Unchartered Territories ahead: Role of Culture and Human value systems

September 22, 2017

Famous futurist Gerd Leonhard in his book, Technology Vs Humanity says:

“As AIs (Artificial Intelligence) gradually then suddenly become scientists, programmers, doctors, and journalists, meaningful work opportunities could become so scarce that very few of us would snag a job-as-we-know-it today. At the same time, most items on the lower steps of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs–such as food, water, and shelter–will become increasingly cheaper. Machines will be doing most of the hard work, making the provision of services such as transportation, banking, food, and media vastly cheaper. We may be heading towards the uncharted territory of economic abundance on the one hand, but the end of working for a living on the other. We will eventually need to separate money from occupation, and that shift will challenge some very central assumptions about how we define our own values and identities”.

He is not the only one to state that we would have jobless growth or we would have abundance of food but no jobs. Vivek Wadhwa, in his presentations and book ‘The Driver in the Driverless Car’ continues to state similar thing – we will have abundance of water and clean energy at very affordable prices even in the poorest parts of the world. But these developments would not create new jobs. We are heading towards jobless growth.

Almost every futurist has given predictions on these lines. And we don’t have to wait to long for these predictions to come true. We are already experiencing many of these things around us. Clean energy is getting available at lower prices, food productions all the over the world is touching record high, farming is happening in the dessert areas. Though few things are confined to developed parts of the world but with the exponential growth in technology and supply chain, we will see the gains of these abundance reaching every corner of the human population in less than 10 years.

The technology developments are reducing dependence on human power. The repetitive jobs are being consumed by machines and AI powered bots. When we call up most the service providers (AT&T, Comcast etc) most of the time we end up talking to AI powered software. Businesses are going to deploy more and more such software, algorithms and robots to carry out these jobs at 10X efficiency at 10 times lower cost of humans.

This also means that businesses would see huge growth in their profits. Rich will become richer and poor will become poor. The inequality will grow even further. Today 62 people in the world have wealth equal to bottom 3.5 billion people.! Just pause and digest this great discrepancy that exist today. Imagine what would happen in coming days !!

And then add a scenario that millions of people will not have jobs.

What will be social challenges? How will social structure look like, how will governance work? We don’t have answers to these questions. But one thing is pretty sure, that social fabric would be guided by the individual character, motivation and values. If we don’t have people with strong human values, with no foundation of cultural systems and strong sense of community, there would be anarchy. People would not know how to put their time to use. There would be full stomachs but empty minds. There would be material abundance but no meaning to life. People would have transcended today’s so-called definition of happiness as they would have achieved most of it – food, shelter, comfort – all material values. Now they would need more than that – which is ‘meaning’ or purpose of life. These full stomach-empty minds-souls would need to be channelized for the right purpose.

In such a situation, there would be a need to help people find meaning. Many researches have shown that people find the meaning to life from social acceptance, contribution to something more than ‘self’ and having a sense of belonging. People flock to social and cultural organisations to connect with one or some of these elements. People look for leaders and societies that can help them connect with ‘higher self. Thus, the work of social and spiritual organization becomes even more important. It would become even more important to institutionalize the system of inculcating these values.

-Sachin Dabir

 

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Loans to encourage entrepreneurship? You must be joking Mr. Jaitly

March 28, 2016

When I read the news of “Stand up India” program, first thought that came to my mind was “entrepreneurship can not be thrust upon anyone by giving money in hand”. On the contrary entrepreneurship is all about brining your ideas to life despite having all the odds stacked against you. Second thought that went thru my mind was why government wants to encourage only one section of the society to be entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship should be encouraged for anyone who has deserving ideas irrespective of caste, religion and gender.

Lets take the first case. 
What is entrepreneurship? First of all entrepreneurship is a mindset. It is about developing new ideas, being creative, being innovative in every aspect of the business. These aspects include raising money for starting the business. If one is really serious about his / her business, he/she would find ways to start it and develop into big one. If you go and ask any successful entrepreneur he/she would tell how despite having the problem of raising capital for the business, he /she became successful. Real entrepreneurs thrive more when the odds are higher.

In my experience, no country has been able to develop entrepreneurship by throwing money at people. I have seen how Singapore, a very rich country, flush with money, is trying very hard to create successful entrepreneurs. Government has in last 8 years ( that I have seen) created many schemes, incentives, programs, infrastructure for encouraging people take up entrepreneurship. Some aspects have worked, some have not. But there is no scheme through which Banks are told to give loans for entrepreneurship. There are other implications of ‘loan’ that I would discuss further in this article.

Even in the silicon valley there are no government backed loans by the banks that entrepreneurs are given. Here it is strict meritocracy and based on your ability to bring about innovation.

I am not saying that entrepreneurs don’t need access to funds. But giving loans through banks and that too based on caste, defeats the whole purpose of entrepreneurship. While I have no issue in providing support system for weaker sections of the society for entrepreneurship, but not at the cost of people. This support system can be developed from within the society itself. For example, Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce is an excellent initiative. It provides platform for aspiring and budding entrepreneurs of Dalit society. It also helps create a network and support system.

I have the first hand experience of running a network for entrepreneurs in Singapore. I am personally going through this journey of entrepreneurship since 2009. So, I know that the support system, networking etc are crucial aspect for encouraging entrepreneurship. Access to funds is definitely important part of it. But it has to be based on strength of your ideas, ability to execute and building and running business successfully.

Money doled out in the form of loan and an affirmative action most often fail to deliver the result and it is painfully true for entrepreneurship. You can not build the mindset by doling out money. You are only developing crutches that are so detrimental in entrepreneurship.

Second aspect is about extending these loans based on caste. It is a laughable thought that access to  money (or lack of it) was a reason for not developing entrepreneurship in a particular section of the society. I understand the affirmative action that we have in place for education and jobs. I support that completely. But there is no logic nor any historical reason to extend these actions in the field of entrepreneurship. If India wants more entrepreneurs, if India wants more ideas and innovation, it should remove all discrimination in extending such help.

I have no problem if private institutions or chamber of commerce etc have plans to extend money to groups of society.  It is their private issue. But when Government is getting into the business of extending the loan through government owned bank, it is giving away money of all the citizens. Especially in the field of entrepreneurship we don’t need any discrimination. There is no historical reason that exists for lack of entrepreneurship in a particular society for lack of access to funds. ( the argument that is used for reservation in education was that historically Dalits and large section of the society were deprived of it because of their caste) Actually this challenge (funding) is faced by everyone who aspires to be an entrepreneur.

Government can create entrepreneurship development cells, special incentives for innovation ( I have seen them in many parts of the world) through various bodies that can work closely with industry bodies. But extending loans through banks have a serious ramifications. Lets look at them.

Typically banks give loan against collateral (which is a good business practice). If anyone has an asset worth Rs. 1Cr to pledge and take a loan you don’t need a separate scheme for them.  Since this is not the case, then government, it seems, want to treat these loans against the business idea? Does that mean banks would become angle investors? Do you think banks have a mechanism to access the intangibles and decide to invest in startups? When the success ratio of thorough professionals in this field is not more than 10%, what is the likelihood that banks would be able to recover money?
In all likelihood it would become a way to doling out money without any assurance of getting it back. Very soon it would turn into similar thing as ‘loans to farmers’ and then degenerate into ‘loan waiver’ program.

When the banks are crumbling under mounting NPAs do you think they need another potentially NPA developing scheme? Just think about the enormity of possible NPAs. Rs 1Cr given to a modest number of 1 lakh people would mean Rs 1Lakh Cr money down the drain?

The last part that comes to my mind is a pure political angle. Since I believe that this government has good intentions and is really working hard for the development of the country, I do not want to think deeper in the possible dirty political game that could be associated with this move.

To conclude, my points are :
– You can not develop entrepreneurship by giving government money through loan. You need incentives and schemes against innovation and measurable deliverables.
– By giving loans for entrepreneurship for a particular section of the society, government is discriminating against deserving ideas. There is no proof that only a particular society needs money for entrepreneurship; on the contrary anyone with good idea and ability to execute needs to be supported.
– To support upliftment of a particular society or entrepreneurship within that society, there are private institutions such as Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce who are doing a good job. Government can help strengthen such initiative.
– By giving the loans through banks, government is potentially creating huge NPAs.

PS : I must say that these thoughts are based on the news item that appeared in all national newspapers. I did not have a chance to look at the intended mechanism of the scheme. 

Report of Report Cards on Modi Government – corporate style

May 26, 2015

Yesterday one of my school friends sent me an article for my comments that gave one year report card of BJP government. And this is what I wrote to him.

Dear Vivek, Yes, I have read this article.
Like the author and as she herself has mentioned, hundreds have written a report card on Narendra Modiji’s government. In a democracy everyone has the rights to comment and it is a sign of healthy democracy that everyone’s views are heard and criticism is taken into its stride. ( isn’t that also speaks well for the govt?)

I think, democratic process is not like a school system, where we enter for 5 years and every year we are evaluated whether we have passed or failed. There are many decisions that are taken for long term impact and strategic direction – specially foreign policy, defence preparedness, education policy and infrastructure. Impact of some decisions are felt after 5 years, some after 10 years and some after one generation.

You and me work in corporate sector, we have annual review against our annual targets and plans. We are evaluated on set parameters on how much have we achieved.

But as we go up in the hierarchy we realise that many of these parameters are lagging indicators. We find people’s performance after they have achieved or have failed to achieve. If they have failed to achieve we give them feedback, we might put them on some ‘plan’ – euphemism for putting them ‘under watch’ – or some jobs are made redundant (again an euphemism for retrenching non performers). However the damage was done in terms of non achievement. We have to work extra hard to repair it and achieve next year’s ( or quarter’s) targets. At that stage we learn to focus on leading indicators – focussing on actions that would give desired results. Because we now know that if right actions are not taken at the right time we won’t get the results and in the end we would be only doing postmortem.

Also we are given responsibility to make a 3 years plan, 5 years plan, a strategic plan and an operational plan. As we start executing it, we focus on key decisions keeping an eye on long term impact. Many times a lower level manager doesn’t realise the importance of certain decisions or recruitment of certain skills, as he or she is not aware of the strategic plan. But we know that to achieve these long term goals we need to prepare in advance – need to get right systems in place, right people in place and start working towards it.

I feel that in the nation’s planning and progress, there is a much more complexity than corporate planning.  Though there is no harm in taking stock of the situation annually and evaluate the progress, I feel we should use the leading indicators to understand the government’s progress. Because we should be concerned about long term impact as much as we should be about short term decisions.

My leading indicators for a government’s performance are :

Intent : It is obvious that if the intent is not right all the decisions would lead to downhill path as we saw under UPA. If the intent is to serve the country well, then automatically corruption and corrupt practices vanishes at the top and then it slowly percolates down. We all have seen a corruption free India in last 1 year.

Vision and Plan : Intent drives the vision. What do you want to make a country as eg. Swaccha Bharat, Make in India, Digital India, Financial inclusion etc are part of the the vision. And putting together a plan for it. Constructing toilets, cleaning of Ganga, connecting roads, opening of bank accounts for hundreds of thousands of people,  etc are part of the plan behind the vision

Policy framework : Putting policy framework in line with the vision e.g.. putting together Digital policy, putting together policy of water ways, ‘Act East’ policy etc are the examples.

Team : Having a competent and capable team that would work together is important. Along with the competence what is needed is clarity and cohesiveness of intent among the team. If that is in place then even if there are differences of opinion they can be managed ( Actually healthy amount of dissent is needed for robustness of decisions making) “Matbhed hona galat nahi hai, Manbhed nahi hone chahiye” ( मतभेद होना गलत नही है, मनभेद नही होने चाहिए ।)

Leadership : Strong leadership is most important. We all are experiencing how a good leader can channelise the energy of the nation.

Connectedness with the masses : It is important to check how well the ministers and policymakers are in touch with the people of the country. Very often power and aura of Delhi makes the ministers lose touch with the reality and decisions are taken for the benefits of the creamy layer of the society. It is great to see many ministers are regularly going back to their constituencies and are appraised on their connectedness.

Engagement with all stakeholders : It is important for the government to connects well with all the pillars of the democracy and establish very good relationship with them for the smooth functioning – judiciary, bureaucracy, financial institutions such as RBI etc. Also being the federal structure not just having good relationship with the state government but also working to strengthen them is most important. We have have seen how Modiji’s government has acted on finance commission report and increased the fund allocation to the states and how the funds generated through coal auction have gone to the states- mostly to the non BJP states and how states are being made stakeholder in the growth of the country.

If you would like to create your report card, please go ahead and do so. Make sure that you are focussing on the leading indicator to get a true picture of the progress.


BJP needs a new Abhiyaan – ‘Maati Se Moti’ (माटी से मोती)

March 23, 2015

In view of the hue and cry being made by the opposition parties on land bill reforms, I feel it is important that BJP should take the fight head on and not depend only on PM Modi ji to reach out to the farmers. Let me explain why I say so.

I think the Indian politics has changed for better and changed forever from the days when government could take it for granted that only time they have to face the people is only after 5 years. Governments of the day are not even getting one full year as its honeymoon period, people are in a hurry to demand the changes (that they waited for 60 years). The modes of communication in the 24×7 TV reporting, social media etc have set the governments on its toes and hence if there is any (real or perceived) disquiet in the country about Government’s decision, it should immediately reach out to the people.

But I think that to reach out to the people only government mechanism is not good enough. Number one, government mechanism is busy implementing policies and it takes time to show results. Number two, government mechanism (bureaucracy ), largely, is not geared up to communicate. And lastly, bureaucracy itself needs to be educated about Government’s message.

In the face of it, the mantle falls  on the political arm of the government to communicate and be in touch with the people all the time. There are other benefits of doing this :

What was the biggest strength of BJP when it won 2014 elections? It was the support of aam aadmi, it was the support from BJP’s non traditional vote bank i.e. the rural India, it was the votes of the financially weaker section of the society. Today, opposition along with some media is creating a perception that farmers and aam aadmi is unhappy with the Government. If BJP (not government machinery and ministers only) reaches out to these people and communicate directly, opposition which is sitting only in Delhi would have nothing to talk about.

Secondly, with the last 10 years of corruption and 60 years of Congress party rule, people have become weary of governments in general and they embrace the ‘Andolan’ more readily than the government’s narrative. Though, in case of land reforms bill, opposition has not been able to mobilise any protests, it has been successful in creating a perception that people (aam aadmi / farmers) are not happy with the bill.

Modiji’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on 22nd March was an excellent talk and it tried to dispel many myths, it tried to give positive side of the bill and it also communicated government’s resolve and sincerity to work in the interest of farmers. But now, I feel, people would view his talk more as a government’s position, still doubting its intentions and may not embrace it fully.

Instead of waiting for something (protests) to happen (opposition it likely to manufacture some form of protests and amplify it) and then go out explaining government’s stand, I think it would be better for the BJP to create its own Abhiyaan and I am suggesting a name – “Maati Se Moti” ( माटी से मोती). The narrative could be to establish connects with the farmer and discuss how to make most out of the farming land, how we can make better India through agriculture produce, what all government is doing for farmers etc. This way the discussion is more positive, it is about their welfare and BJP / Govt is not defending its position.


‘India’s daughter’ – Why I question Leslee Udwin’s intentions and why I feel Govt did a right thing.

March 7, 2015

I have watched the documentary ( on BBC 4) and I have also watched the interview of Leslee Udwin on NDTV. After watching both, I believe that what Govt of India did was a right thing. The worse thing in this saga is the controversy created by media. Look at the headlines in the two leading news agencies in India – Times of India and NDTV. Same news, same day, how these channels are spinning the headlines. After watching and reading these news I felt really disgusted about the way these channels were sensationalising whole issue.

NDTV Times

Whether you watch the documentary or not, either ways, you would come to the same conclusion that it was not done in right spirit and intentions were not  to ‘study of rape incidence’ but to create publicity gathering documentary with the aim of making money.

Lets take first scenarios where you have not watched the documentary, but have seen Leslee’s interview. You would realise that she has ‘managed’ to get the clearance through questionable means.

Example 1) The jail authorities had cleared the documentary for non commercial purpose. She managed to convince them that every documentary has a small commercial value (this is her own admission) hence they should add the word for the purpose of clarity. It is very clear from the way publicity is generated that she ‘managed’ to get this word in the revised letter hiding the real intention of generating huge profits (through big publicity). To get these ‘permissions’ she was working through local ‘agents’ to ‘deal’ with jail authorities,

Example 2) She was supposed to show entire footage to the jail authorities. She very cleverly showed the non essential part – the shooting of the surroundings etc of few hours (!) to the committee on first day, they got (predictably) bored and decided to see the real part – the interviews with the rapists – next day. That never happened. She avoided showing the interview by hiding behind the technicalities, because her real intentions were not clean.

Jail authorities have sent the letter that she had violated the permission given and she should not release the documentary. Her stand and approach (from the interview) has been very confrontationist. She is seen daring the Indian government to stop its screening by telling that there would be protests in the world. Her attitude smacks of arrogance coming out of ‘I am superior’ kind of traits.

She proclaims that the documentary was supposed to be her gift to India. My question is why she never thought of making a documentary on the similar subject closer her home town – Birmingham, UK. There are more heinous crimes against young girls being committed for last 15 years and the society is silent. Should she not be gifting a documentary to her hometown? Read the rot in the British society and the extent of problems they have “Call for national debate on Muslim sex grooming” 

Now lets consider you have seen the documentary and her interview too.

If this documentary was supposed to be study of society and problems of rape in Indian society, I did not come out with any new information or new angle than what has been extensively reported in the media, except for the interview of the rapist. Was there a need to re-state those incidences?

Was this documentary made to create sensation by giving platform to the rapist? The documentary ends up giving an impression that every rapist would start making the bucks ( media has reported that the rapist’s family was paid Rs.40,000/ – after intense negotiations) through such documentaries.

Why was the rapist shown in normal cloths than the jail cloths. As per the jail rule no inmate is allowed to use cloths other than those provided by the jail. Again, here, has she seemed to have ‘managed’ to work around the system through her local ‘agents’

Whether we agree or not, as per the Indian judicial norms the victim’s name is not supposed to be reported in rape cases. Why has she taken liberty with Indian law by stating the name so many times?

No wonder, if the jail authorities had seen the footage, they would have objected to it and it seems she wanted to hide these things from them.

Under these circumstances government has to take a stand to make sure that Indian laws and processes be followed and no one should be allowed to play with it. If there were shortcomings or system was compromised in the earlier time, it needs to be corrected.

Having said that, it is true that we have to get our act together, faster. We should have expedited the clearing of such case faster, we should have done much more with the ‘Nirbhaya fund’. I do not recommend only the laws to create safety of women – because in this statement it is assumed that women are weak and they need protection – I am of firm opinion that women have immense power – we as a society need to learn to respect them and accept their equal contribution in building society.


Social media shaping our lives?

May 25, 2012

For most people including the marketeers, social media is a form of technology which maps our behaviour into digital world. Actually this is how the entire automation or for that matter the computerization has started. We first tried to automate the routine work with the help of machines then we made them little intelligent by adding ‘CPU’ or brainpower. Think of machines – typewriters then word-processors on the computers or calculators and then spreadsheets. Think of the early use of computers for payroll etc. Essentially we were asking the machines to do our work. Most people ( who are 35 and above today) have to come to think of computers, internet as a way to map our tasks – personal work and office work in the internet world.

But social media such as Facebook or Twitter or Google hangout or Linkedin are proving to be much more than manifestation of our lives in the digital world. Though the founder’s of these companies might not have started with the grand vision and great psychological studies or with the intentions of changing the people behaviour, but these tools are precisely doing that – they are taking us into an era where our social behaviour is being shaped by them. Here are sample examples why I think it is happening :

Definition of friends : We all value number of likes and comments to our posts by our friends. We engage and connect with the people with whom we did not have in-depth relationships in real life. But we value their comments, we establish some bonds with them. With more and more people being on-line, the way new generation would think of ‘friends’ is entirely going to change. There are going to be more online friends than real life ones and they are the ones who are going to be more influential.  These influences would not have cultural boundaries. This wold lead to the behaviour patterns that have no historical pattern that can be studied. It is all going to be very new.

‘Hanging out’ : With the video chats and ‘hangout’ types tools becoming common coupled with online games becoming more interactive where do you think people are going to spend time on? What is going to shape their minds?

Learning process : We used to think sending to school was enough for the children to get knowledge and information. To give them something extra there were libraries. In a way, it was a linear process, there were defined ways of acquiring the knowledge. Now we want children to be all rounded at an early age and are exposing them, at times pushing them, to many sources of information – schools, tuition, classes, workshops, camps and online assignments. If that is not enough they are expected to understand the latest developments in each fields while learning the basics. For example we teach them ( in the schools) sound waves, light waves, fundamentals of electromagnetic theory, atomic structure etc and then we want them to know about the latest developments in satellite communication, nano technology, super computers etc.Essentially we want to shorten the learning cycle by pointing to the resources available online. Obviously they get pushed to spend more time going through internet and all these social resources.

The entire social media is going to acquire its own form, without we noticing it. The minds, culture, behaviour, societies and nations are  going to be shaped by what people get exposed on the social networks. Are we ready to embrace it?

Note : I have made the image by combining three different pictures available on various sites.


Singapore, consider the open source way to achieve “quantum leap in productivity through pervasive innovation”.

February 12, 2010

Recently, the leadership in Singapore has stated its intent to grow the productivity by 3% and it has also identified, rightly so, that if it wants to make this happen it has to encourage the innovation. Very true. Gone are the days when you could through more cheap labour to manufacture some thing or you could push same labour to do more things in given time. This is an era of services industry and knowledge economy and not the 19th century manufacturing practices.

Productivity through innovation is the right way to do. But the question is, can innovation happen if you tell bunch of people to go out and innovate? Does it happen if you just throw money after it? Answer is no. Though it needs money and bright brains, it does not happen in isolation and silos.

Consider the examples where innovation happened to solve the real problems :

TED – open translation project :

When the prestigious platform wanted to make knowledge available (through the talks) to millions of people who do not speak English wanted to translate the work in 40 international languages, what did it do. It turned to its users – gave the tools in the hands of the users to translate the work. And the result? Job done in very short span of time, with such a low cost.

Goldcorp

Few years back, a Toranto based gold minning company was struggling with debts, strikes and bad market conditions. Prospects were not looking good for survival. How the CEO turned to mass collaboration and not just saved the company but took it from $100 Million to $ 9 billion company is an interesting case.

GE Plastics

When GE plastic wanted to grow it business even when it has 90% of the market share, how it turned to its customer with “toolkit” concept and not only increased its Total Addressable Market, but retained its lead in the market share.

Wikipedia

How the world’s largest encyclopaedia was created through user contributions in short span of time with little or no money.

The common theme in these disparate examples has been use of “mass collaboration and user driven innovation”

Now these are famous and well documented case studies. There are many more that have innovated through “mass collaboration”. If you notice there has been so much written about it in recent years and so many case studies are available. What Singapore can embrace from these solutions is processes, methodology and environment creation to address the problems through mass collaboration.

Open source software is one the earliest success stories of how collaboration, sharing and standardisation can help you do more with less and democratize innovation. Talking about standardisation, if you want to turn innovation into mass innovation, you need to create standardisation. In the recent presentation at Plug in conference in July 2008 Andy Grove, former chief of Intel, urged the American Automobile industry to learn from open source towards standardisation in regards to creating “ Green energy automobiles”

Creating a culture of adopting open source software in Singapore would help in many ways :

  1. Help create understanding of mass collaboration
  2. Help companies to deploy its capex and opex more efficiently there by improving the productivity
  3. Contributing to open source software would create necessary mindset toward innovation.
  4. Standardization, which comes with the use of open source software would lead towards mass innovation

When Thomas Goetz said the following, in 2003, it was prophetic, today is it is the reality.

“Software is just the beginning … open source is doing for mass innovation what the assembly line did for mass production. Get ready for the era when collaboration replaces the corporation. “

Gong Xi Fa Cai (Wish you very prosperous Chinese New Year )



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