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Monday, December 26, 2016

मेरा देश बदल रहा है

माँ लक्ष्मी के दर्शन हुए। साक्षात गुलाबी रंग में। लगभग ७० मिनट सपत्नी कतार में प्रतीक्षा के बाद। अनुभूति ऐसी कि मानो क्या पा लिया हो, एक अनूठी उपलव्धि की तरह। मेरी स्मरण शक्ति ने मुझसे कुछ कहा, पिछली बार कब इस प्रकार कतार में खडे हुए थे। उत्तर मिला, माँ कामख्या देवी के दर्शन के समय, लगभग दो, ढाई वर्ष पूर्व। वह भी अविस्मरनीय अनुभव था, क्योंकि दशमी का दिन था, किसी प्रकार का प्रवेश शुल्क नहीं था और विशेषतः कोई वीआईपी दर्शन की कतार अलग नहीं थी। सभी को लाइन में खड़े होना था। कभी कभी भगवान के मंदिर में भी दर्शन हेतु समानता का भाव देखकर अच्छा लगता है। साल में कुछ दिन के लिए ही सही, कम से कम इतनी संवेदना अभी जीवित तो है।

अर्थशास्त्र व राजनीतिशास्त्र की घनिष्ठता जग जाहिर रही है। कौटिल्य के अर्थशास्त्र से लेकर ऐडम स्मिथ के अर्थशास्त्र तक राजा, प्रजा, व नीति के परिप्रेक्ष में अर्थ की महत्वा हमेशा केन्द्र-बिंदु रही है। शासक, शासन व शोषण नीतिशास्त्र का अभिन्न अंग रहा है। शासन की क्षमता व्यक्ति विशेष के ज्ञान, पराक्रम व साहस से अधिक धन-बल पर निर्भर रही है। इसी कारण शासक की शक्ति उसके पास संचित लक्ष्मी में निहित समझी जाती रही है। राजा भर्तृहरि ने धन के प्रयोग के बारे में सुझाया कि धन के तीन प्रयोग हैं – खर्च, दान व संचय। उनका कहना था कि संचित धन नाशवान है। पूंजीवाद की परिकल्पना ही धन के अधिक से अधिक अर्जन व संचय में समाहित है। शासक प्रायः प्रभावशाली नीतियों व कुशल शासन व्यवस्था को बनाने हेतु अर्थशास्त्रियों पर निर्भर रहे हैं। इस प्रकार राजनीति, अर्थशास्त्र व व्यापार किसी भी देश के विकास की दशा, दिशा व दर्शन को मूलतः प्रभावित करते रहे हैं।

पिछली एक शताब्दी ने बाज़ार के वर्चस्व को अपनी स्वीकारोक्ति से सींचित किया है। सब कुछ बाज़ार में ले जाया गया। बाज़ार पर छोड़ दिया गया। मानो बाज़ार सबका माई-बाप हो गया हो। इस युग में सभी कुछ बाज़ारमय हो गया लगता है। हम क्या साथ लाये थे, क्या साथ ले जायेंगे, बाजार निर्धारित करेगा। मानो सब कुछ बाज़ार का ही हो, बाज़ार ही को अर्पित करना हो। वस्तु, सेवा, व सम्बन्ध, सभी कुछ बाज़ार में दिखाई देते रहे हैं। क्रेता व विक्रेता अपनी गुणा-गणित से मूल्यों का निर्धारण करने में जुटे हैं। ऐसा भी देखने को मिल रहा है जहाँ मूल्यों में व लागत में कोई सम्बन्ध नहीं है। विचित्र बाज़ार है। मुद्रा व मूल्य, लागत व लाभ सभी बाजारू अनुभूति अथवा बाज़ार के ग्रहणबोध पर छोड़ दिया गया है। बाज़ार में वर्चस्व लाभ से अधिक महत्वपूर्ण हो गया है। शेयर बाज़ार का सूचकांक, आर्थिक स्थति का बैरोमीटर हो गया है। व्यापार की वास्तविकता व सूचकांक में घोर सम्बन्ध होना अनिवार्य नहीं रह गया है। बाज़ार का अर्थशास्त्र वास्तव में विचित्र है। बाज़ारी एकीकरण को व्यापार व अंतर्राष्ट्रीय आर्थिक संबंधों की एक महत्वपूर्ण कड़ी के रूप में देखा जा रहा है।

विमुद्रीकरण की प्रक्रिया को किर्यान्वित करने की ओर बढाये जा रहे कदमो की सराहना व तिरस्कार दोनों का बाज़ार गर्म है। विपक्ष विचलित है। वोट की राजनीति, नोट की राजनीति पर भारी पड़ने का असफल प्रयास कर रही है। पूंजीवाद के सभी सिद्धांत मानो अपनी प्रासंगिकता पर प्रश्न से अचंभित सा महसूस कर रहे हों। माँ लक्ष्मी अपने गरीब याचकों को कतारों में खड़ा देखकर मुस्करा रहीं हैं। समाजवाद अपनी जड़ों में पड़ते पानी को देख खुश हो रहा है। परन्तु यह ख़ुशी कितने दिन की है, समय ही बता सकेगा। इसको परिपक्व होने के लिए अनुकूल वातावरण बनता प्रतीत हो रहा है। गरीब खुश है, आज तक अमीर दिखने वालों की गरीबी को देख। अमीर छोटे कारोबारियों को लालच दे रहा है। धन वितरण की अनोखी प्रक्रिया प्रारंभ हुई है। झुग्गियों में रहने वालों के लिए आय के कुछ नए स्रोत बन रहे हैं। सीमा पर खड़े सैनिक की तुलना ए टी एम के बाहर कतार में खड़े व्यक्ति के साथ की जा रही है। घंटों मंदिरों के बाहर प्रतीक्षा करने वाले तीर्थयात्री, ए टी एम की कतार में खड़े होने पर परेशान हैं। दलालों के प्रयोजन का विस्तार हो रहा है। वैसे भी अब व्यापार व दलाली में अधिक अंतर नहीं रह गया है। व्यावसायिक गतिविधियों में लगे लोग मुद्रा की उचित मात्रा में अनुपलब्धि से पीड़ित हैं। यह समय उनके संयम व विवेक की परीक्षा का है।

आज पूंजीवाद व समाजवाद साथ बैठे चर्चा कर रहे हैं। साम्यवाद अपनी ज़मीन ढूंढने का प्रयास कर रहा है। नए नए अर्थशास्त्री पैदा हो रहें हैं। गांव की चौपाल में चर्चा का विषय ग्राम पंचायत से उठकर संसद की चर्चा पर केंद्रित हो रहा है। मांग व पूर्ति के सिद्धांत का वर्णन कारोबारी महिलाओं तक सीमित नहीं रह गया है। बल्कि गृहिणियों में भी इसके मूल की चिंता है। कक्षा नौ में पड़ा ग्रेशम का सिद्धांत अपनी उपयोगिता पर हंस रहा है, कौन सी पुरानी मुद्रा, कौन सी नई मुद्रा, कौन सी अधिक मूल्य की मुद्रा, कौन सी कम मूल्य की मुद्रा, सब कागज़ है। बुरा अच्छे को प्रचलन से बाहर करने में जुटा है।

उपभोग व विलासिता की परिकल्पनाओं में परिवर्तन हो रहा है। उपयोगिता के सिद्धांत को आज के समय के अनुसार परिभाषित करने की आवश्यकता लग रही है। अवसरवाद सड़क व राजनीति से बढ़कर अर्थशास्त्र व समाजशास्त्र की पुस्तकों में स्थान पाने के लिए व्याकुल है। आय दिन भ्रष्टाचार के नए प्रयोग सामने आ रहे हैं। भ्रष्टाचारियों को पकड़ने के लिए रचनात्मक तरीके व आधुनिक तकनीक का प्रयोग किया जा रहा है। हर कोई विमुद्रीकरण से प्रभावित है। जीवन चल रहा है। सारी मज़बूरियों के बावजूद जीवन चल रहा है। मेरा देश बदल रहा है। हम सब स्थूल की ओर भाग रहे हैं और सूक्ष्म से दूर जा रहे हैं।

आर्थिक विकास की गति में कुछ ठहराव सा आ रहा है। ठहराव जीवन के सर्वांगीण व सतत विकास हेतु आवश्यक भी है। चौथे गियर की गति में चलती अर्थव्यवस्था को अचानक दूसरे गियर में चलने पर विवश होना पड़ रहा है। इस गति में चलने के अपने लाभ हैं। लेकिन तीब्र गति से चलने की आदत पड़ जाने के कारण इस मंदगति का प्रभाव अधिक दीख रहा है।

अच्छे नेतृत्व से भी अधिक आवश्यक है कि व्यक्तिगत रूप से हम व्यवस्था के सुधार हेतु कार्य करें। एक अकेला चना भाड़ नहीं फोड़ सकता है। हम सबको इस समय अपने नेतृत्व को सुदृढ़ करने की आवश्यकता है, न कि हम सरकार द्वारा उठाये इस सशक्त व जोखिम से भरे कदम की निंदा में अपना समय बर्बाद करें। जनता द्वारा चुनी हुई सरकार को समय देने की जरूरत है। देश का नेता इस कदम के बुरे प्रभावों का जिम्मा लेने को तैयार खड़ा है।

यदि विमुद्रीकरण की इस प्रक्रिया से देश की अर्थव्यवस्था, सामजिक व्यवस्था व राजनीतिक व्यवस्था के अच्छे परिणाम न आएं तो अगले चुनाव में जनता अपने मताधिकार का प्रयोग करते हुए अपने नेता को बदल दे। आखिर देश कोई अराजक हाथों में तो नहीं है और इस प्रजातान्त्रिक देश में मताधिकार की स्वतंत्रता सभी मतदाताओं के पास है।

जिस प्रकार आयकर विभाग व प्रवर्तन निदेशालय के नेतृत्व में भिन्न स्थानों पर छापे मारे जा रहे हैं व करोड़ों रुपयों की बरामदगी हो रही है, लगता है जब तक व्यक्तिगत स्तर पर हम भ्रष्टाचार से लड़ने के लिए कमर नहीं कसेंगे, सारे प्रयास विफल होंगे। कहने को भारत में शिक्षा के स्तर में सुधार हो रहा है, परंतु उससे कहीं अधिक तीब्र गति से मूल्यों का ह्रास हो रहा है। इतना सब होते हुए भी कुछ लोग अपने आराम की परवाह किये बिना दूसरों की सेवा करने में जुटे है, जो अत्यंत सराहनीय है।

हम क्या साथ लाये थे, क्या साथ ले जायेंगे। हम किस भ्रम में जीवित हैं - यह मेरा है, यह तेरा है, जो कर रहा हूँ मैं कर रहा हूँ| जो कुछ हो रहा है मेरे करने से हो रहा है| धन मेरा है, यह मैंने अपने परिश्रम से अर्जित किया है। बर्ट्रेंड रसेल ने मुद्रीकरण की प्रक्रिया को ही सही नहीं बताया। उनके अनुसार मुद्रा व मुद्रीकरण समाज में विभाजन का कार्य करते हैं। समाजशास्त्रीय द्रष्टिकोण से संभवतः वस्तु-विनिमय व्यवस्था, मुद्रा के प्रयोग से बेहतर व्यवस्था प्रतीत होती है। परंतु पूँजीवाद अपनी लम्बी आयु व लगभग सार्वभौम उपस्थिति के कारण पैर जमाये खड़ा है। मुद्रा स्फीति मांग व पूर्ति पर निर्भर करती है। बाज़ार के सुचारू रूप से चलने हेतु मांग का होना आवश्यक है। महँगाई के रुकने से आर्थिक विकास की गति भी धीमी हो जाती है। सामान्य व्यक्ति के लिए यह विचित्र सा होगा।

जिस सरकार पर व्यापारियों, उद्यमियों व धनी वर्ग के व्यक्तियों से घनिष्ठता का आरोप लगता रहा हो। जिस सरकार ने अपनी आर्थिक नीतियों को विदेशी निवेश को आकर्षित करने पर केंद्रित रखा हो। वही सरकार विमुद्रीकरण जैसे जोखिम भरे कदम से देश की सामाजिक व्यवस्था को सुदृढ़ करने की ओर कदम बढ़ाती है।जहाँ एक ओर यह जनता की सरकार के प्रति बनी धारणा को परिवर्तित करने का एक ठोस प्रमाण है वहीँ दूसरी ओर 'सबका साथ, सबका विकास' के नारे को साकार बनाने हेतु एक सशक्त कदम।

हमें अपने देश के सर्वांगीण विकास हेतु एक नयी व्यवस्था व मॉडल की आवश्यकता है। संभवतः वर्तमान की समस्याएं इस मौसम की धुन्ध के साथ समाप्त हो जाएंगी व हम अपने देश में एक नवीन प्रकाशमय सुबह का स्वागत करेंगें।

हाँ, मेरा देश बदल रहा है, आगे बड़ रहा है।

[प्रोफ़ेसर विजय कुमार श्रोत्रिय:, वाणिज्य विभाग, दिल्ली स्कूल ऑफ इकोनॉमिक्स, दिल्ली विश्वविद्यालय, दिल्ली]

Monday, October 17, 2016

Money, Happiness and Motivation


During the monsoon of 2005, I was in Hongkong for an international seminar on Happiness and Public Policy at Lignan University. One of the evenings while we visited IFC mall, a big board displayed in one of the lobbies of the mall caught my attention which read as - Whoever said money can’t buy you happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping. It seemed as if shopping made people happy provided one had money to spend. Elizabeth Dunn of University of British Columbia suggested through research that spending money on others makes us happier than spending for ourselves and further it is the experiences that we pay for adds to our happiness much more than the material things that we buy. Investing in others makes us feel happier and healthier even when it might make us poorer by few bucks.


Seminal contribution of Richard Easterlin (Easterlin Paradox) help us understand the relationship between money and happiness much better. Increase in incomes (at national level) does not result in corresponding increase in happiness. Money plays an important role in fulfilling basic needs of individuals but once these needs are met, the role of money start deteriorating and other factors such as satisfying experiences become more important. Hence this paradox questions a generally held belief that money makes people happy. It does in a sense that it provides for the need of existence but not beyond that in proportion.

My academic interest in the study of happiness is able to convince me that happiness can’t be bought with money. However it is not to say that money does not motivate employees to make choices with respect to one’s workplace. Taylor’s thinking on management was driven by the fact that better incentives lead to better productivity. Fordism believed in extracting best out of employees and providing them rewards in terms of money. Fayol gave us a principle of fair compensation. All these management theories considered employees as resource and suggested better ways to reimburse for their efforts put in the organizations. More efforts, more results, more money. 


Money is one of the important motivators as it results in better job satisfaction viz-a-viz life satisfaction. But it is not that it is most important factor and it would keep on motivating employees forever. It would respond to Easterlin Paradox and its role shall start moving slowly from front to backseat. More important is the question - Is that only money which shall decide whether a talented employee shall stay or leave an organization or Is that only the salary which shall determine his/her satisfaction? This needs attention from individual happiness perspective. 

More than money it becomes important for an employee to have better work environment, better relationship with boss, subordinates and peers, better growth opportunities, better sense of achievement and accomplishment, better use of time in leisure activities, better quality of work life, lower stress levels etc. 

These are important variables for job satisfaction and organizations have to put in place better HR policies to assure an improvement in job satisfaction levels of employees not just through providing better incentive plans but through providing them better work environment and better work place experience. Satisfaction leads to happiness whether it is at individual level or at organizational level or for that matter whether it is at national level. As stated by Elizabeth Dunn - it is the investing in others which makes one happier and healthier, if organizations learn from this and keep on investing in their employees, it would certainly make the individuals working in the organization happy and would transform an organization into a state of happy organization. 

Money is a motivator but not the greatest of all.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Future is Here: HR Perspective

The future has always been there. Today shall be past tomorrow and history shall determine the future. So the future can never be isolated with the past or present. Future is here and we are deliberating on the nature of the future and the expectations of today's generation for staying alive, relevant and sustain in changing and challenging times. Yes the future is going to be different than the present as it has always been. The only thing which is important in this context is - whether we are prepared to face the future or are we putting efforts to develop systems, structures and styles that would successfully deal with future. Do we need to be effective or efficient in order to perform at the front to face the challenge or we can afford to allow the mighty to fall.

The trend shows that the future is going to be more technology driven and the speed shall decide the future of an organisation. Economies of speed shall spearhead organizational performance. Artificial Intelligence shall form the base and Robotics shall be the order of the day in future.  Robots would replace humans at very many places but the challenge to see would be whether that would stay for all kinds of jobs and all kinds of decisions.  I believe that humans can never be replaced where decisions are based on subjectivity and as visible intangibles are making and going to make a headway much ahead of the tangibles which could be measured and monitored by machine intervention.

Information Technology plus Intelligent Technology shall lead India Tomorrow. This is well taken as reflected in the policies of the government of India whether it is Digital India, Skill India, Make in India, Startup India, or Standup India. Technology shall facilitate decision making. It shall surely make our lives easier and comfortable and for all kinds of business organisations it would be a great opportunity but we need to first erect an effective infrastructural framework on which this could be allowed to settle. We still have many more challenges on social infrastructure and I believe this kind of big push might miss out on some of the more important priorities that lay ahead of us as a developing nation, be it improving educational standards or strengthening health facilities or to provide basic amenities to the people living below the poverty line. And size of people live below the poverty line is not avoidable at all, it is huge.

Driverless cars is an excellent innovation and might boost industry and facilitate much of the operations. We need to believe that we can not afford to leave our younger generation or Gen Z or millennials driverless. We have much greater challenge to create better leaders and develop in them the sense of authenticity so that they are able to genuinely see the future and take the lead in their best way. We need affectionate hand-holding, driven mentors, authentic role models, excellent social engineers, creative thinkers, visionary leaders, risk-taking entrepreneurs and above all responsible citizens to play role of a change agent.

When we were kids, parents used to say, children of this age are much smarter than before. Our grandparents and their parents and grandparents have all felt and communicated that 'children of today are much smarter than before'. This is a phenomenon staying ever since human evolution took place. The millennials are much smarter and full of energy, enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. Nation has to provide them pollution free air, teachers have to provide them strong wings, and organizations have to provide them space and opportunity to fly. Their impatience is viewed as a characteristic learnt through their upbringing in nuclear family setup. We need to accept it and see the way forward to tackle it with care and caution.

The future of work is to change from physical to virtual world, from structured schedule to flexible work systems, from stability to agility, from knowledge base to skill base (it is disheartening), from annual appraisals to frequent feedbacks, from humans to technology, from periodicity to real-time, from hierarchy to flatter structure, from bell curves to traditional reward systems, and so on.

Accounting technicians shall more be in demand than accountants and organizations shall have highly customized environment for both internal and external customers and clients.  The ability to learn towards the cause of upskilling shall help the Gen Z to acquire better competency. Multitasking shall be possible through multiskilling. The challenge shall be to further inculcate the value systems that connects the millennials with the community and society.

The youth shall be same as they were before, it is the organisations that have to change accordingly and design things, processes, systems and structures to respond to their expectations. The pressures of work and stress would have to be addressed through better work-life integration rather than work-life balance. We grew with the message of 'work being worship' and 'customer being God'. The challenge shall be to integrate work with life and customer with employee. Employee Value Proposition might provide better insights into his/her role but shall take away the value of an intangible force.

Follow your passion, achievement shall follow you. The millennials have to have strong belief in this which should determine their efforts for the call they are taking to decide on their future actions to meet their aspirations. Being mindful to the purpose and meaningful to the life shall pave their path of success and shall help them achieve greater results to satisfy their heart and to boost a sense of accomplishment.

Life is interesting because we are all different.  We need to learn the art of dealing with this difference. Talent pool of employees is much diverse, hence it requires diverse approaches.  This is much similar to the approach that is being followed to address the need of diverse types of customers through customization. So as employees have diverse motivations driven by their diverse intrinsic values, they would be dealt with diverse HR policies. Generalizations might reside in their graves in the times to follow.

Our growing up time was much different. Most of the business organizations enjoyed a kind of monopoly be it Bata, HMT, Surf, Philips, Colgate, Only Vimal, Dabur, etc etc. We lived in the times of sellers' market, where there was no choice or it was very limited. What was being sold was being bought. Times have changed and so is the market. Now we are in buyers' market where choices are many and hardly there is a company or product or brand which enjoys monopoly. It is highly competitive market which is fast changing and redefining the future of market. Market space has changed much beyond expectations. Economies of scale and speed are in full swing. So the story belongs to the listener and not the teller. Organizations are learning to adapt to the times, many of them have burnt their fingers in the process, many of them have survived the hot weather, many of them have transformed in the wake of competition. So the story belongs to the market whether it is virtual space or physical space. The job market has changed accordingly and significantly.

Employers need not get into branding themselves for the want of responding to competitive job market and attract talent.  Rather they need to develop a strong culture which attracts prospective job seeker and makes them tick beyond monetary consideration and space ambiance. They need to evoke a sense of pride in the employees (or prospective employees) in order to retain talent. Work spaces and work systems have to be designed in such a way that work as such becomes play and their sense of winning drives organizational performance. Employer Branding does not need to be pursued as a mission rather it should be reflected in the processes that are in operation at work. Strong organizational citizenship has to be built through effective policies and practices that takes care of employee attrition. Work places have to be converted into Happy Work Places through visioning and charting out implementable strategies.

It was in June 2016 that one of the great futurologist Alvin Toffler left for heavenly abode after spending 87 years on this earth.  Author of many best selling titles like Future Shock, The Third Wave, Power Shift etc which were focused on how the world is going to change and how organizations shall have to respond in order to meet the challenge of change.  He said -  
The illiterates of the twenty first century would not be those who have never been to schools, they are going to be those who have stopped learning, re-learning and un-learning.  
So apt were his words. We can not live with the skill/knowledge base of yester times in order to stay alive and relevant in the future. We need to develop an attitude of learning and keep ungrading ourselves as we keep growing. Toffler voiced the end of permanence and existence of temporariness, emergence of technology, dominating role of internet etc.  We are witnessing the future as seen by Toffler some forty years back. 

Organizational gearing up has to be reflected through their game-plan called strategy towards dealing with the future of change, uncertainty, and complexity by developing agile systems. C-suite discussions have to dominate on dealing with the employees more than addressing customers through innovative products. The key performance indicators have to be redesigned as per organizational needs and individual's aspirations. Employees would have to put forth efforts and excel in their endeavors so that they deserve a seat at the table.

We can not use an old map to find a new place as argued by Gary Hamel. Fayol's management principles need relooking in the 21st century, Weber's bureaucracy needs white wash, tall structures have to get flattened, and work schedules have to be made more flexible.  Elton Mayo would keep haunting us to believe that 'work is a group activity'. Statistics or data analytics shall keep lying to us as ever before. Thomas Watson, revered chairman of IBM in 1943 said 'I think there is a world market for may be five computers'. We need not deliberate much on this past, for much to the surprise of the future. The future in a way belong to Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, LinkeIn, Microsoft, Amazon, Flipkart, and their alike. Interesting would be to see for how long.    

Only time shall be able to tell, who would be David and who would be Goliath. Yes future is present, present here.

[This write up is inspired by the discussion taken place during the first day of 21st Annual Business Convention (23-24 Sept 2016) organized by the department of commerce, delhi school of economics, university of delhi organized around the theme - Transcend: The Future is Here. I acknowledge each one who contributed to this piece through their participation]  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

SMALL IS STILL BEAUTIFUL

Government and industry face a dire challenge of responding to the expectations of the citizens. Government responds through public policy and industry through products and services. In independent India our economic policies were driven with a unique model of mixed economy whereby addressing industry and society. Welfare of the people was the primary concern and an intention of following Gandhi’s principles was initially visible. Gandhi who believed in small scale industries and village oriented economic policies had strong view on self-sufficiency concept which questioned western model of economic development. Nehru was all for socialistic pattern of society hiding away his thinking on capitalism. Nehru’s contribution is acknowledged in creating the temples of modern India. Or to say it laid the foundation of India’s economic development.

Our grandparents always emphasized on the moral learnt through the story of Rabbit and the Tortoise – slow and steady, wins the race. It became part of our growing and our faith got built in such a way that until something was not sustainable, we avoid pursuing that. Starting small and slowly becoming big was the order for the industries to follow and the role of the state was to regulate, control and facilitate such entrepreneurs. 

Producing what is required by the people in the vicinity devoid of the concern of exclusive production for export guided the industry in India for more than four decades of development that we witnessed till before signing WTO and becoming a key player in the wake of globalization. The era of protectionism and license raj slowly started losing its hold. Slowly we initiated a movement from welfare thinking to materialism and capitalism which drove the values of Gandhian economics to fade off. Western models of economic development became our role models and willingly or unwillingly we got arrested in a phenomena leading towards consumerism. 

As an antidote to the belief of Bigger is Better, more than forty years back EF Schumacher responded through a book entitled ‘Small is Beautiful – a study of economics as if people mattered’. It raised some crucial issues and questioned the premise of producing more and measuring development through Gross National Product. He warned - The substance of man cannot be measured by Gross National Product.­ The very same year when this book got published, then King of Bhutan voiced out in the UN session – Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product. These voices were in sheer minority and found deaf ear by the promoters of capitalism and consumers of wealth. 

What have we done and where have we reached? We have moved from sellers’ market to buyers’ market. We have graduated from protectionism to freedom to more choices. Ironically it has also resulted in consolidations rather than distribution. Concentration of wealth devoid of distributive justice has broadened the gap between rich and the poor. 

Mass production as practiced by our neighbor China has redefined the economies of scale which has influenced Make in India movement in India. Around two years of its operation, the government has started reviewing their policy. It is reported that there has been over $1 billion inflow of capital through FDI in food processing sector alone. Yet it is to be seen in the coming year how it affects employment opportunities here. 

Yes Government and Industry have to respond to the call of the customer. Survival of the fittest as propounded by Charles Darwin is rephrased as survival of the fastest and apart from economies of scale, economies of speed is also gaining prominence in state policies and in product and service designing. The question is whether these paradigms shall be able to respond to the needs of the masses. 

Small can still be viewed as beautiful if instead of focusing on big enterprises we start to patronize small and medium enterprises. It is heartening to note that the state has already put in place some policy framework to encourage entrepreneurship through Startup initiative. The results are awaited and in all possibility should be positive. If that be so, we could enjoy the fruits of small enterprises and certainly it shall help us bridge the gap between rich and the poor with more convincing statistics and arguments.

[The author is Professor at Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. He can be reached at vkshro@gmail.com]

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Leadership and Sports

Organizations have to chart out strategies in order to respond to competitive forces. Strategy is nothing but a game-plan. The intention is to put forth full potential and come out with flying colors and to win the game following the system, rules and procedures of the game. Competition is a prerequisite for strategy and in the VUCA times it has become further challenging to compete. The belief that competition is with the external forces drives the organization to target only external parties or rivals. Surprisingly organizations have to learn to manage the competition from within and with the situation with more rigor and responsibility. And that is where leadership becomes key.

The whole science of game theory provide a guide to a leader to follow the principles of sports in order to make effective decision. The whole premise of team-building is built on the principles of work satisfaction. One enjoys doing what one does. It allows one to put across full strength to achieve greater targets and as one keeps achieving, one keeps putting more difficult targets and more efforts to achieve them. The strategic intent enthuses the sense of achievement to stretch the limits and attain better results. This is competition from within.

It is for around a century that we have learnt that work is a group activity as in sports. Even when one participates in individual event, one has to follow the basic principles of group dynamics.

A successful sport person always compares the present performance with the earlier one and studies the trend as to whether there is improvement or not. And at times to deal with the limiting factors or the situation. As time changes situation changes and one has to learn how to deal with the situation successfully.

The leader has to steer the team and the individual team members to understand their potential and to keep driving them to put efforts to realize that potential in the larger interest of the organization. A leader is a coach and a mentor providing direction and hand-holding to the team members and followers.

There are five important lessons leaders can learn from sports –

1. Trust – one needs to trust the team members and there has to be a mutual respect for each other in the team so that their focus is not diverted.

2. Participation – the sense of initiative and whole-faculty participation has to be encouraged as one does in any sport.

3. Adaptability – the ability to adapt to different circumstances and deal with situation successfully. It also adds to the point that one should not force one’s view and should try to understand other person’s perspective as well.

4. Togetherness – as mentioned earlier, work is believed to be a group activity so is sport. One needs to understand that the feel of interdependence should keep one grounded and one’s achievement should not lead towards creation of any arrogance which leaves one in isolation.

5. Sense of achievement – All the eyes have to focus on the target and the members have to display their valor towards achievement of the target. All the guns have to fire together to kill the enemy.

It is a general belief that if one is successful sports person one would have better leadership skills and would suit organizations aspiring to hire people for leadership positions. Interestingly, seventeen years back Marian Extejt and Jonathan Smith studied the relationship between organized sports team participation and leadership skills and found no relationship. Their work questioned generally accepted and established belief that organizations should hire team players or sports persons as they would command better leadership quality. However one has to look at cognitive and behavioural faculties of sport persons in order to have job-fit, organization-fit or position-fit.

We may need to revalidate their research in the present times and I have reasons to believe that we might get different results. Though leadership might reside in genes, it is the culture of sportsmanship which would unleash their potential and sharpen their talent to deal with the situation successfully and to lead efficiently. They would prove a greater asset for any organization and would certainly draw and implement strategies effectively. Strategy is nothing but a game-plan and a leader has to put forth efforts to ultimately win in the wrestling ring called the market.

[The author is Professor of HR at Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. He can be reached at vkshro@gmail.com]

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Millennial Age - My Personal encounter

‘He is the most uncoolest guy I have ever seen. I wish he was she… he should have been a girl… he would have had more following.’

One of the girl told her friend when they were travelling towards Bangalore Airport in the public bus.

‘And she you know, she has lot of attitude, she shows of all, many times she brags and she knows she is doing wrong, she is hurting me, she still never says sorry. She has lot of ego. You know last time she told me she got KPMG job because of me, I felt good, I felt really nice, she is a good girl, but you know, kind of attitude she shows, I don’t like.’

The other girl who was listening to her was speaking in a very low voice. It was just a whisper, politely punctuated prose. The voice of her fingers on BBM keyboard were louder than her verbal cord. I couldn’t make out much what she spoke. I wished I had the sixth sense and skill of making it out from the keyboard punching what really she was typing. Anyways by now the other girl started again talking of her friends, school and college and kept giving her opinion on almost each dimension.

‘Oh She, she was so nice in studies, so serious yet could not get good placement. And he, you know once he told me that in friendship one has to be mutually active both intellectually and sexually not necessarily emotionally and I reacted to him’.

‘No all three are important for good friendship, intellectually, emotionally and sexually being active.’

‘You know he is very demanding. I came for him to this airport twice, just to see him off and receive him, I really like his company, at times it is good you know to have a demanding friend, I enjoy this. And you know, it has made me demanding as well.’

Again the other one whispered and told –

‘you know she is also following our bus, just now, she BBMed me, she is in white taxi’.

‘okay, that’s good’, the first one replied and continued.

‘Once we reach the airport I will tell her, see, we reached first, you know it shall give me a high’.

Just then, her mobile rang, and she started responding in pure hindi. In the whole conversation before she had not uttered a single word of hindi, and it was difficult for me to believe that she could speak such nice hindi. She was responding to call of her grandmother. The first salutation she used was ‘jai Jai shri dadi’, I followed the conversation of this young girl with her grandmother.

‘dadi, aap kaisi hain, dadi Kishore chacha ko kehna ki jo foto unhone pichli bar bheja tha usko duwara bhej deyn ya video bana kar mujhey mobile par bhej deyn, mujhe Thakur ji ki photo chahiye, Kishore chacha ko ya anshul ko keh dena, apni tabiyat ka dhyan rakhna, mujhe kal se aai bee em (IBM) me internship join karni hai, aai bee em ek computer company hai, O dadi Jaana padega, ngo me bhi jana hai – sab kar lungi, arey aapko pata nahin hai, main kitni smart ho gayi hoon, arey koi ulta palta nahin hoga, jai jai shri, haan haan theek hai, abhi aap khayal rakhna, davai samay par khana, theek hai, jai jai shree’.

(how are you, grand mom, tell Kishore uncle to send those pictures again, or else let me make a video and send it to me on my mobile, I need picture of ThakurJi, tell Kishore Uncle or Anshul, take care of your health, I have got internship in IBM, I would join tomorrow, IBM is a computer company, I have to go to that NGO also, don’t you worry I shall do all that , you don’t know how smart I have become, don’t worry, nothing wrong would happen, jai jai shri, OK, take care, take your medicine on time OK, jai jai shri)

As she stopped talking the bus was nearing Airport.

‘Mantri’, I read on a hoarding at the center of the road.

This girl started explaining to her friend in English about her mobile conversation that she had just a while back with her grandmother.

‘you know… she is so caring… she was missing me that’s why called me… you know these days for one week we do Thakur ji ki puja in our house… everybody is there and she is missing me… she was asking me not to go to NGO… she was saying… you know ulta pulta,’

Her friend said ‘I understand, something opposite opposite no’.

I heard the sound of their smile (wished I had an eye to see that smile) and could not control my own smile, though very low. I made sure they do not notice it. I was in the front row and they were just on the seat behind me.

She said, ‘ulta pulta means silly, she was saying don’t do any silly thing. See she is so concerned about me. I really love her.’

This was about her grandmother. I controlled myself.

Otherwise I was just about to say ‘almost all of us love our grandparents, that’s our DNA, that’s when they really become our friends, they start understanding us better’.

I kept listening to them, not really them, just one of them, the other one was hardly speaking and that too hardly she was audible. Only her fingers on the keypad of her mobile were giving me a feel of some nice dribbling sound.

I was busy reading the newspaper, Times of India and the interview of Phaneesh Murthy, an IIMA alumnus, erstwhile irate senior executive of Infosys (had sexual harassment charge in US and the company had to pay huge compensation to the complainant in order to have out-of-court settlement) and former CEO of iGate. His interview in the newspaper gave me some little insight into his family. For a moment I thought - how embarrassing it might have been for him to face the world and his own family. But this feel lasted just few nano seconds. Old habits die hard. He seems to be leading a comfortable life and mentoring his children from far and from within.

We were almost reaching the Airport.

I see Virat Kohli in BSF uniform on a hoarding on our left just before reaching Bangalore International Airport. He is youth icon of India and in his own way represents the millennials.

These two young girls, one hindi speaking and another one may be somewhere from southern India, who does not follow hindi, in their early 20s, staying as paying guests in Bangalore in a way represent Indian women mindset, their value system, their sense of adaptability, concern for friends and their attachment to their family members. I loved their rootedness and appreciate their sense of responsibility and commitment for their job, family, society and for self as well. They have just come to airport to meet one of their common friends and to see her off and to share their concern together, spending some time together on this Sunday.

These two girls were sitting in the bus, when I boarded it from Sivaram Circle. I overheard one of them asking the conductor, ‘at what time shall we reach Airport’.

The Driver responded, ‘before 8 30 am’.

And now it is just 8 20 am and we off board the bus. I take a trolley and watch these two girls waving to their friend, who is getting down from a Meru taxi some forty yards away.

There was no conversation between us. Yet it seems as if I knew them. I feel, I am going to miss their conversation while I board the flight. We were not really even platform friends.

I watch them waving still as I enter the Airport lobby. I collect my Photo ID and ticket from the uniformed personnel at the gate. The paper ticket reads my destination as Guwahati. But I have enjoyed my bus journey much more than what I expect of my journey towards Guwahati.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On Ethical Leadership

Lexical semantics of ‘Ethical Leadership’ drives me to believe that the very activity of leading should be ethical. Ethics are generally accepted moral principles to be followed by individual/s. Leadership as such is a group activity but ethics have to be followed by individuals. The broader message that I get from these two words is that the leaders should follow moral principles and thereby expound their discourses through ethical practices. So ethics have an important role to play in the behavior of a leader and in the whole process of leadership. We need to look beyond just lexical semantics and explore as to the role of ethics in leadership.

Success or failure of an organization depend on the person who leads it. It is a general belief that an organization has three types of people working for it - 10% belong to the category of hard working group (highly committed employees) and 10% belong to hardly working group (laid-back employees) and remaining 80% follow the leader (Convertibles). These 80% employees move like a pendulum with the leader. And they make all the difference. So if the leader belongs to the first 10% group, the organization excels and if s/he belongs to the other 10%, the organization fails. 

It is the followers who make the leader. The choice between right and wrong, between moral and immoral, between legal and illegal leads to ethical or unethical decisions. The call has to come from the leader and that is where s/he becomes highly vulnerable. The most important aspect of ethical leadership is having honest intention. Surprisingly intentions cannot be just observed or gauged. This is the reason why one needs to work on developing strong credibility so that the intentions can at least be perceived and predicted by others. 

Credibility cannot be established in a day, hence the leader has to prove worth and pose with strong performance before the people to be led and the management. Intentions get reflected through general behavior during the course of earning credibility. This is loosely known as self-branding. 

Leaders are not made in a day. Ill intentions, dishonest behavior, immoral activities cannot leave a person in leading position for long. We have not forgotten Phaneesh Murthy of Infosys - bad habits die hard. Who does not know Ramalinga Raju of Satyam - greed is the opium that kills slowly. Subhinder Singh Prem of Reebok India might have got a place in Future group, but his acts as reported, have tarnished his image forever - one cannot carry heavier baggage than oneself. Vijay Mallya might have ruled like a king and must have had strong acceptance but his ill-intentioned acts have driven him out of the country. Though in politics it is believed that people memory is short but in the corporate world, one can never isolate oneself from his/her past. 

We also have exemplary business leaders like GD Birla, Jamnalal Bajaj, Jamsetji Tata, JRD Tata, Narayanmurthy and alike who have proven record of their ethical behavior. So a successful leader is one, who has followership on the basis of his ethical behavior and well perceived honest intentions. A sense of humility as advocated by Jim Collins would certainly add flavor to one’s acceptance and in enriching follower base.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

WHY AND WHY NOT OF HIERARCHY-LESS STRUCTURE

Traditional management practices believed in bureaucratic structure and strong hierarchies. The worker followed the instructions and orders and the owner through managers got things done in the interest of the organization. Management scientists borrowed strategy from army establishment like many other practices. Strategies were required to win over the enemy. For organizations competition, both from beyond and within was the greatest enemy. The hierarchal system was more dominated on the thinking of subordination and bossism. Organizations followed them and it resulted in improving effectiveness and great returns. Management started to believe in a preaching that - tighter the structure better the return. This was the time when workers were not that skilled and a culture of their exploitation was in practice. It was believed that the organizations are obliging the employees to have given them job. Employees were expected to perform as they agreed for a given monetary consideration. 

This could not last long as it was not sustainable. Behavior scientists started approaching work from another dimension which was human concern and for a sizeable part of the twentieth century dominated this thinking whereby though hierarchies were drawn and structures were made keeping in mind the role of individuals and job requirement, however flow of information and feedback got imbibed in the structure in such a way that employees started feeling empowered as their voices were heard, they were consulted in decision making and they felt a sense of involvement in the process of the strategies drawn in the boardrooms. 

Later part of twentieth century and the beginning of twenty first century marked team like structure where reporting became more informal and hierarchies got broken. Tall organizations started shifting towards flat structures. The process of reengineering and restructuring caught the eye of management strategists and top level decision makers. Western management thinkers started believing in William Ouchi’s Theory Z. Integration started happening on structures and innovative ways to get work done were evolved. 

A new model was required as employees became more aware, talent started becoming scarce, and retaining that talent became a challenge for the employer. This is when Hierarchy-less or flat structure was proposed and experimented. 

Hierarchy less structure results in cohesive work environment, cordial relationship and reduces delays in the process of decision making. In the fast changing business environment it is really a challenge to retain the best talent and effective employees wish to get involved in the decision making. They want to own up responsibilities and take risk. Organizations have to have such facilitating structure which allows its employees to spread their wings and dream big for the organization. This is where Hierarchy-less structure helps. 

There is a caution. It is not that hierarchies should be broken at all levels. Reporting channels have to be reduced and accountabilities have to be established at different levels in order to streamline effective functioning. When employees belong to Theory Y assumption, hierarchies would matter least. Further big manufacturing firms, heavy engineering firms, government departments etc may have to wait for long to get their hierarchies reduced or broken much unlike their counterparts working in services sector. 

Young boys and girls, if you aspire to work for a hierarchy less organization, you would have to make a choice depending on the sector you chose to work. It is not too bad to start with hierarchal organization, learn things and put forth effort to initiate conversion of tall into flat structure.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

ON WORKPLACE SPIRITUALITY

We grew in an environment which was surrounded by people who kept preaching us all through that ‘work is worship’ and somewhere in our inner self it got imbibed that we live to work and there is no escape from work.  The meaning of work changed according to time, for a child it was to go to school, learn and study and perform best in the examinations.  After studies it was to get a job and work as per the nature and requirements.  So the school and the workplaces were believed to be temples.  Temples where we worshiped our work, temples where we were allowed to meditate, temples where we were groomed and mentored by experienced and learned people, temples which helped us build ourselves, temples where we could find our call, temples where we learnt and discovered the purpose of our life.  These were places where we met different types of people and we learnt to deal with them to their and our satisfaction.  We debated, argued and quarreled on some petty issues as well as on some soul searching topics.  We learnt to perform our dharma, as desired by society, as instructed by teachers and bosses, as allowed by our conscience and as designed by the destiny.

It has been a great learning experience. Learning that has enthused a sense of ownership as well as of responsibility to respond to the call through honest and transparent intention.  The voluminous weight that we carried in our school bags, forth and back, with complete (or incomplete at times) homework, volumes of books from the rich library that we referred, quoted and cited have left us without their physical presence (sthool) and the experiences, knowledge and wisdom (sookshm) has occupied space in our minds to take wise decisions in the interest of all beings, in the interest of the well-being of all.  The interests for the benefit of all in the long term, may be at times to compromise on the short term gains.  Wisdom has to direct and lead the process of decision making without bias and/or malice.

An individual sets goal and starts or joins an organization to help him/her achieve that goal.  Matching of organizational goal and individual goal does a magic and one forgets where work ends and life begins.  Work becomes worship in the real sense of the term.  It reminds me of LP Jacks who in 1932 wrote this wonderful piece:
‘A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both. Enough for him that he does it well.’
As organizations or our workplaces grow, we grow as well.  We do not just age, we grow.  We start seeking space in organizations to grow through our commitment, loyalty and performance. Slowly expectations start taking backseat and trust, belief and loyalty take lead.  Slowly monetarily gains become secondary and work satisfaction become primary. Slowly it starts hurting when someone from beyond the organization talks ill of our organization.  Slowly focus from maximizing profit through selling more gets shifted to serving better value to all stakeholders.  Slowly concern for organizational goal becomes primary and for individual goal secondary and further organizational and individual goal converge at one point.  Tangibility (sthool) gets replaced by intangibility (sookshm). Individuals become organization and organization transcends into an eternal entity.  

For me workplace spirituality begins with this conception.

[The author is Professor of HR at Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. He can be reached at vkshro@gmail.com]

Monday, May 16, 2016

On Entrepreneurial Style of Leadership

Academia has always been differentiating a leader from a manager. And it is believed that a manager can transform himself/herself into a successful leader by learning the art of leadership and by developing those traits that a leader possesses. All business students and practicing managers have to deal with this dilemma often and to come to terms that ultimately if one has to manage affairs of business successfully and produce expected results, one has to have a perspective of a leader. This is something which needs further elaboration for the cause of clarity and for the purpose of practice.

The whole idea of leadership stems from the sense of followership. No follower, no leader. So it is the followers who make a leader. Honest intent for the cause, art of articulating the vision, winning attitude, guts to take risk and providing rock solid support to the followers are some such virtues which help one to put forth efforts to attain organizational goal. The vision has to be for long-term sustainability and attitude has to be positive. As they say – a strong and positive attitude creates more miracles than any other thing, because life is 10% how you make it, and 90% how you take it.

Leadership literature is all full of writings on establishing strong relationship between an entrepreneur and a leader. In real sense of the term every entrepreneur is a leader. Interestingly a successful entrepreneur may not necessarily be a good manager. And that is the reason managers are hired to look after day to day affairs. Umpteen examples have been witnessed where such managers transform themselves into successful leaders. This is one of the important challenges before HR teams of different organizations to allow such transformations to happen smoothly and to provide effective mentoring for their upward movement. Leaders have to lead such teams and patronize followers.

Leaders’ interest lie in positive business performance, followers’ interest lie in fair treatment and compensation, cordial work environment, sense of satisfaction and achievement, involvement and engagement. The marriage of these two interests shall invariably result in long term sustainability of such organization.

I have always believed that a leader cannot be called a leader until he or she is a risk taker and possesses strong sense of creativity. These two are basic requisites for an entrepreneur too. Hence a leader always has to behave like an entrepreneur. It is expected from a leader that he/she takes risk and thinks innovatively. His/her thinking faculty has to proactively conceive an idea, design product or service around that idea and deliver it to the targeted customer. In this journey, fellow travelers would start believing in him/her and would become followers.

The real test of a leader is his/her capacity to command respect beyond position and that is how an entrepreneur gets transformed into a successful leader. Jack Welch, Ratan Tata, Sam Walton, Kishore Biyani, Anand Mahindra and all others of their tribe are some such leaders who have successfully taken risk, capitalized on opportunity and mentored innovation.

[The author is Professor of HR at Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. He can be reached at vkshro@gmail.com]

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also available at PeoplePal - a leadership fortnightly magazine May 14, 2016 Issue cover.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

ALERT that doesn’t make one a leader

A lot has been written on what makes one a great leader. I approach leadership from another angle. What does not make one a leader? It is an ALERT to be precise.

A for Aloofness (as against friendly),

L for Lawlessness or Lack of control (as against Systematic),

E for Enigmatic (as against Clarity of purpose),

R for Repetitive (as against Original or Innovative) and

T for Timid (as against Confident).

Leaders cannot afford to stay aloof from the people and purpose as they are expected to lead through their involvement, guidance and support at all levels. They need to portray friendly behavior in order to lead the team. Abiding law of the land is important as nobody and nothing is beyond law. Lawlessness does not just mean abiding by law, it also reflects on orderly structure and flow of things and activities as it drives measurable outflows. Absence of systematic planning and implementation takes away much of what a leader is expected in an organization which aspires for being effective.

It is found that one important reason of failing organizations is enigmatic behavior of their leader. Honest intentions and clarity of purpose which is easily communicable to the followers makes one a great leader. It allows the workforce to pull up their socks for the common goal they want to achieve.

Monotony kills creativity and adds lethargy in approach. It tends to develop a sense of complacency. A leader does not need to be repetitive in his approach rather he needs to use his creative mind to keep on developing new ways through experimentations and to encourage innovation. Originality is bliss for a leader. It provides fresh energy to organizational growth.

Wonder as to how a timid person can become great leader. Timidity is the worst enemy of leadership. A leader has to be confident and dependable. This is the least his followers expect. Their fairness depend on leader’s confidence in them.

The trade and tricks of leadership can easily be taught but the prime condition for joining that school is that one needs to be a person of integrity and should love their workforce for what they are.

[The author is Professor of HR at Department of Commerce, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, Delhi. He can be reached at vkshro@gmail.com]

PUBLISHED IN PEOPLEPAL.IN April 23 issue. [http://peoplepal.in/assets/pdf/PeoplePal-Issue2.pdf]

Monday, March 14, 2016

CSR: the way you look at it

Raju burst out, ‘This rock is a sign from Lord Ganesha, I want to worship it.’
Chetan raised his voice even louder and said, ‘No no, this rock is going to be used for my next sculpture.’
The merchant shouted, ‘I have invited all my friends to rest on it! It is ours!’
Ajit was giving order to remove the stone to his soldiers.
Bholu now grinned and said, ‘But this rock has been there for years and years! Earlier half of it was submerged in the mud.  Now with the rains the mud has got washed off, and you are seeing more of it.  The washermen of Chitpur have been using this rock to do our washing for many, many years! There’s nothing miraculous about it.  Now off with all of you, I have work to do.’
So saying Bholu emptied his bundle of clothes and set to work.  What could the others do? They had to go away grumbling quietly to themselves.
This is the last part of the story titled ‘the way you look at it’, from the book Grandma’s bag of stories, penned by Sudha Murty, the chairperson of Infosys Foundation.  The perspectives of Raju, Chetan, the merchant, Ajit and Bholu are depending on their own thinking for the Big Black Rock which was submerged earlier and now fully visible after the rain.  I tend to feel that this BBR is called CSR and people have their own perspective to look at it.

Recently, Sudha Murty applauded the initiative of the government which has made spending for CSR activities compulsory for corporate houses falling in different brackets of profit earning.  On the other side, few weeks back Ratan N Tata, the chairperson of Sir Ratan Tata Trust had commented that this mandatory provision seems like a tax.  Further he went on to say that the sense of philanthropy has to come from within and does not need to be imposed. 

Both of them are right if we try to look at their intention.  The corporates that they belong have displayed strong sense of corporate citizenship when it comes to sharing the responsibilities of the state for social development is concerned.  Historically, Tatas are known for their philanthropy for the cause of education, health, and well-being of humanity. It is in their DNA to serve society and to create institutions of greater importance for general well-being of people.  Infosys though relatively a new corporate house, has also proved that profit earning and profit sharing has to go together and establishment of equitable society is the key to transform India into the country of Mahatma Gandhi’s dream.

One of the key inspiration for Sudha Murty to have conceived the idea of Infosys Foundation lies in her learning from working with TELCO (a TATA group company now Tata Motors).  The primary area identified by the foundation is education and provision of healthy food for children in schools.  With the mandatory provision (as to CSR expenditure) in place their allocation has jumped and it has given lot of space for her to expand the activities of the foundation across regions in the country and across other domains as well like provision of safe drinking water. 

If one looks at the list of companies that have disclosed their first quarter results, only 9 out of 72 companies (having profit before tax over Rs 1,000 crore) have spent more than 2% on CSR [BW 35(5), 76].  This might endorse Ratan Tata’s belief that 2% mandatory clause is like a tax as not many corporates have looked into it from within.  In the quarters to follow, remaining firms would have to put their energies to prioritize their spend so that they do not need to disclose the reasons of their failure to have complied with the provisions of law.

It is known that Tata group has strong commitment for the cause of developing general well-being through taking up many initiatives in the area of social development.  To name few it is involved in healthcare services, drinking water, environment protection, tribal development, women health and education, sports, cultural activities, awareness for the effects of drugs, alcohol and HIV/AIDS etc.  It is all done through allocating and spending more than 3 to 4 times of what mandatory clause requires. Yes it may seem really true for the firms that do not think of CSR as a concerned priority and for them 2% clause would seem like a tax.

Both whether it is Murty or Tata, have shown through their deeds that spending for CSR may not be considered as a strategy as preached by researchers and visualized by many corporate houses.  Murty does think that it is part of corporate branding and neither did Ratan Tata believe that Tata as a brand has ever pursued CSR spending to boost their brand.  It shall lose its sheen if it is viewed and practiced as corporate strategy. May be this is one of the reason why some business houses are of the view that CSR spending should be exempted from Income Tax under section 37 of the Act. 

Yes sense of sharing has to come from within.  There is no doubt about the fact that the sense of giving has to be borne out of one’s inner concern and feel about others so far as individuals are concerned.  As an organization and a larger group, if it has to sustain as corporate philosophy, it has to be made part of corporate culture through visioning exercise of enterprise promoters. 

Business and society have coexisted on the premise of interdependence.  More than within and beyond debate one has to look at the contribution of business houses towards empowering societies and thereby improving their well-being through the principle of sharing and this noble sense shall sustain good businesses with good intentions. 

So it all depends as to how one looks at that Big Black Rock or CSR, one may call it the way one likes.  What is there in the name but yes what is important is the honest intention to help build societies and nations.

(The author is a Professor at Delhi University and can be reached at vkshro@gmail.com)

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[published in CSR Vision, 2016, Vol 4, Issue 11, (March), p 48-49]

Friday, February 26, 2016

Survival of Malls in India

It was some five years back when I visited a Mall in Gurgaon with some friends and afterwards, thought of sharing my take on their present and future.  It was put on my blog and my friends, who read it, were skeptical as to whether what I was preempting was really something that was reality of the future.

In this backdrop in all these years whenever I visited a Mall, whether in NCR, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Guwahati, Lucknow or any other small city my belief got confirmed.  Of late I kept reading stories of empty malls and some of them closing down, it started giving me a feel that business opportunities when not defended by viable research and when it is just following herd behavior, it is bound to result in what is happening in many of the cases.  And that is the challenge before entrepreneurs of all sizes and from all geographies, to respond and work on.

One of the issue raised in my earlier post on sustainability of malls was that many of them were involved in some kind of practices through which the transactions get recorded resulting in conversion of unaccounted cash and bringing it to the books of accounts.  This helps some of the owners of the outlets to carry on with such shops without much of risk on sales.  I am not too sure about the size of such shops in the malls but looking at the operational cost involved and the cost of bills to be borne by them, it gives me a signal that there must be some truth in this.

It is also reported that in order to escape from scorching heat, many enter a mall and spend time in air-conditioned environment.  The conversion of visitor into customer is yet another challenge for the shop owners in the malls.  Just around ten percent of the malls operating in and around Delhi are said to be successful so far as their financials are concerned.  Though Delhi is considered the best option for future growth potential for this sector and builders and marketers are eyeing for this geography, yet my skepticism sees better scope in smaller cities rather than metropolitan cities.  Bangalore, Kolkata and Mumbai have far better proportion of successful malls than Delhi but still Delhi is able to catch attention of investors as there are multiple options for the use of infrastructure put forth for shopping malls.

There are many factors that are important for Indian market environment which is visibly fast changing but it is going to take more time to get transformed into an environment where our culture gets blended with that of geographies where small shops and down-town market culture has faded away.

The factors, which traditionally determine success of a mall, could be its layout design, location, availability of brands, amenities provided, proximity with residential blocks etc.  And most of the realtors keep these in mind.  It does help them position themselves better depending on their approach and priority.  This is conventional route followed by most of them.  

The future of malls would lie in the fact that how they are able to reduce their size and cater to the needs of the masses rather than classes through adding small entrepreneurs into their portfolio by providing them an opportunity to showcase their products and services.  It would result in driving more population towards visiting the malls and possibly may allow them to explore other products available within the premises.  This complementary possibility would certainly help them grow better.  Specialty malls and theme malls are some options that are already in place but they have to be further explored and experimented in different geographical segments.  The size of the mall is also an issue to be tackled strategically as the maintenance of large size malls involves large operational expense, which has to be apportioned through corresponding increase in sale.  And as such that is a challenge.  

For metropolitan cities, specialty malls could be a better choice like exclusive malls for garments, or for different types of gadgets, or food only malls with provision of grocery outlets.  These malls should provide enough scope for small entrepreneurs to come forward and may be some kind of differential pricing for there space could be followed.  

In case of smaller cities multi brand formats which primarily focus on organizing highly unorganized retail sector in India, would be good choice. It would help in systematizing the retail sector as well as facilitate market operations for the benefits of customers and users.

The mall owners have to think differently and have to focus more on the small entrepreneurs who are bringing in innovative products and are willing to take risk.  They need a better platform to launch their products and malls could provide them that opportunity.  The proliferation of multi-national branded products and their availability through malls and exclusive outlets in many ways hinder the growth of small business segment in India. Hence initiatives have to be taken at government as well as private level to develop SME malls at different places to encourage small and medium size entrepreneurs to portray their products and services and to develop linkage with effective market. 

This place should provide them an opportunity to network with their clients and study the market for redesigning or introducing innovative products.  This has become more important in the wake of the initiative of the government through launching make in India campaign.  SME malls could be an opportune outlet for market exploration and product launches.

The future for malls is not bleak if its format is changed and instead of its concentration it is expanded in the length and breadth of the country.


[published in SME World July 2015 Issue]

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Startup India Action Plan: Provisions and Prospects

In the month of January, the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi launched Startup India Action Plan to encourage entrepreneurship and to facilitate startups. This Action Plan consists of detailed scheme of things and addresses the issues relating to obstacles which generally entrepreneurs have been facing. The bureaucratic hassles, problems in raising finances, and availability of networks to reach out to the customers have affected the conversion of idea into reality for many new starters. The fight between big and small, old and new has also been one of the deterrent to start a new venture. 

Ever since the NDA Government took the office they have been pushing the industry and inviting foreign investments to boost economic growth. It has also created a positive market perception and corporates have welcomed the initiatives, though the hassles like passing of GST Bill by the parliament has posed political challenge and discouraged industry as a whole. It was around six months back when from the rampant of the red fort, the prime minister called upon youth to start up and stand up for starting new ventures and instead of being an employee (job seeker) to become employers (job provider). 

In that direction, the Action Plan focuses on simplification of procedures in starting new ventures and provision of funding and industry-academia collaborations through various schemes and incentives. As mentioned in the document – Startup India is a flagship initiative of the Government of India, intended to build a strong eco-system for nurturing innovation and Startups in the country that will drive sustainable economic growth and generate large scale employment opportunities. The Government through this initiative aims to empower Startups to grow through innovation and design. The initiative attempts to cover almost all sectors of economy spread in all parts of the country, rural or urban areas, big or small cities. 

Technology is a big differentiator in increasing the performance and efficiency in modern day enterprises and encouraging youth to effectively use it for convenience, economy and speed. It is proposed that a Startup mobile app shall be launched on 1st April 2016, which shall smoothen the processes of registration and compliance. The App shall have backend integration with the ministry of corporate affairs and registrar of firms for tracking applications, downloading digitized registration certificate, and filing compliances (and checking clearances, approvals or/and registrations). This app could also be used as a platform to discuss and disseminate information, suggestions and ideas and to apply for different schemes under startup initiative. It shall speedup registration process and interactions between all stakeholders through web-based interface.

Startup mobile app shall help in self certifying the compliance of labor and environment laws which removes the provision of inspection and verification for such startups for 3 years of their inception. However in case of any credible and verifiable complaint regarding violation of any of the labor laws, they may be inspected. These labor laws are identified as – The Building and Other Constructions Workers’ (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Service) Act, 1996; The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Service) Act, 1979; The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972; The Contract Labor (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970; The Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952; and The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948. Only random checks are to be done if startups fall under the Central Pollution Control Board certified ‘white category’ so far as environment laws are concerned which are identified as The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Cess (Amendment) Act, 2003; and The Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. 

Ease of doing business has been felt and stated as one of the major concerns of industry and entrepreneurs both from within the country or coming from other parts of the globe. The Action Plan proposes the establishment of Startup India Hub to create an enabling environment through collaborative approach by following hub and spoke model. It is proposed that the collaboration shall be between central and state governments, Indian and foreign venture capitalists, angel networks, banks and financial institutions, incubators, legal partners, consultants, universities and research and development institutions. All these agencies shall collaborate in mentoring startups through various programs and also encourage private organizations which are aspiring to foster innovation. The hub shall facilitate the process of financing, feasibility testing, and management evaluations apart from providing business structure advisory, marketing skills, and technology commercialization. 

Indian business has suffered because of weak protective measures affecting intellectual property rights. Though our corporates are maturing and spreading their wings to other parts of the world, their IPRs have not been protected effectively. There have been instances of infringements and duplicity in many cases. Ignorance and loopholes in the system have marred innovation, ownership registrations and rights. While the launch, the prime ministers asked to combine IP (intellectual property) and YP (youth property). Startup Intellectual Property Protection scheme is proposed to facilitate filing of patents, trademarks and designs. It is proposed that the process of patent application and registration shall be fast tracked through the use of technology and the panel of facilitators. These facilitators be allowed to appear on behalf of Startups at hearings and contesting opposition. The Government has really gone steps further in encouraging startups for their innovations to be patented by agreeing to bear all costs involved of facilitators for any number of patents, designs or trademarks. The startups shall pay only statutory fees and the Government shall provide 80% rebate on filing for patents, helping them to develop their idea into reality during formative years. 

A fund with initial corpus of Rs. 2,500 crore shall be created by the Government to provide funding support to the startups which shall make it Rs 10,000 crore in 4 year time (Rs 2,500 crore every year). It shall be fund of funds and would participate through SEBI registered venture funds and would not directly invest into startups. Its management shall be through a board drawn from industry, academia and successful startups and the LIC shall be a co-investor in this fund. 

We have grown with the success stories of individuals, organizations and nations all across. These stories have enthused a sense in us to make us believe that if we keep putting our efforts towards the cause we are bound to succeed. Many times we also get carried away with the glamor of the prestige successful individuals enjoy. We tend to overestimate the influence of external factors for their success and ignore their beavering journeys. We also forget that the proportion of success is much less than failure. Former president of India, Abdul Kalam said - Don’t read success stories, you will get only message, read failure stories, you will get ideas to get success. It is so apt for the entrepreneurs who take risk and put efforts to initiate their business enterprise or startup (as it is called these days).

A well recorded and referred report prepared by Bloomberg concluded that 80% of the startups don’t see 18 months of life. It suggests that the failure rate is too high so far as new ventures or startups are concerned. Though we do not have absolute data on failure of entrepreneurs or businesses, it is believed that many startups do not survive long and sustain growth. Yet there are good number of them who survive and stand the challenge of time through responding to market forces.

The Action Plan provides ample scope for disruption through innovation and safeguard for failures. It believes in the spirit of experimentation and learning through them rather than the force of fear of failure. Safe exits are proposed if the venture does not reap good fruits. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Bill 2015 has facilitating provisions to voluntary closure of businesses. The Action Plan provides various tax exemptions to the Startups. They would be exempted from income tax for 3 years. Overall the kind of tax exemptions this proposal provides are remarkable and it is viewed by many entrepreneurs as a positive step towards encouraging youth to venture to experiment and to give wings to their dream. 

Some other key initiatives which the Action Plan presents include Atal Innovation Mission with Self-Employment and Talent Utilization program, calling for integration between DST and MHRD with IITs, IIMs, NITs and other research and academic institutions of national importance through 18 Technology Business Incubators, 7 Research Parks at IITs in line with the model developed by IIT Madras, developing Biotechnology sector, organizing Annual Incubator Grand Challenge for identifying 10 incubators who have potential to become world class, Uchhattar Avishkar Yojana with Rs 250 crore per annum for very high quality research amongst IIT students. 

After going through the details of the action plan I have no hesitation in saying that it shall be successful in changing the laid-down attitude of youth who were afraid of the bottlenecks and risk involved in experimenting the idea. I would like to applaud this initiative of the Government and feel that the most important aspect of this plan is to develop an ecosystem where industry, academia and the Government are aligned together to foster the spirit of innovation of entrepreneurship. As Nikesh Arora of Softbank says - 2015 was the year of tremendous funding – and a shakeout. 2016 to be the year of execution for Indian startups, I too feel that 2016 and 2017 would be years of Startups and would expound the dreams of many unsung heros. 

May be we shall have to wait a while when from its present third place in the world of startups, we gradually march towards gaining first position. 

(The author is a Professor at University of Delhi and can be reached at vkshro@gmail.com)