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Go on, be a Tiger. Seriously.

In blah, life, opinion on November 5, 2011 at 9:20 am

Tiger Woods. Kobe Bryant. Rajat Gupta. Steve Jobs.

No, they’re not members of a “fallen heroes” club. They’re just names that large swathes of population are aware of, and subsets revere or have revered at different points in time and then cast aside. In the case of the last name, there might be several rounds of both for a while.

What triggered the line of thought was the HBR article titled “Idolize Bill Gates, not Steve Jobs”. The author repeatedly asks the question “who to idolize”, almost as if desperate to have some kind of template of greatness to aspire to. I have serious doubts about that line of thinking.

The reasons that cause us to bestow “hero” status on certain individuals are easy enough to understand, typically boiling down to excellence in a chosen field. What causes us to rip the plaque off the wall with disgust, not so much.

Their Rocky-like ascents to greatness, in our minds, are usually accompanied by well-documented stories of coming from unfertile backgrounds and using sheer force of will to impressive achievements. As they emerge from oblivion to cause us to take notice, the sole point of discussion is their field of work or play. As Tiger Woods was in the process of making golf sexy, I doubt there were many admiring conversations about his charitable donations or his exemplary manners, or for that matter, his fidelity. With 14 seconds to go and a point down, Lakers fans didn’t want the ball to go to Kobe for his graciousness but for his ridiculous talent honed to near-perfection with hundreds of hours of hardwork.

But once their achievements are widely acknowledged, something funny seems to happen. The goalposts shift. The smallest inkling of a character flaw is examined, magnified and discussed. So much so that not-so famous peers huddle around tables analyzing so-called behaviours from ‘way back when’ that apparently got them wondering. The author of the above article points to Jobs concern for Apple as a reason to rank him below Gates who spends time with his foundation. Seems like flimsy reasoning to me. As if there is some kind of direct causality between any perceived errant behavior and all the achievements. It’s almost as if being made aware of a flaw in such a person gets us to heave a collective sigh of relief that goes “so that’s what was wrong with him so now I don’t have to aspire to that kind of greatness”.

The flaw, I think, lies in the concept of “idolizing” individuals. To really be able to do so, you have to be aware of, not only their achievements, but also their motivations. Something we can never be sure of. Would it not make a difference if you were aware that a given athlete’s superlative performances stemmed from a deep-rooted insecurity about their self-worth versus one whose motivation was just to be the best?

Instead, we would be better off recognizing greatness in deeds rather than associating them with the very human individuals that carry them out. That a bright young engineer from a lower-middle class Indian background went on to become not only the first non-American partner but went on to head the most recognized management consulting firm in the world for well over a decade is a deed worth acknowledging as great. Sketchy information about a few ill-advised phone calls do not detract from that deed. It would therefore be a pity if young professionals refused to take inspiration from such examples, at the same time recognizing that that they are distinct unit of muscle, bones and tissue.

Fools admire, men of sense approve

~Alexander Pope

Speech is silver, Typing Golden?

In blah, life, opinion on March 31, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Many years ago, I was asked to do a presentation on ‘Communication Skills’ for a  monthly knowledge-sharing session. The kind of thing bosses come up with when they skim the back-cover of business books with “Leadership” in the title. Having drawn the short straw, I set about gathering the requisite information through painstaking research. Yes, I clicked ‘Google Search’ since clicking ‘I’m feeling lucky’ would’ve been plain laziness. After clicking through a few sites with textbook definitions, I came across a paragraph that made sense

“When two people are talking, there are six perceptions involved; What each person thinks of themselves, what they think the other person thinks of them and what the other person really thinks of them”

(I couldn’t find the resource and so have paraphrased).

Job interviews are prime examples of the ‘2 people, 6 perceptions idea’ where the seeker is constantly trying to fill in any silence by taking it as a sign of disapproval and trying to compensate for perceived weakness from the previous answer.

Not just high-pressure interactions, the ‘noise’ creeps into most of our interactions. Just the possibility of being judged as perceived by inflections in tone, mobile eyebrows and changes in posture tend to influence behaviour and therefore undermine the purpose of communication. Just the other day I was on the phone with our local restaurant ordering takeout for a weeknight dinner. Having decided that I only needed a soup, I dialled:

Restaurant : Hello, XYZ

Me: Hi, I’d like to order for delivery

Restaurant: Yes, what would you like?

Me: One chicken shorba.

Restaurant: Onnnne chicken shorba [as he fishes out and writes on a pad (approx 7 seconds)]….then?…..

Me: ….ummm….[accompanying thought process: it’s lame to order just one thing for delivery]

Me: One Malai Chicken Tikka.

Restaurant: …Malaaaai chicken tikkkaaaa….then?….

Me: That’s it.

I put the phone down, safe in the knowledge that I won’t be the lame customer who made a delivery guy toil all the way to my address to deliver a miniscule order. I’d let the perceived question mark in the other person’s voice (that’s his job) as a signal of expectation to order more, defying any rational thought process that the number of items have nothing to do with inconvenience to the delivery guy! And now I’d overeat because I was influenced so easily.

My ideal world, communication-wise would be Gaia, a networked world. All information available to all without the distorting effects of any form of communication. Sure, it’d make a game of chinese whispers impossible but would reduce a fair bit of angst arising from mistrust and the perceived lack of information that created the ‘Lemon Market Theory

Which is why I like written communication. No verbal cues or body language shifts, just the message. Thought through and articulated, the message is in black and white. Some advantages that I think the written medium offers:

  • The receiver has multiple passes at it and is not being distracted by voice modulations that might indicate impatience/boredom/anger or any other emotion.
  • Responding to a written message involves structuring your thoughts around what’s on paper (the issue at hand) and eliminating unfounded opinions.
  • It also eliminates that most infuriating experience of watching the listener’s lips moving to formulate a response before you’ve made your point which in turn results in the urge to interrupt the speaker to ram home your point and so on and so forth.

Yes, caps locked text, multiple exclamation marks and non-existent grammar sometimes destroy any hope of sense from a written communique but I think it takes more effort to screw up in writing than in speech. And no doubt, certain situations lend themselves better to certain modes of communication.

What do you think? Have you felt yourself responding to the tone rather than content? To preconceived notions based on history rather than the facts at hand? Has a gum-chewing bored-sounding customer service rep made you see red even though his tone had nothing to do with your issue? Or found yourself in a meeting with each participant looking to “say her piece” causing the discussion to meander? Or does what works depend on how our individual brains are wired thus negating most of the points made above?

Man versus Food

In blah, life, opinion, the (much) better half on September 8, 2010 at 12:02 pm

The wife and I have a long-standing argument about food. Particularly the kind served at restaurants around the city. My contention is that there really isn’t much difference in the taste and/or quality of food delivered by our local “free home delivery” joint and what is brought in meticulously arranged piles on weirdly-shaped slabs of china at those that regularly rate mentions in newspaper supplements. Any perception of superior taste is really nothing but a fallout of the fact that the former usually are named after the proprieter’s wife or assorted dieties (Priya/Sadguru) and the latter have cryptic call signs for names (San-Qi/KOH) and better interior designers. (ducks instinctively from the flying book/cushion that invariably follows such a statement)

Now, there is no doubt that she knows food better than I do. My expertise at distinguishing what’s on my plate is limited to being able to tell thai red curry from green (scratch that), being able to tell red curry from green. I can even go as far as to announce that a ‘mutton balti’ had been placed in front of us as long as it was actually served in one of those miniature copper buckets with “mutton” printed in bold on the side. She, on the other hand, can rattle off statements like “i’d prefer this with fussili and not the rigatoni” and “there’s not enough hollandaise in this”. Aside from politely pointing out that the restaurant didn’t make any claims to serving dutch food I usually refrain from commenting.

I say, take away the nebulous concept of ‘ambience’ and they’re all the same. I mean, come on! Are we already not subconsciously assigning a premium to the cryptic call-sign restaurant (refer 1st para) when we walk in to be told that “the kitchen here is run by chef so-and-so”.  And as we walk by the fountain and sit at the pinewood table with the tulip centrepiece, have we not already given the place a hard-to-beat lead? note to wife: tulips, now those are dutch <chuckle>.

The Four Seasons in Mumbai, (i’m told) has made it fashionable to have a lobby that looks crowded with more than 1 person in it and to report “parking charges” as their most profitable service offering. I’ve heard statements like “You know they charge 90 bucks for parking?! Ridiculous! Shall we do lunch there this friday?” But I digress. Its when we come back to the staples of British dining; paneer tikka masala, chicken biryani, butter naan that I think, the playing field is level. In a blind taste test, would the fare from at the call-sign restaurant beat that from the local joint? It’s really hard to say. Packaged in unmarked creaky plastic boxes would the INR 650/- biryani with a string of adjectives be able to differentiate itself from the “raita Rs 10 extra” variety? That’s the question.

Not a simple answer. Think about it. If you go to a joint having seen a reference to the place in Vir Sanghvi’s article in HT marvelling at the lusciousness of the frou-de-pomage-a-la-bleh (not actual dish), then read a couple of more reviews (which might or might not be PR pieces), read a bunch of tweets from a bunch of people with handles like @foodgoddess or @youreanidiotifyoudoubtmyopinion, then does the restaurant have to do more than provide a passable frou-de-pomage-a-la-bleh for you to be doing Meg Ryan impersonations (you know the restaurant scene I’m talking about)?

The argumentative amongst you might insist it’ll actually work the other way and they’d go in with high expectations which the food might not be able to live up to. To those, I refer you to @youreanidiotifyoudoubtmyopinion

Its a free country, isn’t it

In blah, opinion, rant on December 2, 2008 at 6:11 am

It’s a cacophony of strident voices calling for action. The course is not very important, that there be one, is, very. Depending on what proportion of the words being expressed get the benefit of some cerebral horsepower, the courses vary from lighting a bunch of candles to giving the law enforcers tank armour for vests to installing battletanks outside hotel entrances to exercising our nuclear options against the neighbour, all accompanied with varying levels of reasoning underlined with “Take action!” then of course there are the opinions that aren’t saddled with the baggage of logic. These mostly involve rescinding the “secular” sections in our constitution as a fitting riposte to those who believe that making ones point involves plastic explosive and Kalashnikov rifles.

There is one underlying assumption in most of those lines of thought, that the root cause of our vulnerability to terror attacks is incompetence. The picture in everyone’s mind is a bunch of bungling bureaucrats and officials who can’t tell an approaching group of terrorists from the local group of party workers (actually, who can). Sure, it probably does not help that the average years of education imbibed by each of the elite members of parliament or legislature could be counted on one hand, but I believe, the root cause is beyond incompetence.

What do the Rs 100 payoff to the traffic cop at the signal for overlooking the slight infraction and the Rs 200,000 paid to the local corporator to ensure uninterrupted water supply have in common? Zoom out a little, and you have going rates for any kind of permission or right. Building contractors haggle over how much they need to pay the local representative to garner the plum contract. There is a line of work that involves getting agricultural land classified as commercial, thus multiplying its price literally overnight. In the nation’s capital, every confrontation resulting from a fender bender begins with reeling off the names of politicians that each participant has on his cell phone and can therefore the extent to which they can defy the law. Corruption. It’s a way of life, so deeply embedded in the Indian psyche that we look at it as fair cost of conducting the daily business of living. Sure, but what does it have to do with machine-gun toting maniacs?

Simple really. Does power corrupt or does it attract the corrupt? The latter, I believe. Just look at the profiles of each of the respected MPs or MLAs that govern this nation. Toss a stone and you’re more likely to hit one charged with multiple homicides than a novice who was just booked for disturbing the peace. These are the people who decide everything from expenditure on infrastructure, education, defense, law enforcement. Everything. A look at the income tax returns filed by these individuals does not require the paranoia of conspiracy theorists to guess that the only function of governance is to bleed the country dry for personal gain. The wealth amassed is then used to defend the fortress of power by making sure corruption reaches the grass-roots, in the form of television sets or bags of rice. In the midst of all this, they make some mundane decisions about whether India should sign the nuclear 1-2-3 agreement. Definition of a soft target anyone?

This august group is now responsible for developing the capabilities to evaluate and identify threats to India’s national security. To fund the right programs that enable building capabilities to erode the capabilities of terrorist groups to launch attacks, to develop early-warning systems to consider scenarios and ever-increasing means of attack, to address the root of the causes that precipitate local support to the outsiders. Is it not so much easier to reshuffle cabinet and post a truck full of soldiers within shouting distance of the gateway? Unless, someone tells them the contract sizes involved in installing a closed-circuit network across the city…

A lot of what I’ve said was under the premise that educated and driven leadership would de facto see beyond their personal gains but a slew of saber-rattling emails on a forum for supposedly measured and insightful discussion suggest that maybe the latter group might be afflicted with whatever leads a drunk to look for his lost keys under the lamp post and also punch the lamp post in the process. But hey, isn’t that one of the perks of democracy.

20-20 ‘four’sight

In opinion, sports, world cup on September 18, 2007 at 7:42 am

Cricket’s turned a corner with its latest format involving 20 overs a side and skimpy cheerleaders. While opinions are divided about whether its the saving grace or the death knell for the game, its generally accepted that its likely to have a permanent impact.

The timeline of development of the game over time could be divided into 3 phases:

Phase I – Need for results

The accidental format played to compensate for a test match lost to rain as a way to kill time turned out to be quite an entertainer and addressed a few of the downsides of test match cricket.

  • Five days – 15 sessions – 30 hours of cricket
  • Preponderance of draws making the game look less competitive than it was
  • Emphasis on individual records than team results

Phase II – Packer, floodlit cricket and the tube

It took a while for the limited overs version to emerge from the shadow of real ‘test-match’ cricket. Games were still played in the template of tests with the result of most games being an after-thought. It took a businessman to take giant strides to unlock the potential of the game and make some key developments.

  • Tournaments involving more than 2 countries making results more significant
  • Coloured clothing and white balls, even for teams from the subcontinent (pardon the weak pun) made games more viewable for television since video cameras, in those days, weren’t good enough to track the red ball

Phase III – Handcuff the bowler

Even the instant version of the game suffered from the drawback of being about twice as long as that most yawn-inducing of sports called baseball. To compensate for the lull periods, a 30-yard circle was drawn, field restrictions were introduced and anything shaving leg-stump was deemed to be a wide.

Recent modifications have added 5 more overs of merry hitting albeit in 3 installments to total 20 overs

But, in spite of all those changes, 100 overs of cricket means periods of consolidation and the price of an entire day for those at the ground.

20-20

This format is pretty much 50-50 cricket, with the 20-40 over stages of each innings carved out. Hence, the biggest positive, for viewers, is the duration that’s comparable to a bollywood flick (75 mins/innings + 10 min changeover)

However, in its current format, it suffers from the same ills of predictability, though at a more frenetic pace. Going by past record, the game will have keep getting shortened to eliminate every shot that is not aimed at clearing the boundary.

The problem (that applies to all limited-over formats)

The bowler has been reduced to a non-entity barring the odd burst and fielding captains have nothing to do but damage-control. Every rule and development in the game is heavily loaded in favour of the batsmen, right from the power plays to the bats that clear the boundary even off thick edges, not to mention the rock hard flat pitches.

The solution

Make it an actual contest between bat and ball and not just between 2 batting line-ups. While any measure to curtail batsmen would be as daft as what has been done to bowlers, they could be made to actually earn their runs.

  1. Eliminate the french cut : Is there a more frustrating sight than to see a bowler do everything right to beat the batsman only to find the ball take the edge (inside or outside) and run away to the boundary? Sure, it was fun when the batsman was Utthappa and the bowler was Anderson, but it does not make sense to penalize the bowler for beating the bat! The area between fine leg and thirdman should be a ‘No run’ zone. This won’t eliminate too many actual shots, maybe a few dinky reverse sweeps
  2. Scoring zones decided by the fielding captain : Certain areas in the field could be deemed to offer bonus runs for 5 over periods. This would mean the fielding captain would look at his bowlers and decide where would it be most difficult for a batsman to hit it? e.g The area between deep extra cover and long off could be the zone for a 5-over period and the batsman could get 1.5 times the runs for every boundary hit through there (so no mistimed agricultural hoicks but actual middle of the bat shots)
  3. Rolling substitutions : Allow batsmen to be replaced if the batting captain feels he has a better batsman for a particular kind of bowler. This means, that both captains have the opportunity to pit their best against those of the opposition.

All said it will take more than just reducing the duration of the game to make it as viewable as most other sports.

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Outfielded

In opinion, sports on August 31, 2007 at 9:19 am

When we win:
Batting: Powerful line up, vast experience, inimitable skill, explosive lower order
Bowling: Skillful swing bowlers, exploited conditions beautifully
Fielding: Competent and reliable while not spectacular

When they lose:
Batting: Top order well past their prime, bad runners between the wickets
Bowling: Lackluster and pedestrian
Fielding: Weak arms, too many slow movers, butterfingers

This is not really a piece in staunch defense of the men in blue but a study in the yo-yo effect the Indian team’s performance has on the the analytical abilities of the revered ex-cricketers with microphones. I’ve always had my indifferent reservations about the validity of comments made by Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri as opposed to the likes of Richie Benaud or Ian Chappell. To me, it has always sounded like the former pair only stated, repeated and belabored the obvious.

Example:
fast-medium bowler overpitches and gets driven through the covers for four

RS/SG: “Oh thats a glorious shot, beautifully driven trough the covers for four. The fielder had no chance….He’s (the batsman) looking to be aggressive here…and thats a good thing”

RB/IC: “It doesn’t matter how much the pitch is seaming if you bowl that length…got the treatment it deserved…lots of gaps in the field and thats four…”

The none-too-subtle difference in the two where our home-grown stalwarts play to the gallery (thats in delirious raptures), to heap praise on what is actually a bowler error to present a delivery that an arthritic 60 year old with a cane could hit.

Considering the almost godly soothsayer reputations that these two enjoy, no wonder that every observer uses their catch-phrases as their sounding board. I’m going to stick my neck out on how two particular cases where they’ve made shallow assessments

Case #1 – The ‘Mahi’ way
Last year, when Dhoni was pounding attacks in India, piling one destructive knock on the other, he was power (the agricultural swings) and style (the brylcreemed hair) combined – an advertisers dream and our answer to Gilchrist (to me its traumatic to even put the names in the same sentence). Messrs RS and SG also announced him as such, proclaiming him as “jjjust what India needed”. I didn’t get it. All I saw was a strong dude with a front foot and huge axe swings. Flintoff and co. have reduced him to awkwardly fending off the backfoot spooning catches within the circle. The dude’s got a good attitude though, so, am guessing he’ll work on his game before Australia.

Case #2 – 11 Yuvrajs in the field would eliminate India’s fielding woes
As per RS/SG, the weak links in India’s fielding are Ganguly, Munaf, Powar and RP Singh and that Dravid screws up by not having them inside the ring and placing Yuvraj on the boundary. Sure, those names might be examples of the ‘anti-Rhodes’ (something like how the devil is the anti-christ, or isn’t he?), some basics that the experts seem to’ve ignored. Good fielding consists of 2 things, both equally important a) stopping the ball and b) getting it back to stumps in the shortest possible time. The best fielders, think Ponting and Collingwood, rarely dive! Because they’re quick enough to get to the ball. Observe how Y Singh can’t seem to stop anything without ending up sliding along the ground, compare that to the English captain. Secondly, Ponting and co always (read always) come up with the ball in their dominant hand and fire in the throw (which hits the stumps more often than not). Y Singh parries the ball much like a goalkeeper, so the batsmen end up getting the single anyway. Runs saved? Zero. The fact that he lets loose a vicious throw (which never hits) even if the batsman is past the crease and about to the face the next ball is an aside and just an irritating Indian habit.

Bottomline, we have no exceptional fielders, barring Agarkar, who , I think is the best Indian outfielder of all time (sounds surprising doesn’t it, considering the firm of RS/SG haven’t said so!). But a disregard for fielding as a discipline at the grassroots is what results in the likes of Munaf wandering cluelessly about the outfield and the team being embarrassed time and time again.

England, the team that traditionally made us look good in the shorter version, just upped the ante. A 5-2 English win would help Indian cricket more than a 4-3 Indian win. Time to wake up and smell the grass-stained trousers.

deltoids: deploy

In blah, life, opinion, rant on August 19, 2007 at 6:24 am

Set piece: A somber room, in twilight glow, save for the center, which is brightly lit with a battery of powerful lights focusing directly beneath them. And there, you lie, anesthetized by the sleep-inducing chemicals entering your blood stream. Blissfully unaware of the millions of nerve endings screaming to those parts of your brain that can decipher the well-being of the body it resides in, that all’s not well. The individuals grouped around you have to make the decision as to whether the mass of sinew, bone and blood vessels that form your left arm (A) should be salvaged or (B) has to be amputated. The last thing you did before going under was to pick the team that huddles around you…

Team #1: A handpicked team comprising of a couple of orthopaedic specialists, vascular surgeon, a neurosurgeon, a seasoned anesthetist, with the requisite support staff

Team #2 : A team put together by making random sweeps of different areas of the city, taking care to represent all sections of society, professions, races, religions and so on and so forth

Now, what if you didn’t have that choice? That the decision was based on the following reasoning:

  • You are a successful white-collar professional who makes several multiples of your country’s per capita, hell, maybe even more than that of the most developed countries in the world
  • Yours is not a physical profession (e.g construction labor) plus you’re right-handed, so its not your dominant arm anyway
  • (A) (refer above) means you recover in 10 weeks and go back to your life, possibly rejuvenated and be more successful than ever
  • (B)  would mean you would require a prosthetic which means a chance for the company that manufactures those to stay afloat, also for the farmers who supply the raw materials to avoid penury

Fiction, all of it, macabre albeit.

But then how is it, that when it comes to making decisions that sculpt laws, policies that govern intakes into institutions of learning, zoning regulations that determine setting up of commercial hubs, financial policy that oversees utilization of gargantuan amounts of money are based on the overarching principle of “Majority Wins!”? that saffron-painted thugs can go burning vehicles and demolishing property in the name of the ‘common good’? Is the democratic way really about doing what’s best or is it the blunt instrument of the teeming worthless hordes? Maybe its time for a rethink?

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Live TV!

In airlines, opinion, Strategy on March 30, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Kingfisher just pushed the envelope of competition for full-service passengers by introducing a feature I’ve never heard of as being available anywhere around the world! Live TV beamed to your console on the aircraft! I hadn’t been too impressed by their move to introduce video screens because the idea of watching a tired collection of recorded snippets did not excite me, particularly since any domestic flight is only going to last about an hour or so and with the meal-service, it didn’t seem like you needed any additional distractions. I’d resorted to tuning into ‘Kingfisher Radio’ with a respectable collection of 70s and 80s rock, but that too had started getting repetitive. But this time around, the screens sported an orange sticker that said “Live tv by Dish TV”. I wasn’t sure what this meant, but flipping through the channels, lo and behold, the first over of the West Indies V New Zealand, LIVE! Was one of the shortest flightest I’ve been on.

This sure gives Jet Airways something to chew on, given that they have added video screens to the business class section? (not sure though). Given that replicating the move would be costly and also be seen as a copy-cat move, what would be a fitting response (without dropping fares)? more elaborate meal options? more attendants at the airport? more flexible pricing? or maybe internet connectivity on flights (but that might be just as costly)?

I don’t see too many options available to them given that they can’t do much about ensuring timeliness of the flights. It will also depend on whether kingfisher chooses to hike its prices (this could be tricky since not many would be willing to pay extra for some channel-surfing) or maintains status quo (the more likely option). One thing is for sure, on lean days, given a choice, most people will choose the airline that offers more frills unless the competition offers a substantial price discount. What Kingfisher is doing can’t be bad for the industry though, it would only serve to more clearly segment the full-service versus the low-cost. Would make for interesting observation to watch for Jet’s response.

p.s: Of the 10 odd screens that were in my eye-line, each of those chose to tune into some form of bollywood gibberish than watch Brian Lara bat. A nation of cricket-lovers indeed…pfft!

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emotionally having good times with joy

In airlines, opinion on January 28, 2007 at 5:39 am

scenario 1: The attendant approaches your car with a friendly smile as you come to a stop outside the terminal. As you step out, he politely asks “Sir, x airline?” and when you shake your head, he loses interest, the smile disappears and he moves towards the vehicle behind you.

scenario 2: The chap manning the boarding gate is glancing at each boarding pass and punching them into the system. As he hands each pass back, he sends you on your way with a cheery “Have a good flight sir”. An uncertain looking passenger approaches and asks him “Can you tell me where the y flight (other airline) to Mumbai is boarding?” The response, a terse “No, I have no idea” as he goes back to loading his flight.

2 instances where the ground staff of respective airlines, while adequately aware of the concept of customer service, have not been briefed about the logic of being equally courteous to those who are not current but could easily become future customers. In my mind, a customer would be at his most vulnerable to switching when he has been at the receiving end of some poor treatment by his current service provider. In either case, a golden opportunity to convince them to switch by making them aware of the treatment they could expect was lost.

The alternate versions of the 2 scenarios:
1. The attendant says “Am sorry you’re not travelling with us sir, Have a nice flight”..*smile*. The passenger lugs his luggage in thinking how it’d be nice to have assistance at this stage.

2. The boarding staff gets the other person standing at the gate (doing nothing) to find out which gate was boarding the other airline’s flight (shouldn’t be too difficult to find out). The passenger leaves very aware of the difference in customer service and the people boarding the coach are reinforced with how they made the right choice in spite of paying 500 bucks more than the other airline.

Also made clear how its all well and good to draw up a marketing strategy that defines customer-service as the axis of focus, but the difficulty of getting it implemented by every last person in the organisation.

Needless to say, this line of thought got me comparing the different airlines I’ve frequented over the last 6 months. The ‘methodology’:

  • While the split is far from even, my cutoff is 5 flights
  • Forced ranking out of 4 on each parameter with differing weightages
  • ‘Check-in’ is the time-spent in line, courtesy extended by staff, speed of transaction (indian still uses manual systems as opposed to sabre or such by the others)
  • ‘Timeliness’ only gets 30% because a large part of whether a flight leaves on time is not in the realm of control of the airline’s operations
  • ‘In-flight comfort’ is a function of newness of the aircraft, legspace, seats

Ban ODIs

In opinion, sports on December 12, 2006 at 9:59 am

No, this is not a crusade against the shorter (not shortest with twenty-twenty around) version of the game. I think that there is enough for the purists to enjoy even in a fifty over contest where the joys of watching a fast-bowler operating with four slips is replaced by the meticulously planned run-chases and innovative stroke-play. I would complete the title with “…in the sub-continent and lets start with India”
Home Advantage?! Has always been an integral part of sport and more so this one because of its dependence on the actual surface. But our cricket board takes the meaning of this term to new levels. Imagine going on an English tour in the middle of their winter with temperatures nearing zero. Its kinda like that when you invite those blokes over to play in the month of April in forty-plus. Not to mention that the cauldron like design of our stadiums means ground level is easily 3-4 degrees warmer. Have a heart! Those have got to be the cricket conditions from hell! Why not just tie their hands behind their backs before letting ‘em on the field, might as well.
Crowd Support. Is a logical extension of the above, but with over 50K of us at any venue on an average and each one keen on making himself heard, it deserves special mention. We are, quite unequivocally, the most boorish spectators of the game. As I write this, M.S. Dhoni launches himself at a delivery so hard, his feet leave the ground and the force of the swing causes the bat to complete a full circle. Crowd yells with delirium. Of course, the fact that the ball only took a thick outside edge and trickled to thirdman for a single is incidental. The purpose of sporting arenas is to be able to watch sport being played at the highest level, to see an exhibition of skills that have been honed to near-perfection. And applaud them. Instead, we cheer wides and no-balls and maintain a sullen silence when the opposition’s finest unfurls a delectable cover-drive.
Mandira’zation. Those perplexed by the term, can read it as bastardization of the game. Started with the coverage of the 2003 world cup where Sony SetMax decided that the housewives and the ‘not-so-enamored’ by the game needed to be roped in and they did this by dumbing the game down to reduce it to a circus. And I’m not talking out of a hat, the man who dreamt up the concept was one of our guest-speakers in Advertising class at school and he accepted that the lovers of the game would’ve hated the coverage while at the same time pointing out that as cricket-lovers, we had no place else to go! For a nation that claims to be in love with the game, not many of us can differentiate between an on-drive and an on-switch. Call it being petulant, but it ‘sticks in my craw’ when I hear a debate about whether Veeru or MSD is the best batsman in world cricket on current form. Makes me wanna scream “Did anyone happen to see any of Ponting’s innings against SA?!” Might be plenty more reasons why cricket in India is fast losing its ‘viewability’…but these are my top 3.
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