambhvi and my Uncle and Aunt. Oh and my neighbour, Brian Michael, who was licking his fingers after he conned me into cooking my signature Paneer (cottage cheese) dish, at 9.30 AM, on a Sunday!

Is that enough by way of testimonials? If it isn’t then @@#$%^&, I’m a dammnnn good cook, even if I say so myself 🙂

So coming back to what is a foodie, in my rather exacting opinion? Dammit, a “foodie” is someone, who can actually cook for himself, and not just go around sampling and passing judgement. Capice? If you don’t capice, then you may…

Canto – Casual Dining, Bar.

Not me, that’s what Zomato says. Hmmm. This Canto place is owned by my friend Pankaj, and is run by him and his wife Pooja, a couple most friendly, most charming, and most hospitable. Now this Pankaj, is the very same gentleman who owns Camp Evergreen, the place where I went riding to, about 90 km from Bombay. I think, I wrote about that wonderful ride if memory serves me correctly. Yes it does, here is that link: Camp Evergreen

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Pankaj and Pooja have spared no effort whatsoever in setting this up. Really high ceilings, high arched french windows, beautiful flooring, choicest furniture, superb lighting, not too bright, and not too dark, just so. Elegance, that’s the word that describes it best.

Location?

Can’t go wrong there. A stones throw, albeit a strong arm needed, from the beach at Chowpatty on Marine Drive. Right at the intersection of Hughes Road and the Road leading to Marine Drive, clearly visible from the street, can’t miss it unless you’re blind (blind please excuse me for dragging sight into this).

Food?

I would say multi-cuisine as people used to call it back then. Pankaj quickly corrects me saying, its more appropriate to say “fusion”, so fusion it is. The food is fusion. Pankaj is the owner, and I just wanna make sure, I get a bit of a discount the next time. By the way, its a joke, I don’t take things for free. And on top of that, the prices are most convenient, and don’t really melt the old plastic. That’s as far as price goes, but how about the quality, the presentation, the portions? Superb quality, appropriate presentation, generous portions. What more could one ask for?

Bar?

As far as the bar goes, I’m told by other friends that the prices are fairly reasonable, and the bar is well stocked.

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Music?

Well, due to the high ceilings, tapestry, curtains, marble flooring/tiled flooring, and a fantastic music set up, the sound is simply amazing. The place actually turns into a small club just around 9 pm or so. Perfect to unwind to some good food, some good drink, and some great music.

As you can probably tell, this is a big A+ as far as I’m concerned. Do we say A+ when one reviews a restaurant? Maybe? Maybe not. But, I did say ab initio, I am not a “foodie”, nor am I a food critic, I’m just your average guy, who is up for a nice time out, for lunch, tea/coffee, a snack, dinner and drinks, and some nice music. So A+ works for me, big tick in the box as far as I’m concerned.

Canto does the trick for me. What makes it even sweeter, is that they have agreed to put bike stands outside, for the bicycling community, just as long as we don’t wear shorts, lycra/spandax, tights to Canto at night, lest we drive away the ones dressed to party at night. The whole world, does not live in shorts after all.

I would suggest, don’t take my word for it, go experience it for yourself, lest you accuse me of being partisan. And if I am judged as partisan that’s fine too, I look out for my friends, and this friend, his efforts, and the outcome, most certainly deserve that I put in a good word.

Blood of the Crab – Can’t Humans Spare Any Life Form?

Digg throws up some excellent stuff to mull over. Seemingly random stuff. I just finished reading an article about how biotech companies are breeding thousands of crabs, just to bleed them. So from breeding cattle to kill, from breeding chickens to kill (with all its accompanying ills), we have now not even spared the horseshoe crab? How are we different from cannibals? Let’s just breed children and kill them too? No, but that would be cannibalism right?

Anyway, that’s just my 5 am rant for today, before I go to bed. Yes been working almost all night.

Enjoy the article, here goes….

The Blood of The Crab

Road Trip: Chicago – Grand Canyon.

This is set during my stint in the US. I took a couple of days off work, combined it with a weekend and decided on a road trip. Absolutely love road trips. Had bought my super-duper Mercedes-Benz GL450 in February, and was just raring to go off somewhere.

I’d been to the Grand Canyon when I was a Rotary Exchange student back in ’78, but the memory was foggy. It may have something to do with being a bit inebriated, along with a bunch of exchange students from all over the world for the two days that we were there. Back then we went to the Grand Canyon as part of the “Americana Ramble”, organized by the Rotary Exchange Programme. Two touring bus loads of exchange students from all over the world, on the road for a month, a new place almost every day, meeting new people from different places, different cultures, music, song, dance…all made for a heady mix. Alcohol was not really permitted, but we broke the rules this time around (and a few other times), and thus the resultant foggy memory. Such was my state, that I learned to sing “Old MacDonald…” in Finnish, thanks to my travel buddies Petteri Loukola and Tiina Kaarlela (unfortunately she’s disappeared and I can’t find her despite my best efforts). I still remember the whole song, you can test me if you like. Not that many of you know Finnish, so I guess I’m safe. Petteri and Tiina are not allowed to be part of the testing panel.

So the road trip, round two.

We started off in Woodridge, Il, USA, which was home those days, and hit the road, made our way past South Bend, Indiana and beyond. The round trip is about 7,700 miles or 12,320 km.

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Road Trip: Chicago – Grand Canyon National Park – Gilbert, Az – Chicago. 3853 mi/6165 km.

The velocity was not restricted by the rather souped up machine I was driving, and thus we ate up the road, and were still hungry for more, however most unfortunately we reached destination and had to reign in the supercharged horses. The excitement of being on the road, on this adventure, spurred on by bulls that were red, truck stop coffee, and sheer adrenaline, meant that we took just one stop along the way, at some motel, just to be safe and make sure I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel.

We made the Canyon early evening, got our bearings, tanked up, and put in at a hotel for the night.

We had not figured it all out yet, but come morning, duly rested and fed, the mental faculties kicked in, and we go off to purchase some gear. We want to do the trek down into the Canyon taking one of the trails. We pick the Bright Angel Trail, which is a decent hike. We will cover 10 miles each way, descend and then climb 4380 ft, and prudence demands that we are geared appropriately. Therefore the early morning jaunt to the store, where we buy boots, and hiking gear. A good decision. We see other hikers buying gear and in particular see these two girls buying what seemed to be walking crutches, with some sort of shock absorbers in them. We pass this off and unnecessary gear, but we will come back to that later.

We park back at the hotel, look at our maps and find the trail head, and we are off. The average descent is 10% the entire length of the way, so it’s not a gradual undulating trail, au contraire.

I’m pretty much an adrenaline junkie, and we make great progress down the trail, and are doing this steady walk, skip, jog routine. We were warned by some that the trail isn’t exactly easy, and we should conserve water, energy and keep hydrating from time to time, which we do with the water, but not much else.

They Grand Canyon is breathtaking, its pristine , raw and untouched beauty awe-inspiring, and what came to mind is several movies I’ve seen as a kid, mostly westerns. Little did I know that one day I would be at the same location that I had seen in movies as a child and teenager.

I’m so immersed in the beauty, the tranquil that I’ve almost forgotten to take any photographs, and then suddenly I do realise that we need to come away with some memories of the trip, the beauty and at some point in the future, relive the experience via photographs. That’s what pictures are for, right?

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My All Time Favorite Picture of the Grand Canyon

The weather was not too hot, and therefore the trek was quite pleasant, cool breeze actually blowing all through the descent.

Most people do not do the trek in a single day, and instead stay overnight at the campsite, or the Phantom Ranch, and climb back the next day. But we are super fit, super expert at trekking so we decide, hey we gonna do it all in a single day!

So how did that work out for you, I’m sure the people are asking. It went “swell”, details coming up.

So we rest for a bit, maybe an hour or so, eat the food we have carried with us, when something strange happens. The knees are beginning to hurt and even swell a bit, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why! I’m not even tried. Only later did I realise that I had done the descent at such velocity, that the impact was all on the knees.

We keep climbing, taking step after painful step, and at several points I think I’m gonna give up. We see several people descending and ask each one, how much further? It was really futile asking because there is no way of knowing how quickly they have descended, and how many breaks they have taken, and so on. We think we are intelligent, so we begin to factor in variables, to arrive at approximately how long it’s going to take us to reach the top. So we figure perhaps three times longer going up, as compared to the time taken to make the descent? The variable based math was all wrong.

At one point we come across a mule train going up, and excitedly ask if we can hop on. To our dismay, the mules have to be booked way in advance, and we are denied that much sought after relief.

And so, we must plod on, step after painful step, knees swelling, feet swelling, and by now it’s getting hot as well. It’s about 1 pm in the afternoon, and I throw in the towel, I just sit down, I decide in my head that I cannot go on any more.

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Please don’t be fooled by that charming, seemingly smiling face…it’s actually a sheepish grin saying, must you now? Take a photograph of my while I’m sitting?

Long story short, we do make it back to the top, we survive, make it to the hotel, shower, take a nap, and apart from the subsiding pain, are ready to move around a bit. We go and get a bite to eat, do some bowling at the bowling alley at the hotel,  and then put in for the night.

The plan for the next day is to take a helicopter ride around the Grand Canyon, and I’m super excited when I’m told that winds being favorable, we may possibly fly into the jaws of the Canyon itself. We arrive at the heliport, buy our seats on the plane, and I wrangle shotgun, right next to the chopper pilot. Great move, considering that the front of the chopper by the footboard is glass, and I can actually see through the glass beyond my feet!

Bubbling with childlike excitement (me mostly), we lift off, and are soon airborne. We get a super view of the airstrip, and soon are flying past the entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park.

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As we fly over the tall trees we are approaching the edge of the forest. I am ill prepared (in a nice way), for the sight that is to come. The sight of the forest disappearing out of sight between my legs, and transforming into the sight of nothing beneath my legs, nothing beneath the glass floorboards. Well, nothing for many hundred feet, and then suddenly I can see at the bottom of abyss, the sight of the floor of the canyon, so very tiny. The sight of the Colorado river, like a tiny rivulet, and tiny river rafts was just too amazing.

The chopper ride is about 45 minutes, and far too soon it is all over. Elated, but hugely disappointed that it’s over.

Later that afternoon its time to depart, but not before we discover that on the other side of the canyon, a couple of hours away is a glass bottomed walkway, which we can get onto and look at the Canyon beneath our feel, like we aren’t standing on anything at all. Now that must be a trip, and so we decide to do a minor detour. The drive itself is mostly along the highway, but once we turn off, it’s almost all off-road, something my GL is built for. She takes to the rough road like a glutton for punishment, and does the punishing as opposed to being at the receiving end. No regrets then, for buying a $ 62,000/- show off car (well it was more like $ 77,000/-), which I negotiated down to the purchase price). Yeah, I’m a mean negotiator. Now that’s a story that needs telling, and it will. That’s the next up story, but for now let’s finish this one.

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The approach to the glass plank at the edge of the Canyon wall is pretty unassuming, and disappointing even, but all is forgiven as you actually step onto the glass walkway. It’s freaky to say the least…walking on glass, looking at the canyon floor under your feet. High security, no bags, no wallets, no phones, no metal whatsoever, no shoes…all precautions that the glass doesn’t crack. Most disappointing is no phone and no camera. Missed photo opportunity, so all I came away is this set of photographs.

Another amazing experience, and we are off, en route to Chicago, back home. But are we? A minor detour coming up. My sister lives in Gilbert, Arizona, and I’m urged to pay her a visit, and so enroute I call, and after a few exchanges, we take the detour and head to see her. It’s not going to be a pleasant meeting, but still, she’s my kid sister. Fond memories, memories of happier times.

The visit was brief, but it was so nice to have met her, and visit over we are finally headed back home. Round trip 7,700 miles. Fantastic, etched forever in my memories.

Technological Revolution: No Internet aka The Dark Ages

The topic for the day, well actually night, is life moving from the dark ages into the light.

My journey with technology really started when I was a kid, as is usually the case. My professional tryst with technology, is nothing but fate and circumstance. Nowhere on the distant landscape did technology seem to be on the horizon, yet here we are. Sumir Nagar – Chief Operating Officer & Global Delivery Head.

The childhood skirmishes with technology mainly consist of me taking things apart, and more often than not, failing to put them back together in working condition. Radios, cassette players, cars and bicycles (of course) included.

It even involves, yours truly, trying to peel off the coating of a speaker wire, which was nothing but a live wire. Stick wire in mouth, to strip coating, wet tongue contacting bare live wire, bzzzzzzz, Sumir falling off rather tall ladder, and bringing down the stereo speakers he’s trying to fix. Fortunately no broken bones, just a strange buzzing feeling throughout every fibre of my being.

If only that moment could have been caught on film, it would have got a lot of eyeballs on You Tube and then some. Minor detail, no You Tube, no Facebook, no social, and even more ghastly, no internet. Really no internet? Did such a time even exist? How quickly we forget, don’t we? Well for those of us “old” enough. Here comes Minton, saying “how old are you bro?”, and Lisa saying, “you posted it I didn’t”. So lets set that little item to rest… I am all of 54 years old. Happy people?

For the generation that has seen technology in the palm of your hand almost from birth, boys and girls I would like to say that, there was a time when there was no internet, and even worse, no cellular phones, only landlines to contend with, not to speak of the challenges of actually getting a landline (at least in India, way back).

Yes people, those were the Dark Ages, very dark.

Those were also simpler times, when family actually spent time doing fun stuff, actually spending quality time together, actually having meaningful conversations with each other, face to face. But this is not about lament, it’s about my experience of seeing technology actually take shape and come into an age of self driven cars and delivery by drone.

Technology has changed every single aspect of our existence, from the way we write and run computer programmes, to the kind of cars we drive, to the kind of bicycles we ride. How we have seen the music scene changing, from valve based radios, to circuit boards, from vinyl to spool decks, to eight track, to cassette tapes, to CD’s to Blue Ray, to internet based music.

Have you ever used a box camera, that too black and white, and graduated to polaroid, to SLR, to DSLR, to phone based cameras, and now comes the Moto Z Play with the Hazelblad camera Mod attachment! What a fantastic journey. Have you ever developed roll after roll (rather expensive) and then moved to viewing the photographs on screen, with the ability to edit?

We now exist in the world of the app, and increasingly find that there is an app for every little thing we can think about, even down to how we date. Swipe left for no, swipe right for yes?

This is the year of ’78 or maybe ’79, and I am first exposed to computer programming. There was this kindest, sweetest, most learned teacher in New Phila High called Mr. Winn, and he taught me the basic tenets of programing.

I often narrate this to the current gen of developers (we call then coders when we speak unkindly of them). I tell them to imagine shading punch cards, which are then punched and sorted, and are then fed into a punch card reader, from where we cut a ticker tape, from where we record a cassette tape, which is then put into this computer called a Wang, and we actually run the programme.

If the programme fails, and mine almost always did, you end up shading the cards all over again, and going through the abovementioned rigmarole again and again till we got it right. Mistakes were expensive and time-consuming, unlike now, when all you need to do is delete/comment, rewrite code, compile and run the programme again, all in a matter of seconds. Better yet, with the modern-day UI and drag and drop features available with the intelligent developer tools, you can actually see the impact of the code changes you make in real-time or near real time.

Now this is not an old vs younger generation thing, but it has been my observation and experience, that due to the fact that you could ill afford to get things wrong (the cost of rework being high and time-consuming), you did tend to be more particular and diligent, and more often that not, get things right the first time, whereas in the current scheme of things, you can rework things really easily, and therefore are more careless, less diligent, and tend not to do things right the first time out. Also we weren’t on FB, WhatsApp, Snapchat and what have you, so we were less distracted when we worked.

How many of us remember the old idiot boxes and have seen them move from black and white to color, and now to smart TV’s dishing out content on demand?

Call me daft, but I would easily regress into a world devoid of cellular phones, but I don’t think I would do away with computers. I use the cellular heavily and even carry two, but that’s just to separate work from personal. I think it’s a respect thing as well, if I message you before I call, it is to see if you’re busy or are able to speak with me. I get real irritated when people tell me things like, I saw that you read my message a long time back but you didn’t respond until much later. What frigging gives? My response at the extreme is simple, the damn device was paid for by me, the bills are paid by me, so I pretty much will damn decide when and IF I message you back! Such is my aversion to unwanted intrusion, that my WhatsApp is on my Dubai number, and that is one I really don’t give to everyone. I also have a secret number which I give ONLY to family and those who I care about, respect and trust implicitly. That that’s a really small number. Attitude you say? I say YES.

I must say that my generation has been most fortunate to have seen the old world or Dark Ages), devoid of all the needless distractions, and in later years see the technology transformation changing the way we work and indeed live. It’s like we were on the cusp of the old world transcending into something fascinating. Our cup of fortune runneth over as we now are seeing the advent of technological advancement into disciplines like Artificial Intelligence, space tourism, and seeing the efforts of Elon Musk and his like, force yet another transformation of how we live, think and indeed live.

Then is the generation preceding ours who got kinda left behind, but there are a few of them who had and have a keen desire to at least understand, if not catch up, to an era that’s changed around then so very rapidly that they are shell-shocked.

I allude to people like my father, all of 88 years, who printed out the entire user manual of the smart phone we presented him, just so he could operate the damn thing, and how he only recently purchased a laptop and sits day after day to study it and get it to do what he wants out of it. I must say I’ve been impatient with him at times, when he asks questions that to me are so very basic, that we don’t even think about it. There are two people who get a vote of thanks and gratitude for my foray into computer science, my father and my buddy Harish. Harish, because he literally begged, if not bullied me into buying a PC XT, dual floppy drive et all. My father because he somehow cajoled me to enroll for a Diploma Course from NCC when I was but a teenager, or maybe just after.

The XT gave way to the AT, which stood down for the 386 and then the 486. Storage and memory at a bare minimum, from floppy disk, to mini disk, to hard drives, to flash drives. Amazing changes, and the advancements continue.

It seems to me that I’ve been spared the same disapproving looks from my kids, who have been kind enough on occasion to label me, “the most tech savvy father” from amongst my peer group. I guess I thank my lucky stars that my life did take me on a technological journey, most meaningful, even though I didn’t see technology anywhere on the horizon during my early years. And that fortune is even more amplified (if that’s the word I’m seeking), when I can say I’ve worked in the business, operations and technology, have lived and worked on four continents, and have worked for the vendor community and the captives as well.

I’m at a crossroads of sorts now, and I sit scratching my head to figure out what I’m going to do next. I just hope that my journey is as exciting as its been, reversals and all, and I continue to learn new things, have new experiences and continue to come up trumps.

Learning to Ski: Well trying to

For the Life of me, I can’t ski. Believe me I’ve tried. Try and try and try again until you succeed, right? Wrong! Believe me I’ve tried.

My first visit ever to a place where it snowed, was to New Philadelphia, Ohio, USA. That was back in ’78 as a Rotary Exchange Student. I loved the snow, it was a totally new experience.

In India, where I’m from, it only snows way up north in Kashmir, and I’ve never been to Kashmir. I’ve traveled the world, but never been to Kashmir, one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in India.

So when I saw snow for the first time, I think I actually touched it to feel it. I even tasted it.

Even though I entered the US for the first time, and exited during the winter, thereby experiencing two winters in the US, I never got a chance to ski or then, maybe I just didn’t try or couldn’t afford it as a Rotary Exchange Student. I forget which it was, ’78 is way back.

The next time I saw snow, was about seven years later, again visiting the US for a couple of weeks on business, again in winter, but once again no skiing. This time it was certainly not about the money. I just didn’t.

I skid a car off the frozen freeway when driving back from a date with Gwen Lahmers and had to be winched out back in ’83 I think, but I guess that won’t count.

I then moved to Chicago when I was with HSBC and this time I couldn’t not ski, and so we made plans. We went to the Devil’s Head Resort up in Wisconsin somewhere around Christmas or New Year of 2006 I think. It wasn’t snowing yet, but was expected to. It snowed just a little, but not nearly enough to get the ski slopes going. Or so I thought. I was then told that they would spray artificial snow to top up what had fallen. Artificial snow! Wow, this was something new. Learn something new every day I guess.

I had Marianna as the instructor, and as patient as she was, I couldn’t get the hang of it! I don’t know why. I am and always have been very athletic…tennis, squash, cricket, running, cycling, but mostly tennis and cycling. To add to that list, I was one fiend on a pair of roller skates, so balance, and hand-eye coordination were certainly not the challenges. But skiing and I didn’t get on too well.

I fell so many times on the baby slope with barely any incline that it was embarrassing, and when Marianna was bending over in splits, I got angry. To the point that I asked her to leave and vowed that I will master this damn sport by hook or by crook. To be fair to her, at first she just smiled at my spills, then as the spills got even more bizarre, she may have chuckled a bit, and I guess after a while she just couldn’t bother to be polite anymore, and just had to laugh. Don’t blame her. At that point I was in the moment and was really pissed, but I can well imagine, what a funny sight this must have been..a grown man falling like it was the newest cool thing to do.

It was a sore topic for a long time, so when we were in Slovakia, a gentle suggestion was made that maybe we should go skiing? Take formal lessons maybe? By then I guess I wasn’t as sore about sucking at it, and I agreed.

We drove to this place, and spend almost half the day there. Gosh, I even fell while I held on to the ropes that took us up the slope. I would fall, the skis would come of, and I would put them on again.

Finally, the instructor is done with his other lesson and comes around to me and Marianna. See he can’t speak English, and I can’t speak Slovak, and therefore we had an interesting lesson session, and I’m not just talking about the language challenges. Marianna was a good translator, albeit, giggling as she passed my comments and grunts on to the instructor, and the instructors instructions, pleas, cries and yells to me.

True to form, I fell. I fell several times. I fell facing towards the front, I fell facing backwards, I fell sideways, I even somersaulted!

The instructor kept saying “plukh, plukh”, which translates to dig your heels in, spread your legs with the skis close in the front and spread out behind. I could have killed him, I swear I could. I’m thinking in my head, and maybe I even said it out loud, “if I plukh any more, my ass will tear apart”!

To know more about my visit to Skovakia, Click Here.

Sumir The Seeker in Slovakia

My friend, try and try and try again until you succeed, works only in spirit, it doesn’t work when I’m learning to ski.

Which is a great pity, because I love to watch people skiing, I love the ease with which people sashay down the slopes, the way they zig and zag.

I almost succumbed when I went to Bulgaria on business and actually spent a weekend at a beautiful ski resort. But since I was with potential investors, I decided prudence was probably the better approach and therefore I stayed off the slopes.

I don’t have many opportunities to learn, but if there is one thing I want to do, is to learn how to ski. So perhaps I will break out all my warm ski stuff and hit the slopes, this time with skis.

Also published on Medium: Learning to Ski: Well Trying To

Driving Across Europe to Slovakia

I’ve been to Slovakia twice, the first when I went to attend the funeral of Jaro, an eighteen year old kid, who left this planet when he met with a tragic motorcycle accident.

This was in the October of 2008. At that time we promised his grieving mother that we would come back and visit during Christmas. Whereas I didn’t take any pictures given the sad occasion, I did take plenty of photographs during the Christmas visit.

So this blog is really a combination of the two visits.

When we received news about the tragedy, we searched for the quickest means of transport available, however discovered that the only possibilities were to take a flight the next day, and arrive into Slovakia only around 6 PM the next day. And that too we would land in Bratislava, and from there would be driving to Dolny Kubin, so in all probability would be at final destination around 8-9 pm.

So I’m thinking, rather than just wait around till the next afternoon all gloomy and sad, why not just drive to Slovakia. It would help pass the time, and we would end up arriving into Dolny Kubin around the same time.

Google showed us that this was a 1,100 mile drive or about 1,800 odd km, but I was most certainly up for it.

I had a rather mean machine, a Mercedes GL 450, and it would most certainly do the trick. So we quickly got prepped, filled up the tank, and got on the road at around 11 pm. It was too late to take the train ferry, therefore we had no option but to take the Dover – Calais ferry crossing option.

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The White Cliffs of Dover

As we leave the white cliffs of Dover behind, I’m reminded of a movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel, that famous classic, that epic, which depicted the civil war in France, and how The Scarlet Pimpernell, launches rescue mission after rescue mission to save some of the French aristocracy from the gallows. I’m also reminded of The Three Musketeers, and some of their tales.

That, my friends, was me drifting off subject, as is usually the case. Let’s get back then.

The crossing takes about a couple of hours if I’m not mistaken, and we pull in at Calais, drive off the ferry, and guess what? We are in France!

Now here is the interesting thing. The said GL 450 is a left hand drive import from the US, and I’ve been driving a left hand drive vehicle in a right hand drive country. A neat trick, but then I am a really good driver, or at least I fancy myself as a really good driver. Now that we are in Europe, back to a left hand drive region, I am able to switch back to driving like I did in the US pretty easily.

The journey itself is really wonderful, and the roads are superb, especially in France, where the tarmac is laid like a carpet. The mean machine, takes to the tarmac like a fish to water, and we are speeding on our way to Slovakia.

We pass through several countries, first France, then Germany, Czech Republic, before we finally enter Slovakia.

London to Dolny Kubin
Docklands – London to Dolny Kubin, Slovakia: 1100 miles/1800 kms.

What really struck me as a pleasant surprise, was that we didn’t have to stop even once for any sort of border checks, as there were none. All these countries were part of the European Union (EU) now, and all border controls had been dismantled. Well, there were a few border posts, but they were nothing but the unmanned, forsaken, abandoned remnants of the pre EU days. The Indian passport is not exactly a powerful passport, despite the fact that I had an US work permit, a UK work permit, a Shengen visa for Europe. Had it been earlier days, pre EU, I’m sure I would have been stopped multiple times, what with the color of my skin, a real fancy (expensive) car, and a white woman as my travel companion.

The only place where we did get stopped was in the Czech Republic I think, and that too for having my car headlights off at 4 pm. See, it was wintertime, and cars were expected to have their running lights on all the time.

Why drive a really fast car at snails pace?

If you want to hear something really funny, hear this. Ever hear of the German Autobhan? I had. What I had heard (and was true when I did those trips) is that there were no speed limits. So I’m driving along at a steady 80 mph, and find it really strange that nobody, except a few odd balls, are whizzing past me like I’m standing still! I’d see a patrol car approaching behind me, and I would back off to 70 mph. We then stopped off for some coffee, a smoke and some fuel, and I happened to ask the attendant, what the speed limit was. I was really embarrassed, when I was laughed at and told, this is the Autobahn, there are no speed limits. He further said, you have a powerful car, you can even fly! Imagine that! Here I have the occasion (urgency to get to Slovakia), the opportunity, and the ability to let loose, and I am crawling, well relatively speaking of course. Duly enlightned, and maybe even chasticed, and hugely embarrassed, I am soon in flight. I have broken the speed limits before, in the US, in the UK, and have taken the speed up a few notches, but here is the perfect opportunity to open up the throttle and see what this baby, the GL 450 can do. All I remember is passing through Germany like a blur clocking a top speed of 130 mph, limited only by the electronic speed limiter.

“The 5.5 liter V8-engine in the Mercedes-Benz GL450 generates 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. At only 6.4 seconds, the 0-60 mph acceleration time is almost comparable with that of a sports car, as is the electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. The GL450 has a displacement of 4.6 liters, power output of 335 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque. It makes the dash from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and goes on to an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph”.

Funnier Still – why wait at a fuel station all night?

I pulled an even funnier funny, during another trip into Europe.

Now I ALWAYS tank up before I do a long drive, ’cause its the sensible thing to do. This time around, we were running late. We had opted to take the “Chunnel”, Channel Tunnel, and drive the car RORO (roll on roll off), to France and beyond. I had a meeting at the Paris office, and needed to get the car on the damn train, so as to arrive into Paris in time for my meeting the next morning. From Paris it was off to Slovakia. This is what the route looked like.

Europe Round 2
London to Slovakia via Paris: 1301 miles/2080 kms

This time we transit, France, Germany, Austria, and finally Slovakia. This time around I didn’t crawl.

So we roll off the train, drive for a couple of hours on the French highway, and then I’m looking for a fuel stop, but for the life of me, can’t seem to find one. The digital fuel gauge says I have no fuel at all, and now I’ve switched off the air conditioning, am coasting in neutral as far as possible. I fall back on the GPS, to find the nearest gas station, and she’s telling me there is one in some French sounding location about 20 miles off the highway. I haven’t a clue where we are, am panicking, and therefore fingers crossed, follow the lead of the GPS. The location is some remote French village, but we hit pay dirt, there is a fueling station. So promptly drive in, only to find its unattended. No damage done, I’m sure they accept cards, and so I’m trying to figure it all out, but try as I might, the thingy, or rather all the dispensing thingies don’t want to work for me.

I think perhaps my international cards are remiss, I try my Indian cards, my American cards, my UK cards, both debit and credit, and none want to work. I have cash, always carry cash for emergencies, and I have the foresight to carry Euros, but no attendant, and no slot in the pumps to accept cash.

I fall back on a rather ingenious plan of giving someone cash and asking them to use their cards to fill me up, but there is a minor problem. It is 2 am in the morning, it is an unattended station, there are no other customers’, and it is a remote village. So desperation makes me go and stand on the main road, and try to flag down some kind soul to assist. Can’t find, or rather, nobody is willing to stop at that godforsaken hour.

Finally someone rolls up, can’t speak English, and my French is so broken, that hand gestures work better, but the poor soul has no credit card. Another hour goes by, more flagging (trying), another soul at the gas station, and still no luck.

Finally, at about 4 am, this dude on a motorbike, exits one of the houses in the village, notices us, and stops to see if something is wong. He understands some English, I manage some French, and we actually understand each other. He laughs out loud, and takes us to one of the dispensing thingies, there is a switch on one of them, he switches it on, and eureka, it whirr to life, and does accept my card.

I seriously was ready to hit myself hard.

Dolny Kubin, Slovakia

It is Christmas, the family is still grieving, but the mood is somewhat lighter, and so we travel around a bit, visit some of the nearby towns and villages, and this time I do take a lot of pictures.

Dolny Kubin is a beautiful little town, nestling in surrounding hills.

As is typical, a beautiful town square, cafes, restaurants, clubs, and the like. The town itself, is just a few streets wide, and a couple of turns and you’re headed outa town.

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What was amazing was the way people looked at me. This was probably the very first time they had laid eyes on an Indian, or for that matter someone colored like me. I exaggerate not, when I say that whole villages came out just to get a look! I could now understand what white skinned people feel when they visit India, and everyone is just staring at them, nudging each other, and passing remarks.

One weekend we traveled to a town which was at the foothills of the Tatra mountain range. This range borders Poland. The house we stayed at was simply beautiful, well-appointed with every creature comfort.

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The weekend before we had to head back to London, I was taken to the ski slopes. Its pretty late, so no time for skiing, but there is time to take a ride on the ski lift. The view from up there was simply breathtaking.

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Snow had been steadily falling all through Christmas and New Year and therefore the drive back was a lot slower than the way in, and finally we are back again at Calais, and on the way back choose the ferry crossing over the Chunnel crossing.

We get back January 1, and the next day we are back to our routines, back to reality, leaving yet another fond memory to reflect on and reminisce. The events events that unfolded after that visit pretty much changed the direction of my life, perhaps for better, perhaps for worse. Maybe I will write about it some day, maybe I won’t. At the present time, all I am willing to say is, the reason why events unfolded the way they did, were a combination of the tragedy, and my own actions.

 

How I Ended up in HSBC

I joined ICICI Infotech in August 2001, and HSBC in December, 2004. I think that the ICICI years and all my previous experience, were stepping-stones to finally getting to work for what was arguably the world’s largest bank.

During the ICICI stint of about five years, I was sent off on a couple of overseas assignments, one to Singapore, and the next one to Abu Dhabi, UAE. The Abu Dhabi stint, was supposed to be a twenty day study, discussion, documentation and interaction thingy, but we know how these things turn out don’t we? This assignment lasted about a year.

This is How it Started

Somewhere towards the end of the assignment, somewhere in October 1198/99, it started with a call from Charleson Varghese, aka Charlie. We’ll get right back to this Charlie, but this is pretty much how the call goes.

Charlie paying me respects by calling me Bhai or elder Brother, asking after my health and whereabouts, and me providing him the asked information. He then asks if I’m open to looking at a role in HSBC, and if so can I send him an updated profile, which I do sans any hesitation. Pat came the response, by way of a mail from a HSBC HR recruiter, and the game is afoot. A call gets set up between one of the direct reports of the CEO, and he reveals that he’s looking to move on, and want someone to take his place. The call or rather interview goes well, and the next call within a matter of days, is with an Englishman named Paul Ward, who grills me over the phone, to ascertain my knowledge about how treasuries are run, how settlements take place, how the metals and commodity business are run. I guess that must have gone fairly well, and I’m asked to come to Pune in India for a face to face selection panel interaction.

Slight problem that. The project I’m working on and instrumental in moving along nicely, is for none other than the Abu Dhabi Investment Company, who is actually one of the Sheikh’s investment companies, dealing in everything from exchange traded instruments, to structured products, to brokerage, to investment management and lending. The system we are putting in is merely a replacement for several internationally acclaimed software product companies, including Reuters, nothing substantial. And due to my deep market knowledge and experience in all the above, I’m the chosen one (both by ICICI and by ADIC), in ensuring that it all goes well. No pressure. And it is all going very well, but even thinking about exiting for the briefest period is not something I was really inclined to do. Except, that this was a role with the world’s largest bank (arguably).

And so, I make an excuse that I have to go to India to attend my son’s birth day, and on that basis I travel. I land at some god-awful hour, go home shower and change into a monkey suit, and make the 180 km trek to Pune in my car. As I’m pulling into Pune I get a flat, and having no time to have the said tire fixed, I abandon the car, lest I’m late for the interview.

The Interview

Almost that I arrive at HSBC’s offshore development HQ, I’m ushered into the CEO’s den, and there awaits a formidable panel consisting of the CEO, the Paul Ward (the guy who interviewed me on the phone), the guy I’m supposed to replace, the head of HR, and his deputy I think.

I’m at my fired up best, and in the shortest span of time, I seize the moment and tell them my professional story, which actually commences really humbly, then comes to a crescendo, then follow the some minor reversals (one really big one). Questions are few, if there were any at all, if memory serves me correctly.

The only real question that matters is the one that the CEO asks. “You seem to have done a lot in your life, is there anything you can’t do?”. Instinctively I knew that the answer to this question would be the clincher, and my answer is, “Rumi, the only thing I can’t do is Kiss Ass!”. Little expecting such a response, (you had to be there) there is a look of surprise all around. Rumi, comes back nicely and quips, “Is that so, you’re gonna kiss my ass, and you’re gonna love doing it too!”.

Those Infernal Tests!

The interview is over, and I’m now led away to answer a few tests, language, numerical, and psychoanalytical. It is a whole bloody day of tests, and given I had not answered a test in years, it was not the most pleasant of experiences. I never was presented with the results, but I got the job, so I guess I must have done well, or at the very least made passing grade. I recall having asked the recruiter who first got in touch with me about this, and he says, I’m sure you did well, else there is no way you would have been given this job.

Finally, around 7 pm, Rumi comes by to the conference room where I was situated for the day, and asks why I’m around, like he’s amazed I’m undergoing these tests, and from his tone and body language I know that the job is mine.

Shortly later I find myself headed to the spot where I’ve left my car, hoping it’s still there, get the tire fixed, and am dashing back to Bombay, to attend my son’s birthday party. Later that very night, I’m on a plane back to Abu Dhabi, and back into the fray.

A couple of days later, I receive a mail containing my offer letter. The number isn’t as per my expectation, so I get the number increased just a bit. Not enough but just a bit, after all I was going to be working for the biggest bank in the world (arguably).

Exit from ICICI

Then comes the discussion about the notice I need to serve my current employer. Hell, I had not even thought about that yet, and so I say I will get back to them. I;ve not even broached this topic with my employer, with my dear boss, Ms. Atre, and I’m certain, exiting is not going to be easy. For three reasons, one being that I was doing a damn good job, two that my boss and I got on real well, and finally because the project was at such a critical juncture.

I sum up the courage, have the conversation and Shirish (Ms. Atre), gives in and says she will not stand in the way of my success, but I still need to serve the three months notice.

I go back to the HSBC folks, and have a conversation with them, afraid that they will not agree to the notice period before I come on board, but to my delight, they understand. Rumi, being Rumi, is already thinking ahead, and has my go through the induction at the hands of an experienced and longtime HSBC manager based in Bombay. We meet over a couple of coffees, lunch and he gives my the dynamic of the HSBC world, the role of HSBC technology in the HSBC world, and I’m daunted. Twenty five thousand people in IT, a USD 4 billion IT spend, 80+ countries, yikes!!!

That done, Rumi goes one better, and has me dial in each morning into his management team meeting, and starts copying me in on mails, just so I get to know whats going on, and hit the ground running when I finally come on board some months later.

And that is how I came to work for HSBC.

So Who Exactly is Charlie?

I did say earlier that I will come back to this Charlie character, didn’t I? So here is the story. It is one about respect, friendships, relationships and how doing one good deed, goes such a long way. It is Karma.

Charlie and I met when he and I were both working for System Access (now Sungard), in Singapore. I was under deputation from ICICI to System Access as a specialist on tresaury and financial markets, and during the year I spent in Singapore, Charlie and I became really good friends. There were four of us who shared the bay, Charlie, Mahesh Karle and Alvin Liu, and we called ourselves the Cosa Nostra, given that we became really great friends.

One day he comes to me and says, Bhai (elder brother), I have this opportunity to work for HSBC, and they want to interview me at 3 pm tomorrow, and I have no place where I can take this call. I immediately gave him my hotel room key, and he took the interview, got the job and went to work for HSBC. He never forgot this small good deed I had done and tried on a couple of occasions, to get me into HSBC. The first time around it didn’t work out, but he never stopped trying, and then this whole call in Abu Dhabi happened, and the rest as they say, is history. Eventually Charle came to work for me, as a direct report looking after some key initiatives.

Fond Memories – Great Experience

So this is the story of how I came to work for HSBC. I started off inheriting a team, fired some of the members, added new members, and created the Business Solutions and Consulting Group, then was given the added responsibilites of Corporate Communications, and was tasked with building the global Relationship Management Unit (RMU). Those are stories in themselves, and therefore I will deal with those experiences seperately.

I worked in HSBC exactly five years to the date, and exited due to some unfortunate developments. These five years gave me true international exposure, challenged me, educated me, showed me stratospheric success, made me travel to over thirty countries in every continent. Years that I will always cherish and remember fondly.

 

 

 

How I Got the ICICI Infotech Job

This part of my life picks up directly from a time when I was at that stage in life called, “in-between” jobs (read unemployed). I was looking for my second job. My very first job as Chief Financial Officer of atcom technologies limited  had lasted all of eleven months, and that is a tale in itself. So let’s save that for another time, not here.

This true telling, begins with me having been out of work for several months now, and I am getting rather desperate. Family to support, mouths to feed. It was the bottom of the spiral caused by tech bubble that had gone bust, and jobs were not easy to come by. I literally sat each and every day and scoured every advertisement in various publications, and finding anything remotely suitable, I applied, crossed my fingers, my toes and pretty much everything that could be crossed, so much so that reading, and working long hours at the computer, did leave me blurry and cross-eyed at times.

Enter Radha, as he is fondly called. Radhakrishna Pingali had been a very dear friend, going way back, when he was with a tech company that had been involved in the computerization of the Bombay Stock Exchange, and I was Managing Director of Integra Funds Management Limited.

I met a friend at Otters Club, who mentioned Radha, and that’s how I get his number and I reconnect with Radha, after a gap of too many years. Called him I did, and quicker than you can say “jumping jack flash”, he was en route to meet with me.

I gave him the lay of the land, and instantly he was thinking about how he could get me a job quickly, well almost instantly. For those who know Radha, that’s how he is.

You see, Radha had really made it, and was then the Joint President of ICICI Infotech, his startup having been acquired. His startup team became what was later known as the BPG, or Banking Products Group, and at some time was called the Intellectual Capital Group.

He organized a couple of interviews, with one of his direct reports and with the Head of HR (we didn’t hit it off at first, but became friends over the years), and I received an offer. The offer in terms of money, was far less than what I was making in my earlier role as the CFO, and the role and title did not cause excitement. The role was somewhat indeterminate to begin with, and the title was Senior Manager. From Managing Director to Senior Manager! Well such is life.

When Radha told me it was a “functional” role, these are the thoughts that ran through my head. I know little about technology, didn’t really know how to write a functional specification, and I barely know how a treasury product is designed or built. I know nothing about formal IT, but I did understand the basic tenets about design and development, albeit only from the myopic point of view of having completed a course at Aptech. I guess developing a  high level specifications for a bleeding edge, Decision Support System, conceptualized by me, solely for the purposes of running my own financial services business, was somewhat of a saving grace. In that respect, I was ahead of the curve, and was a thought leader.

I think this is how Radha and I became close.

Ever since I was introduced to Radha, we spent hour after hour talking financial markets, and at some point I guess, we started talking technology in financial markets. This is where the epic discussions and exchange of ideas took place, at my office, at the bar, at dinner, in the car commuting, and pretty much everywhere. I think I only learned and learned and learned about technology, and what it can be made to do, and this is the time Radha was exposed to my seemingly layman ideas of what I wanted to do in terms of business automation, and decision support and MIS. You see, back in the day I did manage money and advise some pretty senior executives and some leading businessmen. I needed information at my fingertips. I knew exactly what I wanted, I just needed a system to bring that information to me at my fingertips.

At some point he brought in vendors and spent hours explaining to them, making them understand what I wanted, and we spent quite a bit of time discussing functional specifications, technology, and finally we got to the point of getting in proposals that Radha helped me vet.

Oftentimes I do think about how we were THE first movers in conceptualizing and actually taking up development of such a system. Way before these were finally brought to India, way before they were finally adopted. Nostalgia.

Since the victim of this piece is not the “Mother of all Decision Support Systems” that we were contemplating, let’s carry on with how I came to work for Radha later in life. Well not directly for Radha, but a few levels below him. The tables had turned you see.

One of the other things that brought us close (I think), was our discussions about spirituality, my deep exposure and my very visible (back then, not now) spiritual practices. To the extent that when Radha lost his beloved wife to irreversible disease, I was asked to perform some part of the last rites, since Radha was deep in shock.

Finally life kicked in and I was out of a job, as I stated at the beginning of this blog, and I reconnected with Radha, who had grown to be a dear friend. Picking up that lost thread, was a matter of moments. There was no awkwardness about his great fortune, of my reversal, about the fact that I would be a minion as opposed to be a senior member of the team.

Radha did what he could, Radha was true to himself, he was true to a friend in need, he got me a job, and at that point in time, that was exactly what I needed.

Such is the humility of this great human being, that he said to me, I know that you have great intellect, I know that this is a bit demeaning, but just come work for me, I need you. Truth be told, he didn’t….he could have found someone like me, or even better than me to take his product forward, but he instead chose to place his trust in a friend in need, in an untried and untested resource.

In later meetings, he said he knew what he was doing in passing me the ball, but all I can see in that gesture of a friend, was that he came through. I was humbled and proud at the same time, when much later he introduced me to his now grown son, a professional in his own right, as one of the few people whom he respected as having unparalleled intellect. It isn’t not so much the compliment, it is where it was coming from. This was from Radha, a man far far ahead of his times, a man of great intellect himself. Wow, I was simply blown away, and in terms of compliments, this is the one I will always cherish.

This is how I happened to come into hard-core, main stream technology, which would serve me well in later years, and serves me well until this day. From not being able to write a functional specification that a technical resource could understand, I came to a point where I did become Head of Product Strategy for Treasury and Risk Management Products. I did end up designing from scratch an Investment Management System, and went on to design and build several such systems.

I have one man to thank for that opportunity, but I do have to thank many other people who were patient with me, who helped me learn (albeit quickly), who placed their friendships, trust and faith in my abilities to deliver, under the most daunting of circumstances. If I am every subservient to anyone, it is Radha, whome I consider my benefactor, and I can say, other than him I’m subservient to none, have not been, and don’t think I’m ever going to be.

I think Radha and his team, Babu, Bhanu and Ms. Atre (who was later my lady boss) carried me for at least two years, before I was able to carry my own weight, and deliver value to the organization that had seen it fit to employ me.

I’ve always been helpful by nature, and try to be a pillar of support to people at times when all seems bleak, but this experience really made a profound impact and the way I am with people today, comes largely out of this experience.

The ICICI journey spans five years, and the subsequent series of blogs will reveal more about that journey. This is where my professional international exposure commenced, this was the stepping stone.

The Day He Spread His Wings

It was 3 AM, and I was jolted awake. At first I couldn’t place what had awoken me so abruptly. I turned to check on the baby. He was sleeping peacefully. With a shrug, I laid back down to catch a few more moments of sleep before the baby would want to nurse again. Then […]

via The Day he Spread his Wings: how a Little Boy found his Independence during Family Crisis — mamacravings

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