Book Review : The Post-American World

August 23, 2008

The Post American World When I saw the tile and name of the author I thought this seems to be yet another book which is going to paint a depressing picture of (decline of ) America and rosy picture of (rise of) Asian countries. It is a fad, in thing to be anti-American these days. Or to do the crystal gazing about bright and beautiful picture for BRIC countries. However when I read the blurb and brief information about the author, I realised he is journalist with wide exposure. Hence I bought it.

This book is written in a journalistic style. It is not a management or crystal gazing style. The author has put the “dots” on a very large canvas. The author gives lot of comparisons and lessons in the history – dating back to Roman empire. Most of the time, author has refrained from giving his opinion and has just put across the picture in multi-dimensional way.

Few of the aspects that I liked most are :

The compelling arguments about importance of economic and financial power. How good financial condition of the country has helped countries to achieve social progress as well. I liked the comparison of British Empire (of the 19th and 20th Century) and today’s America. It was interesting to read effect of political power Vs Economic power. How British Empire during its financial decline in 1900s continued to have its clout through strong political leadership (especially during Churchill and post WW II days.) But this political leadership did no take it far enough in terms of success. At the same time how economic, trade and financial power has helped America to remain a superpower even during bad political leadership (From 1980s onwards).

Also interesting read is Author’s attempt to throw light on the distinction between Westernization and Modernization. Those who oppose Westernization should understand that every modernization is not westernisation. And in modernisation lies lot of westernisation. It is a complex issue and delicate balance. Again here the author has attempted to put the “dots” and not just give opinion nor he is preaching.

Though the rise of the rest is a catchy phrase and I was looking for more about it, I found a lot is written about America’s cause of decline yet how its fundamental strengths are still intact and how it can come up with some good political leadership.

Overall a good read to specially those who want to understand the contemporary history.


When Cactus Smiles

August 8, 2008

Scene 1 : Hindi Movie – Hero is very sad, singing a sad song, all around him are Cactus plants. Camera is showing cactus plants every now and then. Director wants to convey deep sorrow and sadness in hero’s life.

Scene 2 : Ramoji Film City, Hyderbad – We are taking the guided the tour. The guide is showing various landscape gardens. Beautiful gardens based on various themes. And then he makes special announcement. “Look on your right side. This is the sad garden.” Garden and sad? Screamed my heart inside. The guide went on to tell, “see the Cactus plants all over. This is the place where all sad songs, sad scenes are picturised.”

My mind was not into the names of the movies that he was rattling that had picturised the songs and scenes in those gardens.

My heart was thinking about Cactus. Why one type of plant is associated with sadness. What that plant must be thinking about such association. As a living thing it also has emotions and it also must be going through happiness, sadness, joy all kinds of feelings.

I found myself standing in front of one of the Cactus plants. That plant understood my question, my thinking. It was talking to me.

“Sachin, when the mankind associated me with sadness, I went to the God. I asked God, Why Oh God, why? Why you chose me to represent sadness in the world.” God looked at me and gave me a smile. I felt even more sad. I Thought even God is giving me sarcastic smile. But I listened further.

God said, “man has to face both happiness and sadness in life. One appreciates the happiness in life when one encounters the pain of life. I want man to just look at you and understand the pain, sadness and thus appreciate the joy in life. This way I hope he would learn to be more happy without actually having to feel the pain. So my dear Cactus you have a special task to do. I have made you to remind people of sorrow and sadness. You are doing an important work. You end up making man happy. “

And I saw Cactus was smiling with satisfaction.

Why Indians can not make good IT products, but make good solutions

August 3, 2008

Indians are good at services and solutions but can not make good IT products – this is the old problem that we keep hearing about in the industry.

I have been meeting software companies in APAC in last one year. I meet lot of small and medium size companies. One common thing that I hear about them is that all of them have clients in APAC or Europe or in USA. These are small companies 10 to 50 people – not very big. Yet they manage to find buyers in other parts of the world.

Actually it is other way round, customers in other countries trust these products and companies.

There are many companies in India bigger than these companies. Why is it that Indian companies do not instill confidence about Indian Product capabilities, when Indian skills are very well acknowledged, Indians are respected in IT industry.

After spending one year in APAC, I have my perspective. Though this is not a comprehensive view but one of the issues.

We are good at creating ‘solutions’ – solutions that can be tweaked whenever there is a problem. We love to solve the problems and we are very comfortable in the world of ambiguity. But this mental state is not good for making products. Products need state of fixed input and predictable output. Somehow, I realised that we, Indians are not good at being “exact”, “precise” “to the point”. We like giving “big picture” solutions, giving broad views.

Just think about the conversations that we have most of the time – about politics, economics, life. We love to talk a lot but without being precise. Ok this is a very generalised view and there are many good and precise thinking people in India. But the fact is that our brand, image as Indians is not like that. We as, people, are not known to be precise and exact. Hence the buyers dont find trust in capabilities to build great products.

This view was strengthened when I learned about the schooling system in Singapore. The way questions are asked and way students are supposed to answer develops thinking in the direction of being precise, being exact. Where as in India we encourage students to be creative and think out of the box. While it is good in many fields but it has not created a image of being precise.

Now it is a different question whether we should capitalise on our “solutions” and “Creative” brand or should we strive to build the products. I am not getting into that at this point.

And finally if you find above writing to be very generalised and lacking preciseness, well you have got my point.

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