Friday, April 29, 2016

Insight: In realty location is luxury

Our ad for Paranjape Schemes in today's TOI :)
The insight about buying homes, especially in Mumbai, for ages has always been: location, location, location.
So while lots of other real estate developers will talk about 'living with nature', 'reclaiming childhood for your kids' or prop up a celebrity for lack of a good reason, The Lonely Cloud Consulting simply highlights that critical aspect of location.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hanuman & the Myth of Leadership.

As humans we're enamoured by the cult of leadership. History, as well as stories are written as odes to the heroic efforts of one person: a leader. Leadership qualities are the first thing we look for in people: subordinates, bosses, parents, and children. Leadership is the ultimate goal. CEO's draw huge pay packages because of that amorphous quality of leadership that they possess.
On Friday, we celebrated Hanuman Jayanti. (In Tamil we call him 'Hanumar' out of respect, so don't be quizzical if you find me addressing Him as Hanumar in this post.). Let me draw a parallel between the cult of leadership that permeates our society and Hanumar.
The Ramayana is a sublime tale, to some it’s holy- the story of a God. To others it’s mythology. However one looks at it, one cannot but be amazed at its depth and its finely nuanced characters and whist at them, let me delve a bit deeper into this most amazing of personalities among them. The Ramayana is a tale full of heroes, but not all of them are leaders. The leaders in the story are perhaps just two: Ramar and Ravana. One the embodiment of virtue- the ideal and perfect leader: objective-oriented, dispassionate, driven by right deeds, exhibiting control over mind and body, leading from the front, inspiring, knowledgeable and flawless. Then Ravana who is perhaps everything Ramar is except his inability to see the adharma in his coveting of Seeta, the third critical peg of the stool that holds the tale.
No child in India would complete their description of Ramayana without uttering the name of Hanumar. Even in a tale with such rich heroes, heroines and villains, the persona of Hanumar looms larger than life. Would Ramayana be possible without Hanumar? Would the tale be complete? Would Sugreeva have befriended Ramar without the wise advice of Hanumar? Would Ramar have located Seeta without that incredible leap of faith which Hanumar took across the ocean? Would Ramar have risen from Indrajeet’s poisonous-barb attack on Lakshmana had Hanumar not bought the Sanjeevani plant? Would Ramar have killed Ravana had he not been on Hanumar’s great shoulders?
In fact would that war have been won at all had Hanumar not been fighting on behalf of Ramar? For by sheer count, Hanumar single-handedly slayed most of Ravana’s feared, hitherto- unbeaten and great generals than Ramar himself.
What do we see in the exploits of this great hero? Wisdom, strength, fearlessness and humility. Yet we address him as ‘sevak’, the supreme servant. He is not the leader, the epic centres around. But without him righteousness and the good would not have succeeded; even the story perhaps would have not been as great or perhaps not been there at all, without him.
Hanumar is the antithesis of the leadership cult. His importance tells us that victory and success is a team effort and not always due to one person alone. His inspiring form which we worship, one in which he’s in urgent flight, holding his mace in one hand and the mountain in the other is a reminder to us not to blindly credit leaders alone.
Look behind every leader, there is a Hanumar behind every one of them. Hanumar exists in our lives. S/He is the person who has encouraged us in our worst times, held us, consoled us, leapt across the oceans for us, found us what we wanted, fought for us, saved us, smoothened out paths and loved us unquestioningly.
Such a person in our lives, is indeed our God. Acknowledge them. And if you make the effort, you too can be Him for someone else. You too can be Hanumar.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ramnavami. Celebrate the hero!

When there's hope, scoundrels thrive. 
And when there's none, heroes rise. 
Celebrate Rama, today and everyday.
 the vanquisher of evil, 
the bringer of hope,
 the embodiment of virtue.,

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


We normally associate the source of inspiration from either a very senior person or from a very accomplished person.
Yesterday I met a young entrepreneur who is setting up his enterprise all by himself, with little help and I must say, I emerged inspired and motivated. This is what I heard from him:
1. Sir, there was once a time when I would hate Mondays. This was the time when I was employed by a company. Monday meant catching up with piled up work. Today I look forward to Mondays. In fact I begin my Mondays an hour earlier than usual. On Sunday evening itself I would begin gearing myself, so that I hit Mondays on my feet and running. I no longer fear Mondays. It's my favorite day.
2. I have learnt to value every rupee. Earlier I wouldn't think much of spending even Rs. 2000/- on an evening out. Today I feel for even a Rs. 100/- that I spend. I feel if I were to put it into my business, it would be be put to better use.
3. I have learnt humility. Today I answer  even a pesky call center with politeness, because I've understood how it feels to be rejected and undervalued. I also give a patient ear to any salesperson walking into my office.
4. I have learnt to optimize my time towards ensuring the fulfillment of my business goals. I no longer regret the lack of holidays, missing night-outs with friends, skipping movies. Because all the time I have, every day including weekends I put into my work. I'm constantly thinking up ideas and working them through. I feel productive, charged and I don't regret the decision I took.
5. I understand finances and profitability like never before. If my business doesn't give me a 20% return PBT, in the long term, then I have the understanding that my investments are safer and better utilized in an FD.
I wish that young man the very best. May his tribe grow.
Vijay Bavaha!

Brilliant Idea

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A good feeling

When we rise above our insecurities, when we overcome the limitations our minds holds us within, at such times we do things that make us feel good about ourselves.
As I approached the squash court today, I made a commitment to myself that I would attempt to break out of the 'giving up' mindset I had slipped into in the last few weeks.  Either I would lose close matches or not even attempt a fightback in those ones in which I had lost early advantage.
This meant I was scrambling for a solitary win in a set of five games or giving up after 4 matches. 
So today I took the fight to the competition from the word go.  I won the first game. I fought hard right from the start putting my everything  into preventing a recovery by my dogged opponent.  The next match I lost despite an advantage early in the game. However a late comeback and a tight finish was a consolation that I hadn't succumbed easily.
At this point we took a break.  Refreshed, I returned to take the next game easily.  Usually we continue straight into game four but this time I requested for a break. I knew my opponent had far better stamina than me and typically beat me in the fourth by the end of which  I hadn't any energy left for the fifth.  Today by taking the break I wanted to be in a better position to win the fourth and thereby the match.
The plan worked.  I won the fourth and therefore the match 3-1 but I still had the fifth match to play if I wished but without the break which I had already consumed. I decided that despite the fact I was tired I would not merely play it but try and win it as though it was the decider.

It was among the toughest match I had ever played.  It see-sawed wildly and had so many rallies that I was dog-tired midway through it.  I was folding up and barely able to lift my racket.
I took a lead and was 12-9 ahead. But my adversary played incredibly to equalize. My mind was numb and swirling.  It was telling me to give up this inconsequential match. But somewhere deep inside me I heard a voice egging me on to win. My opponent went ahead and made it 12-13.
I fought hard and equalized. Then I won the next point. Game point! 
To my horror my opponent was in no mood to relent. He made it 14-all. One point for either to win. It was that close.
I stepped out moments later. I had set myself a victory margin of 4-1 and I had done it.
A great feeling indeed.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Dhoni and the Cult of the Leader

A few days back an interesting conversation between Harsha Bhogle and Shane Warne shed light on why the Indian team is unable to get beyond the semi finals in recent major tournaments.
Harsha Bhogle began talking about the inevitability of fate and a 'sense of what lay ahead', while Shane Warne spoke with clarity on the fact that when there's a target to get or batsmen to get out, someone has to go out and do it. In an regular match sometimes a  individual does it, however in a tournament especially a major one it becomes difficult for one or two players to do so match after match.  It requires the entire team to play consistently well, to win such tournaments.  Which is lacking in the Indian team.

Save for Virat, Nehra and a couple of others, the Indian team has been carrying a bunch of under performers for some time now.  In crucial situations these under performers fail the team and drag down India's chances especially against quality opposition who India encounter in semifinal situations.

How do under performers make it to the team? Why are they retained? And why weren't they there earlier?

The answer to this is the curious aura of the 'cult leader'.
Let's examine the leadership path of Dhoni. His greatest phase was between 2007-11. In this time he won everything even the IPL trophy. Then in the phase 2012-2016 he lost most major tournaments in the semi/final stage.  Actually he didn't lose it. His team lost it.
In the first phase he  inherited a team full of seniors. His choices to change them were limited and he hadn't the ego to change them so channelled the seniors and juniors to perform at their best.  It was a great team and ensured victory.
But in India we gave Dhoni total credit believing he can make any team successful.  Perhaps he thought the same. 
Now Dhoni began to select the team of his choice.  This had players loyal to him and players he believed brought him luck. This caused the early exit of some key seniors.  But the nation backed him.
Dhoni succumbed to the cult of the absolute leader who believed that he could win any match with the team he chose.  He ignored the failures of key players and continued with them. He refused to bring in better players who sat on the sidelines.
This is why India and CSK would consistently lose at the knockout stages of major tournaments.

A leader is only as good as his team. The moment a team is chosen on the basis of loyalty or superstition it undermines its own chances of victory.