Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


1. Study Law…preferably join a part time/correspondence course in Business Law. Understanding business law is crucial in understanding business (especially in the industry I am in)

2. Visit a new place and also one of my past…with EM.

3. Get back to shape. It doesn’t feel good to carry anything unnecessary.

4. Continue reading books of all genres.

5. Post at least 100 posts in this blog during 2010.

6. Write at least one personal mail each day to someone I know. I don’t remember when I wrote a personal email for the last time. It’s disheartening to lose touch with the friends with time.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Riding bumpily on the muddy stretch of land which they call roads, we were busy confirming appointments with representatives of various oil companies who have a strong presence in this part of the world (Port Gentil in Gabon). I was accompanied by a Gabonese guy who was entrusted with the joint responsibility of driving me to the respective offices and be the French-English translator wherever required.

The meetings went well…enlightening to be precise. It’s a great experience to understand how culturally diverse people can be. But I don’t intend to go in-depth into how people work here. I will rather like to look back into the dreams of a simple African…or shall I say the dreams of a simple man!!!

This guy should be in his late thirties…its difficult to estimate the ages of people. A native of Togo, he had moved into Gabon in the pursuit of a better life. These days, he has been granted Gabonese citizenship and has well adopted to the nuances of the new culture. So have his wife and daughter.

He studied basic English in Togo and has transformed that little knowledge into his profession now. It really amazed me when I tried to map his fluency in English to his educational qualifications. Hardly a couple of years of English training and when I had asked this guy if he will guide me during the next three days he had responded “you are our customer and I will ensure that there will be no problems…”. What was striking is not the usage of words but the way they were pronounced….the kind of pronunciation which adds humility into the tone…which, according to me, is the most sophisticated form of delivering any language.

During our drives, we talked…I learned that his was a love marriage and that he had first met his wife in his Togo school as a kid. It’s always interesting when people open up and start speaking out…He spoke about his life in Gabon…the difficulties he had faced when he moved to Gabon for the first time….the kind of differential treatment which the outsiders are almost always exposed to. It took him years to reach a position of relative stability. The word stability is very dilute in its strength when used in Africa…yet he was quite happy with his stability in life.

This man…Francois…is now a proud possessor of a small land and he dreams to have his own home on this land someday. That day, he says, he will have his dream fulfilled….his dream of a family with a home.

(Sometimes, when I see people struggling so hard in life, I realize how privileged I am…just by being lucky enough)


The last few books I have read bear something in common. Though been authored from different parts of the globe, the central themes of these books tend to converge towards exploring the answers of the age old cryptic questions.

1. Many Lives Many Master by Dr. Brian Weiss
2. Illusions by Richard Bach
3. Life after Death by Deepak Chopra
4. The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler
5. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

All these books have something in common. Each one of them is written by someone who has a scientific background. For example Dr. Brian Weiss and Howard Cutler are professional psychiatrists, while Deepak Chopra is a doctor. Richard Bach is an airforce pilot while Dan Brown settled down as a professional author after exploring careers in music and teaching.

Nevertheless, the idea is to stress the fact that all the authors are extremely well versed in science and they have tried to explore faith with a scientific background. The books are completely different in their context and approach. The Lost Symbol is one of the most exciting books I ever read, which so scintillatingly combines spirituality with entertainment. The Art of happiness is amongst the most practical books with a balanced approach. Life after Death is more textual in nature where Deepak Chopra provides his views on what happens after death with evidence from science and life. Illusions talk about the illusions that carve out reality. Many Lives Many Masters is about past life regression, which Dr. Weiss claims to be true.

I don’t know if the basic underlying theme of these books is true. But what if it’s close to truth….even a bit. The slightest belief in these things can bring about a paradigm shift in the way an individual perceives life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


"...each affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one"
(The last line of "The five people you meet in Heaven")

Thursday, December 17, 2009


If market friendliness and market size bore positive correlation…..

(Lately, I have been involved in exploring country specific market opportunities for the services we provide. Stronger the exploration, higher the realisation that the above wish will remain only a wish)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009



Beyond the management lingo, beyond the complicated corporate models and beyond all the glamour of a corporate role, sit five very basic tenets. Every possible corporate profile seems to fit into one of these broad divisions.
1. Generate business opportunities
2. Finance the creation/availability of products/services
3. Sell the products/services to earn revenues and profits
4. Maintain records of everything
5. Partner with relevant people/entities
The words highlighted have strong significance. While the processes may be different from one organization to other, but the end indicators used to measure the organizational success are often the same across organizations.


I feel the non corporate role sits in point number 2 minus finance i.e. “creation/availability of products and services”. It can be in the form of technology/engineering or R&D or something similar.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


Life is a travel (the philosophical cut)… is life (that’s how life is these days for me). After a relatively long trip in South Africa and West Africa, I am back in Mumbai….So much things I feel I should type down in this blog…but it seems time is the culprit.

Books covered during this period….my experience in Africa….Mumbai….and most importantly feel like writing a long letter of gratitude and thankfulness to the unseen power that seems to control all the things happening in my little world. After staying away for almost two years from the sweetest person in my life, its so nice to feel the period of separation in its final phase…Three more months and life will change again…Remaining away from each other after marriage is not easy….not at all if you know that the period is for almost two years.

She handled her new life so well…Marriage and MBA…successfully managing even one of the two is never easy... Really admire the way she did it….
Never had I felt so happy in my life….not even with whatever little I have achieved till date…when she called me and said “I made it….thank you so much”. A job in Mumbai…her dream job…in finance…in investment banking/private equity…in a stable and reliable company…in the fragile joke….there has to be someone sitting right there….above us…and making all the decisions for us…

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Before I try to answer the first question let me put down three snaps - each one of which pictures the industries I have worked in.

My first job (Pre-MBA): This snap is from a leading Korean Shipyard where I had spent some time supervising the construction of ocean going vessels. It was a typical field job where I had to be physically present at the construction site. (Source: dsme photos)

2nd Job (1st post-MBA role): The snap summarises the power T&D sector where I spent some time working on corporate strategy and planning for a power T&D company. Head-office role with occassional visit to local offices and sites. (Source:

3rd Job: This is the current industry I am working in...for an offshore (oceanic) oil exploration and production service provider specialing in offshore rigs and vessels. This is a business development role where I spend reasonable time meeting clients. (Source

Now it will be much easier to try my bit on answering the first question. Will be back through the next post.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


After almost six and a half years of professional career, after being exposed to varied kind of roles, I feel tempted to explore the evolution that has been continually changing me through this journey. Having spent almost four years in shipbuilding before MBA followed by two and a half years in corporate strategy and business development post MBA, it is worth introspecting and dissecting the experience of professional work beyond the daily rigmaroles.

The fabric of formal education, which I was exposed to, has defined my approach to understand any situation, event or issue by asking questions to myself, reasonable answers to which shall help me to capture my experiences and learning.
Through the next few posts, I shall try to delve into the following topics.
1. How is a corporate role different from a non-corporate one?
2. How has my professional work experience helped me to understand the corporate set-up?
3. How relevant is formal education in the professional set-up?
4. What are the most relevant learnings from each of my previous roles?

(Note: The answers to the above will be highly influenced/skewed by the fact that I have worked /been working in the old economy sectors like shipbuilding, power transmission/distribution and oceanic oil exploration and production)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


This book is packaged in the form of a series of letters written from an Indian entrepreneur to a Chinese Premiere during the latter’s visit to India, the intention being to “enlighten” him about the real India. The book is about the journey of this man’s (white tiger) life in India – one part of it in “darkness” and the other basking in “light”. The darkness which prevails in the villages and the light which makes the modern cities glow…

The protagonist who started his life in the darkness and moved into the light, provides an account of the path he took to carve out of himself a successful entrepreneur. The character himself is clear on the morality issues, but has no repentance of what he did in his journey towards entrepreneurship. Very fluently, he continues providing his confessions of the crimes he keeps on committing, but at the same time, he has no repentance of what he did in his journey towards entrepreneurial success. He sites numerous evidence of the injustice and corruption prevailing in India driven by an extremely servitude attitude of those who are at the receiving end.
Aravind Adiga is successful in building empathy for the character, while keeping the style of narration extremely simple and entertaining.
However, he draws a very gloomy picture of India. Even the “light” of the cities is tainted with all the “darkness” of humanity. Of course, this is an individual and independent story line, but this book which has already won Bookers is likely to lend a distorted touch to the success stories prevalent in India.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Semi autobiographical in nature, this book depicts the fall of a Syrian Christian family pictured against the contemporary social happenings in the state of Kerela. Lyrical in style and innovative in approach, the author has built the narration through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards.

Through the lives of a pair of fraternal twins names Estha and Rahel, the author articulately weaves the rest of characters and relates them with something, which could probably have influenced her in her real life. Unhappiness is one common chord that can be identified with most of the characters…a kind of unhappiness which finds its source within the family setup. The weakness of the family system is the basis of the story. However, external factors like untouchability, communism, politics and other social prejudices have influenced the family set up to a large extent. She uses Malayalam terms like Mammachi, Kochamma, Sophie Mol to integrate the characters to the local setting.

Narration is as beautiful as ever. In one section, the author describes Kathakali dance. Very rarely have I read a description as beautiful as this.

The theme is probably supposed to be tragic but I guess it’s slightly difficult to empathize with the author. No emotional link is likely to develop with the characters. It’s once again the beauty of the words that creates the magic

Sunday, September 13, 2009


This book, which is an amalgamation of fables and history, brings together the stories from three different lands (India, Persia and Italy) with a remarkable sense of imagery and floral fantasy. The theme links the Mughal Indian culture with that of the creativity of the Florentine renaissance through the beautiful princess Qara Koz. The linkage in itself is a marvelous thread of Rushdie’s imaginations...adding to the existing richness of the medieval history…which moulds together the complexity of power, politics, valor, betrayal and lust. The span of characters ranges from Akbar to Machiavelli, from an Uzkek Khan to a Persian prince, from Birbal to Abul Fazl…it’s just too extensive and unending.

A complicated Indian emperor, a mysterious stranger from Florence and the parallel subscripts of reality intertwined with imaginations and fanciful magical effects.….this book is an example why Salman Rushdie is one of the most complicated authors of this age. This book probably also acts as the voice of Salman Rushdie into his views on religion and on the existence of God. Feminine beauty is synonymous with eroticism in most of its contexts.

But, more than anything else, the book is about dazzling, ornamental lines with a fairy tale approach. If you can allow yourself to sink into this Rushdie’s creation and keep a distance from reality, you will definitely feel the extension of your imaginative horizon. Where can one find a book, where each line carries the floral effect of imagination with such glitter...that you have to stop for a while to imagine the rich dreamlike setting.

“From the black bowl of the skies, came the answering fires of the stars”

This is not an easy book to read…and not at all an easy book to understand….nevertheless an excellent book to enjoy the beauty and magic that words of classic Rushdie can create.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Like the earlier works of Mitch Albom, this book is brushed with the theme of life and death. But, it’s not about life and death. Like his earlier works, Albom has employed the medium of life and death to explore something else, something so evident and yet so evasive. In this book, it’s about relationship.

It’s about taking relationships for granted and realizing its value only after it is too late. While the mother-son relationship is pictured in this book, but the underlying sensitivity can be applicable to every other relationship. With respect to the story in particular, I will rather leave it untouched in this post.

The novelty factor is missing as this book bears certain similarities of approach as in “Five People….”. So, probably for someone who is used to Albom’s mode of expression, the excitement factor might take a hit, nevertheless I recommend this book strongly. Especially, in the kind of nuclear life we are getting used to….with personal ambitions shading the sweetness of relationships….this book will indeed give you something to think about.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Some hold habits getting lost…some new habits getting developed….and in this process I feel I have left my blog untouched for quite some time. Not that I am short of topics to write, but the new habits seem to overpower me into adding more novelty into life.
My experience with books continues…Mumbai has forced me to continue my readings during commuting….and since commuting never ends, reading has remained one of those habits which is still well preserved. It’s more than two years since my entry into this enigmatic city and I am still to understand how this city turns home for so many millions. Life cannot be more difficult and yet the influx continues. Anyway…we will reserve this discussion on Mumbai for some different post. My intention of this post is to mention the last few books, which I read….each of which I will be discussing in different posts.
1. The Last Lecture
2. The God of Small Things
3. For One More Day
4. The Enchantress of Florence
5. The White Tiger
Five completely different genre of books in different settings….one about how to live life, one on society, one on relationship, one about fables of medieval world and one about India.

Friday, April 17, 2009


In his early twenties…yet enriched with multitude of experience. Half American and half Kenyan, early childhood in Hawaii, parents getting divorced, moving to Indonesia to stay with Indonesian step-father, staying with grandparents in Hawaii….this is indeed a childhood that possesses the sensitivity to carve out a successful story for others to read. As if the family aspect were not enough, this childhood was exposed to racism in the developed world and poverty in the developing world. The first book by US President Barack Obama “Dreams from my Father” is a narration of experiences, about society and life…in US, Indonesia and Kenya. It’s about youthful confusions about identity and race. Last but not the least, it’s a biographical account of the first twenty odd years of a phenomenon called Obama. Who knew then, that this guy will beat all the odds…against origin….against experience…against life…to become the most powerful person in the globe.

More than a decade after his first experience as an author, Obama wrote his second book. This book is about the answers. Though it’s more of a political address, resembling a political ideology, but something within it seem to provide an answer to the questions that were raised in the first book….about race, religion, family and work and about it should be. This book titled “Audacity of Hope” stresses the importance of reality vis-à-vis blind optimism, a pragmatic approach towards politics…and the way it should serve people…creating value based opportunities, unstained by racism and religion. Politics is not sensation…its something moderate.

“What’s there in a name?” – They say. But here is a name for a political address of twenty minutes which made a presidential candidate out of a relatively junior senator and a name of an international best seller……The audacity of hope!!!...

“In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here -- the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!!!”

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I have been involved in the corporate budgeting exercise for the last two years (though in two different organizations). Numerous events have filled in this gap of one year between the period of the two budgets. One of them is the experience of acquainting myself with two books of Nissim Taleb – “Fooled by Randomness” & “The Black Swan”. You know you are influenced by a book when you feel the essence of book getting reflected in any other activity of your daily life and these books are so ornately designed to do that.

In these books, Taleb stresses the role of high impact, highly improbable events (which he calls black swans), which most people ignore (to make predictions and forecasts). He is against derivation of general rules from observations and stresses the incomputability of the probability of the consequential rare events from empirical observations. Taleb is known for his severe distrust of models. He is not against experiments and fact collecting but warns against generalizing into theories.

“We respect what has happened ignoring what could have happened. In other words we are naturally shallow and superficial and we don’t know it. We see the world as structured and comprehensible.”

We make our budgets, based on forecasts and backed up with sensitivity analysis models. Our sensitivity analysis is a model which rarely accommodates the possibility of a black swan. We trust the past. We seem to understand the present. In the absence of any black swan type of events, we tread the normal path….But in the event of a black swan…”who knows”.

My first budget experience never considered these events (I have started calling them black swans) which became visible only after they happened – the financial crash and the drastic fall of oil prices being two major ones. As I am in the process of preparing next year’s budget, I keep on wondering the black swans which will make their presence felt during the course of the year.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Penning down thoughts is a healthy habit….at least I feel so…of course it’s highly personal in which way one might prefer recording his/her thoughts. For some reason, which I am still unable to explore, I like to record my thoughts on books in this blog. One reason might be that when I revisit some earlier post I can link myself with some aspect of my past, which has, in some subtle manner, become a part of me…
It’s not only about reading a book. It’s also about when are you reading a book…and under what circumstances you are reading this particular book. Reading a Paulo Coelho book, while commuting in a morning Mumbai train can be different from reading the same book after a day’s work. It’s not about the lag in connectivity of your internal assimilation of the author’s’s rather about how the day’s process keeps on adding layers of periodic reflexes which by the end of the day influences your views on your earlier interpretation of the book.
Let’s restrict to Paulo Coelho at the moment. His works are a mix of beauty and spirituality….about the discovery of an individual’s desires, fear, courage etc….Many individuals feel that this mix of beauty and spirituality creates an intensely inspirational self search within. They feel that most of Paulo Coelho books (Alchemist, Fifth Mountain, Pilgrimage, Eleven minutes, Zahir, Maktub, Valkyries…) are extremely rich in their content of the level of inspiration.
I enjoy the works of Paulo Coelho…..more so while making my early morning commute to the office….when a day is just about to start… The morning train presents you with the first glow of the morning sun, the thinning fog, the hills, the sea….creating the perfect ambience to delve deeper into what Paulo wants to say. Interestingly in most of books, Paulo uses different elements of nature (the deserts of Egypt, the Steppes of Kazakhstan, the deserts of California, the mountains of the ancient Israel and Lebanon etc.)…and this is a great way of integrating the exterior beauty with interior spirituality.
As long as you are in the morning train, you seem to relish his thoughts, the way he writes, the ambience he builds, and to some extent you can indeed enjoy a refreshing feeling, which can probably be classified as an indigenous version of spirituality.
But then, the day moves ahead….you are in the office….you take a quick look at your diary….you systematically read the mails…you start filling in your plan sheet for the day. You get back to the reality…stepping down from the elevated level you had reached during your morning train journey. Your records remind you that there is a presentation to be made to the senior management, elucidating your plans for the year…your mails bring you the news that one of your clients has gone bankrupt…its painful to realize this and more so especially when there were receivables to be realized from them. You visit the news channels to get the feel of the daily oil prices….your business is so closely linked with the oil prices…and sadly, the oil prices are hovering only in the USD 40 per barrel mark….
Which is the latest tender to be filled? How do we obtain prequalification to work in some new location? The list of questions that demand an answer keeps ever elongating. There are quite a number of new ships to be delivered the course of the year and they have to be committed…with “reliable” clients. By reliability, I mean they should not go bankrupt without paying us our receivables. But then, how to know who is reliable under this market situation.
Finally amidst all the confusion, speculations, and optimism….the day ends. You get back home….you make phone calls to those who matter most to you, you realize that for your dearest ones, the day is not much different…though mapped in a different setting.
Its almost midnight. In another 6 hours, the next day is going to start. You ensure that your laptop and important files are well arranged in the bag. And there you see, the Paulo Coelho classic is lying within. You take it out…read some of its lines….and ask yourself “Is this the same book which I was reading today morning?”
The next day begins….and you start commuting….and open your book where you had put the marker the previous day….and start reading it….just as you did it the previous morning...reaching the elevated levels of indigenous spirituality.