Is ensuring Ease of Doing Business, the responsibility of only the Government ? Is it not of other players in the ecosystem too ? Is EODB ranking only on the basis of ease of entering a country for business ? Is it not for continued ease during an enterprise’s entire lifecycle as well ? Why am I bringing up such basic questions when the answers seems obvious ? Because the experience seems otherwise, as shared by many company founders and professionals. Today I am focussing on the banking experience at a fundamental level – just opening a bank account and normal operations. No complex services expected from a bank when you start a company but read on to understand the ground reality through the eyes of a company founder.
Venkat and Varadan, 2 brothers, one an accomplished scientist and another a seasoned banker decided to set up a startup to offer some innovative cutting-edge technology products. Varadan, the retired banker was insistent that the new company bank only with his ex-bank which he had loyally served for several decades as an employee. He would not hear of any new-age bank that was listed in the incorporation forms. Unfortunately though many banks are listed in the Spice+ form, only a handful are actually actively available to select from. His PSU bank was one such though its name appeared in the dropdown list. The intention of the Government is to enable a company to start functioning from day one by offering banking options at the time of incorporation itself. In this case his dear bank was not activated (perhaps technology back-end not tied in with the MCA portal). When we suggested that he cannot bank with his ex-employer because of ‘tech reasons’ he lost his cool demanding how can the Government force me to choose a bank that I am not comfortable with. It took us quite sometime to calm him down and offer a work around – choose any other bank, get the account number allocated but don’t complete the paper work. The account will not get activated. After incorporation you can choose a fresh bank of your choice and approach them for opening a bank account. He was quite upset with the round about process but agreed since choosing a bank in the Spice+ form is mandatory. This option remains a tick-box activity, unless all the listed banks are tied in and available for use. Not sure why the gap exists even after 1+ years of introducing a modified Spice+ form. The unduly long time taken to open a bank account continues with innumerable documents to be signed ! Without a bank account, company cannot commence business !
In another case Rahul, one of the directors stays abroad. But one of the private sector banks the company chose is insisting on signature by both the directors in the account opening form. This despite the board resolution clearly authorising the resident Indian director to sign and complete all account opening formalities. It is a chicken and egg story that without bank account things will not move and to open the account, papers have to be signed by the non-resident director also and sent back in hard copy to the bank. Imagine the loss of time and money in all this – just for opening a bank account! As an alternative, the bank insisted that a Practising Company Secretary sign the resolution along with one director, extending the responsibility of the professional. After much discussion, Rahul and Ravi, the co-founders were frustrated and started hunting for a bank that doesn’t insist on multiple signatures !
Another extreme diligence by the banks is to insist on the digitally signed Certificate of Incorporation to be physically signed by the ROC. Little do they know that gone are the days of certified copies from ROC, sealed and signed. It is lack of knowledge of the front end banking representatives who claim to be ‘Relationship Managers’ coupled with unwanted layers of checks and balances imposed by each bank internally. No two banks seem to follow the same steps. Sometimes no two branches also of the same bank leading to confusion, frustration and loss of precious time.
In another case a hapless professional lamented that a well-known private sector bank refused to open a bank account of an LLP because the name of the bank was not mentioned in the LLP Agreement. Somebody else added that the bank official demanded a new certificate of incorporation when the registered office address changed. A simple issue like this needs to be escalated to the so-called ‘informed higher ups’ in the bank through a chain of emails and calls – all because of ignorance of the corporate practices and requirement under law. A lack of appreciation of how the MCA portal works, what can be extracted authentically from it, what is the role of a director, what is his authority, what is the role of PCS, how boards take decisions, how they are recorded, how they are issued to outsiders etc. It is time the bank officials are properly trained and internal documentation processes streamlined.
What I have shared is just the tip of the iceberg. Dive deeper and you will know the over-zealous bankers adding to the difficulty in doing business – is it lack of awareness or lack of trust or an issue of extreme caution or is it really that corporates have taken the banks for a ride ? It may be either one of these or all but for a first time entrepreneur (plenty as of now) it is a nightmarish experience and in most cases, their first brush with a bank is far from satisfactory. Honestly I would like to believe that all that I have written is hypothetical and imaginary …alas it is factual, experiential, true and realtime. EODB has a long way to go and all the players have a role to play !!
A few months ago, I heard Dr. Mahanthesh, Founder Trustee of Samarthanam Trust (www.samarthanam.org) delivering a keynote address. It was not only inspirational but also thought provoking. Even after several months, one statement he made is still with me – “We have an inclusive recruitment policy and welcome all to join.”. This seemingly innocuous statement can be better appreciated if you know that Samarthanam is a Trust for the Disabled set up by Dr. Mahanthesh 25 years ago in Bangalore.
A disability rights advocate, motivational speaker, an avid traveller, technology follower, blind cricket player (President of World Blind Cricket Council that conducts international blind cricket tournaments), English literature enthusiast, notable academician, he is a visionary leader who says “I believe in building a society where people with disabilities are potential tax-payers but not dole recipients.” Who says you need Vision to be a Visionary ? Now, coming back to his statement on inclusivity, my take was that he was referring to a large section of us from the main-stream population who are supposed to be ‘fully abled”. While we are under the false notion that specially abled brethren require an inclusive policy since they are marginalised, try entering into their world and see. Can we resonate with them, empathise with them and work as well as they do unless they have an ‘inclusive mindset’ too ? The majority need not always think that we are being generous and benevolent in letting the minority into our world. It can be reverse too. Needs a large heart and futuristic thinking to create a world where there are no barriers and pathways like ‘inclusive’ and ‘exclusive’ but just a fair and common ground for all to live together – much like the animal world and the plant kingdom where the philosophy of “Live and Let Live” rules !
Contrast this with what a deplorable experience one of my fellow cancer survivors had recently with recruitment. An IT industry star performer, he shared that he was not considered for some senior position in a new company because of his social media presence. And what was his crime ? Merely showcasing on facebook and Linkedin, his activities in a voluntary cancer support group ! Can you believe that a well-known MNC can discriminate against a person for advocating wellness and cancer awareness ? It left me fuming with indignation and I retorted “why don’t you say no to such MNCs instead of they rejecting you?”. For reasons best known to him, my good friend has become rather quiet and discrete in his support to our Voluntary Cancer Support Group, working only on the tech bit in the background with no public appearances whatsoever. Hard to digest that such discriminatory policies still exist in the corporate world. But let me also share that there are several others out there who encourage such voluntary activities and infact recognise employees for their contribution. Thanks to such corporates, during the covid pandemic we were able to conduct several Corporate Connect programmes on wellness from our Cancer Support Group. Thanks to me being my own boss, I have the freedom and discretion to stand up for whatever I believe in and advocate its cause.
If digital technology was meant to bridge the gap between urban and rural students, lack of appropriate infrastructure is increasing the divide. One of my employees who is from the Malnad region in Karnataka was lamenting about how children in his village are unable to attend the online classes due to connectivity issues. Only when a group of angry youngsters made a video (that went viral) of students scampering up to hilltops to find the right internet spot did it catch the attention of the Minister. It was quite unfortunate to see how parents were holding umbrellas for their children while they sat on the hillocks trying to catch up with their daily lessons in the rain. Pandemic has been unforgiving in many ways but government apathy with respect to digital infrastructure creation and maintenance in rural areas has been even worse. My employee was quite piqued that this kind of discrimination against rural children is going unnoticed despite claims of so many government schemes. One can argue that the Digital world is One world for All but there is a long way to go. Inclusivity in all forms is still a myth and will always be work in progress !
“Sometimes in the winds of change we find our true direction” said Ciara Neff. For some reason we always think change means doing something new, something not done in the past, changing the status quo. Is it true ? Isn’t going back to some good old habits a change too ? Don’t you think it is time we retraced our paths to find our true North ? Isn’t the pandemic indicating the same ? It isn’t just winds of change. It has turned into a storm of chaos sweeping away all that comes in its way including Dear Life. Despite our boastful claims of a better life, we are as vulnerable as our forefathers were, fighting pandemics that seem to be mirroring the past. Jimmy Dean said “When you cant change the direction of the wind – adjust your sails”. Now than ever before, humanity feels directionless, leaderless and helpless. Perhaps it is time each one of us take matters into our hands and adjust our sails, find the proverbial ‘wind beneath our sails’ to stand up, look up and live once again. It is ironical that even as a privileged few are looking ahead to breaking the last frontier to travel to space, a large populace is pushed to look back and reflect on what has gone wrong on Ground Zero, what can be done to “Reimagine, Recreate & Restore” the womb of Mother Earth. Well, while this is the theme of World Environment Day 2021 (5th June), I feel it is time we retrace our habits to “Reuse, Reduce, Recycle” if we as a civilisation are to live, laugh and play once again !
The above thoughts take me back to a journey that I took with my family to Chitradurga (a historical city in Karnataka famous for its forts) more than 40 years ago. It was to meet my father’s side of the family, to see the ancient house where he grew up in a large joint family, to meet Dodanna (big brother in Kannada) his eldest maternal uncle and patriarch of the family. A strict disciplinarian, he was tall, lean and fit. Clad in a spotless white dhothi-kurta, at 85 his back was as straight as a ramrod. His authoritarian tone indicated clearly that he was still the Man of the House. He welcomed us warmly as he sat at the verandah at his writing table with lot of used envelopes, paper knives, scales and a box of green, red and black colour ball pens. As we sat down to chat with him, I saw what he was upto. He was very proud of his ‘productive activity’ borne out of his thrifty nature, so common to people of his times (a rarity today and almost looked down upon !). Dodanna was very conscious of not wasting a single paper, not even an envelope which he received (yes those were snail mail days when people wrote on post cards, inland letters and even sheets of papers). He would very neatly tear open the entire envelope using a sleek, sharp, special knife, lay it on the table and even out all the folds and corners so that it turns into a plain sheet of paper. He would turn it inside-out, fold it back into an envelope once again and write his ‘From’ address using the green colour pen. ‘To’ would be in red colour and left blank for future use. To make it attractive he would draw double lines in green and red along the length and breadth of the envelope, giving it life and importance. Some of the envelopes I saw were in their original avataars with no inside-out transformation. He slit open so carefully that it could be used once again as if it were new. These were the ‘reply envelopes’ where he would use the sender’s envelopes only with the ‘From’ and ‘To’ positions altered using green and red pens. At times just 2 arrows pointing to these positions would do the job. He was very proud of this activity (amongst so many other jugaad ones) and had piled up a stack on his low, work table. Back then it seemed silly and bizarre but today it seems significant and becoming ! Well, may not be the recycling of the envelope itself but the philosophy behind it – of reuse, reduce & recycle. It is perhaps time for us to retrace our path and discover the simplicity of the past so that we can find our direction to a sustainable, safe and happy future. After all, we are neither the creators nor the owners but merely the trustees of Mother Earth for the future generation !
Tracing the path of my profession, I am proud to share with all of you that exactly 33 years ago on this very day, 15th June, in 1988 the profession of “Practising Company Secretary” was born with the recognition granted to a CS to certify the Annual Return under the erstwhile Companies Act, 1956. To commemorate this, 15th June is celebrated as PCS Day by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India, of which I am a proud and grateful alumna. Then to now, the journey has been long and tough, eventful and exciting, even as newer and greater opportunities are opening up for us to serve the country. The question I ask is not what the profession has done for us but what we have done to the profession ? Because it is our knowledge, our conduct, our service and our attitude that makes us the champions of corporate governance, the conscience-keepers of Corporate India !! Wishing all my PCS family a Happy PCS Day, as we pledge to continue to uphold our motto “Satyam vada, Dharmam chara” meaning “Speak the truth, abide by the law”.
It is summer time in India and we are experiencing varied levels of temperatures. But for covid, most of us would have planned some getaway to enjoy. What if we can’t do it in the real world ? we can always travel back in our memory and rediscover the joy of childhood summer-time. Get on to the time-machine. Sit back. Rewind. Recall. Relax. Just as some of our team members have done….
Krithika says “The first few images of Summer that flash before my eyes are mangoes, sugar cane juice and orange candy!! Though a Bangalorean (in letter and spirit!) I spent most vacations in Chennai. Unconventional but true…. on the beaches sipping sugar cane juice and eating raw mango. Watching back to back movies – 3 shows back to back is my personal record ! ? Oh wait, how could I forget the orange candy! The most exciting ‘cooking’ (if it can even be called that) of my early childhood was filling up ice cream moulds with soft drinks and freezing them till they turned into ice candy and eating them with the greatest sense of achievement for having taken them out without breaking !”
Another Chennai girl, Pushkalaa says “Every Summer I would be packed off to my aunt’s place in Chennai from Delhi. While it was a relief from the scorching Delhi summer, it wasn’t from the treacherous holiday homework. My father would insist I write endless multiplication tables upto 50, 50 times both front and back. I would find ways to evade but my watchful aunt under instructions from the ‘higher up’, my dad would ensure that I finish it.
My childhood memories of the bustling city of Chennai include the buzz of traffic, the famous shopping hubs, cafes that served hot idly and sambar, amusement parks, annual festivities at the ancient temples that drew thousands of people from far and near, the distribution of buttermilk and juice by every household to the passersby to beat the heat, customary weekend outings to Marina Beach for playing in the sand and building castles, getting wet in the water and gorging on the piping hot bajjis and pattani sundal. Life was at its simplest best!!”
Ashwini must have been the teacher’s delight as she recalls “The best part of the Summer was, I used to complete my vacation homework as early as possible and wait for the school to open to see the new books, uniforms and importantly my friends.
I always preferred to stay at home instead of going on a trip. There was no summer camp for us in our village. Nor any mobile phones or internet those days. At best only the simple joy of waiting for the ice cream / candy vendor, plucking fresh mangoes & jackfruits from the forests nearby, savouring authentic native dishes and helping ma in preparing raw mango pickles. Ah, the aroma of those pickles are still fresh in my memory. Oh what fun it would be to collect hailstones during the first summer shower! “
On the other hand, Ashwin recalls “My friends and I would get up at 6am in the morning, go for a jog and then play cricket, board games and outdoor games throughout the day only to get back home for dinner and sleep. I also remember my father getting us a carton of yummy mangoes which would be replenished after it was empty almost every time till the end of Summer !
Others have different memories. Trupthi says “Summer meant vacation and lot of holiday homework which was the worst?. We didn’t touch homework throughout our two months break until the last 4 days when we would be compelled by our parents to complete it. Aren’t summer holidays meant for playing, watching TV, roaming around with friends, and not doing homework ?”
Another senior colleague Poornima talks of her unpleasant exam paper before the onset of holidays “Scorching heat is all that I can recollect when I think of Hyderabad, the place I was born and bred. Growing up in a lower middle class family, summer vacations were never exotic nor exciting but I cherish those simple days.
However, pre-vacation was full of anxiety thanks to the dreaded math paper. Once I wrote my examination and came back home. To avoid discussions about the paper I quietly hid it …. Guess where?? I dug a pit in my little garden and buried my paper. As usual my mother enquired about the paper and wanted to cross check the answers. I happily told her that I lost the question paper and quickly sneaked away from the house?”
As for me, when not getting away from Hyderabad to a cooler clime in Bangalore, we would practise for our classical music exam for hours together until my mom would say “It is enough. The walls have learnt your lessons as well”. As children, there was no shame in walking up and down the galli (street) to check if any movie was playing on the TV in anyone’s place – as in most middle-class households we didn’t own a TV for long and so we would happily join the crowd in the neighbour’s drawing room to watch the weekend movie. It was fun watching others sob or laugh at the scenes.”
Such simple, inexpensive joys of life seem very distinct and improbable now. Well, memories are inexpensive friends. The time-machine is yours. Stop where you want. Recollect and relive.
What you will read below is an “Ode to Nurses”, a first hand experience of my team member Poornima Jayarao. I thought her articulation will bring in the required authenticity to this topic of nursing care which is in great demand currently and is highly overworked too. Let’s take a moment to read and pay tribute to these frontline Corona Warriors – Our dear Nurses !.
Chocolate day, Teddy day, Valentine’s day…. all these are hyped and celebrated with lot of pomp in our society. How many of us really acknowledge the services rendered by the nurses??? This was the first thought that crossed my mind when I was scanning my mobile and sending personal wishes to all the nurses who served my husband while he was hospitalised over the last few years (I have lost the count how many times he was hospitalised). Hospital had become a home for us. Infact many a times, to cheer him up I would say “It is time to spend time together in our resort at Juhu?”. Yes! right from watchman to the main doctors I was familiar with all – especially the nurses, sisters, chechi, brothers…call them by any name… would welcome us with a big smile and ask …Phir aagaye Madam?? (Aaaa with that Malayali slang). For me these nurses were God sent messengers. While the Sanskrit saying goes “Vaidyo Narayano Harihi” (Doctor is Lord Hari-Narayana himself) I always felt that doctor examines, diagnoses and prescribes the medicines, but the nurses are the ones who administer the line of treatment and medications to the patients on time – with lot of care, affection, love and patience, convincing the patients to take the medicines. So, these nurses play a vital role in the wellbeing of the patients and their speedy recovery.
Below are my personal experiences that I bet will surely make you look upon the nursing profession with respect and gratitude.
The door opened and it was his favourite, beautiful nurse Shifa who walked in her white uniform…with a lovely smile and started exchanging jokes with my husband with a wink. There were times they would talk about movies, old hindi songs etc. That is how she use to brighten the atmosphere in the room. They shared such a special bond that during the hospitalisation period she tied a Rakhi also to him. Every time doctor would come and discuss some serious health issues regarding my husband….Shifa would be down mentally as she was aware he was deteriorating…yet with her charismatic smile she would console me and give me assurance ALL WILL BE WELL…..while I would be alone in the corridor sobbing.
Though he had a sweet tooth, being diabetic my husband was prohibited from having sweets. He had developed such a good relationship with all the nurses that one afternoon he told one of the nurses that he loves Malpua. To our surprise the nurse quietly got a dabba with homemade hot Malpuas for my husband and fed him. I was touched by her gesture. Well, some of you may argue that what she did was detrimental to his health but he already was in a condition of no return !
We are always under the impression that nurses, ward boys etc. always wait for tips when patients get discharged. I have this unique incident to share. It was Corona times last year. Similar lockdown situation and my father-in-law was serious. We had to treat him at home and with great difficulty I hired Neha, a nurse for 12 hours for 10 days. She was so good at her job, that as a token of appreciation I offered her Rs.2000. She was taken aback and did not accept the extra money, saying it is her duty. She had lost her job owing to the pandemic, yet she refused this extra income. I was impressed by her ethics and sincerity.
Friends, these nurses are human beings like us, (not robots) but they keep aside all their personal problems, emotions and serve not only the patients so efficiently but also support mentally and emotionally the family members of the patients too. I keep wondering how quickly they switch their emotions. They enter the ward with a smile but at times patients do not treat them well and caregivers are also harsh. But the next moment the same nurse walks into the next ward with the same pleasing smile? NURSE according to me stands for one who :
N – Nurtures.
U – Understands.
R – Is Responsible.
S – Serves selflessly.
E – Is Ever ready.
On this International Nurses Day (12th May), a big shout out to all the nurses who have supported me and a clear call to the society “Kindly acknowledge services of these real warriors who are on their toes 24X7, come what may !”
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If you are reading this issue, it means you are S.A.F.E. Oh God, how important this four letter word has become in the last 1 year ! Amidst the avalanche of gloomy news, all that we want to hear from someone is “I am S.A.F.E”. Be it a chat with a friend, a relative, a client, a business associate, a team member, a boss, a professional connect or even a stranger, the opening remark is invariably “How are you ? Hope all of you are at home and S.A.F.E.” Never before has this statement seemed as genuine and caring as now. Such is the apocalyptic times we are in. Unpredictable. Unnerving. Unbelievable !
This takes me back to my childhood days when I got my first lesson in letter-writing from my dear mother. Be it a simple post-card that was like an open-book for the whole world to read or its better cousins – an inland letter or sheets of paper in an envelope – that gave the writer and the reader the much-needed privacy, space and cosiness, following was the protocol to begin the communication:
Safe Shri Date
I remember noticing this in every single card or letter that we received or sent back then. Well, of course until the arrival of more sophisticated forms of communication via computers and mobiles and the death of the dear old physical letters. Letter-writing has now become as antiquated as typewriting and shorthand – skills that were in great demand until the nineties (exception being a court complex where you still find rows of typists on their stools, amidst the clanking sound of the flying typewriter keys and incessant chatter). She would say the reader must first know that we are all safe and wish him/her good luck & prosperity (Shri in Sanskrit). I recall that if the communication was about something happy, celebratory, auspicious, the edges of the card / letter would be smeared with kumkum (vermillion) to indicate the content. Similarly if it was a harbinger of bad news, the corners would be smudged with black ink and the ‘safe-shri’ missing. That itself would indicate what to expect from the insides of the card or inland letter. Today these simple, ubiquitous words assume great significance as we continue to watch the dance of death around us – many sadly experiencing it in close circles. As the messages beep on our mobile all through the day and night, news notifications keep popping up, as emails keep pouring, as calls keep coming in, there is a sense of anxiety and fear since we don’t know whether it is a ‘kumkum news’ or ‘black-ink’ news ! After all we are fighting in vain against a tiny, invisible virus that seems to be multiplying exponentially and slaying us in heaps, as we humans, the so-called thinking-beings and super-power-species are gasping for breath and grappling for our lives, after ravaging Mother Earth mercilessly for years. It is a war-like situation with lots of ‘war-rooms’ operating all around to coordinate for the ‘elixir of life’ oxygen, beds, ventilators, medicines, food, transportation, ambulance, crematorium, caregivers and our brave health-care warriors. I do not want to harp on the heart-wrenching news that has inundated our lives. All that I want to pray is
Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Niraamayaah |
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu
Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
May All be Happy
May All be Free from Illness |
May All See what is Auspicious,
May no one Suffer |
Peace, Peace, Peace ||
7th April 2021, Wednesday, mid-week, mid-day. In walked Ashok, my close relative. We were surprised to see him at that time since he was supposed to be at work. Of course, he was welcomed wholeheartedly because he always regaled us with his unique style of humorous narration. Be it his struggle in finding his first job, be it his sales trips abroad, be it his frustration at work, be it his bride-hunting escapades, be it his post-married life he always shared his experiences with animated gestures in a monodrama style, enacting all the characters himself. But mid-morning on a Wednesday, we least expected him. He said he just wanted to come away from home or office (he didn’t know which since it had been work, work and more work and nothing else since a year ago) to a different environment, to a normal world. The dark circles beneath his eyes, his growing paunch, his dishevelled hair, the forlorn look and his jerky movements presented to us a very different Ashok, fatigued and burnt out. He had lost almost everything about himself except his innate ability to look at the lighter moments in life. He still joked about his wakeful hours – at times working through the night until 4 am for a US client and again waking up at 8 am to take a call from some other geography, not knowing when to brush his teeth ?.
About his eating hours – grabbing food in between long calls, munching unhealthy snacks at midnight, dragging lunch over 3 hours and dried up hands due to back to back meetings without a break, not knowing whether he had extended lunch or early supper ?. He shared that many a times he wouldn’t be aware if he had eaten or not, or what he had eaten – pizza or paratha, rice or rotis, sabzi or salad – since he would be in marathon meetings or replying to endless emails. He remarked with his trademark guffaw “Here I am juggling with demanding clients and stressful multiple bosses and there is my better-half finding fault that I am not appreciating her new dress or failing to give my feedback on which colour curtain looks good ! How does it matter what she wears or if there is a curtain in the room or not. I just want to be done with my work and slump on the bed to catch up with sleep.”. Worse situation is when my body refuses to sleep before 2am and I am forced to watch some senseless stuff on the Television because there is no one to talk to. Ashok admitted that though his multiple-geography IT job was demanding earlier also, now in the Corona-induced WFH era, it has become unforgivingly killing. He has lost track of day and night, dusk and dawn, home and office, food and sleep, wife and dog and is wedded to his laptop, virtual calls, mobile and inhuman bosses who only want to please their bosses and show margins. When I suggested he must escalate his condition to his boss he said “To whom shall I point out ? He is also a forced workaholic Indian like me who is ready for meeting even at midnight and works through the weekend”.
While we enjoyed all his dialogue deliveries about his boss, wife, father, clients, colleagues etc., we could sense his anguish and helplessness. I am not exaggerating a bit because I have seen at close quarters other young professionals burning out early in their lives, thanks to inhuman business practices, unreasonable delivery promises to clients by overzealous and greedy business heads, unhealthy competition and a toxic ecosystem. One of my cousins has rationed her work and me-time on weekends by turning off the mobile on aeroplane mode. There are umpteen cases like this of overworked employees with demand from families also during the pandemic times. Shudder to think of the loss of human capital, damage to the health of a young work-force, dip in productivity, break-down of familial relationships and consequent shredding of the social fabric of a nation. The irony is that 7th April signifies World Health Day which focusses on mental health issues as well. What I heard from Ashok was reflective of the world wide debate triggered by the revolt of Goldman Sachs employees over work-life blur. It is an alarming reality that employers must take seriously and restore the work-life balance in their businesses with the strategy being driven from the top. Happy employees lead to happy customers. ROI from employees is bound to grow if there are saner working hours, adequate family / me time, regular meal-times etc. even in the pandemic induced WFH era. Messed up work-life is not new but what is new is the magnitude and our acceptance that this is the New Normal. Let’s together make this world a better and safer place to live in for a longer time !!
New Year | New Shoots | Old Roots | Fresh Beginning ||
This is what Ugadi, Gudi Padwa, Baisakhi, Navreh, Cheti Chand, Bihu is all about. New Year celebrated across India under different names over last 2 days. Signifying that Life is a sweet-sour-bitter mixture of events and experiences. All the flavours together make it worth Living & Celebrating !!
Do you know that lions only succeed in a quarter of their hunting attempts — which means they fail in 75% of their attempts and succeed in only 25% of them ? Despite this small percentage shared by most predators, they don’t despair in their pursuit and hunting attempts. The main reason for this is not because of hunger as some might think but it is the understanding of the “Law of Wasted Efforts” that has been instinctively built into animals, a law in which nature is governed.
Half of the eggs of fishes are eaten… half of the baby bears die before puberty… most of the world’s rains fall in oceans… and most of the seeds of trees are eaten by birds. Scientists have found that animals, trees, and other forces of nature are more receptive to the law of “wasted efforts”. Only humans think that the lack of success in a few attempts is failure… but the truth is that: we only fail when we “stop trying”.
Success is not to have a life free of pitfalls and falls… but success is to walk over your mistakes and go beyond every stage where your efforts were wasted looking forward to the next stage. If there is a word that summarizes this world, it will simply be: Continue all over again !
Well, this is not my writing but a forward that I thought will help us all stay inspired as we step into Q1 of the Financial year 2021-22, having bid good-bye to the COVID19 year 2020-21 (or is it going to be a carry forward considering the rising Corona cases ??). Sharing some insight or observation from a personal experience is a self-imposed mandate that I have given myself since several issues of Samhita. This time I am amused by a strange kind of passion I observed in my husband’s friend, who is an electrical engineer. As a successful entrepreneur dealing with electric pumps and motors for over 40 years, this gentleman is so passionate about what he does that even on a vacation, all he can spot is a motor wherever he goes. Recently we were all travelling together and I discovered how much he loves the motors, the wiring, the make, its working condition, the whirring sound etc. So much so that after an hour of boat ride on the river Ganges in Varanasi, while all of us were going ga-ga over the spectacular Ganga Aarti and taking in the mesmerising surroundings of the river, our Engineer friend was busy peeping into the boat’s engine motor. While the rest of us were chatting up with the boatman about the historical importance of the river, the Ghats, the mythology and facts, the political winds blowing in Varanasi (one of the oldest cities in the world), the massive infrastructural changes happening and the resultant transformation of this ancient city, our friend was in an animated conversation with the boat owner advising him how bad the motor condition is and how to improve it. At first I felt amused and thought how silly he is but then I realised so deep is his involvement with his motor trade that he literally breathes and lives it. It is seen to be believed. Yes, he got excited each time he identified a specific make of motor on the road in the vehicles passing by or in a store we were shopping at. He would exclaim in wide-eyed glee as a child looking at a candy or an ice cream or a car or a balloon or a kite or a mobile game. I noticed genuine happiness and a sense of wonderment on his face, as if it were the first motor he was seeing in his life. He was oblivious to what others commented or did. I bet he experiences an inexplicable sense of connectedness with a mundane, inorganic thing like a motor. No wonder he is a successful 3nd generation entrepreneur who has made a mark in his business and built a strong brand, albeit from a tier 2 city. If there is a word that summarizes his world, it will simply be: Continue to be inspired !!
It is anniversary time – oh no, I am not referring to Women’s Day (8th March) or National Safety Day (4th March) or Employee Appreciation Day (yes it does exist – 3rd March) or Zero Discrimination Day (1st March and that’s what Google says). I am referring to Corona-induced lockdown. We had shut down our office a year ago – 16th March like so many others. It seemed like an obvious choice that would be reversed soon. Little did we all realise that a small gesture of precaution and safety demanded by the Governments would forever change the face of ‘working from office’ to ‘working from home’. The year gone by was the best teacher the world has had so far but the irresponsible students that many of us are, are not using a simple piece of cloth, called the ‘mask’. No wonder consequences are turning severe. Never underestimate the power of a small act, a small gesture, a small word – it could be the harbinger of a major change !
Who has not heard of the famous story of the poor Sudama who had nothing but just a small fistful of ‘poha’ (beaten rice) to offer to Lord Krishna when he visited his palace as a friend ? By the time Sudama reached home, his humble hut had turned into a magnificent palace, thanks to the Lord’s blessings showered on a staunch devotee. It didn’t matter what was offered. What mattered were the feelings behind the offering !
Who is not aware of the Dandi March (Salt Satyagraha) where a small fistful of salt was picked up by Gandhiji in protest against the salt tax by the British rulers ? A small gesture inspired a generation of Indians to join his cause for the liberation of our nation. The nation rose together in unison against the oppressive foreign rule.
Years ago, at a personal level, I experienced a deep emotion by the simple words of my little one. During a rather hectic week (when I was pursuing an executive management programme), one night I confessed to my husband that I am guilty of not giving enough time to him. Thinking that he was asleep I continued but suddenly he jumped out of the blanket, gave a mischievous smile and a tight hug. Thrusting his school English book into my hands, he said in his sweetest voice “I heard all you said amma. Don’t worry, mother’s love knows no bounds. I know you love me just like Juno the monkey”. I was speechless and moved deeply. Power of words and beauty of expression of a 5 year old ?
Last week the same 5 year old turned 22 and it was the turn of my driver to surprise him. Though we all chide him that he cannot read or write any language, he expressed his affection for my son by a status update that had a collage of his pictures over the years along with a beautiful birthday song – his little daughter had created it by using an app. The emotions behind the act, the feelings behind the small gesture – they speak more than a 1000 words, they are worth more than expensive gifts. Feel it, say it !!
I was a panelist at a Business Forum’s annual event recently. 3 women panelists (a dancer-cum-art school founder, a doctor-cum-speciality care centre founder and myself) shared our thoughts on “Women as changemakers” – the need to encourage a girl child to dream big, to help her convert them into goals, to support and empower her to turn it into a profession, the struggles of work-life balance as a woman, perseverance and fighting against societal stereotypes, change in individual and institutional mindsets required (to me the family, employing organisation and society all three are institutions), how a woman must negotiate what she wants, how she must create a support system early in her life much before the need arises to have a career, the choices she makes, the need to believe in herself and stay committed, the contrast between feminism (a movement that is identified with strong emotional expression) and women empowerment (a bigger and more encompassing, purposeful action). All of us agreed that a woman is herself an embodiment of change all through her life – puberty, marriage, child-birth, menopause – each stage triggering different kinds of changes physically, physiologically, biologically, emotionally and intellectually. Every woman has a different story to share – some manage it well, others don’t. While metamorphosizing ourselves, if we are able to bring some positive changes in the surroundings around us, it will be a life well lived.
Surprisingly none of us brought out the most commonly attributed competency of a woman – multi-tasking. While this is heralded as a strength of our tribe, research shows that multi-tasking is not actually productive. While daily chores do need parallel tasking in the interest of time, the same is not true where cognitive abilities are involved. It is said there is a 40% reduction in productivity due to multitasking though it appears that we are able to handle many things at the same time. We are doing this all the time – at workplace, juggling between a phone call, messaging, email, now virtual meetings (which provides ample room for distractions) in the illusion that we are able to attend to multiple assignments. This is all the more so for a person in a consulting organisation that caters to many customers. I find this happening to my colleagues and me as well, as we are in the constant race to handle client requirements. I do notice how fatigued they are at the end of the day and still find many things incomplete. What is the way out ? Prioritising, creating a to-do-list, setting aside time for personal messages, not responding to emails constantly, setting client expectations right that they cannot expect instantaneous response always (sometimes yes but not always), collating issues and preferring a single call over repeated calls and emails which distract one’s attention, delegate and most importantly learn to say NO. Toughest thing for many of us ! Multitasking involves both goal shifting and role activation each time the brain shifts from one to another. This adds a small time delay which hurts your overall productivity. Since the brain is supposed to be trained to do one thing at a time, it is said that the cognitive abilities of the brain is impaired during multitasking. It also leads to stress which is the number one cause for most diseases, both physical and mental. Most often those multitasking do not realise they are doing it and find it difficult not to stay distracted. Recommendation is – limit the number of tasks to just two at any given time AND follow the ‘20 minute rule’ i.e. be at a task at least for 20 minutes before jumping to another one. This is likely to reduce the negative effect of multitasking in case avoiding is not an option. In this fast paced world, therefore mindfulness, meditation, yoga, silence etc. take significance to help us have single minded devotion at a task. I believe reducing multitasking (complete elimination may not be possible) can lead to sustainable and quality living which is the current goal of most people !