Monthly Archives: June 2006

Mithun Chakraborty

A masterpiece, on the phenomenon that is Mithun Chakraborty.

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Google versus Microsoft, and the Henry Ford trap

Google and Microsoft differ fundamentally in their views on Office applications. While Google is all for having the application residing on a server, with the user accessing and using it through a thin client (browser), Microsoft believes in the traditional notion of having the application reside on your hard disk. [read about Google Spreadsheet]

In the medium term, with bandwidth being an issue, apart from the fact that there is only so much you can do inside a browser, I expect Microsoft to win the Office battle. In the long run too, with cheap hard disk space and cheap processors, I do not see much benefit in a browser based Office suite. One benefit that I forsee is that collaborative editing (example, Writely) may really take off (people in remote locations editing the same document over the Internet), but I am sure the guys at Microsoft will find a way to include collaborative editing within Office.

Is Google falling into the Ford trap (‘People can have the Model T in any color – so long as it’s black.’) with it’s insistence on developing applications that reside in the browser? Time will tell, but my hunch is yes.

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Reward loyalty or performance?

All organizations reward members for loyalty. I am wondering whether this is the right strategy, particularly when loyalty is not accompanied by performance. Is retention such a high priority that organizations would like to keep people (even bad ones) at any expense? The answer may lie to a small extent in the realm of emotions. An employee who has stuck around for long with a company is likely to have a strong sense of affiliation to it, and is likely to serve the organization favourably in his decision making and performance (even if it isn’t peak performance). It probably pays to have such people with you, rather than those who crib at every opportunity, and may jump ship any day. Secondly, and more importantly, rewarding loyal employees may also help to serve as a signal to good performers that hints at what their own future might be like. The question here is whether the signal may actually fail, if good performers begin to think that loyalty assumes precedence over performance.

My personal view on this is that only performance must be rewarded. Rewarding loyalty, purely as a symbolic measure is just going to be that – symbolic – and not greatly beneficial. Moreoever, rewarding performance is likely to increase loyalty of good performers, thereby leading to a virtuous cycle. Productivity in goverment offices gives us a hint of what happens in organizations that only look at loyalty at the expense of performance.
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Nirav, points out an interesting example of a reward system that combines loyalty and performance – stock options! You get them only if you stick around, and you reap the benefits only if your company does well (which indirectly means that you have to contribute to the cause).

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The Stock market – Could Mutual Funds support the market in some distant time in the future?

I’m no stock market expert, but look what Mutual Funds were upto during the recent (and indeed ongoing) Sensex ‘correction’, and all the bloodshed that followed. This could be an indication that in the long run, MF’s and retail investors could actually support the market.

I am also convinced that behavioural economists probably do better at the stock market than those who follow scientific methods such as ‘top down’ or ‘bottom up’ stock picking. But then, I am no expert!

Source: Frontline’s cover story

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Servant Leadership – another fad

The concept of Servant-Leadership was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf (1904-1990) in his essay The Servant as Leader.

Servant leadership is a form of leadership in which the leader desires to ‘serve’ first, and then assumes a leadership role by conscious choice. Greenleaf recommends that the simple mantra is to just ‘serve’ others in whatever situation you are faced with. Followers, while being served, become ‘healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants themselves’.

The concept seems to boil down to “selfless service”, not unlike what Indian philosophical texts have been recommending for thousands of years now! To me the whole concept of ‘Servant leadership’ seems more like a management fad than anything else. It seems to be a fresh articulation of leadership tenets that have existed for long. In fact most business books fall under this cateogory, possibly because modern managers don’t read enough, and need to be spoon fed with easy to remember concepts in the form of ‘The One Minute Manager’, ‘Principle Centred Leadership’ and other such ‘for dummies’ books.

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The war for news

CNN IBN, the only English news channel with personality has one annoying thing about it. It’s these SMS based polls they conduct to test the “mood of the nation”. Surely, Rajdeep Sardesai understands that the only participants in such polls would be English speaking, urban, educated Indians with a mobile phone. Surely, such a poll cannot be representative of the mood of the nation.

On other fronts, CNN IBN has raced far ahead of the old lady in red, NDTV. With the loss of the likes of Rajdeep and Arnab Goswami and a whole lot of others, NDTV seems to be having a crisis of talent. CNN IBN, on the other hand has managed to put together a crew of highly engaging and interesting presenters who all seem to have a distinct personality (unlike Sonia Verma, Vikram Chandra, Vishnu Shom and others at NDTV who all sound the same). NDTV looks as indistinguishable as DD News these days. From a marketing perspective, CNN IBN actually seems to have taken over ownership of the colour red, even though NDTV sported it for long. If I was at NDTV, I would be thinking of doing something about the theme colour, apart from hiring some engaging news presenters and improving content.

The title for the post comes from this new media blog, that seems to have assumed the role of a brutally honest critic of Indian TV news media. What’s more, the blog is actually run by insiders in the media industry, and makes for some interesting reading. Link: The War for News.

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Signaling theory

An interesting post from a Fazeer’s blog on economics, which I have been frequenting of late.

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