Monday, February 6, 2012

Lost in Translation - PART II

A few days ago the boot of my car refused to shut with that lovely click sound that I was used to. I tried many a multiplier to the g=9.8m/sec2 with my bare hands, but the wretched thing just refused to stay put. So finally, I called up the Maruti guys to help sort out my predicament.

Now, I had mentioned earlier how the word “dikki” made me uncomfortable ever since my colleague got severely reprimanded for offering his “dikki” to my European colleague's laptop.

So I called up the Maruti guys and told them that my ‘luggage carrier’ was busted. The person assured me that someone would call in the next few hours and sort out the issue

Sure enough, I got a call from an unknown number within the hour. There was a voice on the other side that was begging for a Strepsil. As soon as I picked up, he proceeded:

Voice: Soumya Singh Gupta ji baat kar rahen hai?

~I let it pass.. My name has been vandalized too many times in the past~

Me: Yes… yes..

Voice: Sir, aapke carrier ke barey mein baat karni thi..

Me: Hanji hanji.. boliye.. bhaiya carrier toot gaya hai.

Voice: Yes sir??

Me: Carrier kharab ho gaya hai bhaiya… aap fix kar do jaldi, bahut taqleef ho rahi hai

Voice: ~laughing slightly~ No problem sir! We are here …. for YOU! Toh aap badalna chahenge carrier?

Me: Pura?

Voice: Hanji pura. Matlab ki change hi karni hai na?

Me: Lock toot gaya hai, pura change karna parega kya?

Voice: Kown sa lock?

Me: Carrier ka lock!

Voice: Matlab lock in khatam?

Me: Khatam!

Voice: Yeh toh achchi baat hai sir… Hum counsel kar denge Sir…. Aap…

Me(cutting him short): Arey bhai! Counseling nahin! Repair chahiye… Aaj!

Voice(patiently): Sir… repair bhi ho jayega carrier….. Aaj toh kuch nahin hoga na, Sir.. Aap pehle boliye aap change ke liye tayyar hain?

Me(losing my temper ever so slightly): Yaar change change… Change kyon karna hai… fix kar do dikki ko!

Voice: Dikki??!!!

Me: DIKKI! Boot… Carrier… jahan luggage rakhte hain…..

~longish pause~

Voice: Sir aap kahan se bol rahe hain..

Me(really losing it now): AAP kahan se bol rahe hain?

Voice: Sir main New Carrier Counseling se bol raha hunh.. Humare paas Genpact mein Sales and Marketing mein job hai...


Voice (with new enthusiasm): Sir aapki tooti hui carrier ko fix kardenge sir. Aap bus CV bhej do

Me: Aap Maruti se nahin hain??!!!

Voice: Nahin toh! Sir main New Carrier Counseling se….Genpact…..


Voice: hello..?


Voice: Sir… ?

Me: Aap kya bol rahe ho..?

Voice: Sir aap kya bol rahe ho?? Baar baar dikki dikki keh rahe ho……. Sir main ….. Hello? Sir aapka carrier badalna hai ya …?

Me: RAKH SAALE! Phone RAKH! Yahan mera DIKKI toot……………

Voice (off the mouth piece): Pata nahin…. koi dikki dikki chilla raha.. ~click~………….

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sales Sutra Part III - Avoiding the Numbers Game

Thursday was a very special day in the week of us Sales Managers. It was the day that we reported back our achievement against the weekly target, the week closing, as it were.

Like movie stars whose fate and fame would be decided by the public every Friday, the fates of ASMs was decided by that dreaded sentence starting with the F word every Thursday – “Final number kitna hua?”

Managing targets and responding to questions around sales numbers and targets is a fine art. Especially, when you have not achieved the target.

The naïve and novices would bumble and stutter and tumble through the maze of numbers, justifying why the target was not achieved.

And then there were the Masters. ASMs who had perfected the art of going through the whole conversation without revealing anything. It was like magic, and they were the Masters of Illusion.

A typical smoke and mirrors conversation around sales target achievement would go something like this. Mind you this is when the Master ASM has NOT achieved the target for the week (something that only his colleagues knew):

Boss: “So how were sales?”

Master ASM: “Very good”

Boss: “Very good matlab, kitna hua?”

Master ASM: “On plan hai boss.”

Boss: “Plan matlab, hua kitna hai??”

Master ASM: “Boss we are 15% over last week!”

Boss: “That’s good, how much was last week??”

Master ASM: “Boss, last week was in line with running rate.”

Boss: “Arey yaar, week ka number kitna hua hai???”

Master ASM: “Boss, abhi toh bataya, 15% over running rate!”

Boss: “but… number??”

Master ASM: “Boss, number is in line with plan. We are on growth!”

Boss: “Main samajh gaya…. MAGAR Number kitna hai????!!!”

Master ASM: “Boss in line with plan. Aur growthein (a very peculiar Sales term from the North) bhi aa rahi hai… Don’t worry. All is under control.”

Very few people knew this fine art. And none practiced it better than my predecessor. It was magic… At any point in time he could prove that he was growing. On what base, was his prerogative. Last week, same week last year, on running rate, on required rate, on plan, on ambition…… the list is endless.

I obviously had tremendous respect for Houdini like skills when it came to avoiding tricky Sales Target achievement conversations. In my mind, nothing could shake or fluster the person.

So one day, when I walked in and saw him flustered, I got worried.

I hopped over with my cup of tea, balanced myself on the edge of his desk and asked what was wrong. He vented.

One of his salesmen, the most experienced and best performing one, was giving him a dose of his own medicine. And he did not know how to catch the bugger.

I prodded him further and facts that emerged were these:

He is able to play the boss only because he has complete information on what is happening. This delicate equation breaks down when he doesn’t know what is happening. Earlier, there was a set pattern and time at which salesmen from various pre-selcted STD booths would call and report on the progress of sales. But now with the advent of mobile phones, that practice was dead. So while mobile phones actually made information gathering really easy, his chief salesman was perpetually “Out of reach” and he did not know what was happening.

“Something is wrong Shome. Every time I call his phone is out of reach. So it’s not like he is switching it off. Because the message doesn’t say his phone is switched off! It says, “the phone is not reachable”. I get to know the sales number only on Thursday now! How can his phone be perpetually out of coverage area?? And it’s not as if he is not in the market. I called up the Distributor and he confirms that he is working the market!”

Clearly he was frustrated. And I found an occasion to shine in front of him. I knew what the salesman was doing to avoid calls coming through!

“He is loosening the battery!”, I announced triumphantly.

My colleague looked up with eyes red with intent and a clenched jaw that spelled doom for the salesman. I knew that the poor bugger is going to get a chink of his Boss’ mind this Sales Meeting.

Sure enough, when we reconvened in the branch after our monthly sales meetings were over, I asked the Master ASM if my hypothesis was correct. He gave me a beaming smile and said it was.

“Sabko sunaya maine. No one expected me to know. Kamaal ho gaya. Yeh sab ladke samajhte hain ki hum buddho ko kya pata. Now they know I can catch them anywhere”

Sanity and semblance returned to the branch. In fact that salesman caught up with me in a conference and told me “Sir, aapne baja daali meri… Ab kuch aur sochna parega!”

Years went by… The glich that used to allow the battery to be loosened and the message of “Not reachable” had been ironed out by the steamroller of new technology.

In my new avatar as a brand manager, I happened to visit the branch. The salesman had become a Sales Officer by then. In the break I caught up with him and jokingly remarked

“So you are always reachable now?” He laughed.

“Sir ek baar phone lagao mujhe.. .abhi..”

“Kyon?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.

“Arey sir lagao toh… Aap dekh lo phone switched on hai” I leaned over and saw, and indeed the phone was on. I was being challenged by the ultimate Houdini.

I decided to call his bluff and dialed his number. No way he knew of a trick that I did not know of…. I jabbed at the numbers and listened in, with a quiet confident smile. And to my utter horror I heard the familiar voice go “The number you are trying to reach is not available”!

I was in shock. The phone was on, he was right there in front of me… And I could not reach him! And he had a gloating smile on his face that I wanted to personally erase with my fists!

He saw the mad rage and shock on my face and decided to simmer the situation.

“Sirji… agar aap batao ge nahin to main aao se share karoonga secret”

“ Pukka nahin batyenge.Dus saal tak nahin batayenge. Bolo..” I grunted.

“Sir. Maine ringtone ko hi “Not reachable” bana diya hai. Aap jo sun rahe ho who mera incoming caller tune hai!” He had a smile as wide as the Cheshire cat.

It’s been 10 years since that incident, and I kept my word. But today, on the 10th anniversary of the most ingenious chicanery that I had seen, the tale needed to be told.

Monday, June 6, 2011


The entire nation OD-ed on Baba over the weekend.

The news channels dived into detailed panel discussions with the usual suspects, giving an "in-depth analysis" of what really happened, what should have happened, and what could happen in the future.

The Chatterati Crowd shared a flood of emotions, ranging from 'aghast' to 'disturbed'.

The opposition went ballistic, comparing the incident to Jallianwalah Bagh and declaring that Democracy had been strangled by the cold, bony, foreign fingers of the evil Congress Party.

The Congress Party is quiet and having emergency meetings on how to resuscitate Democracy. In fact, if you watch the State Sponsored DD News, you will really wonder if anything at all happpend regarding a Baba in India. DD stoically transmitted events and Public Pronouncements around World Environment Day all of yesterday.

On Facebook, the circus has just begun. Numerous status updates, opinions, counter points, call-to-actions, badges, likes, super likes, groups, pages, communities and one game (Catch the Baba!) have been published already.

And ofcourse all office talk is Baba based (“We need to be on the fast track! Not 'fast' like Baba! ~jovial laughter all around~ ..but 'fast' like in speed ~somber looks of commitment all around~).

All this has forced me to start thinking about this wretched situation.

For starters, I had no clue what was going on. In the sense, I knew that Baba was AGAINST corruption. I was not sure what he was FOR - what does he really want and stand for.

So I logged on, and checked up on his Web site. And having read his views in some detail, my reactions are, well, ranging from 'aghast' to 'disturbed'.

Baba Ramdev’s Brahstachar Mitao Sangharsh is part of his “Bharat Swabhiman Andolan”. So it’s a thing within a thing. Let me just stick to the Bhrashtachar Mitao bit.

Baba has listed down 10 demands. And it is to get the Government to agree on these demands, that he and millions fasted. It is these demands that all the people are liking and super liking on Facebook.

1.Declare accounts of Indians in tax havens as national property: Baba claims “This is a very easy step to execute and does not conflict with any foreign policy, treaty or agreement”. Anyone with a half decent idea on how International Relations work will tell you otherwise. That aside, even if we find a miraculous way of doing it, what next? No comment on that from the Baba.

2.Declare stashing away black money in tax havens as national crime: Well it’s a crime already. He wants it to be “Rajdroh”. What’s the difference between the two? I think the punishment is tougher (sedition and all that). Ok. Can happen. My point is that just by making tougher laws, does not mean better compliance. Compliance comes out of enforcement of legislation and not so much out of fear of punishment. Enforcement of legislation needs one to believe in democratic institutions and work towards better process and structure. If you increase the quantum of punishment and keep enforcement weak, nothing will happen. So Baba, this is a bit deeper than you project.

3.Death penalty and lifetime imprisonment for the corrupt: What????!! I know people say that life in India is cheap, but did not realize that Baba views it as that cheap! So he wants to kill the corrupt! It arouses primal feelings of revenge but can someone in ‘civil society’ stand up and say how does this make sense?!! Even in the case of murder, death is handed out in the rarest of rare cases. And here the demand is that if you are corrupt, hang him! What are we, a tribal nation from the middle ages? I know some of you are thinking, “But China does it, and see how developed China is” I would encourage you to read this before you decide whether it is a good thing or a bad.

4.Enactment of a strong Lokpal: I don’t know what exactly is there in the Lokpal Bill but I agree to what he says. I mean look at RTI. It has changed the way things are working. What I am not clear is why does he have to fast until death for it. Things are moving on this one right? At least it was. But now the group of 'Civil society activists' have boycotted the Joint Hearing. Well played Baba!

5.Setting up of fast track courts in all states to deal specially with corruption issues: Agreed. However, setting up new courts is an expensive thing. I think it deserves better thought. But the point is valid.

6.Removal of high denomination currency notes from the economy: This is such a naïve and bizarre point that I will not dignify it with a response. Read the rationale in Baba’s own words.

7.Educational curriculum in Bharatiya Languages: He says:
“Curriculum and examinations of engineering, medical, agriculture should be made available in Bharatiye languages too and as fast as possible so that even a villager can get education properly instead of being deprived on the name of a foreign language(English) which we are using as the primary mode of education even after 64 years of independence. What a shame! We are not against english. But we must learn to respect our own languages first.”
Babaji….Babaji…..Babaji, the poor is deprived of education for many reasons, but definitely NOT because he is forced to learn English! There is pride, indeed arrogant pride about our local languages, and it does not conflict with the need or ability to learn in English. Find this point immature and regressive. And definitely not worth supporting through a fast untill death.

8.Ban the Land Acquisition Act: Apparently this act was brought about by “Britishers to loot us..” and Baba wants it rolled back so that the “agricultural loot” is stopped. Somehow Baba has conveniently left out the Chinese example here. I believe there needs to be a law so that Land can be acquired by the Government for development. How come it is ok for Baba to build Yogashrams all over the country and Government has no right to build infrastructure or projects?? Ridiculous.

9.Direct election of the Prime Minister: Baba believes indirect election has led to trouble and political instability. In one stroke he has attempted to negate all the progress the country has made in 65 years as a fully functional progressive democratic nation. Again, a naïve and shallow suggestion. Does Baba believe that US is not corrupt…. I mean come on!!

10.Enactment of a strong Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act: Agree….. and there is some work happening there already… where Govt officials have to pay a fine if citizens are denied service. So if there is already some work happening and being implemented, why fast until death??

Somehow Baba’s demands reminded me of a school project that we had done on “Development vs Environment”. We were young and idealist and incredibly naïve. If I am not mistaken, the suggestions we gave in that class 4 project would basically have everyone living in a mud hut and working on the fileds. Maybe that’s what Baba’s dream for India is. A return to Ramrajya? A world where there is no foreign influence, and everyone is proficient in Yogic Asanas and the cinema-esque “happy villagers in India” throng the streets exchanging pleasantries and buying kgs of jalebi and malai for two bucks.

Sorry Babaji… you do not have my support or my sympathy. Just because you have a network of followers does not give you the right to present a set of puerile demands and then sulk and pout and refuse food if the demands are not met,knowing fully well that there would be chaos if anything went wrong with your health.

One individual cannot be arm twisting democratically elected governements, especially on the back of bizarre demands. This is just blatant Babagiri!

Not for a minute am I endorsing the Government’s actions. They mishandled the whole situation and someone should be sacked for fucking up on the whole Baba thing. But I do wish that right thinking individuals take the time out to really understand what Baba is demanding before superliking his 'fast' and expressing un-conditional support for his ‘andolan’.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Running with the mares and hunting with the hounds

So Mr David Headley has 'confirmed' that ISI and the LeT had a role to play in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Most of India, especially the media, will be have a smug "told you so" expression with "Pakistan ki lag gayi" running through their head. Their policy of running with the mares and hunting with the hounds has come back to bite them.

My feelings are a bit mixed. So I will try and put down how I feel through a wish list.

My 10 point wish list to Pakistan. Hopefully someone will read and convey.

1.) To the STATE of Pakistan or the Government of Pakistan. Wake up! Your lack of Governance and incompetance is creating a problem for a lot of people in the world, and most importantly for your own people!

2.) To the people of Pakistan. You deserve better. Please elect a government that thinks of your welfare first and not how to hurt India, Westerners, US of A, Danish cartoonists etc.

Back to the Government of Pakistan:

3.) Forget about Kashmir. Preserve and protect and nurture what you have. It is in real danger.

4.) What you are calling a Terrorist Attack, most people are calling a Civil War. So please stop fooling the people and thinking that everyone gets fooled. Address the problem

5.) Build confidence with your neighbour. Hand over Daewood for starters. Believe me, more politicians in India will be sweating if he comes back with secrets than Pakistani officials.

6.) Nothing makes people more violent than hurt pride. The revolt in Tunisia is a case in point. Today, all the negative news around Pakistan is hurting the pride of the people. You are setting the stage for a violent revolt. Build pride back, not through threats of action, but through responsible actions. In short, prosecute the guilty, even if they are ISI officers.

7.) Talk to AQ Khan again and re-check that he did not sell stuff to the wrong people only for money.

8.) Instead of funding terror camps and selling the dream of Muslim rule all over the world, build your economy back. Tourism alone can do for your country what oil did for Saudi. Let me assure you, millions of Indians would visit Mehnjodaro and Harappa if they our countries had confidence, trust and better relations.

9.) Deal stringently with the corrupt. My personal view, Zardari is the worst thing that could happen to ANY country.

10.) Start now. Because all of this will take a decade. We saw it in India. After we opened the markets in 1991, it took 10 years before the middle class saw serious money.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Good thing about this Friday.....

Well its Good Friday today and my mind wanders to an incident that happened many years ago.

I recently asked someone who calls me “Shome Uncle” what subjects are taught in his class. He had just entered class 2 and I wanted to know what is being taught to today’s generation of super smart, socially adept, shining products of “Modern Parenting” kids. Partly, to reassure my self that everything has not changed in the world, and partly because I wanted to hear his cute lisp again.

He lisped out the usual suspects, but what struck me was the glaring omission of my most dreaded subject… the one that gave me nightmares and the only subject that I ended up flunking in primary school – Moral Science.

Now let me clarify before you plant a smug smile on your face, shake your head and brand me immoral. I did not flunk because the school authorities thought that I am the anti-Christ.

I flunked because I was innocent and brutally honest.

“Nooooo!” you say? ..... “Ya right!” you snigger?

Well then, I shall share the story in its full glory, and the truth shall then pierce through the prejudiced thoughts that cloud your mind, giving blinding clarity on what really happened.

This was the year 1982. I had just joined St Lawrence High School, Kolkata.

I had just moved from Delhi and the whole Jesuist feel of St Lawrence was very exciting and new. There were ‘Brothers’ and ‘Fathers’ and discourses on Jesus. Every class had the cross and much before the age of computers the word ‘Save’ was part of our everyday talk, because we would write and recite ‘Jesus Saves’ many times a day.

I think it was a Wednesday, most likely 6th of April, when my run in with Moral Science happened. I was only a few months old into the school and was still getting to know about all the good things Jesus did. I still did not get it that he was God’s Son and all that.. My mind was pretty saturated with the stories of Shiva-Vishnu Kali-Durga thanks to Amar Chitra Katha. The concept of different religions and different ‘gods’ was just not there.

So needless to say, my knowledge or understanding of all things good and Christian was abysmally low. Quite unlike my classmates who were well into it.

It was in a time like this that I ran into this thing called Good Friday. I was elated. There was no doubt that Good Friday was indeed Gooooddd!! For one, unlike the other holidays in India, this would always, by design and definition, fall on a Friday. Not like the fickle birthdays of our fickle politicians which could fall on a Sunday and ruin your happiness. Or even like our festivals which would every now and then fall on the weekend and really rob your soul of the festivities.

Good Friday, has no such problem. It was a guaranteed long weekend. No catch, no disclaimers, no ‘conditions apply’. I was impressed. And I think I started using the phrase “Jesus” to express shock, surprise, happiness and other such emotions soon after.

Well, so Good Friday was coming up. And the Rector asked us to speak on Good Friday. I was not very sure what Good Friday was so I sat quietly.

A friend stood up and started speaking. What he spoke of the day did not sound good at all. There were guards, and arrests, and betrayal and the nailing of a human body on a cross! Nailing! On a Cross! My mind was in terrible turmoil.

I soon decided that my friend was making up stuff and this was all untrue. I remember sniggering and whispering to my bench-mate the Class 2 equivalent of “He is so screwed”.

That whisper kind of put my demise in motion. ‘Brother’ Almeida saw it. He did not like it at all. We were not allowed to whisper during Moral Science class (or any class for that matter). He stopped the discourse from my friend, and asked me to stand up.

I was a bit surprised why he chose me. “Must be the new boy thing” I thought. I smiled and stood up. I am a smiley kind you know.

That seemed to upset him even more. With a scowl and a grunt he said, “Shambhuaba (He used to call me Shambhuaba, he could never get my name. Not for the next 6 years that I was there), you tell the class why Good Friday is important.”

Being clueless brings about a strange sense of arrogant confidence. With no fear in my heart I replied confidently “Good Friday is important because it is a Friday. And it’s a holiday. Holiday is important. Hence it is Good.”

What followed was my first experience of a caning. And me flunking the Moral Science Class Test (the discourse I later realized is part of a 10 mark test).

In the evening when I shared my bruised derrière and the flunk report with my mother, pandemonium ensued. My comics were taken away, I was told that I would never be allowed to play in the evenings. Ever again! And I was made to read about Jesus and his miracles from that wretched text book till my head was hurting.

What really undid me the most however, was listening to my sister whispering “You know, that play you were in for your school in Delhi? You were King Herod! The king who killed Jesus (sic). Your Brother Almeida knows that because Jesus came and told him. That’s why you got caned. And you will be caned everyday till Christmas. After that Jesus will forgive you”.

To say that I was petrified was an understatement. While my sister happily cackled away to sleep, I was wide awake chanting Jesus Saves the whole night. I was certain that I would be caned for many months now. And it was on that night, that I resolved to solve the problem with a plan which at that time, seemed like a pretty good idea.

The fact that executing the plan ended in me wetting my pants is another story.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sales Sutra Part II - The A-B-C of Sales

The best way to establish hierarchy and authority is to be seated on the right end of a large teak table. And if you happen to have a chair that swivels, and a paper-weight that you twirl with your fore and index finger, then you pretty much nailed the power game.

“All of the Above” is how I would describe the setting for my first meeting with Babu da.

I had just come out of a 3 day induction on the Organization, where we were told about what we (the Organization) does, our history, our processes, and what is expected from us (Management Trainees) over the next 12 months as we go through our various stints – sales, rural, marketing, factory etc…

The first was of course the sales stint, and like I i nthe earlier post, I was assigned Arah, in Bhojpur District , Bihar.

Bihar being in the Eastern Region, and Babu Da being the Head of the Eastern Region, was my first point of contact to get gyan, project deliverables, and travel advance before I headed out.

So full of confidence, and adequately equipped with newly learnt jargon from my Induction, I landed up at his office. Soon I was sitting in his room, watching him swivel and twirl a paper weight across a large teak table.

“Welcome”, he said, like a spider to a fly.

“Thank you sir”, I squeaked, like a child about to cry.

Somehow the whole ambience had robbed me of my confidence, and to a great extent, all my newly learnt jargon, which was the basis of my confidence in the first place…

“So, let me tell you what are the 3 priorities we have in the Region…..”, Babu Da began, after the customary “tell me about yourself” question had been dealt with.

I knew the answer to that. Just a few days ago the Chairman had illuminated our eager, awe-struck management trainee eyes with his blinding clarity and clever, cogent articulation of the 3 priorities for the Organization.

So with a half smile, I said “Growth....., Growth......, and Growth?” ; and for effect I said it like a confident question, rather than a statement.

The deep sigh that emanated from Babu Da smacked of despair and disappointment, and made it evidently clear that I had got it wrong.

“That is senior management priority. In sales, you actually have do things.”. I nodded, my already shaken confidence fading faster.

“Do you know what the ABC of sales is?” he asked, his eyes narrowing as he leaned back on his swivelling chair.

~Dammit!~, I thought. ~One wrong answer and he is now going to treat me like an idiot!~ Well, I decided to play along. Build back credibility.

I don’t remember the sequence, but I said a lot of things like “Target”, “Distribution”, “Coverage”, “Range selling”, “Bill value”……… Each word resulted in his eyes getting narrower and narrower, till they were finally shut.

Babu da sat there resembling a man who had just witnessed Draupadi Haran and could not bear to watch it anymore. I sat on the opposite side feeling like Draupadi.

My lips were moving, but no words came out. I had this sinking feeling that I will never make it Arah and will be sent back straight to school from this office.

Deciding that he has heard enough, Babu da leaned forward again. His eyes now wide open.

“A-B-C of sales! It has nothing to do with the act of selling. It is about what you must do, to do sales. You understand?”

I didn’t, but did not have the courage to say it. So I nodded and flipped open my notebook. I must show that I am an eager learner. The kind who notes down important stuff. Wait! Will he think I have a poor memory?! I closed my note book again. My mind was a mess.

“A is for ALARM CLOCK!”, he announced triumphantly.

This time my eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Alarm Clock?” I repeated.

“Yes, ALARM CLOCK. The biggest hurdle to achieving sales in not being in the market at all or being in the market late. So if you don’t wake up in time, or wake up at all, how will you sell?”

That made sense. Especially for me as I was not a morning person at all! So maybe this is going somewhere, I thought to myself.

“What is B of sales?”, Babu da asked.

I thought I had caught his drift. So I quickly fast forwarded the actions of the man who just woke up and found him in the market. So my mind ran through some words and I spurt out “BEAT working?” very enthusiastically.

Babu da nodded his head in the negative and with a smile announced “B is for BREAKFAST”

The imaginary umpire in my head yelled “Strike 2!” I was losing this match, and losing it badly.

“You need energy to work in the market everyday, little fellow. And the key to that is having a good breakfast. Have a heavy one if possible. Then you won’t keep looking for snacks and tea and lunch and miss the selling window in the market.”

I nodded again. My algorithm on sales was crashing fast. I had assumed that good salesmanship is about a set of behaviors. And here, discussing the ABC of sales with the man who had done it all, seen it all and knew it all in sales, I discovered that its not behavior but one object, and another morning ritual that had left me stumped and slumped on my chair.

“And C…?” he asked playfully, clearly enjoying my predicament.

I wanted to say “C for chhere de ma, kende baachi (loosely translated: ‘let me go, I want to run away crying’) but better sense prevailed. I waited expectantly for the third pillar of sales.

“C is for Can-do!”

Now this was the first time I had ever heard this word, and I must admit it sounded a bit vulgar. So I gathered all my courage and decided to seek further clarification on his comment by asking him “Eh?”

With his fingers forming a fist, Babu da passionately explained : “Can-do! is what you must believe in, what you must live by. What you must say every time there is a challenge thrown at you. What will you say if I told you, ‘Shome, you must triple sales this week’?”

“heh-heh…I …”, I started

“No!” was the sharp rebuke. “You must say Can-do! You must think Can-do! You must believe in the Can-do spirit!”

“Do you know what is the difference between successful salesman and failure (sic) salesman?”

“The good guy was a Can-do?”, I asked hesistantly.

“Yes!”, Babu da nodded, satisfied that the ‘little fellow’ has finally got it.

We broke for tea. And I sat there, armed with my fresh knowledge of the ABC of sales, and a brimming Can-do! attitude.

Looking back, I have to admit that these 3 things are INDEED the ABC of sales. It sounded like a lot of fluff at that time but the only three things that I never gave up in my fairly successful career in sales were the ALARM CLOCK, the BREAKFAST, and the spirit of CAN-DO!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sales Sutra Part I - Lessons Learnt From Sales Management in Corporate India

Most of the stuff that you learn in an MBA school becomes pretty irrelevant by the end of the 1st or 2nd year of your job. But the one thing that you realize is completely irrelevant from day 1 is the stuff you learnt in “Sales Management”.

The thing about Sales Management taught in B-schools is that it has no resemblance to what you are supposed to do when you join a sales job in India. In fact when talking about Sales Management, most Indian students have the image of a door-to-door salesman, hawking stuff to disinterested housewives and hoping that the dreaded gust of wind that blows from a slamming door does not ruffle their hair today….

When I joined my first job and was told that the first module in our Management Trainee program is a Sales Stint, my first thought was “God, I hope I am not assigned a city where I know someone”. It would be horrible to have a known Aunty/Uncle first laugh at me and then slam the door on my face.

That problem never happened, I was assigned Arah in Bhojpur District in Bihar. The relief of knowing it’s not a known city was soon replaced by the bone chilling fear of the unknown. I had no clue where Arah was. I had never heard of Bhojpur. And I had heard lots about Bihar, none of which was good. This was 1998, when Bihar was more whining than shining.

Nonetheless, I was excited because Sales was something that just seemed exciting. Especially when it was emphasized that “it’s where the rubber hits the road, the real stuff… the money in the bank. Everything else is just designed to support sales”.

Soon I learnt the hard way that we had not learnt anything in sales in B-school. All that tripe that books wrote about “Negotiation Skills” and “Plan-o-grams” and “Meeting Key Account Managers” were meant for countries and people who had no clue what a Bhatti General Store looks like or how many Bhatti General Stores there are in India and more importantly what drives Mr Bhatti in his General Store!

Now, after having spent enough time in sales and in marketing, I think its time that I fling some pearls of exquisite wisdom at the new recruits. The one who catches them all will undoubtedly string together a shining necklace of knowledge of sales that he/she can flash around with unbridled pride at his peers and indeed to his Organization.

Probably the best way to share some Corporate Lessons in Sales is to start with that story of how I was standing in swirling muck with my sales folder in hand at 7 in the morning in Bihar, pants folded till my thighs, shoes hanging around the neck, staring blankly at a narrow filthy river, trying to figure out where the bamboo bridge that was there last week went....on the 23rd day after I joined a very reputed organization.

No wait… I think its best to start with the basics first…… Yes, the A-B-C of sales, as told to me by the man who knew Sales better than most people – Babu da.

I will talk about them tomorrow. Keep watching this space. The A-B-C of Sales will be revealed tomorrow. And believe me they will give you a fresh perspective.

Doggy Style

[This was in the late 90s, when I used to call people who were above 30 “old” and Saurav Ganguly was still the Captain of the Indian cricket team]

It was a mildly sunny Saturday in Bombay and I was sprawled shapelessly on my bed, fast asleep.

None of my friends call me on Saturdays before 12 in the afternoon. My enemies sometimes do, rubbing their hands in glee with the knowledge that they would have successfully interrupted my “Saturday Sleep-athon” (an event where I sleep pretty much through the whole of the first half).

So when I got a call at 9 in the morning from Sushmita, a kosher friend, I knew it must be something really important.

The call lasted for about 2 hysteria laden minutes where the only words that registered in my sleepy head was “need you here”, “doggy", "style”, “cant do it alone”, "show", "fuck", “driving me mad”, “please cum fast”.

Yes, I know what you are thinking…….....

............And that’s exactly what I thought.

So akin to a ballerina entering the stage, I leapt off my bed and spring-hopped to the bathroom to get ready and be on my way.

An hour later I was there sitting in her drawing room, my face robbed of all excitement, my head, instead of my heart, pounding loudly, and an external observer would probably describe my spirit as “a bit limp”.

I was sitting on her cushions with a deflated look as I turned to her for the third time in as many minutes and asked again:

“You want me to hold Batul Khoka?”

“Yes”, she said calmly

“So that you can put on a pink vest and black shorts?”

“Yes”, she concurred, nodding slightly

“And you called me here for that??”

“Yess” she hissed this time.

I don’t blame you if you are all confused. So was I at that moment. But now, with the clarity that past events bring, let me try and explain.

Batul, as anyone born and brought up in West Bengal in the 70s and 80s would know, was an extremely popular comic character that used to appear in the magazine Shuktara.

Batul “The Great” was our own home grown Bengali Superhero created by Sri Narayan Debnath. Batul’s exploits and adventures with his pals, Bachchu and Bicchhu was discussed animatedly everyday in school.

In the case of Sushmita, Batul Khoka was her dog! A giant dumb Labrador, who had an uncanny resemblance to the comic character, and hence was christened such.

Not only in the looks department, but also in behavior, the similarities were hard to miss.

One of the endearing qualities of Batul The Great in the comic books was that he used to keep forgetting his super strength and ended up destroying stuff, like the time he tired to mow the lawn and broke the lawn mower or the time he tried to ride a bull in the rodeo and the bull’s leg gave way… Ditto for this dog! Batul Khoka’s tail and genetic Labrador enthusiasm would leave a trail of broken vases, cups, and general destruction whenever he was set free.

And on that Saturday Batul Khoka was uber hyper because of two reasons.

The first, he was in heat. And anyone who has seen a Labrador, denied of sex and in heat for atleast a year, knows how cranky the mutt can be.

The second, the real cause of the early morning phone call, was that Sushmita in her infinite wisdom had decided to enroll him in her neighborhood dog show, dressed exactly like the comic book character – wearing a pink vest and black shorts.

Her idea was to have the dog walk on his hind legs on stage so that he resembles the "real" Batul, and wins the “Aw!” of the audience.

The problem was that the horny idiot was in no mood to wear anything and it was getting late for the show. Hence the emergency phone call to me. She had summoned in her troops (or Soldier to be more precise) to style her Doggy.

“Why me? Why on a Saturday??” I was getting increasingly agitated.

“Uffo baba. I am pretty sure there is no food in your house. I will feed you mangsho bhaath. Also Batul really likes your leg. Please stick it out na, and let him just hump it.. I will quickly slip the shorts and vest in. Plus you owe me! You had said that you will help when I bailed you out that last time.”

I will not get into the details of the “last bail out” (that’s another full story), but when I had used the phrase “arm and leg for you” in a moment of deep gratitude, I did not realize that things were going to pan out this way!

The prospect of letting Batul use my leg as his bitch weighed heavily on my mind. But then again there was the promise of mangsho-bhaath. And Sushmita could really cook up a delicious mutton curry. I was torn between being used an object of pleasure and being well fed. The stomach won. I yielded to her request.

In the next twenty odd minutes that followed, Su and I struggled to keep Batul in check as it humped my leg like a sex starved dog…..which he was….. while she slipped on the specially designed pink vest on him. Specially designed, because it had Velcro at the back that allowed it to be slipped on, rather than worn.

Like a victim of assault who lets the mind drift away to a happy space, I looked away and thought of all the things I had thought of when the day began. I should be the one humping something and Su should be wearing a pink vest right now, I mentally grumbled.

My reverie was broken by the Su trademark clapping and yelp of happiness. “Its done… oh he is looking so cute”

I looked down at the ridiculous sight. A lolling panting dog wearing a pink vest and air humping against my leg. Cute was not the word that came to mind.

“Forget the black shorts. He is black anyway. He doesn’t need the shorts!” I yelped. My leg was getting sore.

“Are you mad. I am not going to embarrass him by displaying his ‘pink pastel’ to the whole world as he walks on his hind legs” Su retorted.

“Embarrass him??!! Look at me! Look at the dog! What can be more embarrassing??!”

I should not have asked that question, as moments later Su whipped out a pocket camera and took a picture. Thankfully there was no Facebook those days, otherwise the prospect of seeing that pic as her Profile pic with me tagged would have surely led to a seizure there and then.

Those were the days when pics were still private property and not proof of “I had fun” that needed to be published and shared with all and sundry.

Eventually Su got the shorts on and Batul had to cease his incessant humping. His hips did not lie, they were tired from the 30 minutes of angry air humping.

Su did ask me to come down for the show, but I politely declined and demanded my reward. I decided to watch TV while eating rice and mutton to take my mind off what had just happened.

The day did end nicely though. The food was delicious, the TV was fun, and the afternoon was spent lazily lounging around….

Oh and Batul won. Su had indeed thought this through. See the majority of people in the building were Bengalis. They flood of nostalgia that Batul brought did not give the others a chance.

We looked at him in his pink vest and black shorts, breathing heavily as lay with his head between his paws, eyeing my leg.

“What do you think” Su asked.

“Haute dog!” I said.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin’s Bottom

It was a late night party at IIFT, and there was blood on the dance floor. Literally.

Benjamin (name changed to protect identity) sat in the signature Gandhi pose, legs folded behind and supporting his torso, palms placed on the knees, his posture tilting noticeably to the right, like he was trying to minimize any contact with the left cheek of his gluteus maximus.

As Benjy whispered “kaise…kown…kyon??” I ran the events of the evening through my rather worried mind, to try and come up with the answers.

It was like any other IIFT party. We used to host all our big parties in a part of the building called Top Of The World (TOTW). It was a circular, raised, open air kind of place. Ideally suited for parties.

I was the DJ, shoving cassettes in and out rapidly out of the 2-in-1 hooked to the “DJ console” from Bhatia Sound Company in Katwaria Sarai. The flashing “traffic signal’ lights from Lallan Lights added to the festive mood.

In those days, the CD culture had not stamped out the cassettes industry, so DJ-ing was a real tough job. You had to set the songs in the cassettes to the precise second they started, by playing them on a walkman, while one song was already on. And as soon as the playing number faded, and the crowd still cheering; you quickly slipped in the next tape and the party continued. I was the best in class at this.

Being the DJ had its privileges. You had power that was unmatched. Not only did you control the desi beats, you could also monitor the whole party. Who did what, who slapped whom, who flirted, who puked.. the whole nine yards!

But as I realized that day, with great power comes great responsibility. When something goes wrong, the junta turns to the DJ for answers.

The party was in, well, full swing. The booze was flowing; the smell of tobacco in the air, the chips and pakodas were constantly dipped in sauce and found their way into hungry, happy mouths.

If an impartial observer were to witness and report back on the party, he would use Kareena’s famously pouted line from one of her item numbers – “It’s Rocking…!”

The guys were busy dancing (our batch had steps ranging from the “mating peacock” ~hands in the air, strange puckered expression on face, and pelvis bucking to a fast beat~ to “moon-hopping” ~pose akimbo and hop across the dance floor whooping hoi-hoi-hoi-hoi~ ).
The girls were joining in selectively, but were mostly hovering in bunches and laughing at the desperate attempts at seducing them.

Benjy always danced close to the DJ table. I think he liked creating the illusion that he was somehow responsible for the songs being played. He would make it a point to be the first to whoop in joy after every song change and would goad the crowd with fists pumping in the air to dance harder.

His own dancing style can best be described as vigorous. To the untrained eye, it would appear that he was trying hard to remain on top of a treadmill and at the same time trying to pluck out a frisky eel that had slithered down his back. But everyone in the party knew that he was just ‘shaking his bon-bon’. Like Caesar reveling in a wild Roman orgy.
It was at the fag end of the party, that I noticed something was wrong. Benjy had stopped gyrating. He had a rather stunned look on his face and was contorting strangely to get a look at his own derrière. He would also pat his glutei gingerly with his fingers and hold them against the light to inspect them.

I was a bit intrigued so I put on Remo’s Flute song and hopped over to him.

Me: Benjy, kya hua? (Benjy, what happened?)

Benjy: Abey Shome yaar, khoon nikal raha hai. (Shome buddy, its bleeding)

Me: Khoon??!! (adequately concerned look on my face) Kahan se? (Bleeding? From where?)
Benjy: (voice quivering ever so lightly) Mere g**d se, yaar! ~a hint of desperation in his voice~ (from my Ass!)

He turned around with remarkable swiftness and said “yeh dekh!” as he stuck his alleged wounded cheek at me.

I recoiled a bit, but then managed to focus my sight, given the gravity of the situation, to try and understand what the issue was. There was an red stain on his left butt cheek.

My cynical mind processed the situation and tried to come up with the most likely cause.

Me: Benjy yaar! Koi sauce laga ke chala gaya hai teri g**d pe! (Benjy buddy, someone has smeared some sauce on your ass!)
Benjy: ~turning around and hissing viciously~ “SAUCE??!! Sale sauce laga ke, kha ke bhi gaya hai kya?? Kitna dard ho raha hai!!” (Sauce??!! Did they smear sauce and take a bite as well? Its aching like hell!)
It was then that I knew it was serious. There was a Brutus in the party who had stabbed the resident Caesar in his back(side).

The music stopped and we all gathered around. Benjy had collapsed o the Gandhi pose by then and was whispering out the “who…how… why??” questions. And everyone was looking at me for answers.

Fact is, I had no clue. Someone had deflated Benjy’s bon-bon and I had not seen it. A blood thirsty butt-stabber on the prowl, and I, as the DJ, the he-who-sees-all, the sanity-keeper, had failed in my duties to spot the bugger.

Needless to say, the party folded up and I was sacked as the DJ for all remaining IIFT parites, Benjy’s sitting posture changed for ever, and he never really danced the way he did earlier. The Emperor had lost his groove.

To this day it troubles my mind, as to who it was that stabbed Benjy’s behind.

The Curious Case of Benjamin’s Bottom remains unsolved.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Plump-Fog-Villain-Heir ....... a guide on how to make an award winning TRASHY movie....

The whole world is going ga-ga-goo-goo over Slumdog Millionaire. India’s ‘chatterrati’ have quickly appropriated the movie as Indian. ~pretty much the same way Kolkata claims that Mother Teresa is Bengali. Also Maradona Da ; ) ~

The queen of glib gaggle, Shobha De, wrote a painfully pretentious piece on ToI the other day. Commenting on the movie she gushes:

"It cut terrifyingly close to the bone as it took us straight into the innards of this brutal world, where wide-eyed kids lose their innocence (and their eyes) at the hands of ruthless gangsters who mutilate, maim, kidnap and kill at will."

Now, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I know a bit about it. If I didn’t, then this one line in her piece would have ensured that I never see the movie!

I don’t think that Ms Shobha has completely understood the driving reason of why most Indian’s go to see a movie. My understanding is that they go to a movie to get entertained and escape from precisely the kind of ‘reality’ that she talks of.

She even slammed the desi directors by pressing cntrl+B on her article when she said:

“And the first thought that came to mind is that it has taken an 'outsider' (Danny Boyle), to go fearlessly into 'No Man's Land' and hold up a mirror to our sordid society — the same one that looks the other way... and flinches when confronted.”

I guess it’s her desire to escape from all the trappings of a vacuous urban existence that makes her want to see more of the “other side”. Rest of India would much rather see more of the glitzy ‘India Shining’ world, than pay money to see their own lives replayed on a big screen.

Most Indian movie makers know this, and that’s why they make the movies they do.

Commercial Hindi movies would be so boring if they were to be “realistic”.

Imagine a scene where the hero walks fearlessly into the villain’s den. Typically the dialogue-baazi would be like this:

Hero: KK! Apni Maa ka doodh piya hai, toh bahar nikal kutte! Tere
paap ka pyala bhar chuka hai, kameeney!

KK: Kiski maut aayi hai jo KK ko lalkaar raha hai??

Hero: Maut meri nahin teri aayi hai KK! Aaj main tere is paap ki
nagri ko nesto-naboot kar doonga! Yeh Arjun ka vaada hai!!

KK: Arjun?! Aaj tu bach nahin payega, haraamzade!!

Typically wild applause, whistles, and hooligan like whopping ensues in the cinema hall when this scene plays out!

Now imagine if we were to be bitten by the “realism” bug. This entire exchange would be dry and insanely boring:

Hero: KK. Bahar aa….b@#*n c#*d

KK: Kown hai bey??!!

Hero: Arjun.

KK: Ruk teri maa ki…aaj tu gaya.


Where is the drama, the emotion, the surge of vendetta that’s supposed to swell up in your blood and bones???

This is the mistake the “parallel” cinema movement made. It was doomed to fail. But let by-times be by-times. Now that some amount of world attention will be on Indian cinema, following the success of Slumdog, I thought it’s important to explain the pillars of successful movie making in India to the eager global audience.

It’s a simple formula: Plump-Fog-Villain-Heir


This is about the women. India likes its women, well, Anjata-esque. It’s a sign of fecundity.

The South has taken this to the extreme and made “women of substance” a participation ticket to success.

North is in denial but it works in subversive, subliminal ways. Remember all the talk of Kareena and size ‘Zero’ last year? While the chatterrati was swooning over ‘health’ concerns, the regular viewer was cribbing: “kaisi lag rahi hai yaar. Mazza nahin aaya..”

Kareena’s weight loss was not about HER, it was about THEM.

So if you want to make a good, insanely successful trashy Indian movie, make sure the women are PLUMP. From the heroine to the dhobin to the Russian dancers, all must be ‘pusht’ and ‘tandrust’.


This is a critical one, as fog operates at two levels – the REAL and the METAPHORICAL.

At the real level, all the ‘twists’ in the plot happen in fog – murder, conspiracy, havas ka nanga naach.

At the metaphorical level, fog underlines the very basics of a Hindi movie. As one leading actor recently said, “I like making movies which have no logic. There is no plot. Leave your brains outside and come see the movie to get entertained. That’s what the public pays money for.”

Plots of successful trashy movies must be FOGGY. There can be no logical sequence. For example, a mother can breast feed a snake to avenge her family!


A good trashy movie needs a well defined villain. It’s important to paint the world black and white to avoid the everyday dull grey of ‘realism’.

So go look for the next Colonel Chikara, Dong (jo kabhi wrong nahin hota) or Ibu Hatela before you start thinking of cracking open the Indian movie market.

And try and give him a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, like “main hindustan ko barbaad kar doonga”, instead of something chindi-choresque like “jao uski maa ko utha ke le aao”.


This is important, as it involves the hero. The hero must be the ‘heir’ to something. Ideally Richie Rich like fortune, which is denied to him by the Villain.

He could also inherit and be the heir to his mother’s pledge of revenge, or his sister’s plea to avenge or his Gandhi-esque baap’s vow to scavenge through life.

Either way, he needs to be the Heir of something. It gives him reason to trance and dance around the screen for the next three hours.

Put these four things together people and you have an award winning TRASHY MOVIE. I must say that this structure rivals the BCG matrix when it comes to ensuring unparallel fame and fortune for investors.

I have flashed my light on the road to success now. Run on it and thank me later.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Yeh Jo Des Hai Mera........

A war broke out in Mumbai.

It was not a terrorist attack. It was an incursion. On my country. On the only space on this galaxy that I can call mine!

We all saw it on TV, like a reality show gone bad.

Camera men, reporters, TV journalists….. filming every detail, asking questions, putting their lives in the line of fire…… so that we can see and hear and feel the ‘truth’.

TV anchors commenting on the situation in a tone that ranged from manic rhetoric to stunned silence.

I could not believe what I was seeing.

The Taj Mahal Hotel. My Taj Mahal Hotel.

It was on fire.

The pigeons of Gateway…………Flying all over like it was the end of innocence.

Bombs hurled…… shots fired…..….a city crippled….. My Country in shock.

Terrorists had managed to carry in enough ammunition to hold off the State Police, 200 odd Commandos, the Indian Army and the Navy Seals for over 24 hrs.

I frankly don’t care what they want, what ideology they believe in…. what they want to prove, which community they belong to, and what their demands are….

I just want to stand up and say ENOUGH!


I will not let my country bleed. I will not let my police men on duty die. I will not let my country be held hostage by terror and I WILL NOT walk the streets of my country in fear. ENOUGH!

Most of us think that we as 'common' people cannot do anything. The mind quickly travels to a vigilante stance.

But that’s not going to happen right?

But we can vote.

Vote to change the paradigm from mere Democracy to Meritocracy. I don’t want to be the world’s largest democracy. I want to be the world’s most enviable Meritocracy.

It’s not about whether you are a Congress supporter, BJP supporter, SP supporter, Left supporter, BSP supporter.... blah blah blah!

It’s about choosing a set of people best suited to run this country…. Your country…..My country….

The only place on the GALAXY that YOU and I can call our own.

Choose wisely.

Know your MLA. It is important.
Challenge your MLA
Question the MLA
Read the manifesto
VOTE, please VOTE.
Check how much we spend on internal security
Double check on how the MLA’s agenda fuels the Nation…
Decode the propaganda

... and please.. please... please... DO NOT encourage corruption...

For a set of people who are intelligent and responsible… don’t you think that we can actually make a difference!?!??

“….yeh desh badlega, hum badlenge isse…” so was said in a Aamir Khan movie that moved us all.

My addition:

‘Aur agar ‘Hum’ nahin….toh saala MAIN badloonga isse……. MAIN BADLOONGA!!!

Rok sako toh rok lo……’

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Name Game...

The first time I had a near death experience is when my friend Harendranath Guha lunged violently for my throat after I announced to the gang that we should call him HaGu (the crude Bengali word for shit).

I thought it was a pretty smart idea and before the brain could process all the implications of bobbitising Harry’s (yes, that’s what we settled on later) name, I eagerly proposed my big idea of the day, only to see my dear friend flying through the air and wrap his cold thin fingers around my neck.

Names are a funny thing. Some people have power names, like 'Samrat Khosla' or 'Abhishek Singhania', these names exude power. Some names are intrinsically weak, like 'Khogen Das'. And some names are not even names, they are just some noise that we make …like Puru..

Then there is me – Soumava Sengupta.. a hugely tongue twisting, spit inducing name.. which over a period of time my well-wishers shortened to Shome. I am happy now..

Our film industry is going through a name crisis as we speak. Sometime, Someone named it Bollywood, and the name stuck.

It had a nice ring to it and life was good. Infact other film industries around the country and sub-continent followed the same principles of nomenclature. Tollygunj in Calcutta called itself Tollywood and the Pakistani Film industry based out of Lahore referred to itself as Lollywood…

But recently many in the filmy fraternity have been objecting to this name. The BigB once said that it was derogatory and insulting. Most of the younger lot usually say “Hindi Film Industry” or “The Indian Film Industry”. Eyebrows get raised if you use the B word in any forum or in the presence of the stars.

So Bollywood is not acceptable anymore and we have to find a new name. I propose a new name finding mission because saying “The Indian Film Industry” or ‘The Hindi Movie Industry” is a pain, and sounds more pretentious than Sushmita Sen and Simi Garehwal combined.

So what are the options?

Hmmm…. This is tough…Hollywood had it easy. That’s the name of the city and all it does is make movies, so it’s like synonymous with the US film industry. Mumbai does much more than just make movies. We can’t name the film industry after the city. So that’s one option eliminated.

I like elimination as a process of selection.

Ok here’s some freewheeling…

Mumbai-o-scope ~nah! too convoluted~
Filmistan ~nice, but it was the name of some studio~
Mayanagar ~good choice~
Mayapur ~is a 1000+ village in MP.. aaarrrggghhh~
Cine City ~cooolllll I am getting better~
Filmville ~too American… buck up Shome~
Filmpuri ~Indian, but very clumsy~
Cinestan ~hmmmm… not cool~
Mayanagar Mumbai ~has potential, needs working~

Well, basically I think we can shed this Bollywood tag if we want to. I am not in the creative line, but I know there are some really sharp people in there who can do this. So this thread is a call to action to all you creative types.

I would also yell ‘jaago’ to the film fraternity. You are the ones most affected by this and You are in the creative line. Sit together and come up with something!

For a country which prides itself on renaming stuff, we might as well pool our resources and come up with something for nee of the few places whose name almost everyone wants to change.

If anyone here has some good options, please suggest…

Who knows, the way things are going for India, we might see Hollywood renamed Hollypur soon…. Now that’s a day I will wait eagerly for.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

'Vest'ed Interest

If someone asked you, “What’s common between Sunny Deol, Salman Khan, Govinda, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Suniel Shetty and Hrithik Roshan?”, I bet you would NEVER say ‘chuddi-banian ads’!

Now that’s a trend which escaped your roving eye isn’t it: The hosiery industry’s celebrity endorsement fixation.

The earliest recollection that I have of a celebrity in a chuddi ad is Dalip Tahil (VIP underwear). The ad featured a rather hirsute Dalip Tahil leaping off the balcony to karate chop an impudent rowdy who was trying to act smart with the leading lady (all this happened in a dream sequence of the leading lady, by the way).

The underwear in question was seen flashing from beneath the folds of his dressing gown as he leapt off the balcony (it was a bottom up shot and you really wanted to pluck your eyes out with a stick after seeing it), and in the final shot, where he brazenly displays his Rin-white underwear by guiding his gown nonchalantly away as he strikes a one-hand-on-own-hip-and-one-hand-around-lady-waist pose. I forget the punch line, but it was quite cheesy ~prize to anyone who remembers~.

The first serious threat to VIP’s undisputed mind leadership came with Rupa underwear. Rupa started roping in more main stream celebrities (sorry Mr Tahil, but you know what I mean) for their advertising. Govinda, Sanjay Dutt, and now Hrithik are all Rupa brand ambassadors.

Lux Undergarmets burst onto the scene around the early nineties and followed the same industry trend. Lux has been banking on ‘macho men’ Sunny Paaji and Anna Shetty to peddle their products. Ofcourse their iconic “Yeh andar ki baat hai” line has been the source of much mirth and double-entendres for some years now.

Most of Lux advertising shows the model doing great acts of courage and heroism in the baniyan (I guess it is assumed he is wearing Lux chuddi also).

Sample this from Lux: Anna in action. Notice the humiliating call to action from women who are watching a free style boxing match ~where are these women in real life!!??~ to the ‘cool’ comeback of Anna who, after beating the living daylights out of the baddie, puts the impudent, mocking girls in place with a “Yeh andar ki baat hai” line. Fascinating stuff…

Rupa too comes up with interesting stuff, all capped off with their long running “yeh araam ka mamla hai” line.

Sample this ad featuring Govinda.

Notice how the recent trend of giving up ones hard earned sobriquets (Binani for BigB and recently Bad Man for petrol) was actually started by Govinda by bequeathing his Hero no 1 title to Rupa!

Rupa also recently shot one of the most hi-tech ads I have ever seen with Hrithik, all to sell their new ‘Macro Man’ chuddi-baniyans. And our man is delighted with the endorsement, I quote:

I am excited to be associated with this collection. I can identify with the brand on a personal level, as it is everything that I am.

Everyone was hoping he would elaborate a bit more on what he means by that exactly. But no such luck. So I guess we are supposed to assume that he is macho outside but 'Rupa’ inside. I tell you this metrosexual wave is going to ruin all that was male and good.

Well the point of this post was to answer the question that popped up in my mind is: “Why do chuddi-banians use celebrities?”

I have a hypothesis, but would love to hear your views on the subject (Is anyone reading this???) So write in on why you think celebrities are required in chuddi-banian ads, and I will share my hypothesis, once the responses run dry….

Friday, October 26, 2007

The anti-'K' factor, or what NOT to have in your name if you want success in movies......

This is the longest title I have on my blog. Just re-emphasising how path breaking the content of this blog is.

Everyone knows the most important rule in the Hindi movie industry: “the right name will win you the game”.

It was this belief that led to everyone naming themselves ‘Kumar’ in the 60s and 70s, then came the ‘Khanna’ (Rajesh, Vinod) trend for a brief while, and ofcourse the 90s has been dominated by the ‘Khan’ magic.

Notice the dominance of the ‘K’ factor in the surnames? I bet you knew about movie and serial names having the K-fixation, but it seems that ‘K’ runs deeper than we all believed (if you still think it’s a mere coincidence, let me remind you of the ‘Kapoors”!)

But this post is not about the K-factor in the industry. Neither is it on how you could go on to become a legend if you did NOT have a ‘K’ in your name (AB, Mithun, Dev Anand…).

This post is on how you have no hope in HELL, if you HAVE a particular name!

That’s right people, I have identified the ‘anti-K’.

A name that spells doom and abject failure in Hindi movies. A name that will drag you down with its cursed weight. A name that you must avoid, if you want to be the next star of the silver screen.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the anti-K: Its BEDI!

Let me run you through the curse of Bedi:

Mandira Bedi – first movie super-duper hit, then nothing. Unless you count “Shaadi Ke Laddoo” as something.
Monica Bedi – we all know THAT story.
Pooja Bedi – great debut with JJWS, then some feeble attempt at being Vishkanya, then oblivion….
Sapna Bedi – works with Ajay Devgan in Itihaas – A love story. Then became itihaas.

It’s not restricted to the women alone.

Rajat Bedi, once poised to be the new Angry Young Man, did a couple of semi hit movies and then disappeared.
Angad Bedi, started with Kaya Taran and then disappeared.
Manek Bedi, son of director Narendar Bedi, touted as the fresh new face of Indian cinema, did a few movies and then nothing.
Rakesh Bedi – has acted in numerous movies, but is still remembered for his role in “Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi”.
Adam Bedi – Son of the original Big Daddy Bedi – worked in Charas which blew away like a puff of smoke and now is hoping that Strings (Prakash Jha’s next) will work for him.

The only Bedi who has bucked the trend to some extent is Kabir. But if you were to sit down, and objectively look at his career, for the looks, presence, and voice combo he has, he really did not achieved much.

Who knows, if he was called Kabir Kumar, he might have been a superstar!

And here is the final proof: The one person who did drop Bedi from his name, went on to become one of the most celebrated actors in the industry – Gopal Bedi AKA the (in)famous villain Ranjeet!

So there you have it people, my evening thought of the day. A deep analysis into what will definitely NOT work in the industry.

BEDI – the anti-K, you heard it here first.

India Shining?

I was chatting with my friend the other day and the conversation rested on ‘what could derail the ascendance of India’. The rot in the political system emerged as enemy number one, however we kind of let it go by saying how India continues to grow inspite of, and not because of its politicians. A warm glow of happiness, coupled with some really good Single Malt filled the cockles of our heart and everyone was happy.

The next day as I sat on a rather longish car drive, I spent some more time thinking about this. Its true that India evokes a lot of interest around the world today. But the current interest arises from the fact that it gives a great return on investment. Period. Nothing, other than the economic story, is part of the new attractiveness of India.

The question is therefore, is the economic story enough or even sustainable, to play a lead role on the global stage? I think not. Our economic story will not last forever, and the day there is a better place to park the dollars, India will not be the toast of the world. We can avoid the early end to the party by not only wealth creation for the world, but also leading by action in matters related to development.

India today is experiencing material growth of a magnitude that it has not seen since independence. What we as a nation seem to forget is that development is a very different story and at present, a long way off.

Also, economic growth does not automatically lead to development. A country, among other things, needs good governance to move from growth to development. But a hard look at the countries leaders makes you wonder where good governance will come from.

Yesterday the Gujarat Tehelka story broke and the worst fears about the Gujarat riots have come true. Its one thing to suspect that the whole thing was a government sponsored genocide. It’s quite another to actually hear the accused give gory details of how they did it.

I don’t know what makes me more sick. The un-abashedness with which the accused talk of the murders they committed, the pride with which they talk of killing pregnant women to send a message to ‘them’, the helplessness you feel as you sit and watch murderers talk of their ‘seva’ to Hinduism, or the shame that you feel when you realize that these are elected representatives of the nation.

All the noise about India becoming a global power in the 21st century sounds untrue, pretentious and irritating. The only feelings I have is the 1980s sense of “is desh ka kuch nahin ho sakta”.

Who does one turn to for justice? Everybody is tainted. Uma Bharti comes on to TV and says that the law must take independent action against all those accused, but warns the Congress Party not to give any comment or enter into the matter as they are guilty of same: mass killings of Sikhs in the aftermath of Mrs Gandhi’s assassination. Laloo, himself embroiled in several corruption case, demands the arrest of Modi. Who does the common man turn to? No one has the moral right to take on anybody. All political parties seem busy leaning desperately against the proverbial cupboard trying to keep the ugly skeletons from tumbling out.

There is not a single political leader today who has the vision and the authority to lead development. Getting your economic policies right to get growth is relatively easy. You need a smart economist to do that. To make a leap from a third world country to a developed nation needs leaders. India today cannot boast of any, let alone many. We have a huge bank of politicians, but no political leader.

The Gujarat mess is a very rude reminder of how all this euphoria about India can end prematurely. We, the people, have a responsibility of taking the country forward. Not only by working hard in our respective offices but also participating actively in deciding the nation’s leadership.

Its quite obvious that all of us cannot join politics. Some of us are not interested; many of us do not know how to run a country. But we can play a part in electing responsible governments, of letting ‘neta ji’ know that he cannot get away with nonsense, and definitely raising our voice in unison against mass murderers like Babu Bajrangi and punishing him for the atrocities committed.

We lose our voice and anger today; we will lose our promising future along with it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My uber cool new look page

For all of you who are wondering how I put together the new look for my page, let me tell you that I had nothing to do with it, other than requesting Grafxgurl to make it for me.

And the glorious results are there for all to see. Isn’t she fantastic? And you know hwat the best part is: she does it for free. So while I sat around watching the iterations, she really put her mind and more importantly her time to it and did this. How super is that? When was the last time someone you dont know do that for you? Makes you beleive in all things bright and beautiful again doesnt it?

You can write to her on:
sweetart2 at gmail dot com
..and get jiggy with your page.

Or you can visit her page given below:

I guess when you are passionate about what you do, you don’t mind doing more of it. Which brings me to the question: what is my calling in life? I know its not what I am doing now, because there is no way in hell that I want to do more of it! Its rather unsettling to know that I don’t know what I want… you know what I mean…

But anyway, a HUGE thanks to Grafxgurl for this super sexy page. I love every part of it. And she has also added to the screaming voice in my head that I should evaluate a career change.

Taking Stock of the Market

There was a time when my participation in the surging Indian financial markets was through a safe and steady Fixed Deposit in my bank. The prospect that the bank was paying me money simply because I had a balance with them was wonderful. (The fact that I was keeping the money in the bank by not paying my booming credit card bills and hence losing all the gains by paying interest when the recovery guys would come banging to my door dawned on me much later.)

The stock market was something that I did not understand and was a definite “not for me” item in my life. The images I had of the stock exchange were from the Doordarshan days – all I could see was a mass of humanity on the floor of a room, shaking their hands around wildly, rabid look in their eyes, holding little pieces of paper, and screaming at no one in particular.

It looked like a mob willing to tear each other from limb to limb if they did not have their way. It made me feel sick and I had mentally decided that I would dance on the pavements and earn money rather than put myself through that.

Also the fact that all my colleagues were equally oblivious to the Stocks and Shares world made it easier for me to renounce it. In 2000, when I was staying in good old Vashi, we ASMs would meet almost everyday and I don’t remember discussing the stock market or the economy even ONCE.

Well all innocence comes to an end as they say (if they don’t, then they should say it. It’s a cool phrase). Soon the lure of investments that “double money soon” caught me as well. Coupled with a slightly better understanding of what Bear and Bull meant, and the introduction of online trading, I was ready to plunge into the choppy waters of the stock market and swim to financial glory.

I bought a few shares on advice from Ritika and others and I was off. Investment in the stock market is like a new born baby. You want to see it move and change and grow all the time like an indulgent, obsessed parent. I would check on my baby every five minutes or so. When prices surged up I would smile. When they fell a bit I would scowl and will it to rise again. I truly believed that if I did not check on the INFOSYS stock price every five minutes, the stock would behave like an errant teenager and do something stupid. It was my disciplined monitoring that made the sunrise sector blossom.

For a while, things were good. The markets were up and everyday when I opened the “Your Portfolio Value today” mail from ICICIDirect, my chest would swell with pride and appreciation at my new found financial acumen. I was an intrepid surfer, riding the financial waves with ease and style. And I was shimmering in the shine of the Indian share market.

Then came the fall. It started innocuously. A few heads popped up from cubicles across office and said things like “Tanked” and “Volatile”. I looked around a bit nervously. It was only after I heard PJ laugh maniacally and say “..phat gayi YAAAR..” that I started getting a bit worried. You know something is really wrong when the guy with all the corporate airs in the world starts using phrases like that.

Soon there were tea cup holding little gatherings at almost every cubicle. I eyed the window nervously as more phrases like “SEXSEX slips further” “There is no bottom” “Huge correction” flew thick and fast across the floor. I sprang up when I heard “It’s a blood bath at the bourses”. The old images of the stock market with people screaming and tearing at each other came flooding back.

The day ended with me slumped on the chair in Guru Dutt-esque pose. For the first time I understood what the great depression must have been like. I slung my laptop on my shoulder and dragged myself home. My hair disheveled, my eyes sunk and dark, my outlook as bleak as the markets.

As I slumped into the chair, I sighed out a question to Ritika: “Did you see what happened to the stock market?”

She turned to me with bright cheery eyes and said “Yes. Good na? It fell sharply, now I can buy again.”

I did a double take. The market had claimed a victim in my own backyard!

I sputtered, “Why? Why? Why buy? There was a blood bath. It tanked. THERE IS NO BOTTOM!” I ended on a high note with my voice seeped in panic.

She gave me her “whatzthematterwithyou” look. “Shome, it’s a cycle. In few months time it will go up again. The papers have been talking about it for days now. It’s a great time to buy. Buy some more and average your prices. Haven’t you read the papers?”

I sheepishly admitted that I had not. “But I have been checking prices every five minutes”

“Usse kya hoga?” she asked

I tried my level best to come up with an intelligent response but failed miserably.

“Its all very simple. Every time the prices go down, buy the stocks you want. Every time the prices go up and reach your target, sell the stocks and realize the gains. That’s all that there is to it.”

I could hear harp and accordion and happy chorus in the background. The blinding clarity of Ritika’s words were… well… blinding. It made so much sense that I suddenly saw the stock market in new light. And for the first time, it did look very simple.

My wife made me understand the stock market the best. More that any article I had ever read, more than all those tips that the breathless experts from CNBC gave out, and much more than the sour faced brokerage house gurus who try to confuse rather than clarify.

Now I am back and deep diving with alacrity into the ocean of wealth that the stock market is. I don’t check my portfolio every five minutes. In fact I check it only once a week. And I am not tearing my hair out when the markets fall or go skipping in joy when they go up…... All I do is wait for the right price.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Vote for.. vote for...

17. That’s the number of times I voted for the Taj Mahal. And tomorrow I will get to know whether all my various fake IDs worked towards getting the Taj into the coveted and exclusive list of the 7 Wonders of the (new) World.

I got angry email messages (“Does India Care??”; “Last chance to redeem our beloved Taj”; “Doob maro kutton..” etc) which goaded me and prodded my national pride with an electric stick, over and over, and turned me into this rabid Taj Mahal supporter. One, who would create fake email IDs, with various combinations of ‘shome’ and ‘numbers’, and online-vote his nation to glory. I just could not stop. I had to make Taj Mahal win.

On 07/07/07 the media circus will begin and people around the world will get to know whether their chosen monument(s) made it to the list. Bipasha Basu along with Hilary Swank and Sir Ben Kingsley and a host of other stars will be hosting the ceremony at the Benificia Stadium in Lisbon.

Its quite amazing how lists work. The “top 10…”, the “100 most..”, the “big 3..” and now the “7 wonders..” No one cares if you are the 8th wonder of the world or the 4th biggest. No sir. Either you are in the list or you are nobody. Once a list that you care about is announced, you just have to be there...

Lists by their very nature play more on the principle of exclusion rather than inclusion. If you are excluded, you just have to figure out a way of getting in. But if you are included, then there is a feeling of brief joy followed by emptyness.

Once Taj Mahal is there on the list, we will rejoice for a day and then not know what to do next. If it did not make it (and that can only happen because you did not back up my 17 with your votes!), we would be burning effigies on the streets and uprooting railway lines in anguish and protest.

Which brings me to the question that if we did not make it, whose effigy do I burn?

To have a clear line of hate, I picked up a cup of hot tea and jabbed my fingers into the Google search box.. What I found out, took me by surprise.

Unlike the popular perception that this election is being conducted by some “World Council” [like “World Commission for Selecting the (new) 7 Wonders of the World], the man behind this is a Swiss chap called Bernard Webber. No government, no ‘world council’ no organization is affiliated to this election. The whole thing is orchestrated by an individual

This modern day Antipator of Sidon is not a poet but a rather shrewd business man who has pulled off probably the most successful global PR campaign EVER! Described as a “film maker, museum curator, aviator, and explorer”, they should probably add “astute business man” to his list of titles.

Webber’s project started in 2000, and for the last 7 years the man has sustained public interest in this. I remember stray mails on this over the last few years. Of course now the noise levels have reached a crescendo. Not only has this man got individuals to vote and SMS, he has got AR Rehman to produce a video, Airtel to launch a media campaign and all the news channels devote time and energy and space on his project. Without spending a dime of his own! How’s that for working capital management.

The official website, says that a million votes have been received so far. Imagine the money that the voting generated. The big bucks though will come in from people who spend $2 to get their “Official Certificate”, and from shoppers who will buy the Official NEW7WONDERS “Clothing and Fun Merchandise” (ranging from $2.49 to $200) , “Pins and Medallions” (ranging from $4.95 to $99.95), “Song”(!!), and go for the official NEW7WONDER “tour package” that the site offers (“see the candidates for yourself” is their clever tagline).

50% of the net revenue generated will be going behind restoring world heritage sites, including the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan. The remaining is Mr Webber’s kharcha paani.

Now, I don’t know how to react to all the information that I dug up. On one hand I am disappointed that this entire thing is being done by an individual (or should I say an entrepreneur) and not a world body who has some direct stake in world heritage, like UNESCO. It would have given the whole effort more weight and credibility.

On the other hand, I am happy that there is this immensely successful campaign that puts world heritage sites under the spotlight and on centre stage. For a world thats obssesed with the future, its good to take stock of what we already have and celebrate it.

The case of apathy towards heritage is even more acute in India. India is a nation where every street has a story to tell and every rock is a part of history. It is also a nation where the people by and large care a hoot about conserving or respecting heritage monuments.

So what if Mr Webber makes money through this event? Atleast he got India aware and awakened on a fairly mass level on the importance of our monuments and our collective responsibility to promote and conserve them. This is in a country where every wall and lift door has some puerile proclamation of love or random mention of genitals is no small feat.

I do hope that the Taj makes it. And I do hope that it brings in a culture of respect and conservation for our national heritage. And I do hope Mr Webber makes lots of money through this. We need people like him to prove that the past is as exciting as the future.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Lost in translation

Office is a gift that keeps giving. Every time I feel that the world around is conspiring to make me unhappy, something or somebody in office does something bizarre and lights up my life.

Take BK, in Bangalore for example.

BK was the head mundoo in the Bangalore office. Dressed in spotless starched white safari uniform and always wearing Bata blue hawai chappals, he commandeered an army of less special mundoos (dressed in blue) who on his instructions would get us tea, deliver our mail, courier our stuff… you know, things that office mundoos do. From his demeanor and his uniform, you could make out that BK considered himself a white collar guy and his army most definitely blue collar.

BK was also an active part of the Brookefield’s Union. That role demanded of him a certain disgruntled look and slip up of service every now and then. Just to make the point to the management that they cannot get their tea on their desk if they piss him off.

Now everyone knows that managers in India cannot decide, deliberate, discuss or debate without their cup of tea. Hot, steaming tea served in white cups are the most critical decision making aids in corporate India (just a notch above Power Point Presentations, but above nonetheless). So BK had a really important role to play in the fortunes of this 10,000 Cr behemoth.

To keep BK happy, the management decided to give him an incentive. So on a grand stage they announced his name and gave him a certificate, a cash award and a small statuette (silver stick figure, arms raised, crossing the finishing line, pelvic first) for “Most Improved Behavior”. BK didn’t care what he got it for. He was happy being on stage getting cash.

Soon after the award, his performance did improve. He did not insist on talking in Kannadiga with you. He was prompt with the tea, and packages with fragile stuff went bubble wrapped.

I had a cubicle which faced away from the floor and looked out of the window. If you entered my cubicle, you would see a table that ran the length through the side of the cubicle and my back to you. The standing instruction to all the mundoos was to leave my mail on the table as you enter and not disturb me. Most of the mail was junk (“Rajasthan Patrika is No1 in Rajasthan”).

Only if there were some bills or estimates was I to be tapped on the back.

One fine day I hear BK’s raffish voice behind me.

BK: Saar?

Me: Hmmm?

BK: Good afternoon Saar!

Me: Yes BK what is it? Get me some tea please (I had a “Pavlovian Response” issue with BK. I saw him and I needed tea)

BK: Ok saar. Saar you saw box?

Me: Box? What box?

BK: (beaming) Saar I made box.

Me: (totally confused) Good, good (I usually say that when I am confused)

BK: Usha [my secy] told me saar. Not to disturb……. ~clicking sound with his tongue~ so I made box.

Me: You made a box for Usha?

BK: No saar. For YOU! (emphatic ‘YOU’, eyes widened)

Me: Oh! Thanks. What box? ~blinking quite rapidly now~

BK: For your bills saar. No one is disturbing you. All your bills coming. I take them all and put inside box.

Me: Oh that’s fantastic! (I use fantastic a bit too liberally).

BK: Thank you saar.

Me: Where is it?

BK: ~wide beaming smile~ In your BACKSIDE saar!

What followed next were two people staring at each other for a very long time.

BK was grinning, much like the spider who invited the fly to his parlor, and upon peeking out of his window, saw the stupid fly accepting the invite AND bringing a friend along!

I on the other hand, had the expression of the innocent by-stander who just got struck by a stray bullet.

I did not know whether he was being rude, whether this was some insidious Union ploy to enrage me or whether the old rogue had just lost all his marbles.

I spluttered and stammered a “What do you mean” while shifting uncomfortable in my seat.

BK: Here saar. This box. I keep it here. In your backside. No one come in and disturb you. All bills keeping in here.

Me: ~realization dawning~ Oh in the back! You have put the box at the back of the cubicle. ~nervous laughter~

BK: Yes Saar. All in the backside.

Me: (taking a deep sigh of relief) Thanks BK!

BK: No mention saar. Everyday your bills will be in the box in your backside

Me: I wish!

BK: ~with dedication~ No no saar. It will happen

Me: Ok. Can I have some tea?

BK: Just bringing saar… Thank you saar..

In one clever linguistic moment, BK had put my bills exactly where I wanted them to be.

I must admit, the box worked pretty well. No one came up and flung mail on my desk anymore. They were all there, inside the box, in my backside.

Then there was the time Michelle, from Unilever London, almost fainted when Ramesh told her with a smile, “You can put your laptop in my dickie”.

But that’s another story…..