When Competency is Leadership

When Competency is Leadership
We have often come across unique personalities in our daily lives. People who inspire us show us a new frame of perceptions and eventually become our role models. This makes us aspire to emulate them, and most of us try our level best to achieve what they have. Yes, in our hearts and minds, our role models are our leaders. True leaders earn this kind of respect; they do not steal, inherit or buy it. This is what makes them so special to us.
But, in the midst of all this, we forget one crucial criterion in this equation of admiration. To truly become like this leader, one has to rise above the average and embrace all that comes with being special. We assume that if we work hard and do whatever it takes to reach that level, we will automatically imbibe knowledge that helps us deal with being that distinguished. But this is almost never so. How often have we seen our leaders falter at the top, appearing to be suddenly susceptible to all the adverse repercussions of a mistake in judgement? To truly be a leader, one must begin to deliver on the very expectations one has from his own leaders.
The most subtle of these expectations is competency. A leader is one who has what is commonly referred to as core competency. He has come as close to perfection as possible in the craft of his choosing. Be it the undisputed number-one ranked tennis player, or the self-made IT billionaire; they would have been the best at what they do best. This, obviously, reflects their adeptness and skills at matching and overpowering all other competitors to this top position. Therefore, to be the true leader in a field, there is no doubting the need to be the best in the field; by the virtue of one’s own core competency.
However, we might always overlook the other face of competency – how to use your core competency, and how to deal with its consequences. There are leaders who have let their skill overpower their basic judgements, and have lost everything to their ego. There are leaders who, at their prime, begin to indulge in extravagancies only to realize that their edge has diminished in time. But worst of all are those leaders who betray all the people who helped them to be who they are, and in the process, betray their admirers as well. We can give innumerable examples of these from history – all underlying the simple point that core competency is not everything.
What, then, must a true leader wield as strongly? For one, he must be fully averse to compromising on his values. A leader sets himself apart by defying the norm. But if he does so by defying his own values and compromising on his integrity, he reduces himself to the vilest form of behavior. He disrespects what makes him who he is, and in the process loses himself to himself. Secondly, a leader never overestimates his competency. It is by merit of his fortitude, hard work and perseverance that he has risen to where he is today. To extend his reach beyond his grasp is blind egotism, and every such overreach stretches his ability to cope with his burdens even further. Eventually, he will bring about his own collapse. Finally, a leader does not borrow courage. He fights his own battles, making the victories that much sweeter. He does not cheat, or use underhanded techniques to give sharpen his edge. Even if you are a police commissioner’s son, having policemen as bodyguards does not make you immune to the law. Using borrowed resources and purchased power will never make anyone a true leader.
At the end of this, one will realize that there is nothing that one did not already know in the above paragraphs. All of us have heard these words before. On some inspection, we will then realize that a true leader is not very different from each and every one of us, except that he has made the decisions that many of us ignore everyday. It takes hard work to develop core competency, and determination to wield it well. Every single one of us is capable of this. Every single one of us can be the leader we deserve.
Pranav Pai

Use Wikipedia During The SOPA Blackout

How to use Wikipedia during the SOPA blackout:SOPA has its loopholes. So does the Wikipedia blackout.Use “” in a Google search term to get to what you want.example –

Apple Knows Cash Is King

How Apple can turn any marketing event into a cash-making bonanza for itself:

There isn’t much Apple hasn’t done. From the proverbial come-back winning product launch to the industry-exploding sales figures, the company from Cupertino has defied all expectations. However, it has now caught the eye of the financial sharks the world over.

First, some facts:

The second quarter of the current financial year ends in less than two weeks, and Apple is expected to have over $70 BILLION in cash, short-term marketable securities, cash equivalents and long-term marketable securities. This means that Apple is SO far ahead of its competitors in the mobile segment that it can now afford to BUY out almost all of them, at their current enterprise values.
[ Nokia = $22.6b, RIM = $13.8b, HTC = $25.4b, Motorola Mobility = $4.2b, Sony Ericsson = $3b ]

To quote Asymco’s analysis:

If Apple’s revenue streams stopped completely, current cash would keep operations going for more than seven years, or until mid-2018.

Apple’s cash pile represents about half of Google’s total enterprise value.

Cash-on-hand for Apple represents a greater worth than Nokia, RIM and Motorola Mobility’s market caps combined.

Apple’s single quarter cash growth was higher than the market cap of many companies, and just about matched Motorola Mobility’s with the $900,000 in pre-payments added back in to the total.

Apple has enough funds on hand to put the company’s CFO among the top 100 largest fund managers in the world, and above any single hedge fund manager.

Core understanding from this would lead us to a simple conclusion that Apple agrees with the time-tested fundamental tenet of accounting – it is better to have cash today rather than pay back debt tomorrow.

Nothing exemplifies the cash-accumulating marketing machine at Apple more than its recent Back To School promotion. For a few years now, Apple has given out free iPods with a purchase of a Mac to every student during late summer. However, it has now stopped the free device handout and replaced the scheme with a $100 gift card that can be used to purchase apps on the Mac and iTunes App Stores, or books in the iBook Store.

This isn’t just a way to get students to “build their future” or “prepare for new challenges”, it’s also a way to make sure that the rewards cycle back to Apple in the end. How? Remember that Apple has structured an App Store revenue-sharing arrangement. Thirty percent of all purchases made on these stores are held by Apple. The developers get the rest, of course. But this entire marketing scheme scheme wraps up amazingly for everyone involved.

1. The students are made to believe (and with good reason), that their purchase of a new Mac comes with a good reason to load the machine up with the latest productivity applications like iWork and so on. They can still purchase their favorite tunes and a few best-selling novels as well, leaving them with an overall feeling of a massive “Win”.

2. The developers of both the iOS and the Mac platform get a significant heads-up, with new customers aching to spend freely (sort of) earned moolah on the latest and shiniest new software. The surge in study apps being promoted on the App Store isn’t just a coincidence! It’s an upsurge, almost like (but still not close to) Christmas time.

3. Of course, Apple makes a sweet 30% cut per app. But not only is it in this scheme for the money, it is also locking new customers on to its ecosystem. With more money to spend in making life easier on the Mac platform, students are being eased into what might have earlier been a more formidable (and even more expensive) exercise. Buying apps to use on an entirely new OS is generally a deterrent to “new” customers, but this new strategy is like a whoopee cushion that doesn’t make the funny noise in the end. Apple is also showing extra love to the developers who have stuck through with the platform and have taken the plunge to begin developing applications to cater to an ever-increasing ever-spending user base.

In summary, Apple’s competitors are only going to have more to catch up with in terms of both the user-base impact and the enterprise value. The gap in the latter is near impossible to lessen, unless Apple makes a couple of hefty acquisitions. But until then, the sheer polish and panache in Steve Jobs’ ever-evolving marketing machine leaves customers and developers happier with the finer things in life, and the company’s investors seeing that ever-increasing cash balance grow uncomfortably larger every quarter.

Graduation Speech at R.V. College of Engineering, May 2011

On behalf of the students of the Electronics and Communication Department, I can say that our time in RVCE has been a most memorable one. We have, together, been through experiences that have helped us grow as engineers, citizens and friends; and for this, we are thankful to have been in an institution such as this one.

In my time here, I have learned many things. But if asked to summarize, I think I would pick just two out of all of these accumulated gems of wisdom, in order to do them justice.

In our first year together, being the first batch of the autonomous scheme, we were told to be ready to accept an entire paradigm shift in the educational method. The focus was to infuse the students with a whole new vision – It was no longer just about how exemplary your report card made you out to be, but it was about how much you actually knew, and to what extent you could apply it in the real world. The continuous internal evaluation has realized its value today, when we are facing the industry with jobs, internships and projects. We are more ready than we would have been had our syllabus not stressed on the practical side of education. For this, I think we are all truly grateful.

Perhaps an even more important aspect of our learning was the most fundamental point about being alive – self-reliance. We learned that by slipping behind on any of our course work, we were only letting ourselves down, and no one else. We learnt that it doesn’t matter where you are writing a quiz – be it the classroom or the cognitive building – online or offline – our marks depended on us and nothing else. We learnt that formulae may be useful in a quiz, but unless you know its context, it will be useless in an internal. 

We have learned the meaning of responsibility. We have learned that it is sometimes better to listen, that to simply wait for one’s turn to speak.  We have learnt to follow, but not imitate.

But most importantly, we have learnt to understand for ourselves. This is perhaps the most valuable skill our institution has embedded in us. And for that, we are all grateful.

as delivered at the graduation ceremony – R.V. College of Engineering, May 5th 2011 – on behalf of the Electronics and Communication Department batch of 2007-2011.


Pakistani Cricket – Reality Calls

India won the cricket world cup semi-finals against Pakistan on the 30th of March. It was a fine display of one team outclassing the other, and one team making full use of the other team’s inadequacies in the game. Obviously, the team doing both of these was the team that won.

Pakistan has long been the “arch-rival” to Indian cricket. From the Indian perspective, these games have long been a forum for Indian team to display its prowess in the much adored game. It has never been just about religion, or politics, or vengeance or any other divisive notion. It has always been more about being better in the game. But for Pakistan, it is always going to be about being better than India. No, not just in cricket, but at the most fundamental level, just being better than India. Forget the economy, or the level of education, or the basic progress of society; if Pakistan bests Indian cricket, then Pakistan has won vindication. This is a pitiful state of affairs for a country that has diminished to being an international joke.

In the wake of the Mumbai attack, nobody in India has failed to see the irony in how Pakistan has dealt with their own duplicity in the atrocities. The perpetrators were Pakistani – yes. They caused unprecedented mayhem on foreign soil – yes. Any other country would claim the attack to be judicious grounds to declare war – most definitely. But India stayed put, and stuck to the softest possible response in the situation. All bilateral talks were grounded, and relations between the nations were dumbed to a standstill. However, to see the absolutely absurd reactions to this recent cricket match from across the border, given the decades of weighted backgrounds and this recent blatant attack on Indian sovereignty, one is simply flabbergasted.

The Captain, Oh Captain

Take the much-adored Shahid Afridi – his fans simply can’t get enough of him, so much so that they clamor to lay their hands on his pictures, those of his wife (check the comments – “Pathans dont show/shear their family (LADIES)” and of his daughters as well. From general perception and press coverage, he is amongst the most popular on the team right now. He is expected to be the grounding force in the team, now their leader and role model. However, anyone listening to him rant these past few days could well be shocked at the levels of immaturity on display. Let’s analyse some of his comments:

“Indians will never have hearts like Muslims and Pakistanis. I don’t think they have the clean and large hearts that Allah has given us,” Afridi was quoted as saying on a television channel.  

“It is a very difficult thing for us to live with them (Indians) or to have long-term relationship with them. Nothing will come out of talks. See how many times in the past 60 years we have had friendship and then how many times things have gone bad,” he said as the audience in the TV channel’s studio applauded him repeatedly. – The Nation, Pakistan

Afridi has reacted in the most juvenile way to a clear and unquestionable failure by his team. India beat Pakistan in the game. They did not have to fix the pitch, bribe an umpire or sway the media. In fact, Afridi’s own government put more pressure on his team, taking into account the fact that three of their top stars were banned for match fixing recently.

Rehman Malik (current Interior Minister of Pakistan), speaking to reporters in Karachi on Monday, had said that the team is being monitored closely to avert a repeat of the embarrassing spot-fixing scandal in August last year. “The team is being kept under close scrutiny before the match because of the recent spot-fixing scandal. We are not taking any more risks and do not want more such scandals,” he said. – The Express Tribune, Pakistan

Given that a minister of his own country issued this kind of a public warning against the national team, it goes to show the exact extent to which his own countrymen can extend their “large hearts”. With a government like this, who needs an enemy in Indian media; right, Afridi?

Is He Forgetting?

Also, these statements of Afridi are coming after he was a prominent presence in the test team that India beat on Pakistani soil in 2004. He would do well to remember the kind of security that the Indian team required to play in his home country. I’m sure Pakistanis are “large-hearted”, but even the Pakistani Government did not want to risk things going badly for the series. After all, we can almost guess what the Sri Lankans have to say about Pakistani hospitality.

Coverage of the attack –

Never before has violence of such ludicrous levels hit the sport of cricket. This kind of absurd inadequacy in security arrangements shows the incompetence of the government, the national cricket board as well the the complete ruthlessness of a people gone berserk. Controlling extremists is the priority when any such large-scale international event is hosted in a nation. But, even if Afridi insists, large-heartedness can never cover for the gross negligence at display, and the obvious move of the ICC to suspend all cricketing events in that country. Idiotic statements aside, he doesn’t seem to realize the impact this attack has had on the perception of Pakistan as a cricketing nation.

Fans and Responses

The Pakistani cricket fans seem to show a similarly nonsensical response to the loss. When Sonakshi Sinha, an Indian actress debuted alongside Salman Khan in a movie that became extremely popular in Pakistan (Dabbangg was seen as “Khan Bhai’s” capturing of the Indian movie industry), she won over many movie buffs across the border. They followed her on twitter, made lewd suggestions and requests for her pictures, morphed her face onto lingerie models and even started forum pages dedicated to the lass.

However, a recent tweet (see picture on this link) of hers garnered so many adverse/hate responses that she was forced to pull the picture off her page.  News report here.

This upset some of her pakistani fans. Many tweeted telling her to be a goodwill ambassador between the two countries and learn a few things from Salman Khan. Some of them even unfollowed her on twitter. To which Sonakshi tweeted; ‘pak fans v upset. jung ke maidan mein ladne se toh accha hi hai khel ke maidan mein ladein! im all for love thy neighbour. be a sport yaar.’ and later deleted the picture. she replied to her upset fans by saying ‘was all done in good humor. and if people dont understand that…its really not my fault’
A few days later she posted on her twitter ‘no jokes today. too many people here without a sense of humour. boo.’
do you think she went too far? should she just apologise?
I personally feel that she should just apologise straight up. Imagine if the picture was reversed and how upset indian fans would have been? I feel it was insensitive and as a public figure she needs to be careful not to ruin relationships with pakistani people. She should learn from more seasoned actors/actresses like SRK who celebrate without humiliating anyone and never try to upset their fans.

Ah yes, Salman Khan must be the embodiment of Indian dignity, of course. Pakistani fans did not handle this loss well, but their own celebrations over cricketing victories in the past have shamelessly brought up everything from Jinnah and Kashmir to Bollywood and Hinduism. The immaturity from their captain begins to make sense when this background of a typical fan is investigated. However, telling her to follow the example of Salman Khan is just pushing it, no? After all, does being an alcohol-addicted, SUV-driving-pedestrian-killing moron make him the *cough* shining example?

Must Sonakshi dance like him also? I think her Pakistani fans might prefer that.

Of course, these statements Afridi made garnered hard-hitting responses from Muslim scholars:

Eminent Indian Muslim scholars have said that his comments were immature and uncalled for. “If Allah has really given Pakistan and Pakistani Muslims such a large heart, why is it that the minorities, the Ahmedias and the Shias, live in fear there,” asked Mumbai-based Shia scholar Maulana Zaheer Abbas Rizvi. Young men such as Afridi who are role models for millions of cricket fans, said Rizvi, should not have spoken so irresponsibly. “It is this supremacist idea of Islam that is forcing well-off Pakistanis to flee that country. While the affluent are leaving the country, the poor are getting killed in the almost daily terrorist attacks in Pakistan,” he said.
Scholars mentioned the recent murders of liberal voices such as Punjab governor Salman Taseer who had opposed the man-made blasphemy laws as an example of increasing intolerance in Pakistan. “I am shocked that Afridi forgot so soon the kind of magnanimity and hospitality Indians showed him and his team on the occasion of the semi-final match at Mohali near Chandigarh,” said Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer. “Were not Indians large-hearted when they cheered Pakistanis’ conduct on the field and off it? What else did he expect?” asked Engineer. – Times of India

I won’t delve into the religious aspects as much, seeing that they are more or less irrelevant to how well you play the game, as far as cricket is considered this side of the border. But, it is simply absurd on a captain’s part to steep to such blatant foolishness and pandering and use it as a cop-out to get back on the “good side” of his minions and fans back home. The treatment and security arrangements provided to the Pakistani contingent was top class. There were absolutely no problems even at Mohali, with the Indian Government playing a sporting host to the Pakistani Prime Minister as well as several Pakistani fans who were issued temporary visa-permits and tickets to watch the game live. Given the Mumbai attacks looming fresh in the minds of Indians all over, this was perhaps the biggest show of “large heartedness” possible by an entire nation still smirking from the atrocity. In fact, as far as friendship-symbolism goes, this action from the Indian people was so large it was morbidly obese, gargantuan even.

India could NOT have gotten chummier with Pakistan, in the current context.

If Afridi had particular problems with any arrangements, he should have voiced them here. He wasn’t denied a voice or a platform. His move to walk back home, head hanging in shame, with his own daughter crying on national television, must have brought out this cowardly response; because his pathetic batting form obviously didn’t help him register a response on the cricket ground. No doubt, the Pakistani forums are already mumbling in agreement with Afridi’s reasoning. No doubt, his statements will instigate much data-mining by the news shows there. However, nobody would expect someone like Dhoni, or Tendulkar, or even Sreeshanth to resort to such absurd comparisons to religion-induced large-heartedness and media skulduggery when justifying a loss. It is a sorry state to see the scion of Pakistani cricket resort to such nonsense, but not unexpected of a people slowly losing their stakes in their own conduct. It is hard to say if the Pakistani team will reclaim the iota of respect they had garnered from a semi-final ending run in the world cup. But whatever happens from here, it is not difficult to imagine that reality is shouting a different tune to what currently passes for it in Pakistan.

UPDATE: Watch the Dawn interview below.
 0:56 –
“Jitne bhi hum koshish karle, jitne bhi haanth bhadayen, joh hamare dil hain woh unke nahi ho sakte”
“However hard we [Pakistan] try, however much we extend a hand [in friendship], their hearts can never be like ours”


Advertising That Astounds

If you’re like anyone, you’ve been troubled by the barrage of incessant advertising interrupting everything in your life – from cricket to cornflakes. But sometimes, it takes an advertisement like this to make you marvel at the extent of possibilities …

When Good People Do Nothing

There is this neat saying that urges us to remember that “bad things happen when good people do nothing”. Essentially, the world is represented by a zero-sum game if we go by this adage, because any “good” action withheld from the otherwise pernicious …

Share The Joy, or Sap It

When you look at the state of affairs in our fair country today, you might often think twice about what seems to be right and what actually is. Perhaps the most misunderstood of all would be the rationale behind how to decide what works best. If you have a problem that needs solving, you would usually think about its causes, and target them to erase the problem. It seems fairly simple. It is also a common enough notion to realize that solutions must adapt to the adapting causes of any problem, and so this would be a most competent way to deal with any challenge.

However, when any problem – be it poverty, hunger, literacy or power shortage crops up in our country, the government does not think twice before turning to its favorite chapter in political science – Socialism. Repeated failures and unending embarrassments do little to dissuade our trusted leaders from shifting gears and actually do something constructive to solve our common problems. The mantra is that if you are successful, or aiming at success, it is your unintended duty to carry five or fifty or five hundred not-so-successful people along with you. So the government will not update its ration system, its horrible public medical care or its rural infrastructure – it will ask you to pitch in and pretend that more taxes means better development. It all begs the question – who actually labeled this Political “Science”?

The best example of how socialism ends up working would be illustrated by this popular anecdote:

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had once failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism still worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”. All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

It couldn’t get simpler than that. It is always a moral, civil and legal obligation on a citizen to pay taxes and aid in the development of the country and all its people. But the key clause here would be ALL people; not manufactured divisions of people or sections of the population. Anyone in need deserves these benefits, and these benefits must be given unconditionally. Only then would there be a merited reason to demand the fulfillment of this duty on the part of the citizen. However, when the government continues to lethargically take the taxpayer for granted behind the veil of socialism, the ultimate benefit is lost in translation. We will continue to only empower the fat-cats on top – who hold up infrastructure development in the false guise of “protecting” farmers, who kill their party workers for not donating to their garland of thousand rupee notes – the leaders proselytized by power and a false sense of entitlement.

So demand from your leaders the right to fair return; demand your due. It is nonsensical to be expected to feed the hippopotamus that is the government, blithering in a mire of medieval and asinine ideals.