Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Uncertainty - How do you overcome it ?

Uncertainty can lead to your plans going haywire or even put a full stop to them. There are multiple variables that can affect your plans. Some of them can be controlled, whereas the rest are up to external forces!!

There are various categories of people..

a) Some of them plan well in advance.. maybe a few months before
b) Some of them plan a few weeks in advance... but without proper visualizing and considering uncertainty.
c) Most of them plan at the last moment, on whim. (and therefore depend on luck)

A few questions that come into mind while planning a trip :

1) Which all places do we intend to cover?
2) How many days would we need to reserve for this trip?
3) Is it possible for everyone to keep themselves free of any commitments (both personal and professional) for these
many days? (Ensuring the trip can be comfortably done)
4) How do we travel? Train/Bus/Air ? What are the costs involved ?
5) When do we want to travel ?
6) When would we need to book our tickets, so that we can "certainly" get the tickets ?

I noticed that point no. 5 and 6 above were most vulnerable to uncertainty. Also, point no. 3 introduced a delay in taking a decision on point no. 5 and 6, thereby adding even more uncertainty.

Me and my friends were planning to travel during an extended weekend, which introduced the possibility of a huge volume of passengers and therefore a surge in booking tickets. (Yeah, India has a huge population)

We decided we will travel by Train. Bus was second priority since its not as comfortable and fast as a train. Travelling by air was out, since I would'nt want to spend so much during a recession :) Also, travelling by air within India is not so feasible for majority of the population.

Now as you know, usually in Indian Railways, the popular trains are fully booked and the status runs into three digit wait lists, especially if its holiday time. The rule is that you cannot board a train if you have a wait listed ticket. The chances of the wait listed ticket getting confirmed depends on multiple factors -

Weekly Frequency of train: Chance of the ticket being confirmed decrease as frequency decreases
ii) Time of the Year: Chance of getting ticket decreases whenever there's an Indian holiday
around the travel dates
iii) Popularity of the train route: The more popular the route, more is the volume of bookings and cancellations.
Also, chances of an extra coach being added to the train increase, though only an Extra Non-AC Sleeper coach - called
Sleeper Extra, is usually attached. This again depends on logistics - Power of Engine, Total occupancy of train, etc.

People still book the wait listed tickets hoping that their tickets will get confirmed. The demand for the tickets is so huge that every second counts after the booking window opens. (Both online and at train stations) The online booking website, IRCTC is good enough, but it crumbles under such a huge demand.

I would say its a privilege to get a train ticket under the above conditions. There is too much of uncertainty because of the above mentioned parameters and the burgeoning population and the inability of the government to ramp up the infrastructure at the same pace.

The best solution here would be to book the tickets well in advance, maybe a couple of months before the actual travel date or use the Tatkal facility of Indian Railways ( Special quota which opens only 5 days before date of journey) But then again, there's a mad rush for the Tatkal quota as well. Even that runs into high wait lists!! Also, you would need a superfast Internet connection and preferably multiple sessions on seperate computers to hedge the risks of not getting through the transaction.

Coming to buses, its gets even more difficult to get a ticket as you approach the date of journey. Seats sell fast and the private bus operators make a quick buck by hiking the rates as demand goes up, sometimes even doubling them. There's hardly anything you can do to avoid shelling out the extra premium for the bus ticket. You can travel by public buses, but only if you are prepared to spend long uncomfortable hours. Again the solution here would be to book well in advance so that you can avoid that last minute rush.

I know this all goes against the thrill you get planning a trip at the last moment and making it work. But that doesn't always work and there's a chance of you going through certain sacrifices.

It feels good to be sure.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Go with your instincts.....

Dunno why this happens.. but sometimes an idea strikes you like a bolt out of the blue and this post is a result of that :)

I was thinking about writing about this since long.. but the bolt was never strong enough to get me to post it here! The heart rules over you sometimes... you've to give in :)

Okay.. getting straight to the point...

You were who you were then, You are who you are now, You will be yourself in the future !!

We might mature in our thinking / knowledge as time goes on... but deep within us, we would be the same person throughout our life.

When we like something / someone, it happens instinctively/naturally... and not because of any external factors.

Remember when you made friends, had a crush on someone / liked to be with someone / developed a hobby.

You didn't decide to do it.... it just happened. You got to trust your instincts... for they will never let you down. Don't let external factors or anybody else's opinions drown your instincts and decisions. If you can't do that... you aren't living your own life.

Bottomline, don't ever regret any decision made by your heart or the times when you did something which you think you should'nt have done or when you liked someone.

If you do regret it now, its just because either circumstances have changed or maybe your priorities have changed / maybe you have drowned under expectations....

But I bet you will be always happy doing something you like if you break free from the chains.

A similar feeling has been shared by Sunil Mittal (Founder of Airtel) , in his interview with Vir Sanghvi, compiled in the book Men of Steel. Here's the excerpt.

"He (Mittal) has a unique ability to win people over in one-on-one encounters and if you push him, he will admit tht his speciality consists of persuading people to go further than they had originally planned through the sheer force of his personality."

For Instance, he pushed Vivendi into going with him after a single meeting. Later, after the deal had been signed, the company sent a team to India to check out exactly who the Mittals were. The team reported back that they were small-timers and likely to remain so. Vivendi pulled the plug days before the bid was to be submitted.

It was time for Sunil to work the phone. He called the company in Paris. 'Look,' he said, 'when you agreed to go with me, you sensed something. You saw something in me. Remember that something. Go with your instincts. Forget what your team has told you.'

Against the odds, Vivendi stuck with him. When the bids were opened, Airtel had won all four circles. "

Go remember that something.....

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

India - Are We on Track?

Been a Hiatus since my last post... The lazy person I am, I wait for a sudden impulse to blog. The best thing is to follow Richard Branson's advice... "Screw It, Lets Just Do It" :) So whenever there's anything on your mind...and your mind responds back that there are many better things to do .. like surf Orkut... tell your mind... Screw it and just blog it! :D

Ok.. enough with the intro... I think about this topic almost everyday... Now who doesn't ? Its just that we don't discuss it enough .. so it just stays there in the subconscious. Our mentality adds fuel to the fire..... If It ain't broke, don't fix it!!! I know many people discuss about this.. its so rampant.. but I sometimes wonder... We all know it... but how can we quantify it and try to make a difference even if its small!! ? Okay forget contributing.. are we at least aware of the root problems? (Read - our mentality)

I consider us on track even if we change our mentality.

I had a good discussion over the last 2-3 days with a good friend over this topic... and the result of that is clearer understanding about what makes the Americans better than us and what doesn't.

Okay.. getting back on track to the topic... The Indian economy is improving.. that's obvious. Its the resultant of various factors taken into consideration... The Services sector is the major driving force behind the boom. But the scene is slowly changing.. with most of the global multinationals foreseeing India as a huge and profitable market and making BIG investments.
Just look up any big bank/automobile manufacturer or whoever... Almost everyone has established their base in India... or have plans in the pipeline.

All this is fine... The firangis are happy, Indians working for them are happy, politicians are happy, we are all happy to hear that India is "progressing".

Reading between the lines, I just see this as an opportunity for the outsiders to tap the huge Indian market and make profits, sharing a minuscule portion with Indians. After all, this is what business is about. Globalization is a reason behind this as well... but its a different topic altogether.

But the core issue we all tend to forget is "Development", the only way by which we can move to the First world from the Third World.

There are so many things here regarding Development on my mind. I will try to put them down.

1) When the world thinks about India, all focus is on the major cities - read Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Gurgaon. So our seemingly obvious approach is to give godlike status to these select cities and create such a hype around it that people all over India come flocking just to the metros. The already burdened metros face even more problems due to the population explosion.
Relatively, the development and focus in smaller cities and villages is on a much smaller scale. A large chunk of the resources are allotted to the big cities. How these resources actually improve the city is a different issue altogether - There are hundreds of players wanting their share of the resource, rather than a few dedicated organizations who can turn around the infrastructure if given power. As the adage goes, Too many cooks spoil the broth.

2) I love to surf Google Maps... and marvel around on how both the big as well as smaller American cities are developed. The standards are so high. An element of smart planning is clear throughout. Everything is so systematic... that you can get exact directions from point A to point B, even the approximate time required. If you read between the lines, you can decipher that we need to draw lines too... keep things separate, have dedicated bodies for specific functions. We need to have a Big Brother who will have an overall perspective on what's happening and can control the different bodies if they are going off track. The big brother approach has really helped the United States and many other countries, I feel. More on this coming in another post.

3) This is a sensitive issue. Frankly speaking, it is one of the most neglected issues here in India. We all have fun and frolic during our larger than life festivals - Diwali, Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi and Visarjan and scores of other smaller ones. I am not at all against any of these, but I feel that its going out of control. Its fun, agreed, but frankly speaking, the consequences are huge. We are damaging and tarnishing our ecosystem, fast depleting natural resources as well as our infrastructure, all in the name of the lord or just for the sake of having fun. Everyone of us should ask ourself a few questions - Is this out of the world celebration really needed? Can it be contained and controlled? Can we prioritize our responsibilities towards our country? Can tradition be discounted for the sake of development? Can we do something constructive rather than take over the streets and cause nuisance? Is there an alternative?

I believe this is where Big brother comes into picture. Capitol Hill is aware that if people are given the power, the consequences can be disastrous. So it creates a fear in the average American, not to mess with the law and order. And it is quite successful in doing so. One factor I am discounting here is the population. The population here in India is growing by leaps and bounds. And a system needs to be in place urgently. Lines must be drawn and rules must be enforced. All it takes is some basic infrastructure like Gates, Walls, anti-cross dividers on roads and railways. Some of us will say that this is a very difficult task, considering the number of people. But look around at the scale of the developments happening in BKC, Mumbai or Gurgaon. All this is certainly achievable. We all talk about the technological progress. But is it used in the Railways? Are there any metal detectors and gates in place? If we demand safety, we have to invest. It doesn't come for free. "Lets just keep things separate", lets use roads for driving cars and not for jaywalking and merry making. Are there any laws to check the population control like some Asian countries do? Let us prioritize on what is important for our development, rather than focusing and doting on irrelevant issues and fighting amongst ourselves.

I know I have cribbed a lot here... but I think every Indian who dreams of living in a "civilized" and developed country should have this mindset, and pass it on to everyone, including the rule makers. I think I have written quite a lot in this post.... If I might have gone a bit overboard, you can correct me on that. The goal of this blog is to start a discussion and share our thoughts in a rational manner.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Induction Program - An Experience

Its been a week since I started working with a young IT Consulting and Solutions company.

I am still spellbound over the effect of a single week at work (not really work!) on my lifestyle. The laid back life I was living over the last two months finally has come to an end. No more sleeping, movies and hanging out. I had a similar feeling during those Engineering days... the migration from the one month vacation to a new semester. But, the migration this time is completely different and is more of a learning experience.

The reason for this is the chilled out and fresher friendly work environment at my organization and the investment, time and the personal attention it puts in to develop us newbies. The highlight of this week was the Induction and Development Program the company had organized for us at Sinhagad Fort near Pune , by a professional outfit named High Places Management Pvt. Ltd. , based at Pune.

These chaps conduct management development programs for various organizations, small and big, for freshers as well as for senior management.

The Induction Program started off with presentations by people with various roles and experience at the company, in Mumbai. Thereafter, on Friday Afternoon we, a batch of twenty one embarked on our journey to the Fort. We already had got various opportunities to get to know each other, but this was the best time to understand my colleagues. The guest house on the top of the fort is a kind of a dormitory, with one huge room each for the guys and the girls.

The weather was just awesome, with clouds hovering around and greenery. Everything just looked surreal. The Induction program consisted of various team games , open forums, trekking, a presentation by the company and discussion of experiences conducted after every activity. The whole thing was very well thought out, designed, planned and managed by the outdoor organization. It was completely relevant and met its goals, focussing on Experiential Learning. (Learning through Action)

The objective of the entire program was to help us understand each other, learn to interact and work with differently minded people and to introduce us to corporate life, a transition from college life. We learnt various lessons, a few of them being time management, being practical, getting work done in spite of different approaches and clashes and try to make the most out of each other's potential, leading to tangible results. The idea is that individual performances and contributions add up and achieve big results.

I've a special mention for one of the directors the outdoor outfit, Mr. Milind Kirtane. A middle aged person, who graduated from IIT Chennai and after working for 8 years, left the comforts of a cushy corporate job for something more adventurous and fulfilling. Since then he has a great experience outdoors. Its been a pleasure to listen to his experiences and philosophy towards life.

The fear and the apprehensions I had about life at work almost vanished after this program. It might be temporary, but it provided a great impetus nonetheless. My understanding of this world, people and the company has taken a step up. I believe that, finally its all in the mind and my mind is ready to enter the corporate world. Well, Almost!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thought of the Day!

No this is not a series. Don't expect me to post a thought a day. Anyway... it Just occurred to me and I found it cool enough to post it here -

"I for one, believe that Life is Large, its like Wikipedia (:P) There is so much to see, so much to learn, so much to do..... you never seem to get enough of it. You just can't seem to conquer life with the challenges it keeps throwing at you."

- Ashutosh Deo (August 18, 2007) ;)