06June

Clients have somehow forgotten that vendors are equal partners

My first exposure to a vendor (they were not called so derogatorily those days) was Ogilvy & Mather when I led the marketing function for American Express Consumer Financial Services for India (circa 1989). The Kolkata branch head of the storied agency was a moody celebrity in the advertising community who did not even condescend to meet me during my numerous trips to the O & M office as he was assured of the AmEx business thanks to the global tie up that we had with them. It almost felt like he was doing me a favor having chosen to dedicate some of his people to the AmEx account. Fast forward to today. At 58, I am made to wait interminably in the frigid lobbies by 20 something recruiters when I visit my clients' offices. I will hasten to add here that the CXOs of my client companies are far more reverential and courteous than their junior colleagues who sit on horses that are even higher than the genre you would find in Arabia.

06June

Grossly exaggerated resumes secure jobs for most in Indian IT/BPO

"Conceptualized, planned and executed the anti-terrorist operation during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks" read a part of a former army officer's resume who has recently established contact with me. For one, he made it seem that he did it all by himself with minimum or no supervision at all when the reality is that National Security Guards (NSG) is always helmed by an IPS officer and never by an armed forces officer, as a tradition. Secondly, there is no scientific way to verify this claim as the operation was covertly planned and the blueprint would be gathering dust in a classified archive. Besides, other officers who were a part of this counter strike may not be amenable to divulging the nuts and bolts of the strategy including the key personnel involved to a third party, particularly a pesky background checker from one of the thousands of background verification firms that have sprouted like an unconstrained rash across India.

19May

The lethal trio of Bollywood, politics and the mafia

 

They say little knowledge is dangerous. Add a lot of wealth to it and you have a lethal mix. Successful professional managers are generally brought up in orderly Indian homes where parents and sometimes, grandparents, firmly inculcate the age old values of the supremacy of education (over all other career paths, some of which would demand a gun clasped in a fist rather than a pen) and the perils of overnight wealth. Even in these consumerist times, most well-heeled professional managers keep their private lives insulated from the intrusive media. There is also a lurking fear that a brazen display of wealth (even if it is all tax washed) would invite the meddlesome scrutiny of the tax sleuths.

 

19May

Are only serial bank defaulters entitled to obscene personal wealth?

 

There is much noise, angst and I guess envy too around the eye popping valuations of Indian e-commerce startups these days. Considering that Amazon is within touching distance of a market cap of USD 200 billion over the course of its 21 yearlong roller coaster ride, Flipkart having already exceeded the USD 10 billion mark in less than eight years has made a whole army of equity analysts (especially those who track Indices) eat plenty of humble pie. The undisputed Pied Piper of retail Indian investors, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, has been expressing his acute discomfort at the rocket like vertical trajectory of Flipkart’s valuation and that of some of its contemporaries despite the unlikeliness of any bottom line in the foreseeable future. Another wily old fox, who has survived many bloodbaths of the Sensex, Sameer Arora, has gone to the extent of branding the popular valuation model of e-commerce upstarts (GMV aka gross merchandise value) as ‘Gross Misstated Value”.

 

14April

Do hiring managers really look beyond clones?

In my frequent interactions with hiring managers (predominantly C level executives) of global corporations, I am constantly reminded that I should be looking for diversity, whether in skill sets, aptitude, attitude, background or gender when I present candidates. But when it comes to the home run, it is invariably the individual who most closely approximates the hiring manager who makes it to the coveted tape. It is quite obvious that senior executives have a very well defined and limited comfort zone which they are extremely wary of transgressing.

Posted in Leadership

14April

Forget "Make in India", even "Make for India" is a mirage

FedEx, the bulge bracket MNC courier company, bites the dust when it services the Indian market. They take seven days to ship a document weighing less than 500 grams from Bangalore to Mumbai. Incidentally, there would be more than 25 daily flights that reach Mumbai from Bangalore even after the demise of Kingfisher Airlines. So it’s not as if connectivity is a challenge. They often take more than three days to deliver a lightweight packet within Bangalore. My three year old grandson could do better on foot.

14April

Indian candidates tend to be hyper optimistic

 In these close to ten years that I have been a search specialist (and a hiring manager for another fifteen years before that), I have had the privilege of interacting with a few thousand middle, senior and top managers, primarily from the Indian banking & financial services industry. If there is one common thread that has run through my experience spectrum, it is the misplaced optimism of the majority of candidates following an interview including those who were interviewed by me.

31March

Exposure on job portals is a career spoiler

Just as authentic Versace products do not retail on the kerbside, high quality professionals are not expected to feature on mass job portals. Unless of course, one is happy to make do with the Versace fakes that populate the flea markets of HongKong or Bangkok. This is an absolute no brainer.Read More

 

Posted in Career Management

31March

Billionaire envy claims all manner of victims

Sadiq Batcha and Rajat Gupta probably never shared anything in common during the former’s lifetime. They are like chalk and cheese. While Gupta personified everything that a brilliant Indian student aspired for professionally, Batcha did not come remotely close to an IIT or IIM admission. He would never have been invited to Davos or any other high profile business forum though he may or may not have undertaken frequent clandestine trips to the neighboring cities of Zurich and Geneva like most of Raja’s accomplices did and continue to.

Posted in Career Management

31March

The original "Tiger"

Among the rare compliments that come one's way either at the workplace or the playground is 'Tiger". Those who have had the privilege of being called so surely know the "high" that it brings on. It is a combination of guts, initiative, self belief and flawless execution ability.  Add to that a dash of the feline grace that comes with the territory. The late Nawab (Mansur Ali Khan) of Pataudi personified all these fine attributes and several other virtues that made him a cult figure for teenagers in the 60s when India was licking its wounds of the Chinese aggression and sulking from the stalemate of the frontal conflict with Pakistan.

Posted in Leadership

31March

Are quality human resources really critical for the technology industry?

No less than the Chairman of State Bank of India and four Executive Directors grilled me for more than an hour when I entered the last lap of the selection process with SBI as a 22 year old greenhorn more than thirty years ago. This was almost six months after the all India written entrance test. The months in between may not have been nerve wracking but were agonizing alright. My next job with Citigroup happened almost in next to no time.

Posted in Technology

31March

Pedigree as crucial as degrees

If you were watching the presentation of the Union Budget along with the simultaneous analysis of the Finance Minister’s recommendations by the carefully chosen panels of experts on TV channels, it may or may not have occurred to you that our policy shapers are primarily individuals who come from pedigreed academic backgrounds. Swaminathan Aiyer along with his more vocal brother, Mani Shanker, went to Doon School; Omkar Goswami is an alumnus of St.Xavier’s Kolkata while Shubashish Ganguly earned his early spurs in Presidency College in the same city and shared countless “Charminar” cigarettes with me in the physically dilapidated but intellectually vibrant college canteen that served as a melting pot of some of the most bizarre ideas that one can imagine.

Posted in Talent Market Trends

31March

Productive India not very distant from Political India

Swapan Dasgupta recently drew a sharp line between his versions of Productive & Political India. I don’t see these two worlds as divergent as he made them out to be. Let me explain why.Read More

Politicians, among a million other frailties, are known not to keep promises, keep people waiting and have a ready excuse for every lapse. Let’s juxtapose these infirmities with Indian job aspirants.

Posted in Talent Market Trends

27March

Can we have less technology please?

This morning I had a series of forgettable interactions with service providers of differing sizes, stature and specialization. One was a marquee MNC courier, the other was an insurance JV (with a MNC partner) and the third was a high end local lock maker that has installed a post sales call center. At the end of it all, I ended up speaking with equally dumbed down people reading parrot like from a script with no cushion at all for a non standard query and still less so for a wronged customer.

Posted in Technology

27March

The Empire strikes back!

A fairly innocuous piece in a technology centric portal about India Inc not having produced role models after Narayan Murthy, K V Kamath and Sunil Mittal when juxtaposed with Raghuram Rajan’s continuing refrain on our oligarchic capitalism that feeds off cronyism prompted me to put pen to paper. It’s ironic that Rajan is now part of an apparatus that is being seen globally as a crucible of crony capitalism.

Posted in Technology

27March

Silicon India Interview - Chiranjit Banerjee's Story

About Chiranjit Banerjee's family

I am a first generation late state entrepreneur after having worked for almost 20 years in well regarded state owned, MNC & domestic private sector companies. Both my father and grandfather were in the government. There are no other entrepreneurs in my extended family too.

Posted in Leadership

27March

Crowd Funding's Dark Avtaar

Jacques Kallis is affectionately dubbed “Dozy” by his team mates owing to his droopy eyes and generally retiring demeanor when he does not have the cherry in his vice like right fist. But the Kolkata Knight Riders’ (and indeed South Africa’s)man for all seasons should have woken up with a start after the events surrounding the collapse of the Saradha chit fund. If Dozy is still groggy, let me point him to the logo that he sports on the right side of his barrel like chest when playing for KKR. Rose Valley was an entirely unknown name in West Bengal till ten years back. The reported owner of the group, Gautam Kundu, is allegedly the proud owner of a Rolls Royce now among a fleet of similar desirable cars on the back of a business that is dreadfully similar to that of Saradha.

Posted in Talent Market Trends

27March

IPL needs a quick burial

Thanks to my resourceful son, I had the rare privilege of watching a recent IPL tie seated in the comfort of a sought after lounge that is usually the preserve of the franchise owners and their cronies. It was my first visit to a cricket stadium after almost ten years and my first ever IPL outing. It would also be the last after today’s damaging revelations on spot fixing. My interest in the game has been waning ever since it was commoditized by carpet baggers like Jagmohan Dalmiya, Sharad Pawar and Lalit Modi.

Posted in Talent Market Trends

27March

Retail corruption as heinous as wholesale corruption

Several apologists of the venal UPA 2 including former IT czar and now government strategist, Nandan Nilekani have tended to rubbish the growing outrage against crony capitalism as alarmist. Their postulation is that India should collectively fix what politicians and bureaucrats very patronizingly call “retail corruption” and not expend its limited energies on purging wholesale or “big ticket” corruption.  Such a view is patently immoral, if not criminal in its intent.

Posted in Leadership

27March

Our politics mirrors our opaque business culture

A July, 2013 study by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW) almost conclusively established that a candidate with a criminal record had double the probability of winning an election in India than a clean candidate. An equally disturbing postulation was the extremely slim chance of an Independent candidate winning a poll at all.  All this was before the game changing AAP made a stunning electoral debut in the Delhi assembly elections later in the year.Read More

Posted in Talent Market Trends

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