With Independence Day around the corner,strategist Sonia Jaspal takes a look at the corporate lessons history teaches us.

Going back in history, Indian freedom struggle lasted nearly a century. The last 25 years of the struggle was lead by Mahatma Gandhi on the concept of non-violence. India is one of the unique countries which gained freedom without much bloodshed. In this article, we explore Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership and management style, linking it to the current management practices.

Walk the talk

Mahatma Gandhi preached the concept of simple living and high thinking, although he came from an affluent Indian family. He came up with various austere living standards and requested his followers to adopt them. His kept his life open to public scrutiny. People may debate regarding his personal choices but no one would raise questions on his ethics and integrity. Irrespective of the difficulty involved, he always was able to take the high moral ground and never compromised on his personal values.

In the present corporate world, we too respect leaders who are able to walk the talk, demonstrate ethical and principled behavior, and lead by example.

Think out of the box

The strategy and tactics adopted during the Indian independence struggle were unlike any other country’s revolution. Some of the concepts were:

  • Non-violence: A war fought on the basis of principles without any bloodshed.
  • Civil disobedience: Court arrest if the British officials threaten imprisonment for demanding your rights.
  • Non-cooperation: The message given was maintain your jobs with the British Empire, however do not support it regarding its practices against Indian people.

Managements today are advocating ‘out of the box’ thinking and competing strategically. The organisation which implements a unique strategy generally wins the market.

Brand building

Mahatma Gandhi’s personal brand has lasted 60 years after his death without any investment. He created a brand of a simple moral man living life on the principle of Ahimsa (nonviolence). His home spun cotton clothes, wooden shaft, leather slippers, and vegetarian meals – everything embodied his personal brand. His character and communication depicted his core values to the masses. We must acknowledge that fact that very few leaders in history have as strong a brand image as Gandhi.

The corporate world is spending huge sums on advertising to build the corporate brand. We hear Tom Peters and other management gurus talking about building the “Brand You”. The focus now is on developing a personal brand.

Competitor’s size doesn’t matter

The Indian freedom struggle gained ground with the idea of a few committed individuals who wished to bring about a change. They envisaged taking on the might of British Empire which had the resources, funds,weapons and management capability. The Indian leadership team acknowledged the strengths of the British Empire and devised a strategy which minimized those strengths.They built a strategy on the following:

  • Non-violence which required no weapons;
  • Asked masses to contribute for the independence and live frugally, hence survived on minimal resources;
  • Developed local leadership across all regions under Congress banner.

Using a similar strategy, Barrack Obama won the American presidential elections when he had no funds and support. Recently, corporate world had witnessed small IT companies (e.g. hotmail) developing into big names just by pioneering a unique product and leveraging the market properly.

Build dream teams

Indian Congress Party besides Gandhi had a number of other accomplished leaders. Namely, C. Rajagopalachari, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and others. These leaders all had different personalities and ideologies, however worked for a common cause. Gandhi and Nehru complimented each other tremendously and mostly operated as two in a box. Senior leaders acted as mentors for the younger generation. The party had leaders at grassroot level, and people were encouraged to develop leadership traits.

Business world is focusing on building dream teams with leadership at all levels. The Human Resource Departments are focused on concepts of two in a box, alternate leaders, chief mentors and succession planning.

Engage and empower people

Mahatma Gandhi in his speech on the eve of Dandi March said -“Wherever there are local leaders, their orders should be obeyed by the people. Where there are no leaders and only a handful of men have faith in the programme, they may do what they can, if they have enough self-confidence”. He encouraged common man to show leadership and commitment under the overall umbrella of Congress. He united the people by specifying the mission, vision and code of conduct of Congress. The masses were committed to the cause and in all his symbolic protests he involved people participation.

The corporate world’s biggest challenge is of disengaged employees due to actual or perceived lack of empowerment. It is becoming apparent that success or failure of the organisation is increasingly dependent on a healthy organisation culture which encourages employee participation.

Accept and encourage diversity

The British are generally blamed for implementing “divide and rule policy” in India. On the contrary, India already was divided into various regions, religions and castes before the British rule.

Mahatma Gandhi in his struggle for independence attempted to unify the country. He encouraged the princely states to join hands, brought Hindus and Muslims on the same platform and removed caste barriers for joining the freedom moment. He supported gender equality and encouraged women to actively participate in the movement. His wife, Kasturba Gandhi played a pivotal role in getting women’s participation.

With less than 10% women in senior management positions in the corporate world, the mantra today is to bring more women on board. With globalization the concept of accepting and encouraging diversity has taken hold.

Don’t make it personal

In the Quit India speech in 1942, Mahatma Gandhi stated- “Then, there is the question of your attitude towards the British. I have noticed that there is hatred towards the British among the people. The people say they are disgusted with their behavior. The people make no distinction between British imperialism and the British people”. Deal with the issue and not the person; this is the corporate mandate today. Mahatma Gandhi pioneered this thought process. In all his communication and dealings he stood up against British Imperialism. He however had friendly relationships with Britishers and never made a personal attack in his speeches. On the other hand, he continuously advocated decent and humane behavior even towards one’s enemy. His thought process was- address the issue at hand and keep a positive attitude towards a person from the competing camp. In nut shell, there is a lot to learn from the Indian freedom struggle for the corporate world. It had unique dimensions which are now gaining hold as corporate best practices. History is the best teacher, if we are willing to learn from other people’s successes and failures. Wishing you all a very happy Independence Day.

“The world we live in is made up of different communities around us each of which has a listening of its own.”

‘Can you submit the monthly MIS report by the end of the day?’ I asked Subbu. He nodded with a synchronous ‘yes sir’. I took his affirmation for granted and didn’t check with him on the progress even once during the day. Not finding the report on my table when I was about to wind up for the day, I thought I’d check with Subbu. His colleague, who shared his intercom, answered my call saying that Subbu had left for the day. I was angry for a moment. Things could have been different. Had I been in my previous company, I wouldn’t have put up with this sort of behaviour. But being new to this company, I thought I should not mess it up and miss the lesson, if any, the incident could offer.

The next morning, the first thing I did was to summon Subbu to my cabin. As he entered my office, I found myself uttering. ‘I didn’t expect this from you Subbu!’ Despite all my conscious effort to control my emotions, the puzzled what-has-gone-wrong look on his face annoyed me even more and I could not help the rising decibel level of my voice. I had to literally remind him of the report he promised to deliver by yesterday evening. He immediately trotted out a ‘sorry sir’, which sounded the same as his ‘yes sir’ the previous day, and went on to give me an explanation. The more I persisted in making him admit his mistake, the more reasons and justifications he came up with.

In the end, I was left bemused by the incongruence between what one says and what one does, and my listening to the person altered for ever. I have translated what I heard in terms of how I would listen to the person henceforth. ‘Sorry sir’: I have got my reasons and will not mind repeating it in future; ‘I didn’t know it was important’: I don’t take whatever you say as important. When I asked, ‘then why did you say “yes” when I asked you for the report by eod?’ his reply was ‘How can I say “no” to you sir?’: I say “yes” so as not to displease you; beyond that, my “yes” doesn’t mean anything; ‘you didn’t ask for the progress later during the day’: if it is important you should follow up and not merely rely on what I say; ‘the super boss won’t ask for these reports’: nor do I take what you ask seriously, unless the super boss wants it.

You would probably remember the story of the shepherd boy who cried wolf and was devoured by his own lies. Beyond the simple moral that once a liar, always a liar or rather, always seen a liar, the deeper insight I get now is that the world listens to me in a way that I occur to them. The world we live in is made up of different communities around us, each of which has a listening of its own. And how I occur to each community will be a function of the community’s past experience with me. There are occasions I do not stand by the commitments I make to the people around; yet I expect them to believe I would stick to my promises next time around. The saying ‘what you are shouts so loudly into my ears that I cannot hear what you say’ slaps me in my face. But how can I alter the way the world listens to me? It can happen only when I establish a complete congruence between what I say and what I do. If you stand fully committed to fulfilling every expectation that arises from your spoken words, your world starts relating to you as your word. Or to put it simpler, honour your word as yourself. Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, in their book ‘The Three Laws of Performance’ have lucidly spelt out three laws that have the power to rewrite your future. Along the way, you’ll likely see and transform much of what is holding you back, both professionally and personally. Zaffron and Logan’s approach to leadership is to turn conversations upside down and dig beyond the words that are said to get to what’s really going on.

Here are their three laws that have the power to rewrite the future of your organisation:

  • How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them;
  • How a situation occurs arises in language;
  • Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people.

Let’s delve a little deeper into these laws.

How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them. Another way of saying this is: “There’s what happens and what you make it mean.” It’s never what happens  that upsets us – it’s how we perceive what happens and how we judge what happens. It’s the conversations we have with ourselves about what that means. For example, let’s say that you’re sitting in a room and someone gets up, leaves the room and slams the door. You might think that the person left the room in anger. What happened? He left the room. The door slammed. What did you make out of it? He was angry. But see, he could have gone in a hurry to attend to something urgent or it could be anything else other than anger. And that’s where communication and perception breakdowns create a mess that no amount of skilled leadership could solve, unless you know how to manage that. The only way to change behaviour is to change the perception in the mind and the heart.

How a situation occurs arises in language. The second law is about the language we use: How the world occurs to us is a direct function of the language we use and how we view the world around us. If someone is introduced to you as a friendly person, you listen to him with great attention; if someone is introduced to you as an offensive person, you try to protect yourself from him. Thus, how we think and act is based on linguistic description – we don’t know whether a person is friendly or offensive. So if we can change our words, we can change our behavior. The best way to understand this concept is with the example from the book by Helen Keller. Helen describes how she thought with her body, how she cried without understanding the emotions behind the tears. Once she learned to communicate, a whole new world was open to her. The world literally occurred differently for her because she could now name and communicate emotions around it. Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people. The third rule is about focusing on the future. If one’s thinking is locked in the past, one cannot move into the future. We can think and analyze the past, but more importantly we have to think about how we will create the future. The things to build our future are very different from the past because conditions and people change. It is language that generates something new – a new future – a different experience.

The Three Laws of Performance is a not just another must-read for every leader but a book for having organisational conversations around. When the Three Laws in this book are applied, performance transforms to a level far beyond what most people think is possible and it can happen so momentarily, as individuals and organisations rewrite their future.

For Further Reading:

The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan.

“A sure-fire way to enable fraud detection”

It’s difficult to discover and prevent fraud. Fraudsters develop new schemes all the time and they often get more sophisticated than our methods of detection. A survey in 2008 conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) found that U.S. organizations lose seven percent of their annual revenue to fraud. Based on the 2008 GDP, this is approximately $994 billion in fraud losses and in the past 12 months, employees accounted for 48 percent of those cases.

Keeping with the unfortunate truth that in desperate times even trustworthy employees will go to desperate measures, today’s economic situation is giving way to employee theft and fraud. The most steadfast employees who would never think of committing fraud against their employers are more willing to take unlawful risks in order to have some extra money in their pockets. The core problem being several organisations simply does not conduct the appropriate testing to proactively detect fraudulent activity. By employing data mining techniques, however, organisations can significantly increase their detection of fraud and, as a result, deter fraudsters.

Why Data Mining?

Data mining is the process of extracting patterns from data. It uses refined data search options and statistical algorithms to unearth patterns and correlations and can be useful in a variety of applications, including fraud detection. Data mining can help your organisation find anomalies and spot internal control weaknesses, including conflicting data, abnormal transactions, duplicate payments, missing invoices, nonstandard transactions/vendors, and procurement and disbursement frauds.

Sheila Anderson, CPA, is Vice President,Accounting Consulting and Development for Owings Mills, MD–based Chesapeake System Solutions (www.chessys.com) that apply sophisticated technology to achieve financial governance, risk management and compliance. She feels that data mining, a methodology based on statistical theory, is a key way to uncover and combat corporate fraud. She recommends that data mining be a regular audit activity not just a procedure implemented when fraud is suspected. Further, she cautions that getting ‘matches’ is just the first step; it is important not to misinterpret preliminary data or jump to conclusions without doing further investigation. Anderson identifies three major areas where data-mining software is invaluable: payroll, vendor payments and expense reports.

Relative to payroll fraud, data-mining tools can perform the following analyses:

“It is important not to misinterpret preliminary data or jump to conclusions without doing further investigation.”

  • Authorized Payments:

Run the payroll checks cut against a database of authorized employees.

  • Salaries:

Compute the annualized salary of all authorized employees and compare these amounts against the salary expense account. Anderson says it is possible to run the following analyses to uncover fraud in accounts payable relative to vendors:

  • Payments to Vendors:

Look for repetitive/frequently appearing vendor names, dollar amounts and invoice dates.

  • Vendor Address Locations:

Identify whether there are duplicate addresses for the same vendor. Also, run the master vendor address list against an employee address list.

  • Vendor Activity Frequency:

Review exceptionally high activity levels for new and established vendors.

  • Payments to Unauthorized Vendors:

Run vendor payment records against the authorised vendors’ list.

  • Refunds:

Compare addresses where refund payments have been sent against addresses on file. Check for extraordinary numbers of refunds going to the same addresses.

  • Unbundling Purchases:

Check amounts that fall just below the threshold authorisation amount.

  • Multiple Payments:

Evaluate whether multiple payments have been sent to the same vendor. Expense report fraud is another problem area. Here, data mining can evaluate:

  • Threshold Analysis:

Look for payments that are just below the threshold where receipts are required.

  • Excessive Filings:

Review whether an employee is filing excessively.

  • Transaction Analysis:

See if an employee’s activity reflects numerous transactions falling just under the amount requiring receipt submission, such as travel fees.

It is often simple steps that go a long way in preventing corporate fraud. When you fail to set up a process to check fraud, you are increasing the possibility of fraud occurrence in your organisation. So, step up and take action.

“When it comes to choosing the right warehouse management system (WMS) for your business, it’s important to understand your warehouse needs and the benefits of having an integrated WMS before starting the selection process.”

Whether your goal is to automate your warehouse operations for the first time or to upgrade to a more robust warehousing system, this article will guide you in finding the right WMS solution.

The 5 wrong steps

Given below are five common mistakes people make when choosing a warehouse management system

Not doing enough homework.

Analyzing and then selecting a warehouse management system takes time and effort. Information is critical to selecting the most appropriate system for your organisation. You’re already a step ahead of most people because you’re reading this article.

Misunderstanding the benefits of automation Automating warehouse operations and related functions can save your organisation considerable time and money. However, if you don’t improve your current processes and ways of interfacing with RF-based hardware, shipping systems, and warehouse equipment, automating your system will not deliver the full return on investment you require. Ignoring hard-to-quantify benefits

It is difficult to calculate possible future gains such as increased productivity, better warehouse efficiency, improved customer service, and other factors after a new system has been successfully implemented. Remember, these types of benefits can dramatically improve your bottom line and should not be overlooked.

Passing the buck

Top management and other key personnel within the organisation must be involved in the selection and the implementation process. For the project to be a success, management needs to stay involved.

Underestimating the ramp-up phase of a project

Many companies assume a well-designed system will operate at peak levels shortly after they make the purchase. The best system will not perform as expected until properly trained personnel have developed complete competency with the system. Allow users to gain confidence through a gradual process of operational ramp-up, including incremental training and system usage. Wait to introduce them to new and more complex system functions until they have mastered the basics. Now, when is the ‘right’ time to move to a new system?

Do not wait till your warehouse operations give you no choice. Here are some important tips to help you maximize your business processes:

Keep pace with industry trends

The availability of new technologies and increased market demands are driving rapid change in many industries. Watch for trends such as rising customer expectations, increased competitive pressure or dropping margins. Introducing new or improved automation management technology to your warehouse can be a powerful tool for increasing competitiveness in a challenging market.

Ensure compliance with integration requirements

If you plan to sell to large retailers, you’ll need to comply with their terms in order to remain in good standing and keep your margins in place. Most large retailers have strict vendor compliance requirements that make a modern warehouse management system absolutely critical for success. Since many large retailers use EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), an ideal WMS solution will have EDI integration and be able to automatically transmit order information into an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.

Manage the changes required by e-commerce

If you’re one of the many businesses selling products over the web, a WMS is essential. An online business encounters higher transaction volumes and greater customer expectations. Your material-handling needs also change when you ship directly to consumers rather than to businesses. Instead of pallet or case shipments, most online businesses fulfil many small unit shipments. As shipping times decrease, new requirements such as cross- docking may be required. Without the right system, many errors can occur. And with thin margins, shipping errors can be detrimental to your business. You will need a WMS solution that supports and integrates with your e-business initiatives.

Automating your warehouse

If you’re finding that the lag time between warehouse activities and the entry into your warehouse system or accounting database is slowing down your business, you may want to consider automating those processes. A strong WMS solution integrated into your ERP system will allow you to monitor the warehouse activities in real time – minimizing entry errors, and aid you to measure the efficiency of your warehouse employees.

Make the most out of a warehouse move

If you plan to relocate to a new warehouse, this may be a good starting point to implement a new warehouse management system. By designing a plan from the ground up at your new location, you can eliminate the bottlenecks and inefficiencies of your old warehouse. The sooner you plan and implement, the sooner you can reap the benefits of your new system. Measure your current capabilities. An objective way of assessing your warehouse efficiency will be by conducting a detailed benchmark – measuring your current capabilities. The benchmarks can show you how well your warehouse is performing and the areas you may want to improve. If your assessment indicates significant changes are necessary, now is as good a time as any to implement a new system that provides the required functions of your warehouse.

“Customer service is not about fake smiles and cold emails, messing one customer relationship could end up being a PR nightmare.”

The members of the band Sons of Maxwell were seated on a United Airlines flight after landing. Suddenly, the singer-writer Dave Carroll heard a passenger exclaiming, “They are throwing your guitars out there.” The band members suddenly turned behind to see that their guitars were being tossed by the people handling baggage. Carroll’s guitar was broken. And so was his heart. The guitar could still play after the repair, but it has lost its speciality. For almost nine months, Carroll’s phone calls and emails did not get him the compensation of $1200 from the airline. It was then that he decided to take the issue into his hands. He created a piece called “United Breaks Guitars” and posted an incredibly hilarious video online on Youtube. That was enough to damage United Airlines.

According to Times of London, within four days of the song going online, it caused bad PR to United Airlines. The stock price fell by 10%, costing shareholders $180 million. As a result, the brand was affected.

Today, social media is used as a forum for people to talk about their complaints. They voice their opinions, and also communicate to companies if they are unhappy with the customer service.

In the case of United Airlines, they did get enough opportunities to rectify their mistakes. Carroll made various attempts to reach the customer service for compensation. This happened for almost nine months. Finally, he wrote an email informing them about his plan to write songs, video them and put it on Youtube. United Airlines never responded. Finally, the video was out on Youtube, creating waves, and causing the company’s brand to go down. United Airlines tried to make things right by donating $3,000 to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz as a goodwill gesture. It was too late by then.

In contrary to this video, there was another video made by Gory Bateson- ‘Southwest Never Broke My Guitar.’ This video spoke about the customer service of Southwest Airline.

Companies love creating a new product or taking their business to a new level, but it is important to create an experience that customers love. Bad customer service is in a way connected to how strong the management system is. For example, if there is a problem, and the employees fail to communicate it to the higher authorities out of fear, the problem magnifies and becomes an issue. If there is no trust at the management level, it is time to look at a change in corporate culture.

Accept your mistakes and take corrective action McAfee, which provided virus protection and internet security, faced an issue when their software update caused computers to crash. Windows XP users of the software had a tough time as their system shut down and had continuous reboot cycle.

The company apologised for the issue. On the company’s blog, the executive VP of support and customer service wrote an open apology. The company also offered to reimburse ‘reasonable expenses’ for the damage caused to customers on its website.

Those computers that were inoperable were eligible for a free, two-year extension of existing McAfee subscription. Till they sorted it out, the company urged customers to call their support team and fix it. Since few customers had permanent damage, the company wanted to set their computers up and running.

The company took active steps to get the problem sorted. The company owned the problem and sorted it out. This is essential when dealing with a customer service issue.

The British Standards Institute (BSI) reported about one of its surveys about customer loyalty and service. The report suggested that 76% of consumers said they had taken their business to a competitor as a result of poor customer service. Do you want this to happen to your customers? Think about it!

The survey also reports that where a company apologises for a customer service failure, consumers would be loyal to them and come back. It is essential for a company to retain its customers as that would lead to increased profitability. But do companies realise the value of an apology?

Dell call centre operation in India was forced to shut it, following the complaints about customer service. The operation for OptiPlex desktops and Latitude laptops was moved back to the United States. The Bangalore centre was not able to deal with the volume of calls on the product. The efficiency was suffering. They weren’t meeting the customer expectations. According to surveys, though the market share of Dell grew, the customer satisfaction declined.

The company acknowledged the problem. They also informed that they are taking steps to improve upon their services. It was important to have systems/processes that would minimise the risk of service failure. In case of a service failure, the company has to compensate for the inconvenience through credits, discounts and apologies.

For customer satisfaction, two elements are essential- strength of the customer relationships and the magnanimity of the service failure.

There are some customers who are transactionoriented and they want only service recovery. Their relation with the organisation is immaterial. On the other hand, there are customers who have a strong commitment with the company. They could demand less compensation, but they expect stronger interactions and correction of customer service in future. Even after a strong recovery, sometimes customers may still be upset, according to research. It is also possible that they could engage in negative word-of-mouth and will have less trust or commitment to the organisation if the customer service failure was bad.

In such cases, it becomes imperative that managers should bring in better relation and restore the faith of customers. Service companies need to track down and also identify about these failures and the degree of severity of these issues. There are measures for identifying the strength of customer relationships. The data/information provided by customers during the time of complaint should be taken as crucial marketing data and should be used for future performance improvement.

When talking to a customer it is important to get feedback about the service. Rather than putting forth a generic question on ‘How did you like our service’ it would be better if you can ask the customers to rate their service on the scale 1-10. It is also essential for organisations to motivate the customer service team. There has to be a consistent learning through training in the company. It is also important to adjust the attitude of professionals. The team leader’s tone and energy is important as that will transform into the customer service professional’s attitude and approach towards customers. It is important to put the employees in the shoes of customer for them to understand what they feel and go through.

Once the customer buys the product, the company representatives can call them and enquire about how the product is. Also, occasionally, the company can keep sending customers newsletters, brochures and keep them updated about what is happening. These small initiatives can help to retain the existing customers.

“While people keep cribbing about global warming, Sivaraj,a 26-year-old entrepreneur chose to make a change.”

  1. How was the idea of creating free eco-friendly cabs conceived and what is the business plan to sustain the same?

I am basically a ‘go green’ person and love to invent new things. When I was back in India after several years of studies, I happened to see so much pollution. So this is my initiative to do something for my country – I have come out with an vehicle ( Eco Free Cab) which purely runs on solar or mechanical energy. The pedal version is available in Chennai and people can use it to travel from 2 to 4km point to point without any charges. My expenses and driver’s cost are covered by sponsors who advertise in our vehicle.

  1. Your other ventures – advertising in cars and hangers are innovative ideas, how has the market accepted it?

The idea of mobile advertisement has been going around for years but it is only at this point that people are becoming aware of the current impact of this mode of advertisement. The whole concept brings forth many opportunities to car owners who wish to earn money while driving and you can, in fact tap into this opportunity by letting agencies advertise on your car. Because of the nature and the flexibility of this concept as an extra income generation for both car owners and car advertisers, this has proven to be quite a hit among many people.

So how does one earn money while driving one’s own car? You can have a high probability in getting the job if you have following requirements: being atleast 18 years of age (thus, legal to drive); owning a valid driver’s license; being a resident of the required place; and clean driving records without violations. If you drive in heavily trafficked places then you are more likely to get the job because you get to expose the advertising materials to many people to generate attention from potential customers. If you feel that you fulfil the following requirements then you are ready to go.

A lot of car owners, however, are likely to struggle with second thoughts whether to pursue this kind of opportunity or not.

The truth is, they are worried about what the outcome will be if their car is wrapped with the advertising material. Little do they know that the advertising material is going to printed in a specialized vinyl wrap sheet – a vibrant and striking mixture of colours and graphics.

Then again, you may end up sporting a totally awesome car in the streets that will woo everyone to your direction. But this is ultimately the main goal of mobile advertisement, and you can benefit from it only if you let certified and genuine advertising agencies advertise on your car.

Hangvertising is another direct marketing tool. It is done in 100% recycled and recyclable card board.

The designed hanger serves as general clothes hanger for suits, shirts, trousers, sarees and salwars. A strong branding is given by the high visibility of your advertising messages. As of now, hangers are given free of cost to laundry and dry cleaning services within the city. It can also be distributed based on the client’s requirement.

Time and again, people are looking at innovative ways of marketing their products. I seek to explore this avenue further and am sure the market is pretty huge for our kind of products.

  1. What are the challenges you face in marketing such creative ventures?

In the initial stages when I came up with the concept of eco-friendly free cabs, people thought I was mad but now, they have realised that I have a practical dream. I strongly believe that criticism should only motivate you further.

  1. Tell us more about your plans to launch cheap eco-friendly cabs?

I am working on two streams: Sale of eco- friendly cab : This will be a motorised version and will be cost effective, the cost of the vehicle would be between Rs.35,000 to Rs. 40,000. There is no need for petrol or diesel or for maintenance. All you need to do is just check on the tyres. I am also talking to few electronic companies to try and fit in television to entertain passengers.

Free to Public: This ‘free cab’ concept will be introduced across India. As of now, in Chennai, people walking from Tiruvanmiyur railway station to Tidel Park, from Anna Nagar arch to Roundana, corporation school children, Anna University students and the disabled can avail these free cab services to travel short distances. Eco free cab is basically a modified cycle rickshaw which will help people travel distances up to 2 km. The main source of revenue for the vehicle will be advertisements. Advertisers can use the space behind the vehicle to display their ads.

We are also in the process of introducing the world’s cheapest car at the cost of Rs.50,000 which runs on solar energy cum battery.

  1. Electric scooters and cars have never been appreciated much by the public, how do you think yours will make a difference?

I have already made a difference by coming up with a free public vehicle. As for my other projects, our main advantage is the price factor. No battery operated car is as cheap and effective as ours.

  1. What is your advice to other young entrepreneurs?

It’s time for youngsters to take up things and if you are desperate about achieving something, put your 200% effort on it and you will surely achieve it at one point of time. Never give up and never compromise

  1. Future Plans

Talks are on with a German company which has come forward to invest 50 crores to set up an manufacturing plant in Chennai for ecofriendly cabs and major stake will be held by me. We will officially announce once the deal is signed off.

What can cloud computing do for your business?

Advantages of Cloud Disadvantages of Cloud
Working software immediately. No risking of building software first and finding out that it doesn’t work for you. Data is not with you. It is out there on the internet – somewhere you cant’ see.

So, reliability of the cloud provider is important.

Pay-for-use. No need to invest huge

Money upfront.

Shared with many customers like you. You can’t suddenly get database access if you want.So,

Data export and archival is important.

No maintenance nightmare. No need of

hardware, administrators and software


Reliance on connectivity. You need to have good and uninterrupted internet connectivity.

Why do we need Cloud?

Building software is a painful experience for companies. If you have built a house for yourself, you can imagine how difficult it is to build software. Delays, escalating costs and building for wrong specifications are as common in software as in building a house. Buying already built software and upgrading to a new version every time are also quite expensive options. Not every company can afford to own such software. Only the big ones can. The companies that can’t afford to own software are usually the Small and Medium Enterprises – SMEs.

People who can’t afford to own a house can rent them. Why can’t companies do the same? Can’t SMEs rent software? Can’t they pay-foruse? This is the central question – the business needs – cloud computing attempts to answer.

What is Cloud?

Cloud is a term used to describe services available on the Internet. All these days, services have been available on your computer. Microsoft Word gives you document editing service on your computer. Outlook gives you mailing service, and so on. These services are now available on the Internet. For example, Google Docs is available as a service on the Internet for document editing and Gmail gives you mailing service – all on your Internet browser. You don’t have to install and upgrade to the newer version of such software, every now and then. If you are a consumer paying for such software upgrades, this is good news.

But, companies benefit much more than consumers in this regard. Software that companies use such as Customer Relationship Management is not like Microsoft Word.

They need dedicated hardware and platforms to run, and are quite expensive. Ongoing software maintenance and upgrade of such software is even more expensive. Today, this software is also available on the Internet as service. So, companies no longer need to buy, install and maintain expensive software. They can simply connect to the Internet and use this software on their Internet browser.

Such softwares that is available as service on the Internet is called Software-as-a- Service. SaaS in short! SaaS is the primary service that cloud offers to its end customers. The companies that run and maintain these software for others are called SaaS providers. Popular SaaS providers in the market include salesforce.com, success factors and zoho.

How does Cloud work?

SaaS providers follow the age-old model that hotels have been following for years. Hotels rent out rooms to customers and customers pay based on the number of days they stay. This concept is called pay-for-use. Similarly, the hotels rent out to multiple customers. When one customer checks out of a room, the same is rented out to another customer. This concept is called multi-tenancy, that is, renting out the same resource to multiple tenants. SaaS providers do the same with software:

  • They allow customers to pay on the basis of their usage of software.
  • They share the software between multiple customers. So, when one customer is not using that software, the hardware required to serve that customer is used to serve another customer.

This enables SaaS providers to offer software for rent to SMEs that can’t afford to buy their own software.

However, there is a problem! Just like hotels, software can also become unavailable during peak seasons. It is easy to pack your things and move to another hotel if a room is not available in one hotel. But it is not that easy in the case of software, since data is also stored part of the software. So, making software available at all times for customers is very important. This forced SaaS providers to predict peak seasons and predict expected increase in customers. On the basis of this prediction, they had to buy hardware upfront to run the software for more customers. But, in most cases, they over predicted and wasted lot of money in buying hardware that they never used. In some cases, they under-predicted and lost customers since they couldn’t serve them during peak seasons.

Suddenly, someone came up with this brilliant idea that if software can be rented on the Internet, the hardware can be rented too. This hardware renting model was first introduced by Amazon through its Amazon Web Services offering. Such rented hardware that runs software on the Internet is called Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Other popular providers in this space include Rackspace and GoGrid.

Later, tech giants like Google and Microsoft jumped into the foray, making cloud computing the hottest technology on earth! When they entered cloud computing business, they also started renting out platforms (Application servers & Databases) that provide an environment to run the software. These platforms that are available on a renting model are called Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Other popular providers in this space include Force.com and OrangeScape.

These three layers – SaaS, PaaS and IaaS –form the cloud computing stack.

Both IaaS and PaaS are used to run SaaS. It also enables SaaS providers to rent more hardware/platforms based on the demand and release it back when they are not needed. All this expanding and shrinking happens automatically based on the number of customers using the software. This concept of expanding and shrinking based on demand is called elasticity and makes the renting model very efficient.

These three characteristics – pay-foruse, multi-tenancy and elasticity – are the fundamental characteristics of cloud. Ultimately, from the business standpoint, Cloud enables software to be available on pay-for-use model and makes it affordable to SMEs. This, in turn, enables SMEs to be competitive in the market and provide better services to their consumers!

Cloud computing – at a glance

  • Business need: Pay-for-use software
  • Target Audience: SMEs
  • Characteristics:
  • Pay-for-use
  • Multi-tenancy
  • Elasticity
  • Architecture stack:
  • Software-as-a-Service
  • Platform-as-a-Service
  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service

“How to influence people to believe in your ideas – an analysis with the recent case-study of Anna Hazare”

I’ve been excited about writing this article ever since witnessing the Anna Hazare movement spearheading the nation in the recent past to fight against the epidemic of corruption. As I pored over the rather enormous amount of literature on influencers and the art of influencing, I realised that the ‘Hazare Effect’ had definitely some valuable lessons for everyone to get inspired from. The entire subject of influence is entrancing because it is prominent and exhilarating to learn how you can influence people to believe in your ideas. It is effortless to influence others but exigent to persuade while standing on both ethical and universal grounds. The principles I am sharing with you are effective techniques for influencing people to believe in your ideas and achieve success in what you want. Anna Hazare has proved to the world that the ‘The key to success today is influence and not authority’.

In his journey from a steadfast soldier to a social reformer, Anna Hazare’s expedition in terms of non-violence and his effectual idea of revivification of a barren village into an `ideal village’ model is a true inspiration to many. Thousands of fellow citizens from hundred cities across India joined his campaign. Online, Mr. Hazare received the support of lakhs of Indians in a span of 24 hours just through fasting and bhajans. How did this happen? Let’s view the Hazare’s conduit of how to influence and sow the idea in the minds of movers and shakers and decision makers – all within an ethical milieu.

  • Hit the bull’s eye: Visualise that you have a striking idea and you want to put it across; your boss walks in and you grab the occasion to share it with him and he responds, ‘I have exactly two minutes to spare, get started’. Your reaction would be, ‘come on, where I begin?’ A mediocre influencer would introduce an idea in a predictable fashion like WHAT is the idea, HOW does it work and WHY it’s important to believe in it. On doing that, your boss would react, ‘So? I know this; tell me something NEW!’ This was the reaction of many of us when we were told about the idea of building a corruptionfree nation through Gandhian strategy, but the man in white with plain language proved the practicality of what was mearly a distant dream. Hazare believed in the vision, hit the bull’s eye by answering WHY this idea, HOW does it work and finally WHAT the idea is. He struck the chord that instigated the drive to know what the whole idea was about and instilled pride in being a part of it. This is the power of communication.

           Remember, people don’t buy what you do, but people buy why you do.

  • Strike with energy: People with energy energise others. Think about the whole episode – a man in his late 70s with apparent enthusiasm to make a difference to the status quo and energy to spearhead a people’s revolution is definitely the spark; it helped him put across his idea. Develop passion for the idea and the cause. Your idea to ignite the believer with the fire that is in your belly spells the difference between the delivery and demise of your idea. Articulating with zeal is the key. Energy and persistence conquer all things.

“The dream of India as a strong nation will not be realised without selfreliant, self-sufficient villages, this can be achieved only through social commitment and involvement of the common man.”- Anna Hazare

  • Slice the ‘M’: Avoid being Melodramatic. Don’t debate the niceties. If you spend time debating the minutiae of your idea, people will stop thinking about the idea. Create demand and watch the action. Practice the art of speaking the language of things; don’t talk to a man in the language that reaches his head but talk in a language that reaches his heart. It’s no dark substance or black magic but just an ethical crusade for attention and action. The takeaway from Mr. Hazare’s style is simple. Understand the ability to simplify the means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
  • Challenge the skeptics: Be a statesman, accept resentment with grace. The biggest challenge to any visionary is to break the cynicism of the people and prove the skeptics wrong; treating everyone with respect draws attention toward you. The more facts you can provide to strengthen your argument the less skeptical the other person will be and the easier it will be to persuade him. Present facts; people tend to believe you more if there are facts supporting the idea. Make enough connections and you will be able to cross from conversation spiced with I’s to We’s. Persuasion and evidence is a strong combination.
  • Set the stage with out conviction: One of the extreme sources of powerful influencers is conviction. One of the few characteristis universal to all visionaries is that they have firm views and stick to them. It is hard to influence someone when you don’t know where you are leading them to. Exhibit confidence, bring people aboard, excite them about the idea and earn support; they will in turn do that to all those around too. The takeaway from the Hazare effect – One person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 who have only interest. The action demonstrated with personal humility by Anna Hazare showed his conviction to the goal and his capacity to make others see the value of the idea.

“When you choose to decode your idea from the monarchy of possibility to the dominion of actuality, you are exercising the drives within you. The two work in perfect agreement and help you to reach the goal..”

  • Leave the impact: There are ways to make yourself verbally impressive. The tip here is to attend to the style and substance of the idea with a pinch of simplicity and feasibility. It was surprising and funny to imagine the idea of voicing through ‘non-violence in violent times’. Initiating his day-long hunger strike at Rajghat to protest against corruption, this Gandhi devoteee commented that if the Lokpal Bill was not passed, he would fast unto death at Jantar Mantar. This proves the point that how you say determines more than what you say. This is not as paradoxical as it may seem in the beginning. Practice a result-driven approach. Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock”.
  • Build support: Rather than waiting for a big opportunity to introduce your idea and see how things take off, be the change. Append idealism, imagination and valour to the whole exercise. The realistic challenge of a visionary is to fight against the darkness and the creation of a concrete altered state. It is worth the time. Build the power of judgement by being in the right place at the right time to say the right thing to the right person just once! By sheer commitment and simplicity, he has demonstrated that Gandhian principles are relevant even in 21st century India. His idea witnessed hundreds of thousands of supporters, and the waves of support grew into a barrage through candles lit across the globe.

A belief is a strongly anchored perception that has deep roots, and although attending a belief is exigent there are ways to bring about a change in the minds of people and influence them to believe in your idea. While one particular drive dominates, each of us possesses a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic drives. When you choose to decode your idea from the monarchy of possibility to the dominion of actuality, you are exercising the drives within you. The two work in perfect agreement and help you reach the goal. It is important to understand people’s beliefs. If you go about persuading anyone without even ascertaining the person’s actual belief, then you are not getting anywhere. Learning how to influence the belief of a person is tricky but not impossible. Move from abstract to concrete, and as you influence you will notice a small incremental success. Then, move the idea to the next success level.

No idea works unless you work on the idea. The journey begins with your excitement about doing things – better for you, for the others and for the world itself. Happy influencing!

“The P management model will help you lead your team to a greater performance level. Henrik Essen tells us how.”

As a manager in the 21st century, you can’t survive by using just one leadership style. You might be able to cope for some time, but the younger generation won’t accept anything less than a manager who understands their specific needs. What you need to do is to use different styles for different people in different situations. Most managers acknowledge this. The question is how to do it.

Once you take charge of a department, division or company, you would be lucky if you inherited an entire team of people who are already self-motivated top performers. That is not likely to happen. In fact, one of the most common areas I coach and help managers with is how to lead and manage people. With this as a background, we have developed a leadership tool called the P-Model. This article will give you a brief introduction to this unique tool. The P-Model will illustrate and clarify how you can effectively lead your staff towards greater performance. The P-Model provides three distinct performance levels of the staff with three corresponding leadership styles.

The starting point is to evaluate and analyze your staff ’s performance in order to choose the correct leadership style. It’s a different style for each task, depending on your staff ’s performance, commitment and ability. You need to divide your team members into three different P-levels (P1, P2 and P3) where P stands for the level of performance.

P1 – The Low Performer

The P1 staff doesn’t deliver significant work results. The reason for low performance is due to lack of commitment, responsibility, focus, motivation and drive and such people are unwilling to change. The P1 staff simply doesn’t perform as per your expectations. Having said this, the P1s can also be new to a task, job or the company. They lack the understanding for the job or specific task they are assigned. This will lead to low performance as well. However, with the right training and support, the P1s will grow and perform as P2s.

The leadership style for P1 staff is called Directing. What you need to do is to take charge and be clear about what needs to be done. You need to instruct the P1s on what, when, where, how and why they need to do certain tasks. You also need to supervise and follow up on their behaviour, progress and results. This can be perceived as micromanagement but it is necessary for managing the P1s.

If you don’t see any improvement in the P1’s behaviour, you need to take actions sooner rather than later. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking he/she will improve with time. It rarely happens. Take fast and firm actions now! You can’t afford to keep the P1s (low performers) in your team/company if they don’t perform.

Do you have any P1s in your team? Do they cause you headaches and worries? Do you avoid straightforward one-on-one discussions with them? Do you feel uncomfortable when you have to have these types of discussions? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you are not alone. However, as a manager, you must take charge and deal with the P1s even though it’s uncomfortable.

P2 – The Solid Performer

The P2s are the Solid Performers in the company. They deliver good results. The P2s understand the job and have the ability to complete the tasks assigned to them. The P2’s Performance varies throughout the year. They will usually do a good job, even excellent at times. However, the P2s will occasionally dip in their performance. The reason for this dip can be a temporary lack of self-confidence, low motivation, team problems, company politics or external issues.

The leadership style for P2 staff is called Coaching. You need to encourage, support, coach, and gently push the P2s forward. Help the P2s grow via interaction and joint problem solving. Let them do their job (because they can). Avoid micro-managing them, do follow up regularly and keep the lines of communication open. While you give them the freedom to do their job, monitor them so you can spot any de-motivational issues. When you take a look at your team, you will realise that majority of your staff falls into the P2 category – as much as 70% of your employees. They are important because they are the main core of your team/company. You need to ensure they are motivated in order to produce the results they can. They are the proverbial oil that makes the engine run.

Some of your P2s will one day be ready, willing and able to grow into P3s. Some may become P1s. Therefore, always keep your eyes and ears open and take necessary action. Some of your P2s don’t want additional responsibilities. They prefer to keep doing what they are doing. That’s OK as long as they perform according to your expectations. However, make sure they don’t slip into P1 behaviour. When they show signs of becoming a P3, (even if it’s only for one particular task), encourage them to push forward and reward them accordingly.

P3 – The Top Performer

The P3s are the Top Performers in the company. They have excellent understanding and ability of what needs to be done. They achieve superior results on a regular basis and tend to surpass goals and expectations.

Project management

P3s’ motivation and drive is always high and they thrive on new challenges. They will do whatever it takes to perform at peak. The P3s are the people who want to climb the corporate ladder or pursue a specialist role. They have managed to find a job that matches their strengths and talents. They have good careers that will usually reward them financially. They are self-starters, doers and need little direction and supervision. They work best with a manager who is more of a colleague and mentor than a boss. The leadership style for P3s is called Collaborating. You should fine-tune and utilise the P3s’ unique talents and strengths. Challenge them to take new and additional responsibilities. Make sure you fully delegate responsibility and authority to decide. Give them the freedom to move forwards, pursue opportunities and create and explore new ideas. Ask them to train and coach P1s and P2s. Give them specific projects and make sure you acknowledge and reward their contribution.


Being a manager in the 21st century is definitely a challenge. However, if you use the P-Model you will have the right tool to build a team of peak performers. Please note that your staff members can be a mix of P1, P2 and P3. It all depends on how well they perform at different tasks. They can have difficulties with some tasks, which make them a P1 in those areas. Yet, most of their performance falls into the P2 category even though they have one or two areas where they prosper and behave as P3s. You, therefore, need to adjust your leadership style according to their various P-Levels.

The P-Model is a unique, practical and effective leadership tool. Remember the following:

  • Evaluate and analyze your staff ’s performance levels (P1–P3), their motivation and general needs.
  • Apply correct leadership style accordingly.
  • You will always have a combination of P1s, P2s and P3s in your team. Direct and quickly solve any issues with the P1s, Coach the P2s in order to move them forward and collaborate with the P3s to achieve even greater performance.
  • Introduce the P-Model to your staff. You can then agree on how you will work together by referring to the P-Model.
  • Use the P-Model as a communication tool when interacting with your staff.

It is often the effective implementation and consistent application of PM best practices that differentiates successful projects from challenged projects. Project management is a very mature competency, and there is no shortage of resources to understand and define best practices, but the key lies in identifying the ’critical few’ that are key to project delivery success in your project environment. Below is a graphic that depicts the ‘critical few’ included in Cardinal’s PM Foundations program.

Practical application of these best practices drives a consistent project management approach, and tangible business results:

  • Quicker ramp-up of project managers
  • Easier integration of projects in a multiproject environment
  • More productive project managers (not inventing processes and tools on the fly)
  • Equip project managers with tools to ‘fill the gaps’ in the client environment
  • Better overall team performance – delivering on customer expectations (including measurement of performance)

Consistent and practical application of key best practices greatly influence the success rate of projects


Set-up project for success:

  • Business case
  • Project charter
  • Project sponsorship
  • Project organization


Develop solid baseline plan:

  • WBS (scope)
  • Resource loaded project schedule
  • Resource plan & project budget
  •  Risk management plan


Manage to the plan:

  • Schedule progress
  • Budget variances,using EV
  • Performance reporting
  • Integrated change control


Evaluating the results:

  • Project closure activities
  • Conducting a postproject assessment
  • Creating a learning Culture

These are the tangible business results that separate good project managers from ‘the pack’.

My top 8 best practices

If I could have some best practices to put in my toolkit as I venture into a new project assignment (or mentor a new project manager), these are the ones I would select.

Project Organisation:

Forming the project team sounds pretty basic, but it is amazing how many project teams launch the project without performing stakeholder analysis and defining the project organisation. Important elements of the project organisation include project sponsors, the core team and understanding other key stakeholders. The use of a RACI is a flexible and effective tool within this best practice area.


The WBS defines the scope of the project and breaks the work down into components that can be scheduled and estimated, and easily monitored and controlled. Simply put, a WBS is a deliverable oriented hierarchy that defines the work of the project, and only the work of the project. The use of facilitated WBS sessions represents a key technique within this best practice area.

Resource-Loaded Project Schedule:

The project schedule utilises the WBS to define the activities, sequence, durations and resources required to complete the project work. What does a good project schedule look like? Here are a few questions to help test your schedule:

  • Are the deliverables and activities broken down to a level that can be estimated and tracked?
  • Has accountability/responsibility been established for deliverables and activities?
  • Can you easily follow the flow of the project work?
  • Do the milestones appear to be reasonable and achievable?
  • Does the resource usage link appropriately to the project budget?

Identify Project Risks:

Uncertainty represents a lack of knowledge about an event or activity that reduces confidence in conclusions drawn about the event (when it will happen, what work will be required and how much it will cost). The investigation of uncertainties helps identify risks.Project teams should plan and prioritise work based on tackling high-risk project areas early on to reduce the overall risk level as the project proceeds through the project life cycle. This best practice area involves performing these investigations throughout the project life cycle to assess the risk (probability and impact), and establish the appropriate approach to mitigate the risk. The goal of risk mitigation is to reduce the probability or the impact of a threat, thereby making it a smaller risk and removing it from the list of top risks on the project. The worst case is when a high impact risk becomes an issue. Once a negative event is impacting your project, the damage is done. Scope may have to be increased, budget is impacted and schedules are delayed because of risks that went unmitigated or insufficiently mitigated. Project teams should continually monitor and proactively manage risks that are high impact and probability, inadequately mitigated and threatening to become issues (near term trigger date).

Managing Project Change:

Change is an inevitable element of managing a project – nothing works out exactly as planned. The project manager effectively manages change by maintaining the appropriate balance between control and discipline to manage to the baseline plan, and flexibility to adapt the plans to meet customer expectations. Nobody wants to be “that” project manager that leads a project that delivers on-time and under budget, but still has an unhappy customer. The following are the key aspects of this best practice area:

  • Definition of a change in the context of your project
  • Understanding the sources and early warning signs of change
  • Establishing a process to manage change
  • Measuring the cumulative impact of change

Effective Communications:

Establishing strong communications channels and vehicles helps facilitate the cadence and teamwork required to effectively plan and executes the project. These channels and vehicles “push” relevant information to the “right” audiences, and solicit feedback from key stakeholders on a regular basis. Best practices in the area of effective communications include conducting regular project meetings, distributing project status reports, and establishing project team tools.

  • Project team meetings (e.g., core team, all hands, and steering

committee meetings) are probably the easiest and most effective way to engage the project team throughout the project life cycle. It provides a regular time and place for all team members to meet and discuss important project activities and issues, and helps team members feel connected. This is especially important if the team is not co-located or if the team is partially offshore.

  • The project status report represents written documentation that provides a regular update on the project status. It is important that the information reported is timely (current), and reported on a regular interval (e.g., every Monday, every other Friday).The information provided must be to the point and accurate. This usually means that the status report is ONE PAGE.The status report must be easy to access — the stakeholder does not have to look for the status report. This generally means that the report is “pushed” to the stakeholders (via email or an alert from a collaboration tool).
  • Collaboration tools establish a “single source” of the truth if utilised effectively by the project team. These tools are utilised to organise project deliverables, communicate team events, track risks and issues, maintain project team meeting artifacts and manage change requests.

Measuring Performance:

This best practice area involves keeping your eye on the appropriate project performance measures to proactively identify potential problems, and engage the team to identify and implement corrective actions. Measuring project performance includes schedule, budget, and supplier performance. Use of earned value to measure schedule and budget performance represents a tool within this best practice area.

Closing the Project:

A best practice area that is often minimised or entirely overlooked is project closure. At the end of a project, many project managers are busy preparing for their next project or client, and miss a prime opportunity to leave a lasting impact on the client organisation. Project closure starts with effectively shutting down project activities, validating all product deliverables are complete and key product issues closed, and smoothly transitioning resources to new roles. The second aspect of this best practice area is preparing the project performance report (also referred to as the post-project assessment. Creating the project performance report includes gathering input from key stakeholders, and identifying improvement actions to be implemented for future projects.

1 2 3 7