Good Monthly Pension Scheme for Retired People

28 Aug

Government of India in the Union Budget 2014-2015, announced the revival of Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana. Excerpts from budget speech by Honrable Finance Minister are, “NDA Government during its last term in office had introduced the Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY) as a pension scheme for senior citizens. Under the scheme a total number of 3.16 lakh annuitants are being benefited and corpus amounts to Rs.6,095 Crore. I propose to revive the scheme for a limited period from 15th August 2014 to 14th August 2015 for the benefit of citizens aged 60 years and above“. LIC of India has been given the sole privilege to operate this scheme.

https://www.licindia.in/VARISHTHA_PENSION_BIMA_YOJANA_benefits.html

Highlights of the scheme 

1. Valid for people above the Age of 60

2. Maximum Monthly Pension is Rs 5,000 against a 1 time premium of Rs 6,66,665.

3. Post life of Policy Holder the principal will be transferred to nominee.

4. After 15 Years Policy can be surrendered – redemption same as purchase price

5. No redemption possible before 15 years (Exception for critical Illness)

6. After 3 years – Loan can be availed unto 75% of policy value

7. Monthly Pension is Taxable

8. Limited to One pension / Family

9. Scheme is open for a limited time of 1 year , closes Aug 2015

10. How is scheme better than FD ?

a) FD Interest rates for Sr citizens is 9.5% for greater than 1 year tenure.

b) However bank Interest rates may fluctuate during life based on interest cycle – in case of this policy this interest rate is fixed during the entire life of policy holder 

c) FD Liquidity is better than LIC

d) LIC Scheme is subject to Service Tax

e) Interest from both schemes are Taxable – if  person is in Taxable limit

Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal – In 48 Hrs

20 Aug

Not many people know that Karnataka has two UNESCO world heritage sites. Hampi & Pattadakal – both located in North Karnataka. We had visited Hampi a few years back and have since long been wanting to visit the heritage sites of Badami, Aihole & Pattadakal – which we finally did recently.

Our History books are filled with content of N India from the Indus Valley Civilisations, Buddhism , Jainism, Mauryas, Guptas, Harsha and then the Turks, Mongols, Rajputs, Marathas  and Mughals and finally the British. Very little is mentioned of S Indian history. Karnataka alone is home to 5 great dynasties that ruled from as early as 450 AD. The Chalukyas (Head quartered in Badami – Then Vatapi), Rashtrakutas, Vijaynagaram Empire, Hoysalas and The Wodeyars/ Tipu.  Outside of Karnataka you have the Pallavas, Cholas, Cheras, Pandya’s , Kakatiyas and some more.

Here is an update from our  2 day trip recently to this amazing place. Thankfully its not one of those busy tourist circuits and we could admire the beauty of 1500 year old architecture in relative peace and calm with no major queues and crowds.

The Chalukya empire ruled from Aihole, Badamai and Pattadakal and you can see an architectural marvel in Red sandstone. The beginning of temple architecture in India may well have started from here. Aihole was  the 1st capital of the Chalukyas who ruled almost 3/4 of India under the famous Pulakesin – II. The empire had its golden era from around 500 AD to 750 AD. The temples and structures we see in Aihole , Badami and Pattadakal would be amongst the oldest structure (in good shape) in India.

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The initial set of temples were constructed in Aihole, the 1st capital – 125 of them , most have been excavated and are in decent shape. The structures are simple with limited sculptures and architectural beauty. Aihole is about 30 Km from Badami and a 45 – 60 min drive along reasonable good village tarred roads with lovely green fields on both sides. Most of the temples in Aihole are dedicated to Vishnu – but later the Chalukya’s became Shaivites and in Badami and Pattadakal we see mainly Shiva Temples.

According to mythology Aihole is the place where Parashurama washed his axe after killing the Kshatriyas. Aihole has historical significance and is called as cradle of Hindu rock architecture.

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Aihole also has some rock cut caves – but these are basic and the outstanding ones with elaborate sculpture work is seen at Badami

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From Aihole we travelled to Pattadakal – a 20 min drive on the way back to Badami. Pattadakal  is the UNESCO world heritage site. This has some amazing temples in a large compound. You can see temples of different designs – Nagara style (Like the one you see in Lingaraja Temple Bhubaneswar) , Pallava Style (Like the Shore temple), Traditional S indian, N Indian and the Chalukya style . Of the 3 sites – Pattadakal has the most evolved design and architecture and its interesting to see the development in Temple design from Aihole – Badami – Pattadakal in less than 300 years. The temple site is located on the banks of the Malaprabha river – one of the few rivers in India that flows from South to North. You can easily cover Aihole & Pattadakal in 5 hrs (Aihole has multiple sites to visit and Pattadakal one main complex)

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Badami was the new capital post Aihole. Its earlier name was Vatapi. Its called Badami because of the red colour of the sand stone used in construction – which looks very much like that of Almonds (Badam).

There are 4 important things to see in Badami –  Rock Cut Caves, The Bhootnath Temple and the massive lake adjacent to it, The fort and the Museum.  All 4 are very close to each other.

The Rock Cut caves – are amazing. Its created by scooping out rocks from the gut of the mountain and then finishing them aesthetically with intricate sculpture. There are 4 sets of caves – some dedicated to Vishnu, others to Shiva and the last one to the Jain Guru’s

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You climb 250 steps to see all the 4 sets of caves and the view from the top is beautiful. You can get a wonderful panoramic view of the lake and the Bhootnath temple below. The temple is peaceful and serene – and without a priest and the crowd you can sense the divinity in the old ruins.

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The fort is again a climb up a hill – not very step but has about 500 steps ( 25 min climb) – not much of the fort left – a few cannons perched on the walls , a few sentry posts and a temple on the top of the hill. Its a nice trek and the kids loved the climb. Lots of monkeys enroute – so look out for them . Right below the fort is the Lake , the Bhootnath Temple and a small but very well maintained museum – which has one of the oldest statue of Lajja Gauri the ancient fertility goddess.

Some more useful Information

Badami can be reached from Bangalore by Train – The Gol Gumbaz Express from Mysore to Sholapur leaves Bangalore at 6.40 PM and reaches Badami at 7.00 AM. Its a slow train with multiple stops (thats why it does 590 Kms in 12 hrs). The train has 1st AC , 2nd AC , 3 Tier AC. Pack your dinner from home – there is no pantry car. The return journey starts at Badami at 7.30 PM and reaches Bangalore at 8 AM. (there are other trains also)

There are very few decent hotels in Badami (and none in Aihole / Pattadakal) – we stayed at The Heritage – a 5 min 2Km drive from the station. Two other hotels that looked decent are Krishna Heritage and the Badami Court. All hotels have rooms at 3 – 4 K/ Night. The Heritage took good care of us – rooms were nice, service was good and they had organised an Innova to pick us up, stay with us for two days and then drop us back at Badami station. Food @ Heritage was homely and simple (Only Veg) the other two hotels serve Non Veg.  Rooms are neat, clean efficient and Basic (AC , Hot water , TV , comfortable beds, balcony) – food is cheap – a good healthy nourishing S Indian Thali is only Rs 90/- and an A La Carte meal for 3 will not exceed Rs 500/-

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Not much of shopping/markets in Badami – its a 1 street town. Mainly agrarian – and we drove with lovely fields on both sides growing Jowar, Bajra, Cotton, Sunflowers, paddy, Maize. Its  black soil and very fertile.

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Telephone connectivity is good – 3G works all thru the town, even in Aihole & Pattadakal.

The largest city in the vicinity is Hubli – which is about 100 Km before Badami. Hubli is Karnataka’s 2nd largest city (Yes – bigger than Mangalore & Mysore). Further ahead from Badami is Bijapur ( ~ 100 Km) and its a 2 hr drive. This place again has a lot to see including the famous Gol Gumbaz – its Sultanate territory. Hampi is not far away – though Hospet is a different train route. So if you have more time – you can easily do a 5 – 6 day trip to Hampi, Badami & Bijapur.

You are in the heart of Deccan – summers can be very hot. Even mid Aug it was 30 Degrees +. Best time to travel is in Winter – Oct to Feb. Thats when the foreigners come here in hordes and with the limited room supply you need to book in advance.

Overall a great trip – amazing architecture, lots of History, not crowded, neat and clean, easy on the pocket and convenient connection to Bangalore. The person at heritage Hotel who helped put this together for me was Mahantesh –  those interested you can connect to him on +91 93 53 023006 (email – info@theheritage.co.in)

So when you get your next long weekend plan a trip to Badami – I am sure you will enjoy as much as we did.

POPFLATION – Sky High Inflation due to Population, Lifestyle & Migration

29 Jul

A few events in the last few weeks triggered me to write this Blog.

1. I have stopped buying vegetables and Grocery since my dad came to stay with us 18 months back. Last week I happened to step out to buy veggies on a Sat. I packed my two bags with the usual items for a week and gave the vendor Rs 300 ( 18 months back the cost for this would have been about 275 – 280 Rs) – he started at me and said the total cost was Rs 550 – thats almost a 100% increase in 18 months.

2. After the Veggies I went to buy Rice. I clearly recollect buying good quality Sona Masuri rice for Rs 36/- Kg 18 months back. Thats now Rs 56/- . Thats a 75% increase.

3. This Sun I visited my aunt after her Cataract operation. I enquired about the cost – Rs 78,000 for two eyes. In 1980 my Grandmother had got it done for Rs 2000, in 2005 my dad got it done for Rs 25,000 and 5 years back my mother had her Cataract done for Rs 50,000. Inflation for Cataract operation is more than 25% YoY.

4. 3 Years back we had agreed on withdrawing a certain amount of  cash every month for Maid salary , Misc expenses etc. Last six months I have observed that by the 15th we are running out of cash and withdrawing again. We went back to the drawing board and found that our monthly expenses have more than doubled in the last 3 years.

Don’t believe the Government when they say that Inflation is 8%. Its not. The only items that have got cheaper in the last 25 years have been PC’s ( In 1992 a PC AT, 1MB,  40 MB with a B&W Monitor was 40K , Today you can get a dual core High End Laptop 50X more powerful for the same price)

Why is this happening – its more than the UPA Government messing up for the last 10 Years. Lets look at some data.

Guess the human population in 1800? Just 1Bn. From AD 1 to AD 1800 it rose slowly and steadily from 100M to 1 Bn – in 1800 years. By 1930 – in the next 130 years it doubled to 2Bn, and in 30 years from there it became 3Bn – since then we have been adding a Bn people on earth every 10 – 12 years. Thats colossal and scary.  The question to be answered is what triggered this growth from the mid 1800’s ?

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One trend I spotted was the plethora of inventions that happened between 1850 & 1900. Those 50 years specifically and the 19th Century could well go down in History as the era with the most revolutionary inventions. The Steam Engine , Electricity , Pasteurisation, Telephone , Plastic , Safety Match , Dynamite, Motor Vechile (For the full list see Annexure 1 at the end of the blog). These inventions got the Industrial Revolution started , quality of life improved , diseases were eradicated , food shortages became history and mankind has since then never looked back as humanity moved from survival – necessity – comfort – luxury. Finally the hand combat wars were over as we moved to Smart Wars that could decimate cities, but by and large civilian population was safe from the marauding enemies.

We see this trend even in India. In 1850 our population was less than 250M , during Independence we were almost 330M and 50 years later we are still growing at 1.2 B threatening to overtake China in the next 20 years.

 

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More people , more needs, more food – its a simple demand supply equation. As countries progress and per Capita income grows your nutrition basket has a higher mix of Vegetable & Proteins. Mother Earth had the resources to serve a 1B people , she is struggling to cater to the bulging needs of 7.2Bn people and may well collapse when we reach 10Bn .  We see this in India – food production has started going down or is flat. The green revolution delivered non linear growth in the 60’s & 70’s but has peaked out. GM Crops may be the only solution – but the side effects are being hotly debated. Add to this farmers see more value in growing vegetables , exotic fruits which deliver better returns than on crops like Rice and Wheat

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Add to this the trend of City Migration. Poverty, dependance on Rains and lack of basic amenities is moving people from the Villages to the Cities in hordes. We already see that the Urban Population is 30% ( thats up from the < 10% in 1960) – as the Cities explode Inflation rises. Land prices have shot thru the roof  and the cost of maintaining a family with decent lifestyle in NCR , Mumbai or Bangalore is at par with the developed western world.

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The formed food minister in charge for 10 years did not help – he piled up food in FCI to rot rather than let it go in the free market.

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And if the Modi Sarkar ushers in Acche Din and the economy starts growing at 8 – 10% , thats going to give a further fillip to Inflation and cost rise. I shudder to think what will be the cost of undergoing a Cataract operation 30 years from now when I am 75 years old – it could be well over Rs 10 Lacs  – thats 20 Lacs for me and my wife. I don’t think I even thought about this and included this in my savings basket. Add a hearing Aid at 10 Lacs + ( Its already 1 Lac). The Bhindi and Beans thats touch 100+ Rs a Kg now could well be in excess of Rs 1000/- a Kg .  These are the necessities you need for survival.

So whats the Solution ?

Will my flat that appreciated 5 times in the last ten years give me value 30 years from now – or will it be a dead investment ? Will the Stock Market investments scale with these expense – or should we start buying large land banks in Tier 3 Cities and pray that they will keep up in cost with Inflation ?

Maybe we eat more Eggs – Roti and Egg Bhurji can be a meal for Less than Rs 30/- for a family of 4 . But Rice , Dal , Curry , Curd can be expensive . So follow the advice of the ad and eat more eggs. Thats one commodity where the pice though increasing seems reasonable ( Current price for 1 Egg is Rs 4/-)

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Don’t worry about investing in your daughter’s MBBS & MD education. A 1 Cr Donation  to a good medical college can be earned back in 1 week ( If 20 years from now Cataract Operations continue their inflation and touch 10 Lacs / person). Now you need to laud the vision of Chidambaram and Son Karti for setting up Vasan eye care – that business probably delivers better ROE than Infosys and Wipro.

Mamta & Mulayam and Kejriwal should stop complaining about the  train hike and focus their attention on bigger things – like why Beans went from Rs 50 to Rs 120/- in 3 months or why the annual rate of inflation for a Cataract operation is 25% – I wish they would , but I know they won’t !

I don’t know the answer – all I know is that my retirement plans at age 45 stand cancelled. But I am really worried and you should be too. The inventions of 1850 – 1900 era and the world development trajectory have really screwed us badly!  Maybe capitalism wasn’t so good after all. Maybe Karl Marx should arise. We had a great run from 1992 till now but as the middle ages hit us and we look upon the second half of our life (Which is not going to be as productive as the last 25 ) a sense of deep concern sets in.  Lets hope it all works out well.

Annexure – 1 : List of inventions that happened between 1850 & 1900 

1862
• Dr. Richard Gatling patents the machine gun.
• Alexander Parkes invents the first man-made plastic

1866
• Alfred Nobel invents dynamite.
• J. Osterhoudt patents the tin can with a key opener.
• Englishmen Robert Whitehead invents a torpedo.

1867
• Christopher Scholes invents the first practical and modern
typewriter.

1868
• Robert Mushet invents tungsten steel.
• J P Knight invents traffic lights.
1872
• J.S. Risdon patents the metal windmill.
• A.M. Ward issues the first mail-order catalog.

1873
• Joseph Glidden invents barbed wire.

1876
• Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.

1880
• The British Perforated Paper Company invents a form of
toilet paper.

• In 1881 Alexander Graham Bell invents the first crude
metal detector and David Houston patents the roll film
for cameras.
45

1884
• Lewis Edson Waterman invents the first practical fountain
pen.
• Charles Parson patents the steam turbine.

1885
• Harim Maxim invents the machine gun.
• Karl Benz invents the first practical automobile to be
powered by an internal-combustion engine.
• Gottlieb Daimler invents the first gas-engined motorcycle.

1886
• Josephine Cochrane invents the dishwasher.
• Gottlieb Daimler builds the world’s first
four-wheeled motor vehicle.
• John Pemberton invents Coca Cola.
1887

• German, Heinrich Hertz invents radar.
• Emile Berliner invents the gramophone.
• F.E. Muller and Adolph Fick invent the first wearable
contact lenses.

1888
• Marvin Stone patents the spiral winding process to
manufacture the first paper drinking straws.
• John Boyd Dunlop patents a commercially successful
pneumatic tire.
• Nikola Tesla invents the AC motor and transformer.

1891
• Jesse W. Reno invents the escalator.

1892
• Rudolf Diesel invents the diesel-fueled internal
combustion engine.
• Sir James Dewar invents the Dewar flask or vacuum flask.

1893
• American, W.L. Judson invents the zipper.

1899
• J.S. Thurman patents the motor-driven vacuum cleaner.

“Anandam” at Ananda

20 Jul

The word ‘Ānanda’ means ‘bliss’ in Pali, Sanskrit as well as other Indian languages. And BLISS is the best word to describe what I experienced during my 3 day stay at the Ananda Spa & Resort in the Himalayas. I have heard so much of this place that its been in my “To Do”  list for a while. And finally I told myself – “Don’t Think – ACT” and made an impulse decision to come for 3 nights. 9W 824 is a one hop flight from Bangalore to Dehradun Via Delhi (leaves at 07.50AM) and reaches Dehradun at 11.45. From the Jolly Grant airport Via Rishikesh its a 45 min drive to Ananda and I was in the hotel by  1.15 in time for a princely welcome and a stately lunch.

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The majestic hotel is housed in the property that was the Palace of the Garhwal King and is located at Narendra Nagar. Its named after Ma Ananda Mayi a Sadhvi who was the spiritual guru of the Maharaja. Its spread across 100 acres, of which 25 Acres is developed as the Resort and Spa. The main Palace does not have any rooms (Barring 1 regal suite) and the rooms are located 500m away from the reception/palace. Ananda has 78 rooms , 5 Suites and 3 Villas.

While there is a lot to talk about Ananda there are 3 things that stand out

1. Verdant greenery, pristine and manicured

2. Excellent service – very well trained professionals

3. Great Spa – with wide variety of excellent treatments

The fresh verdant greenery is soothing and calming to the eyes. As you enter the hotel and drive to your room you see these well maintained gardens . The gardens even have peacocks and the entire area is filled with a wide variety of chirping birds.

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The rooms are nice and comfortable. They all come with a  balcony, a nice walk in closet and all the latest amenities that you will find any 5 Star Luxury hotel. The Wi Fi is super fast and Phone signals are strong. You can even pack light because they give you sets of Pyjama/Kurta your size and encourage you to wear that in the property. They have 24 by 7 room service and a TV / VCR.  The view from the rooms is lovely – its either a garden view or a Valley View. The valley view in the morning is heavenly. And if you asks  kid to draw heaven this is what she will draw – Green hills with multiple layers of clouds and a blue sky.

The Villas are luxurious – and thats where Oprah stays when she comes to visit Ananda in her private jet. Many a former Prime Minister, dignitary and famous people have visited Ananda. (http://shanti.shawfirecreative.com/oprah-winfrey-returns-to-ananda)

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The Spa and the restaurant are very close to the Hotel rooms. The Spa has about 25 Treatment rooms and a wide variety of Treatments – Ayurveda, International Experiences, Healing With Hot Stone, Tibetan, Hydrotherapy – you name it they have it. The Spa is spacious , spotlessly clean and classy. All that it takes from ambience and experience to make it amongst the best in the world. Costs vary from Rs 4500 for a 55 min session to 8500/- for a 90 min session. But get your appointments at check in – they are almost always packed out. Adjoining the Spa is a large heated swimming pool and a decent Gym.

The restaurant serves a wide range of dishes from indian to international cuisine. You can have “Mung Dal Chila” for breakfast, Pasta and Thai Green curry for lunch and Curd Rice for dinner. You name the dish they have it. But what you must try is the special Garhwali food. This is made to order and comes with its own set of starters, soup, main course and desserts. The kababs are fabulous and the main course consisting of Jakhiya Aloo, Pahadi Kadi, Jakhiya Paneer, Gahat Ki Dal, Jakhiya Rice, Mandwe Ki Roti was a wonderful dinner. (And if you are wondering what is Jakhiya – its a smaller version of Mustard that grows here). The service in the restaurant is outstanding – and thats a common theme across all of Ananda, superlative service at every step.

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One good thing that adds to the peace and tranquility of the place is that they do not allow kids below the Age of 14. This place is perfect for couples or to come solo. There are many activities – they have Yoga classes for beginners and intermediates in the morning, a 9 Hole Golf course, Vedanta classes, Cooking Classes etc. Outside the resort you can go for the Ganga Aarti at Rishikesh or White Water Rafting at Shivpuri (During Non Monsoon Season). Peak season is Oct – Feb when the foreigners come in hordes, many of them staying for weeks and months.

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In July with the Monsoon it was perfect for me. Occupancy was a low 30% , it was raining 50% of the time – that added to the charm. At the pavilion in the midst of nature at 5.30 Am when you sit down to do your meditation listening to the pitter patter of rain and chirping of birds – it indeed feels like waves of peace are blowing over you. The “Kavad” season made Rishikesh so crowded that we were asked to stay away. The Ganga was in spate in Monsoon so white water rafting was closed. It starts again in Sep. But all this was good as it allowed me to spend all my time in the resort and soak in the nature, peace and tranquility.

I did take a few hrs and visit the famous ” Vashisht Caves”. This is located 45 Km from Ananda – 1 hr drive. Located on the banks of the Ganges this is the cave where the Brahma Rishi – Sage Vashisht is supposed to have meditated. Since then from Shankara to Sir M – many spiritually evolved people have come here to meditate. The place is empty and nice and the caves have strong vibrations which you can sense when you sit there for even a few minutes. Fortunately its not crowded.

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As I sat by the Ganges – flowing relentlessly you realise the power of Nature and the thought that this river has been flowing for millions of years leaves you with a sense of awe and humility. The river feels alive and it can teach you so many lessons. The summary of what it says is  – “Keep moving and don’t look back, for men may come and men may go but life goes on for ever

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 So will I come back to Ananda. Most people do – and I definitely want to come back with my wife soon. Maybe in a  different season. I am looking forward to that day. Ananda beckons. 

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Back to College – Surat Transformed

11 Jul

What a transformation in 22 years. Both our college – REC Surat (Now NIT Surat) and the city has transformed beyond expectations.  It feels like yesterday in 1992 when the final results came and we were all overjoyed to have completed our engineering degrees. There was always the fear of what would happen in FM6 – that was one terror of a paper but the good Dr Khajuria had ensured that there was a 100% pass – even if many did not deserve to pass.

The story of our college starts with the Icchanath (Shiva) temple at the main gate. The good lord has heard the fervent prayers of most students and ensured that the elusive 36 always happened and his aura kept the draconian ATKT’s  away . The temple is still there but the “thela wala’s” selling Sugarcane Juice , Bread Pakoda and Pan are all gone. When I think of the Bread Pakoda shop I think of the dimunitive Nara and how he managed 4 years of snacks at that joint without paying a penny during the crowded breaks.

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As you enter the college the admin department looks the same, faced by green lawns and lovely gardens. But you see an imposing building in the left. Thats the new girls hostel – a massive structure that has replaced the small building that could house 20 girls in the midst of the staff quarters. Lucky guys –  the male female ratio’s seem to be getting corrected in college finally.

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Not just the girls hostels – all the other hostels are also revamped.  The old ones are abandoned or demolished. Picture below is of Hostel 2 – now abandoned.

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Hostel 1 is now a fancy building with lifts. Rooms are 2 seaters and it looks like a fancy apartment complex. This massive structure accommodates all of Hostel 1,2 & 3 and more.

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Shanker’s canteen no longer exists and as you walk towards Gajjar Bhavan you see the new Gajjar Bhavan – another large impressive building that stretches all along the road

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Walking down the road the Physical education centre is still the same and so is the medical centre. Gandhi Bhavan is also abandoned and a new hostel with A?C rooms has come in its place. Looks like a lot of MTech / Phd students – many with family in campus.

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The mech department looks the same and the labs still are the same – not many additions on the infrastructure side. I see the list of professors and a few names like Professor H.B.Naik still continue to be there. The college has added new departments in Chemical engineering.

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The canteen was empty but still serving Cutting Chai , Poha , Mitha Toast and Omlette. Inflation has caught on and the 50 Paisa cutting is now Rs 7/-. The library is still the same building. Right behind the Library is a new hostel complex coming up.  It was wonderful seeing how the college has transformed. I even spotted some peacocks in the campus.

Surat as a city has also transformed. The stretch from College to Dumas which was empty with small restaurants dotting both sides of the road has changed. This stretch and the university road stretch is full of apartments  and Malls. Its a broad 4 lane road that is being concretised.

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The city is full of flyovers, Athwa Gates , Textite Market , Adajan – all have their own large ones. Trafiic is busy but organised. You can see the Modi infrastructure charm in effect. The river looks clean and was flowing strong and vibrant along Chowpatty.

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All is vibrant and shining in Surat. The only challenge was the airport. Surat Airport sucks. Our Spice jet flight to Mumbai was delayed by 3 hrs. The airport had no electricity for 3 hrs ( This when I thought Gujarat had no power cuts even in the villages) , toilets were stinking. With just 2 – 3 flights a day and AAI running the show it was a disappointment. The only disappointment from my 1 day trip.

Its always a nostalgic trip to visit your college after many trips. And the 1 hr I spent between 8 – 9 AM in the midst of a rushed 1 day business trip was well worth it.

North of the Narmada!

9 Jul

Some history facts from school days have stuck in my mind. One of them is the 634 AD victory of Pulakesin – II the great Chalukya King over Harshavardhan who ruled almost all of N India. A pitched battle was fought on the banks of the Narmada and Harsha lost. Since then the Narmada river has been a natural border between North &  South and a distinct culture, ethos and value system separates the two regions.

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Rudyard Kipling in The Ballad of East & West says “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet“. I am going to extend this to the North & the South of India, and look at some interesting facts that differentiate the two.

I did a quick search on Google and found that since Independence almost 80% of the tenure of Finance Ministers in India have come from states that are below or along the Narmada (Bengal & Gujarat Included) – Chidambaram , Pranab Da, R.Venkatraman, C.S.Subramaniam, T.T.Krishnamachari, R.K.Shanmugam Shetty, S.B.Chavan, Y.B.Chavan, C.D.Deshmukh, Morarji Desai are some of the famous politicians who have held the post of Finance Misnister of india – all of them are from below the Narmada. ( the remaining 20% of the time we have had the Singh’s and Sinhas and Tiwari’s to name a few)

So is the case with the RBI Governors , here probably 90% of the tenure has been held by people from below the Narmada since independence – From the Current Raghuram Rajan to the formers – Subba Rao, Y.V.Reddy, C.Rangarajan, S.Jagannathan, H.V.R.Iyengar, M.Narasimhan, A.Ghosh, P.C.Bhattacharya , K.G.Amegaonkar and many more.

But the trend changes when you look at the Chief Justice of India, Chief of Army Staff and even Prime Ministers. Here people from North of the Narmada have brutally dominated in these posts since independence.

Lets analyse some more cases.

People of Indian origin or close linkage to India who have won the Nobel prize. 

Rabindranath Tagore, C. V. Raman, Amartya Sen, Hargobind Khorana, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and V.S.Naipul – Barring one again all are S Indians or Bengalis. Ramanujam the mathematical genius was also a S Indian and J.C.Bose the prolific inventor a Bengali.

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Since independence till the 70’s the IAS officer were predominantly Tamil Brahmins or Bengalis or Maharashtrians – and then reservation changed the game. Even today the largest no of CA’s come from the Chennai and Kolkatta centre. It so happens that the Kolkatta centre has started sending a lot of Marwari’s but yes birds of the same feather flock together – so a large number of Gujaratis, Jains and Marwaris have actually migrated to Chennai and Kolkatta.

Large Indian Software Companies and Indian MNC Heads 

CEO’s of almost the top Indian Software Companies were S.Indians (before Mr Sikka) but India Country Managers of most MNC’s are of  N Indian origin. The former needs scale and strategy and the latter is purely quarterly sales driven and the art of diplomacy to manage the masters. Nadella at the helm of MS is a S Indian and so was Krish Prabhu who was heading Alcatel many years back.

Spiritual Saints 

Lets look at some Spiritual Giants – Shankara, Ramanuja, Ramana Maharishi, Shirdi Sai, Ramakarishna, Vivekananada , Sant Dynaneshwar, Sant Tukaram, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Raghavendra Swami…… almost all the names that are renowned in the spiritual world come from below the Naramada. And present day gurus or god men like Sai Baba, Sri Sri, Jaggi Vasudev (Yes we have Baba Ramdev from North and Nithyananda from the South  – but I guess they don’t fall in this league)

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So the big Q – what makes this happen ?

Is it the Power of Rice? Yes Bengal,  T.Nadu and Andhra are predominantly Rice eaters and looking at the high % of Intellectuals and spiritual Gurus from these states one may reckon that this has something to do with the Power of Rice. And is it the  power of Wheat and Chicken that makes the Defence Chiefs  and the thick skinned politicians come largely from North of the Narmada.

Studying in a REC (Now NIT) I had the opportunity to observe three batches before me and after me – so a total of 7 batches of students across 4 years from every state in the country. Thats a large sample size for any survey analysis.

Three key observations I recollect from my College days

  • Diplomacy and aggression became more visible the more Up North you went from the Narmada. Trust Quotient went down.
  • Guys from the South and East tried to commit and deliver and there was a sense of guilt on going back on your commitment. There was no such remorse in students from the North – offence was the best form of defence for them. They were brutally thick skinned.
  • College Secretary post was always won by a N Indian but the Literary Committee secretary was always a Tamilian or Bengali.

In the 23 years I have worked in the Corporate world travelling all across India – I have tried to break the above logic but sadly I see it being true even today. Sure there are exceptions and I have a few N Indian friends who beat the stereotype totally – but thats more an exception than the norm. (And in S India you will find an A.Raja and N.Srinivasan) – but the big picture is clearer. A curd ricing eating S Indian symbolises – hard working, straightforward, not political and a Dilli Wala stands for ” Jugad, Smart Talk – and in a way an empty vessel that makes noise”

What makes North different? Is it the years of facing invaders at the borders and seeing your family, kith and kin slaughtered in front of you. Is  flexibility and adaptability an outcome of having to live under the rule of brutal invaders & Mughals for almost a 100o years ? I don’t know – but clearly there is a difference.

Yes the Idli has invaded the country, and Salwar Kameez is as popular in Tamil Nadu as Punjab but when it comes to genes and DNA the core is very different –  and I have no qualms in saying that  North is North and South is South and the twain shall never meet ideologically.

 

 

 

Soft Skills Training – An investment with ROI or a Robbery ?

27 Jun

I recently read an article by Rajeev Peshwaria in Forbes titled  ” The Great Training Robbery: Why the $60 Billion Investment In Leadership Development Is Not Working” .

The timing was right – we had just completed a bunch of training for our team and while everyone enjoyed the sessions the verdict on what its efficacy would be over the long run was debatable.

Clearly Corporate HR managers see dwindling value from Training investment. When I joined my first job in the early 90’s Induction Training was a 30 day residential affair. Today most companies say learn on the job after a 1/2 day induction. You can’t blame the HR folks – there is a linkage to this with attrition – and the CFO questions the ROI on the investment. In the 90’s of a batch of 30 inductees every year you probably lost 1 at the end of the year, today you may lose the whole batch in 6 months . So why be a Training academy is the question.  If you look at it from this aspect yes investment in Training does feel like a Training Robbery.

ROI

Lets look at the millions spent on Training mid and Sr management. People entrenched in the company in the mid 30’s or early 40’s. Most come with strong mindsets and getting them out of their mould itself is a big job. Many more come thinking this is my 6 monthly off day to get a break that HR has officially planned. There are hundreds of companies  evangelising content around Communication, Creative Thinking, Presentation Skills, Emotional Intelligence, Outbound Workshops on Team Building …….. and many many more. Most of these companies do a  good job. The content is brilliant, the Trainers do a great job and if you see the feedback form at the end of the session it almost always a WOW – but the Q is how long does this effect retain, is it practised, is there a change in habit – you need all this to show that the impact and ROI has happened.

Learning Pyramid

The standard learning pyramid says that training stickiness improves when the participant not just listens , but practises what he learns in real life. But the Q is how do you make that happen ?

In the last 6 months we have conducted two different set of programs by the same company and faculty (BlueChakra Talent – http://www.bluechakratalent.com, Faculty – Papiya Sarkar). The first program was for our team of Trainers – a motley group of  highly stressed out trainers who needed direction , advanced skills and tools to energise themselves.  The second program was for the sales team  on Communication tools to be effective in Negotiation & Objection handling. The content was customised and prepared after months of close discussions with Business and after talking to all the stakeholders. The delivery in both cases were by the same faculty and their facilitation skills were excellent – however one program was a HIT and is now on a journey that has changed the lives of the Trainers. On the second program for the sales team the verdict is still not out – but my feeling is that the halo effect will slowly diminish in a few months and all will be forgotten.

success-or-failure

 

There are 3 Things that made the 1st program for the Trainers successful

1. There was a NEED. The content was customised to that NEED. The team size was small and the approach was consultative and warm. It felt homely and comfortable to ask Q, clarify, reach out both during the program and after.

2. There was CONTINUITY. The first session had mixed feedback. Participant feedback ranged from this may not work  –  to I know it all. There was a sense of concern – on why this program, are we not good enough. But once we started doing this on a  quarterly basis the rhythm set in and people started seeing the value.

3. The COACH helped a lot and the lead Trainer was always there. The amazing content and tools would have gone down the drain if the coach from the company (Mentor Trainer) had not worked with each individual in the  3 months post the session to inculcate all the learnings. His patience and commitment made all the difference in making the learnings practicable and relevant. Once the participants practised and saw the improvements – it stuck, gave them the confidence to to do it more often till it became a HABIT.

The second program lacked a COACH. the sales managers were busy with their job and just worried about the targets. They could not spend time with the 25 + reportees they had on a  regular basis. HR was not involved – and even if involved could not have made an impact as this is a job of the line mangers to inculcate the learnings.

best-sports-coach-links

In summary – I don’t agree with the article in FORBES which says that Training is a Robbery. But if the organisation and the manager do not invest in making the Training Investment a Habit – then yes it will definitely be a investment down the drain. So to deliver value lets Train our managers to be good Coaches – because there are so many skills to be learnt and improved if we want our teams to succeed and grow and be relevant in the fast changing economy.

 

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