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Monday, April 17, 2006

Between Dam and Development

The Narmada Bacho Andolan (Save Narmada) has been on for a very long time. The foundation stone of the dam was laid by Nehru! The protests are from two sides, one side calls themselves pro-development and the other pro-rehabilitation.
Debate with one side!
Now the ridiculous part is that the reality is with both. Any development means that few citizens will be affected. However, it is definately the responsibility of the government to make sure each of these citizens are adequately compensated. Any person who demands adequate compensation cannot be wrong. What I feel is the point of debate is if the compensation is adequate or not.
How are the people compensated?
The Land Acquisition Act mentions about the compensation having two elements. First is the market price of the land and second is an allowance for compulsary nature of acquisition. There are also provision to allocate land in proportional terms. Typically what happens is governments try to suppress the "market price of acquired land" and inflate the "market price of allocated land". Thus for a 100 unit land before acquisition roughly equates to 20~40 units of new allocated land. Further this new land is taken from some other people and a lower amount is allocated to them. Please note that this is compulsory in nature and the farmer or land owner does not have any option to reject the offer.
Imagine tomorrow someone compulsarily takes up your 4 Bedroom penthouse and allocates you a 1 bedroom apartment across the street with a note that the price of new house is same as your penthouse because the development (like new road, electricity and water etc) that they hope to undertake in your land!
Further try and get the compensation through the courts and you will end up spending more than 30 years trying to get a reasonable deal for your land. Even at the end of 30 years all they get is a "simple interest" on their asset prices. They are not even given a standard recurring deposit interest rate! Generations after generations are forced into poverty despite their lands being very valuable! Is it fair is my question?
What is adequate compensation?
Beyond the amounts, it is the timing of the compensation that is critical. In this sense the NBA is critical. First compensation then development must be the mantra. It is only because of the stopping of the dam that the rehabilitation work is in focus. Had the dam been completed the matter would have gone out of public interest.
Medha Patkar is wrong in fasting!
Medha Patkar leads the protest through non-violent means by Fasting like Gandhi. Someone should let her know that no amount of fasting will help the NBA cause. This war has to be waged on basis of information. In information world information is the weapon.
Now I am wondering what would be possible tactics Medha Patkar can use in this war. Any suggestions?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Dis-incentivising Prostitution

From a brief scan across all the proposals and demands from the industry one gets a feeling that government is out to dis-incentivise their particular industry and government is doing a damn good job of this. But look at prostitution, the world's oldest business. Many a government has tried to ban prostitution (dis-incentivising of course) to no avail. The worst affected by the ban were the prostitutes. They were exploited by various people starting from pimps to law enforcement agencies. And still there is no end to prostitution. Hence many governments have taken steps to legalise the system. Can then the government learn from its exceptional good job in other industries and use it where it matters most?
The Horns of the Devil!
If we observe this business we understand that there are three core players, prostitutes, pimps and customers. Prostitutes are the exploited ones, they are there (in most cases) because they do not have alternatives, they are helpless. The pimps are middlemen. But most critical element are the customers! At least in India they always try and catch and prosecute the "prostitutes" but customers are often let free. It the customers you have to catch if you want to eliminate prostitution!!
How do you do it?
The first way government can di-incentivise this trade is by taxing it! Simply take the details of the customers and put an additional 10% tax liability on these people. Or if I were Finance Minister I would call it a cess and channel the money into health care for these sections.
Second deals with the way British enforced law in India during their occupation. They used two major weapons. No it wasn't the baton or gun, it was information and social pressure. Lets say, if government were to take a photo and details of every person who is caught with a prostitute and publish the same on some website. Or track connected near ones like office, friends, home and supply this information across these places. Will social stigma not cause the customers' to vanish?
The Dance Bar Phenomeon
Mumbai now has another issues and its Dance Bars which government was trying to ban. The Mumbai High Court recent allowed these dance bars to operate. Using our earlier logic we can work on an effective solution to the Dance Bar problem.
First way is to simply get details of people who come to dance bars, the amounts they spend and share this information with income tax. Or simply make entry in the bar subject to swiping / scanning of PAN card! (India's equi-valent of social security number for tax purposes)
Second again will be to share the details with the friends and near ones along with details being publicly posted on some common website. Regulars should be tracked and traced across dance bars.
In sum...
Basic economic sense can be used to contain a lot of industries, often these techniques are used on legitimate industries in era of control. Same techniques may be deployed where it actually matters. What Say??

Monday, April 10, 2006

Inorganic Growth and Organisations' Risk taking ability

As students of business we understand that organisations can be classified into three types based on their growth strategy. Primarily organisations follow, Organic Growth, Inorganic growth and some use both. In many industries there are examples of players resorting to organic growth whereas some resorting to inorganic growth. I always wondered why is it that some companies cannot grow rapidly in organic way?
Growth Risk and Organisational culture
Risks associated with inorganic growth are well-understood and documented. In fact, it is easier to take "inorganic growth" risk rather than "organic growth" risk. Also the risk is taken by top management. Logically Inorganic growth requires risk taking ability at the top of the corporate hierarchy whereas Organic growth requires risk taking ability that is distributed across the hierarchy.
This leads us to a reasonable hypotheses about the organisation culture. Organisations that emphasise more on inorganic growth may be risk averse, explaining the association of risk with the top management. Conversely an organisation with high organic growth is almost always flamboyant, empowered down to the line functions.
Inherent disadvantages of Inorganically growing organisation
When you extend the logic a little further you realize the implications of both these strategies.
For One, a flamboyant organsiation has its ranks full with "risk-taking" experience across the hierarchy. Hence succession planning is not much difficult. Such orgaisations can find within its ranks potential leaders, CEOs etc. On the other hand in a risk averse organisation the ranks have no experience in taking risks. So effectively any modifications in the current top management shakes the very foundations of such a company.
Secondly, it is difficult for such an organisations to take-up new take-over/ merger options because it cannot find within its ranks leaders who can take up the integration work post the merger. A flamboyant organisation can effectively take up inorganic growth and thus be even more successful.
Finally, even in the middle of merger, a flamboyant organisation is more likely to energize the other organsiation, with its people taking up most of the challanging positions in the merged entity. The risk-averse organisation has to either find leaders capable of taking up this challange or resign to domination from the other organisation. (This is not a generally seen conditions because "risk averse" organisations do not take-over flamboyant organisations because of cultural issues)
Is your organisation risk averse?
How can one deduce if his/her organisation is "risk averse" or "flamboyant". Well, even though there is no track-record of inorganic or organic growth it is possible to decide where your organisation belongs. Of all people employees can definately decipher the actual behaviour from stated slogans. I believe these are some hypothese that will expose the true behaviour of your organisation. There are more and I havent thought of all of them so let me know if you think of any other.
Lets look at following hypotheses:
  • Hypothesis 1: "If it aint broke dont fix it!" A performing function in a "risk averse" organisation is almost never challanged. Top management just lets them be. On the contrary, in a flamboyant organisation, a new wave of strategic initiatives is undertaken to improve the best performing function. Check in the best performing department, is it subject to improvement initiative? Are the processes in place?
  • Hypothesis 2: New initiatives are always led by top management or identified leaders. A "risk averse" organisation never risks a new initiatives with unknown leaders. And this means new initiatives are all big initiatives. On the contrary, flamboyant organisations have smaller new initiatives manned across the ranks. Such organisations do not wait for "proven" "sizable" opportunity rather they explore every possible opportunity with the resources they have. List out the major opportunities your organisation has gone after? Do you see familliar faces manning them? Do you see enough grass-root level opportunity exploitation?
  • Hypothesis 3: Flamboyant Organisations have a Fast-track program for employees. Typically, a team that takes higher risks needs higher rewards and this shows in the flamboyant organisation. A typical fallout of this is high person in-dependance in such organisation. The top performers are often moved across departments across functions to man the new initiatives. A fast track program may be a structured program or un-structured program but the key point is every employee knows how he can be selected for this program.
  • Hypothesis 4: Meritocracy must for Risk taking organisation! Most of the Risk taking organisations have a mechanism to reward the best employees. GE consistently separates the extra-ordinary from the ordinary!
  • Hypothesis 5: In flamboyant organisations, new Ideas get heard, financed and manned at first level where decision can be taken on them. If you have pitched for a new idea and your boss has referred it to his senior and you have not heard anything about it from then on, most likely you are in a "risk averse" organisation. In flamboyant organisations if someone is responsible he/she takes the decision and gets it implemented.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My new Samsung D600!

Finally I migrated from my year-and-half old Sony Ericsson K700 to Samsung D600!! Its been a well thought out decision after a lot of deliberations. I also found a website wherein you get amazing reviews of mobile phones(!

Yet, even after careful selection I found some drawbacks and its just the second day of using it! I guess every good thing also has a little scope for improvement!!

Migrating to D600
I found it extremely difficult to migrate my contacts from Sony Ericsson K700 to D600. I did not have the data cable for K700 did not help the matter. However, I used the Send all option from contact menu of K700 and selected via bluetooth. The D600 received the whole transmission yet only showed one contact in the address book. I eventually had to transfer all my contacts one-by-one! (I know using a computer things would have been simpler but the fact is sending entire address book did not work in D600)

Short service "SMS"
In D600, I cannot choose the default storage for SMS messages. It directly comes into SIM. There is also no option to backup the SMS into the memory card. Also try saving the number from whom you receive an SMS into one of the existing contacts. You cant do it!!! ( I usually get SMS from people saying "This is my new number" rather than getting a vcard!) Life is going to be hell!!

Where are the "Text Notes"
Thirdly, there should have been option for text notes (not those included in the calender but simple stand-alone text notes).

"Menu"s in context
The menus do not change according to context. For example, if I am typing an SMS, the left soft key shows "options" where I click to reach send. However, ideally send should have appeared as the soft key option and options should have come at the right soft key. The right soft key shows "back" which deletes the message if you are not careful.

Samsung does not believe in taking the "Short Cut"
You cannot assign all menu options to the shortcuts. The options are restricted and rest of the menu are out of bounds!!

Cannot fly without a "Flight mode"
Lastly, an executive phone that does not have a "airplane mode" or "flight mode" is hard to believe. They should have included it on D600. Of course Mobile-review team has mentioned this in their review but this is something what I call a must have!
MP3 Player, No radio!!
Where is the radio? With a phone equipped with good quality sound the lack of radio is a disappointment.

In sum...
So there it is the list of some of the drawbacks of what basically is a "potentially" great phone. There are loads of features like TV out and great camera and a lot more. I am hoping they have sorted these things out in the next edition D800 slim slider phone! For more on D600 / D800 and other mobile phones visit!