Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Hitchhiker - The Capacity to Adapt to Life

It happened a month ago. I still cannot get my head around it. It was one that showed me up for how rigidly and how securely I had drawn the boundaries of my world around me.

I was to drive to Bangalore and I asked young Abhinay if he would like to travel with us since he goes to Bangalore often and since we had to discuss a few things. We could do it along the way and I'd have company too. Yes, he said, that's exactly the kind of a trip I want. No planning. In an hour's time I decided to shift the next morning's plan to this afternoon, a few hours from now. Yes, even better, he says. The more unplanned the better, the more chaotic the better. Perhaps I was like that when I was 21.

So off we went. We took off at 4 in the evening.

Abhinay was to stay with his cousin who is working in Bangalore. We reached the Hebbal flyover at 2355 and he gets off and says, my cousin has gone to Madikeri sir. I was wondering what he would do? If I was he would stress myself out by this turn of events. Where to sleep, why did he have to go, what to do, why did I take this journey etc etc. But Abhinay says, I will go to Madikeri. Like he was going to the neighbour's house. This is the middle of the night, how, I asked. I will find a way sir. As casually as that. He seemed to be enjoying the whole experience.

I told him to get to the bus stop on the Mysore road and he would find something to take him to Mysore and onwards. Sure sir and off he went with his back pack like he was strolling away to his home ten minutes away. The next I heard from him was an sms at 730 in the morning that said I am in Madikeri sir.

He took a bus to the bus stop on the Mysore Road. Then he another bus from there to Mysore at 0030 hrs which dropped him off at Mysore at 330 in the morning. Then he hitched a ride on a car from a sportsperson - maybe he was wearing a track suit for about 2 kms. Then he hitched a ride on a motorcycle and then another motorcycle for a distance of 10 kms. Then he hit gold when he got a ride from a businessman who was travelling to Madikeri in a car. The rule seems to be to take a ride to any point in any vehicle (I was careful not to go with any dangerous types sir) and keep making progress. Whether it is a moped or a sedan, a truck or a bus, it did not matter. All that mattered was that they were willing to give him a ride in the direction he wanted to go. I am also quite impressed by the people who gave him a ride at 3 in the morning - he does look harmless and friendly - but still.

At Madikeri he met his cousin and friends and they were all for doing the regular touristy spots. Life cannot be too easy for Abhinay so he asked them if they would go with him to Mandalapatti, a spot which is some 18 kms from Madikeri. (It's absolutely fantastic - check out the pictures on google). Now that looks easy but you can only get to Mandalapatti by jeep which costs some 1800 bucks and its quite a ride. Abhinay broke away from his cousin's group and decided to walk the 18 kms to Mandalapatti. I cannot believe how he does this - a bit like Shantaram when he does things you don't want him to. Along the way some people told him it was a tough walk and he could get caught in rain and that's the only time he had doubt. But then God disposes so he sent a jeep with four youngsters who were as curious as the others to see this lone boy walking along. They asked him and he told them and they shook their heads and said hop in bro and so he hopped in and off they went. They split paths at Mandalapatti and he walked about the place and without insurance from the gang as is his wont looks like, and voila, he finds them again and hitches a ride back. He catches unadventurous cousin and friends and they all drive back to Bangalore.

Next morning he gets off his cousin's pad and hits the road at 5 am. He gets a bike to give him a ride to Hebbal - the Hyderabad road. Then he hitches another bike ride to the airport from Hebbal. Now this is May and mid May, so the sun would have risen. Then another bike driven by one Srinivas which deposits him at Bagepally. Then comes along another bike that deposits him at Penukonda - a distance of 40 kms. From Penukonda to the outskirts of Anantapur he found a moped. Here the old man driving the moped gave him 50 rupees for safe keeping. The other gentlemen too have been extremely concerned about the boy and advised him on what to eat and drink and even to call them after he reaches home. Humanity seems to live in the villages.

From Anantapur he got a ride on an Eicher van for a distance of 30 kms. He dropped him off at Kallur toll gate. So far not a word from a single person about money - instead they are giving him money and advise. Then comes the Kwid car at Kallur with a well to do gent driving it and he drives him along till Marur toll gate. But get this - he is the only one who asks for money and pretty much demands it. 150 bucks he wants (Abhinay gave him 50 and got away). Now this is almost 2 pm or so I guess and he gets another ride on a bike till Beechpally which is after Kurnool.

The biggest heart comes with the truck driver Raja who is driving to Hyderabad from Madurai all by himself. He delivers Pepsi bottles. He picks the boy and off they go to a dhabha which is a truck driver's spot. Raja insists on paying for lunch (a different lunch with some name I forget but which Abhinay says is delicious) and Abhinay meets many of his truck driver friends. Amidst many stories and finally a big invitation to come and visit Madurai, Raja, father of two sons and a daughter ? who are studying professional courses, drops off Abhinay at LB Nagar at 10 pm. Then he is concerned and comes to the  bus stop to see him off and insists that he could come and drop him at home. Next day Abhinay is shocked to find an unknown number calling him at his office hours and when he returns the call he finds that it is a worried Raja who wanted to thank him and to bid farewell to him and extend his invitation to visit him in Madurai again. Wow.

Clearly the people at the bottom of the pile are seemingly more giving. The old man giving him money was incredible, considering that he was probably the poorest of all. Their concern for the boy is so obvious in their advise - in taking his number to call if he has reached home safe. Raja's final call. The KWID guy shows just how we think - smart - or stupid. But what a story.

The more I think of it the more the wonders of life seem to unfold if you dare to step off the beaten path. If you trust it, it will take care of you. But to trust you need a big heart, an innocent heart, a brave heart. And that seemingly seems to pick out the right people and place them in your path. What a lovely three days for the young boy - it gladdened my heart to merely hear it. I don't think I will ever have the courage to be like that, hanging on to the skirts of safety forever as I do, but the possibility seems so beautiful just to hear. It is this adaptability to the moment, to the unknown that puts life on the razor's edge, and makes it alive. And this adaptability could well be Abhinay's biggest strength as he goes forth seeking more from the adventure called life.

To more such stories, more such people. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Anjali - Love Is not Measured In Gifts

'No one loves me,' I complained.
Anjali gave me that look.
'Why do you think so?' she asked.
'Because no one is giving me any gifts,' I said.

'That does not mean people don't love you,' she said. 'What if there is a poor mother who cannot afford to buy gifts for her son. Does that mean she does not love him?'

I felt rather materialistic when she said that. I changed the topic.

TopDriver - Car & Bike Driving Handbook - Naresh Raghvan

I know Naresh Raghavan for over three decades now and he is a dear friend, one of the few I really enjoy laughing with. If there is one thing a person is known for in a lifetime of living - then Naresh's unique identity would undoubtedly be his love for automobiles, bikes and driving. He loved his bikes right from the TVS50 that he owned when we were studying our Intermediate together at St. Alphonso's Junior College back in 1982-84 to the time he participated in the races at Sholavaram and won dirt track competitions and onwards until he started his own car garage 'Carz' in Hyderabad before heading off to the USA as a SAP Consultant. This was one subject he was always passionate about. Other than reading, listening to good music, having a good laugh and a good discussion (on happiness and the purpose of life) of course. So it's not a surprise that he authored a book on driving.

Fittingly TopDriver is dedicated to his father Mr. Vijaya Raghavan who loved cars and bikes and all things mechanical (he also loved his cricket and Uncle and I engaged in several rounds of discussions of how we fast bowlers - he was one too - can get batsmen out).
Notion Press, Rs. 249, 214 p

Naresh had conceived the idea of TopDriver or rather the handbook for drivers more than a decade ago. He was pretty clear in his mind what he wanted to write and why he wanted to write it. He normally is pretty clear about what he wants to do that way! In fact he wrote the book's first version then and we even got an illustrator to do some amateur illustrations. We approached publishers, Jaico was one of them, and nothing came of it. The idea went into the back burner until a few months ago and Naresh took the book up seriously, rediscovered his purpose and got it all done in a span of a few months. TopDriver emerged, published slickly by Notion Press, and Naresh came down from the USA and did a lovely launch at Taj Banjara on the 9th of June, and set the book and its noble idea rolling in India's crazy driving population. No better place to launch it than in Hyderabad I guess which has some of the most unruly traffic ever seen.

TopDriver is about driving safely without getting into an accident. Safe driving by design - and not simply by relying on Gods.  Even if you are a good driver you still have to account for a bad driver and TopDriver says that by following rules, learning advanced driving techniques and defensive driving techniques you can live out your life without getting into an accident. Good driving TopDriver says, is science and not chance. Naresh knows - having driven all across the world, having been trained by the National Traffic Safety Administration, USA in Defensive Driving and by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation in Defensive Driving Course in Motorcycle Safety.

1.5 lakh deaths due to road accidents per annum
The numbers TopDriver throws are staggering. In India there are 5 lakh accidents every year on the road that claim 1.5 lakh deaths - far more than deaths that occur criminally. TopDriver feels that in the pyramid of Driver education, Practice and Skill building, Road design and signage, License and Testing an Policing - the first one, driver education, if improved, could save a lot of lives. This is what TopDriver aims to do - save lives that are lost unnecessarily due to lack of the knowledge of sound driving practices.

Know Your Car
TopDriver is divided into two sections - Car and Bike. It starts with an education of road signs (which most drivers do not care for). I checked myself and in about 60 signs I could not for the life of me figure out what 15 of them meant. I never saw them and would not know what they meant until now. Then comes a chapter on the mechanics of a car  (engine size, cylinders, BHP No, suspension, disc brakes, electricals etc). Then an introduction to the heroes in the car, the ones we most intimately interact with, like the accelerator, steering, transmission and the villain of the piece, the brakes. Now we are all set to roll, but wait.

Safety accessories like seat belts (there's a nice visual of a guy shooting out of the front glass of a car like a projectile after impact and that kind of makes you think twice before asking - do the police catch you here for seat belt offences?), air bags (can suffocate you so please seat 10 inches away), head restraints are discussed in detail with do's and don't's. Like how air bags sometimes don't deploy if seat belts are not put on, so think about it rather than worry about cops catching you. Child safety aspects (don't keep the child in the front seats or on adult's laps, back seat and child seat belted), importance of rear view mirrors, seat adjustment (don't try to adjust after car starts moving), head lights, indicators, wipers, stereo, hand brake (never use while driving down on ghats), cell phone (don't sms, pull over and then do), tires, loose objects (like balls or bottles can get stuck under the brake and its curtains for you in typical cinematic fashion), hazard lights etc are discussed with respect to life and death situations. It might not look very stylish and cool but you won't look cool dead either so keep them on.

Stopping distances on highways
When speeding on the highway be prepared for braking in times of an emergency. It is here that knowing about stopping distances (0.5 seconds to 1 second) helps. The 2 second rule, which indicates that you need a distance of at least 2 seconds between you and the car ahead to brake safely, helps (count 1001, 1002 at a reference point that the car ahead has passed and measure it while you pass). I loved this 1001 and 1002 bit. Next time on the highway I am trying this.

Rain, water, snow, sleet
How to drive in the rain, how to handle hydroplaning (when your car skids in water uncontrollably), handling waterlogged roads (don't let water get into the exhaust, keep accelerating to keep it out) knowing fording depths and why not to over load are discussed. The dangers of exiting the car wrongly, of Carbon Monoxide and a painless silent death (remember Norwegian Wood, the movie, or the deaths that occurred in Chennai rains some years ago when the occupants fell asleep and died after CO crept back into the car through the air conditioning because the exhaust was blocked by water), being aware of men at work and handling railway crossings (I lost two friends who died on unmanned railway crossings in the USA), driving in snow and sleet, car sickness, valet key. Lane discipline, the 3 point check, driving wrong side (not a good idea if you ask me but most of Hyderabad does not agree with me here and in fact zooms by at greater speeds on the wrong sides) are discussed.

Advanced tips
Advanced tips include Engine braking, cornering, skid control (under steering and over steering)
Junction rules, reversing, how to handle the car when stuck in loose mud (traction, push and don't spin), night driving (cut speed, take breaks, every 2 hours, low beam, adjust lights, 200 ft to 300 ft)
flyovers (no overtaking - unlike some of our pals in Hyderabad where they honk and insist on overtaking on the flyover). Why are they in such a hurry? What kind of jobs to they have?

Handling slopes - parking and waiting
Parking on a slope - I am always worried about this and at times put stones behind the car tires. TopDriver says use hand brake, turn wheel against pavement at an angle which is better than a small stone (heard of a friend who parked on an incline and found his car at the bottom of the road, crashed into a wall, totalled). The pleasures of parallel parking are discussed (go half way past the car beside you, turn steering fully, slide in left rear wheel, should be 2 feet from the sidewalk to clear the first car, straighten for one feet, go right fully and slide in). I am still not too good here but let me take some tips from the man himself.

TopDriver throws in a word of caution of how to handle stopped school buses, children (saw one heartstopping incident recently when a kid ran out from the front of his bus and almost ran into another school bus and just stopped in time). TopDriver addresses the most stressful part of driving - the Hill test which is about how to handle the car on an upward slope when you have to stop on a slope - do not balance with clutch, use hand brake, go into neutral, release brake, accelerate. The compassion that one must have comes to fore when TopDriver advises you to yield when approaching a main road. When dealing with two wheelers - try not to break their momentum. In ghat driving (choosing the right gear is the most important part),

Youth and Speed
For youngsters who form a major customer segment for TopDriver there is a word of caution about succumbing to peer pressure which results in over speeding, or listening to loud music. TopDriver explains what a good driving ethic is - put your ego aside, don't fight, use indicator every time and let the person behind know, minimum honking, slow down on wet road and don't spray others, stop at pedestrian crossings and control your road rage.

Driving and Alcohol
An important aspect of safe driving is driving and alcohol. The first thing that alcohol does to you when imbibed beyond permissible limits is that it slows down your reflexes. TopDriver gives you charts on permissible amounts of liquor and how it affects your driving.

Defensive Driving
In the chapter on defensive driving TopDriver urges you to scan continuously for danger. You could be right - but watch out for the one possibility of someone being wrong and causing an accident for you. Because it does not really help to argue and prove you were right if you are the one who has broken limbs or worse, are dead. Your frame of mind could affect you as well and it will impact your decisiveness. Have an intention of driving safe and defensively and you will be safe.

Increase your Mileage
To get better mileage from your car - check tire pressure and see if it is right, refrain from revving engine, from over speeding, long idling, always look for smooth acceleration and deceleration, use correct gear, shift quickly to top gear and keep air filter clean

On the maintenance front TopDriver advises you to check oil, overheating, coolant, battery, jump start, wheel alignment and advises you on what to do in a breakdown. TopDriver also advises you on how to go shopping for a car to hiring and managing a chauffeur which could a highly stressful experience.

The section of Bikes has many similar advise but the one's where it stresses are on footwear, hydroplaning, saree guards, driving in water logged roads, off road driving and highway driving
keeping an escape path open, safe distances, defensive driving (never fall off a bike says TopDriver).

By now you'd have got it that Naresh put in a lot of thought and detail, a lot of love into this book. It's something he is very passionate about and I do hope it finds the right kind of traction and becomes the kind of a book every family buys, every car keeps in its glove compartment (or whatever they are called in India because we don't certainly keep our gloves there).

The book has loads of pictures and illustrations. It is written with great care. Clearly Naresh wants to ensure safe driving and cares deeply for lives of drivers on the road. Some details are very intricate and that is what shows his thoughtfulness, that with this one detail perhaps, a life could be saved. One can constantly hear his voice as one drives - each time I reverse I now get off and check what is behind the car - and that is straight effect of naresh's book. Similarly I know now what to do in a hydroplaning incident - keep the tires going in the direction of the spin as opposed to against. Naresh gently and cogently gets his points across. Well done Naresh and here's wishing TopDriver a long and safe journey in the bestselling lists. In my mind it is already a winner for its content and its intent.

Many youngsters have already bought the book and several more are buying it as sales show in the Amazon site. I have gifted one copy to my niece Pooja and she was excited to receive ti from the author. Naresh  has already spoken in several schools and organizations. I believe this is a book everyone should carry in their car and read it once in a  while. It could save lives surely. To buy the book please click on

Monday, June 26, 2017

Anjali - The Class Speech on Leonardo da Vinci

New class. New teacher. New adjustments.
'I want to do some extra work in class,' said Anjali.
I was surprised that she wanted to do extra work. I'd be happy to let others do all the work. But it seemed that she wants to do her bit, extra work or whatever.

So Anjali was elated when her teacher chose her to speak on Leonardo da Vinci (on whom their class is named) at their school assembly.

She took out her card with the information on Leonardo da Vinci, walked up and down, rehearsing her lines and when she was ready, told me a few lines about da Vinci. He was from a town called da Vinci in Tuscany, and painted the Mona Lisa, Vitruvian Man and the Last Supper, was an expert at many subjects, an important figure in the Renaissance period and so on and so forth. While she spoke we discussed what a polymath is, how da Vinci was to be pronounced and more importantly Renaissance, and a couple more things like where Tuscany was etc. I learned a few things along the way too.

She read it, rehearsed practiced and after many trials went back to school and presented her part. It was not easy but she stuck to her task. Next day she was pretty pleased with her performance and that was that.

I wonder when people get like this. What drives them to do extra work, take up more responsibility, do a good job. Well she seemed quite happy at the end of it so I guess that in itself is a reward. I guess pride comes in when you have to prove yourself, to yourself and the world, It's an attitude I'd like to explore some more, to see what drives such behavior - to want extra responsibility, to prepare for it, to want to be recognised for it.

It's extra work but it's also extra recognition.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Shelf Esteem - Times of India, Bengaluru

Shelf esteem! The books I read - had to really think but mostly there.
Thanks Prajwal Hegde.

Charminar at Midnight During Ramzan

I have heard about this but never went to Charminar during Ramzan. In fact it is only these last few years that I started to go to Charminar and walk about comfortably. This year I have been planning to go to Charminar and my intention was further bolstered when Himabindu Reddy of Telangana Today told me that she had gone to Charminar with her friends - from 11 pm to 4 pm.

There's stuff to see and stuff to eat. I told Sunnie and he was keen to go and Sagar was always keen on the Charminar ride so we set off at about 11 pm in our car.
The crowd and traffic started picking up as we entered the Madina area. It must have been close to midnight. We took some fifteen minutes to go past the hundred metre distance past Shadab and find some parking space.

I wondered if I should have parked on Naya Pul or somewhere near Salarjung museum. But we chugged along and squeezed in between two cars by the side of the road. There were policemen all along the way, every ten metres or so regulating the traffic. (Luckily there were no fly by night operators collecting parking fees.) I parked near the High Court and we sent up a silent prayer for the safety of the vehicle.
Then we took the inside roads and walked towards Charminar because the roads looked a bit easy to walk on. As we got closer though, the crowd increased.
This is how it looked
It was midnight but shops were open, wares were being sold, people were moving about. We passed by some really old houses with Hindu names, Muslim names, open parking lots and some houses converted in comfortable apartments.
Me and the creations of our city's founders
We walked for a good ten minutes and were panting slowly when we came to the spot near the Mithi ka Sher statue. From there we turned in to the action.

The road suddenly burst on to us with thousands of late night shoppers - all types, walkers, shoppers, gawkers like us. And in this madness where we could not even walk, there were auto rickshaws and bikes cutting through the traffic smooth as butter, the drivers cool as cucumbers. It can happen only in Charminar.
Me and Sunnie looking suitably pleased with the situation 
We found an idli and dosa bandi - the famous dosa bandis of Charminar - and decided that we must eat them. Having consumed a cheese butter dosa and some hot idlis that we so hot that we could not hold them, we walked onwards, feeling a little more happier with the world.
Me exiting Nimrah
We slowly made out way to the road leading to Charminar from Madina and this was when the full impact of Ramzan nights at Charminar hit us.
The entire road was filled with push carts that were selling all kids of wares. We could barely walk through the crowd without changing directions every two steps. You have to jostle through so if you are unhappy with human touch stay away.
Lad Bazaar with an old cricketing friend on the poster
The crowd moves like one body, heaving, breathing. Each cart was lit with bright lights making the night so colorful that it was like nothing I have seen before.

Bangles, clothes, crockery, perfumes, caps, sun glasses, dates, dry name it, they had it and sold it.

People were eagerly buying stuff. There were the photography buffs with their big cameras, sweating away the right angles.

Jostle, jostle, try this, try that, sidestep this and onwards.
Near Charminar the crowd got even thicker. Now there were fruits to be eaten, haleem vendors, a mad crowd in Lad bazaar. We somehow pushed our way to Nimrah and sipped a couple of chai and swallowed down crisp and buttery tie biscuits.
Sunnie's iphone

Once again feeling  refreshed we stepped out to head back and got a glimpse of Lad bazaar and the sight was enough to stop us from venturing into it. One umbrella vendor tried to sell me umbrellas.
Me towering over others, history towering over me
Sunnie took pics as he trailed us and we headed back in the direction of Shadab. Without any shopping, nor any other major stop, we had already spent over an hour, just walking up to Charminar and back, a distance of not more than a couple of kilometres. That's how dense the crowd was. Festive and color are the words.
Sagar waiting
We went to Shadab which was full and found happy and energetic waiters serving tonnes of food and beverages, were handled by able stewards made us wait near tables and after twenty odd minutes, got ourselves a place. The place was so different - they changed table cloths, glasses and plates were clean, service polite.
Sunnie is not too happy with something behind me
We ate a biryani, drank Thums Up, shared a Falooda and then polished it all off with a paan. Then, we walked back to the car with great contentment. The time must have been about 230. The car could only be driven at a healthy 40 kmph and we all enjoyed the ride back in silence.

Seriously, in all these years in Hyderabad I'd never gone there? And seriously, it's like nothing I have seen before. One of those things that make you feel proud to belong to this place.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

This Way Is Easier Dad - Book Launch in Pics

Some of the launch pictures.
The dramatic amphitheatre at Saptaparni
The stage is set

Friends from almost three and a half decades - Venkatpathy and I - after sharing bowling for MCC and Hyderabad - now sharing the dais

Chandra and Maadhurya

Sunnie and Varun

Foreground - Bharadwaj, Shrini and Sunnie
Background - Suresh, AP and Satish 
Anjali, Mansi, Sloka and Meghana

Q and A - Fielding questions

Ramana capturing a moment
The audience in the early parts - Bijju in the foreground
The amphitheatre filling up
Almost at capacity 
A nice moment when all of us laughed - Mona telling Venkatapathy to laugh 
Signing for an old new ball partner - Rajesh from All Saints

Parijatha, me and Anu
Junie aunty - ever so gracious and warm and full of love, mischief and affection, can't thank her enough
Suresh Babu - always has made it a point to be part of my book functions, gracious and humble
Kishore, Sridhar Narayan, Sunil Jyoti, me, Chanu and Vinod - Osmania - OUCE and OUCCBM
Sridhar Narayan, Anjali, Vinod and Kishore  - sweet
Joseph Fernandes, Venkatapathy and Jitu (I will grace the function, he said)

The back benchers - Suresh, AP and Satish in a relaxed mood
I love this moment - all four of us struggling to open the cover off the book
Post event
Meghana's father and the soft and gentle Prem Kumar (I will definitely be there)
Abhinay - who helps me so much with a smile and tons of energy

Vijay, Ramana and Pavan
Raghu - who compered the 50 Not Out show
OUCCBM turns up in support - Bharadwaj, Shrini, Sunnie, Ramana, Pankaj and Vijay
Suresh and I sharing a moment
Author of TopDriver, Naresh Raghavan and Pavan who played zone cricket with us from Under 15 till Universities

Ownership Exercise - Deal With the Customer

We are continuing the ownership theme.

I asked the team to come up with an idea that showcases ownership in a real life work scenario that could be presented. The idea - how to deal with a customer.

So Pavan played the role of a customer. He called and asked Akshay (who played the role of a sales person) that he would like a good discount deal for a haircut and a trim. The sales person listened to him and suggested the best deal at 15% off. The customer then asked if he could get a better discount. The salesperson was unsure.
The customer said he would get more business if he was offered more discount. The salesman then called his office manager Sharmila and asked her to check if the vendor would give a bigger discount if four people turned up.

The vendor agreed.

The customer showed up alone at the shop. The vendor refused to give the discount because only one person had turned up at the shop. The customer called the sales guy. He called the team and found out. The team told the customer that they could give him an extra discount only if four people land up at the same time.

In all the to and fro, the customer was lost. His basic need of a hair cut and trim was lost. More variables came into the play and the focus shifted.

We decided that it had gone wrong.

After a bit of reorientation, we did the role play again.

This time the salesperson was clearer with what he wanted to give. But this time the customer changed his needs. He wanted a different vendor. The salesperson tried to sell him his favorite vendor. Then the customer wavered a bit and hung in mid air. Luckily the salesperson closed in and said he would close the deal. The customer then asked when the shop was open. Then he asked if should make an appointment. Then  he asked how to download the coupon. The salesperson said he would help him with all the above. He asked the customer if he wanted any other products. The customer put the phone down.

We asked the customer if it was a Wow experience for him. He said it was not.

We discussed what could have been done to make it a Wow experience for the customer without giving him extra discounts or cash back. How could the salesperson have taken more ownership and closed the sale with whatever was available with him to make it a Wow experience?

We decided that the approach to the customer should be one of genuine concern - to satisfy customer needs. The salesman should have no doubt in suggesting the right fit for customer requirements. He should make it easy for the customer to make the decision and help him through the entire process.

1) First listen to his requirements. (Could have found where he normally had his haircut and what the budget was.)
2) Suggest options after understanding the customer needs (help customer decide)
3) Once main issues are handled add value by adding more information to support the decision and proceed to closing the sale
4) Make it easy for customer to comply with the process. i.e. offer information about when the customer can avail the offer, help get an appointment, download and forward coupon, be on call for further assistance, give information that would help support the decision, send reminders through sms about the appointment ...all this information and the small throw ins will make the customer feel special. It is not about the 15% but of the total value that can be packed into the experience from what we have.

If the experience has been a great one with two or three unexpected pain points sorted out, and decision making process helped with, the customer will surely become a repeat customer and bring in many more customers. He will believe that the salesperson has his back.

End story - help customers make the best decision and then provide all the service that can be offered even before he asks for it, so he becomes a WOW customer.

Ownership is not about providing freebies -it is about using existing resources to add value to the experience. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Sordid Kumble Affair - Player, Coach and the Administration

Anil Kumble has shown his character through his actions and words over the years. He has spoken only as much as needed and whatever he has spoken, he has spoken like a gentleman and a professional. In all his years as a competitive cricketer, administrator and even as a coach, I have not seem him point fingers or speak against any individual. He has conducted himself impeccably as a professional, as a role model and as a senior statesman. Even as he quit his job as Head Coach of the Indian Cricket team due to this sordid affair that is just unfolding, he has not accused anyone directly and shown immense restraint, character. That is something very few, including some of the greatest icons of the game, can claim.

Kumble's appointment as coach raised a few eyebrows then because Ravi Shastri was doing a fairly good job as Director (I don't know what the role of the director is but I can safely assume he also coached the team). Kumble had little coaching experience but at that level it is more about man management and strategy, more  about knowing how to win, that perhaps matters more than anything else. Obviously man management is a big thing because these days the players have more money, are bigger stars and I cannot blame the twenty somethings to keep their heads and egos down. After all they are seen as super stars and millions know them by name and face.

Kumble has been recommended by an elite committee constituted by the BCCI, including Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. The stature of the committee and the stature of the man in question are enough to say that we have picked the right person for the job. Ravi Shastri was unhappy about being shunted away unceremoniously but well, nothing in life is permanent - not even super stardom. Nor the Director's post.

Kumble's record as coach over the past year has been good. Captain Kohli wants to win and wants to win every game. He is intense. Those are exactly the traits that Kumble brought to the table. In addition to the desire to win, Kumble brought the art of statesmanship and a quiet maturity. He would also have bought his 'style' which is under question now.

What could his style be that could trigger such an immense backlash? Would he be abusive? Would he threaten? Would he impose unfair rules on the team? Would he engage in immoral practices? Would he pick sides? Would he choose favorites? Would he have a bad work ethic? Does he not understand the game? Has he not played as much as some of these greats? Would he rule over with an iron fist? That is something I would like to know - this 'style'. Whatever it is I am inclined to bet my last dollar on the fact that Kumble would do whatever he felt works in the interests of the team. Now if someone can prove otherwise, I'd like to hear their case.

I cannot understand how a player cannot adjust to the coach. Imagine Alexander not adjusting to Aristotle and telling his father to change his coach and tutor. What is there to adjust? What exactly is the player's agenda? To win matches. What is the coach's agenda? To win matches too. He will only be known as a good coach if the team wins games. The results have been good until this issue came up so where does the matter of style come into play? Obviously it is a style that worked.

But once players have a say in the 'style' of coaching they can as well choose the coach themselves. BCCI could well disband the elite committee and ask the team to sit in the interview panel and choose one whose style they might like. They are somehow being allowed to behave like pampered divas and in my experience it could well be the beginning of the ending. Remember - you do not sacrifice good men at the altar without paying a hefty price.

The importance of a good coach can never be undermined. He brings not just knowledge of the game but of life itself. He makes you not just good players but good people. And Anil Kumble, if whatever I have seen of him is an indicator, would have done just that. I am horrified to think that any team would be suicidal enough to throw such an opportunity away to grow as good people. Life goes on beyond cricket and one must be aware of that. It will all end one fine day, all too suddenly, and then you have only you and the mirror with your deeds of commission and omission to reflect upon. One can only say that this is a case of a team not deserving the coach it got.

If Virat Kohli has expressed his reservations against Kumble's style, it is high time he came out and explained what his reservations are and how they are so detrimental to the team. And while at that, also, what he expects the coach's role is. If he has not expressed the reservations, he could well come out and say he has not said it (which he did during the Champions Trophy). But his silence speaks louder now in today's din and it is disappointing to see the kind of an example he has set to the millions of followers he may have. Young cricketers could now well question the style of their coaches, young students could question the style of their teachers.

In the current scenario it is also imperative to know who are the prime movers behind this 'revolt', who in BCCI has handled this affair because it could have been done far more maturely and gracefully than this, what the CoA has done to address this issue. Not just Anil Kumble, which is good enough, but the BCCI, the CoA, the elite committee of Sachin Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman are shown in poor light with this poor handling of the Kumble affair. It's time now to find out who is responsible for it, what are the reasons and consequences, and how they will go about hiring the next coach.

BCCI could pretty much disband the committees, officials and give the keys to the team in these circumstances. The more I see of it, the less I am impressed by these 'reservations' about the 'style'. It reeks of rigid and fixed minds that are not adaptable. It is not unknown to most that such minds can only go thus far as they limit themselves with their own likes and dislikes, rules and opinions. That said, the administration seems devoid of any maturity or foresight, taste or decency in the way this issue has been handled.

To me the final blame lies with the BCCI and those in charge. They have let the issue play out to suit themselves instead of doing the right thing, which is backing Kumble to the hilt. And for failing to do that, they must explain their position too. If it is really true that Virat Kohli cannot continue with the Coach, he does not deserve to lead the side because that is clearly not one of his roles - to pick the Coach and his style. It could well be that the rumblings before the Champions Trophy have cost the team the Trophy so whoever had these reservations can also take the blame for that loss against Pakistan. But the BCCI chose to promote that line of thought, backed players who have really no say in the matter really (especially if there is no valid reason than personal and subjective preferences), and left Kumble with no option but to quit. And for just that one piece of mischief, some heads must roll.

While at that, I am still waiting for the details to come out because it is a curious case indeed. If a person like Kumble finds it impossible to continue in such an environment one can only guess that there are bigger forces at play, and not all of them as courageous or graceful as he is.

Anjali - People Are Like Sponges

There was some talk about counselling recently and about "Dear Zindagi" and how the movie got the message across very well that it's not a bad idea to seek help when one is overwhelmed.

Anjali was saying something about a sponge so I tuned in to her.
'What about a sponge then?' I asked her.
She tried to get her words and thoughts right.

'Well people are like sponges. They take in stuff and become heavy with it,' she said  and stopped. Hmm. On track so far.

'Filled with bad stuff you mean?' I probed. 'Like dirty water.'
'No, bad and good,' she said.'Both can make you heavy.'
I had not thought about that.

'So, counsellors squeeze them, and all that stuff, good and bad, goes out of them,' she concluded.
'And they become light again,' I said. I could feel that lightness.


Good and bad can make the sponge heavy. Not necessarily only the dirty water even the good water when absorbed in excess can weigh you down. It's best to get squeezed every now and then in whichever way works for you, and get back to being light.

'Then you are ready to absorb stuff again,' she concluded.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day Out - Article in HANS India

Words of Wisdom From Dad - Hindustan Times Review

"Paruvu has the ability to see how one can seek wisdom to deal with life and its challenges from these commonplace looking episodes.."

The Young Can Teach You a Lot - The Hindu, Metro Plus

'This Way is Easier Launch' - Audience

This one is devoted to the people who came.
About to start


Struggling to open the covers

A good view of the audience
Filling up fast
Almost full capacity
Full house almost
How it looked from the top