Thursday, October 30, 2008

B2B Market

There is a comprehensive podcast over at Knowledge@Wharton titled Opportunities -- and Obstacles -- for the B2B Market in Tough Economic Times. Some snippets:

It's becoming increasingly easy to track customers and specific transactions over time. So instead of being very transaction-oriented -- "we just want to sell stuff now" -- start thinking about relationships with customers. It's something that's existed -- the concept -- in B2B markets for a long time, but the ability to actually anticipate what their needs are going to be, and what they're willing to pay, and what other offerings you want to wrap around with that particular product -- those capabilities are better than ever before.[…]

In these difficult times, it becomes even more important to focus on the best customers you have -- the ones you have a good long-term relationship with, that you're going to work together with on a partnering basis, and to even increase the ties that you have with those customers.[…]

Everybody thinks about products. That's not where the major innovations have come from. There have been innovations in business models. Now is the time for firms to think about doing business differently, because the rules of the game have changed. If you use the old business model, you're not nearly as likely to succeed coming out of this as if you begin questioning the fundamental business model -- the way you do business, the offerings, how you go to market, etc. -- coming out of this situation.



The third India Australia Test is on and Ravi Shastri, in his infinite wisdom, intones that the reason VVS Laxman is so relaxed at the crease is all preordained. You see its in his name Lax-man.

All I want now are some laxatives to digest such tripe.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Office Robbery Statistics On Wikipedia

Michael Scott in The Office season 5, episode 4:

It is not known how many office robberies take place every year because there is no wikipedia entry for office robbery statistics.

There is one for The Office though.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dumbing Down

Christopher Hitchens writes about Sarah Palin’s contempt for science and basic research:

Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just "people of faith" but theocratic bullies.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Before Diwali

The Big Picture blog has some pretty amazing pictures of buildings and monuments from around the world, illuminated on various occasions during the past month. A peek:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Smoke And Smoke

There is a story in today’s Washington Post about the recent smoking ban in India. This quote succinctly sums up the apathy and complete lack of belief in our law enforcement agencies:

Everyone is smoking everywhere," said Sai Ram, 58, a businessman. Referring to the recent increase in bombings across the country, Ram added: "The police are not able to stop the terrorists, so will they really be able to control smokers?"


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Question And Answer

At the end of third day’s play in the second Test today, Ravi Shashtri was interviewing Amit Mishra who took five wickets on debut.

Ravi Shashtri: Of all the five wickets that you took, which one of them did you like the best? Obviously the first one.

Obviously Shashtri does not need answers. The man provides his own.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Natural Progression

There is a story in Sunday’s New York Times about how the communist administration in Xinjiang, a large autonomous province in northwestern China, is controlling the practice of Islam among the 19 million Uighur residents of Xinjiang. An excerpt:

Two of Islam’s five pillars — the sacred fasting month of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca called the hajj — are also carefully controlled. Students and government workers are compelled to eat during Ramadan, and the passports of Uighurs have been confiscated across Xinjiang to force them to join government-run hajj tours rather than travel illegally to Mecca on their own.

It seems to me that the communist rule and its negative aspects in China are most evident in the the provinces which are not the at the centre of the country’s economic development. In the eastern coastal provinces, which have almost all of China’s booming port cities, the government tries to shift the focus from its all-encompassing authority to its more benign nature and its enormous successes in the development.

But then, it could also be argued that economic development and upward mobility in a region results in its inhabitants placing more and more importance on their economic well-being and keeping their religious beliefs and practices to themselves. The administration, too, then has less and less incentive to clamp down on them.

Dhoni’s Team

It was the last over of the second day in the second India Australia Test today at Mohali. Amit Mishra, playing his first Test, was bowling to Michael Clarke. After Mishra had bowled a couple of deliveries over the wicket Dhoni suggested, shouting out to Mishra, to go round the wicket.

And lo! The first ball the young leggie sent following his captain’s advice trapped Clarke plumb in front of the wicket.

What stuck me was that Mishra, exuberant, ran to hug Dhoni – closely. Newcomers to the team these days really look up to Dhoni as their leader, and Dhoni does not disappoint them either. The man has ice-cool nerves and a top cricketing mind to match. Captaincy seems to bring out the best in him as well as his team – a happy contrast with our past captains.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Difference

I watched a PBS documentary on use of "Advanced Interrogation Techniques" (a.k.a. torture) by US administration in questioning hundreds arrested from Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan. It is brutal. One quote from a former prosecutor, who did not approve of the methods used, stays with me:

If we compromise our own ideals as a nation, then these guys have accomplished much more than driving airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Root

Ramachandra Guha has a timely article on India Together about Lal Krishna Advani's recent shenanigans:

Had Advani not embarked on that ill-advised march, there may never have been an
‘Indian Mujahideen’. Had Advani not encouraged Hindu goons to carry weapons and
use them, there may not have been that pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat in
2002, or, indeed, these more recent attacks on Christians in Orissa and

As it goes, the vagaries of a coalition might keep him in check if he does becomes the prime minister.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn't seem to be working." - Anonymous

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cold, Round, And Crowded

This review of Thomas Friedman's new book about climate change and renewable energy Hot, Flat, And Crowded best echoes my thoughts on why I've grown to dislike his writing after immensely enjoying The World is Flat.

Friedman seems so cocksure - even when he shouldn't be. He's certain, despite a tsunami of evidence to the contrary, that the world is flat. That ten-dollar-a-barrel oil caused the downfall of the Soviet Union. And that a gas tax will be a universally acclaimed "win-win-win-win-win" as soon as a tell-it-like-it-is a green candidate reminds voters that right now we're being taxed by Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Russia, and Iran.

In my opinion Friedman, in his quest to reach the widest possible audience, dilutes the content so much that it feels like a drag to read and, his irritating habit of every other person he mentions in his books as "my friend" is off-putting too.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sports Formal

Love the sneakers with trousers! It was my dress of choice on many Eids.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Siege of Mecca

The Siege of Mecca - The 1979 Uprising at Islam's Holiest Shrine is a book by WSJ columnist Yaroslav Trofimov. The subtitle of the book explains what the book is about.

The blurb and reviews on the back of the book say it is an action-packed account of the seizure of al-Masjid al-Haram complex in Mecca in 1979. The uprising began on the first day of Muharram in the year 1400 according to the Islamic calendar - at the beginning of a new century. The corresponding date on the Gregorian calendar was November 20, 1979. The siege was led by a Saudi guy named Juhayman al-Uteibi. He and his group of about 500 people who participated in the uprising claimed they had the Mahdi among them. With the extensive preparation they had done including the stealthy accumulation of large number of weapons in the Masjid-al-Haram complex, they were able to keep the whole complex under their control for two weeks, resisting the Saudi army and practically the whole Saudi Arabian monarchy. (More about the seizure on wikipedia.)

What I liked most about the book was the whole background and the precipitous conditions in the Middle East at the time, and to a large extent the response which the uprising evoked in the entire Muslim world. Iran had just had a revolution causing the Shah to flee and the religious theocracy taking power. Shah was on good terms with the US and the Iranian revolution had its opposition to America and by implication the western culture as one of its fundamental differences with Shah. Anti-American sentiment was very powerful in Iran and never below the surface it had started to spread to the neighboring countries too. It’s easy to forget but those were the years of cold war and a balance of power between USA and USSR was forever taking place in this highly volatile region. Zia ul-Haq had just came to power in Pakistan after overthrowing Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his government and he too had begun to lean toward the fundamentalist elements in Pakistan leading to a large antagonism towards US which culminated in the severe attack on the US embassy in Islamabad shortly after the news of the siege started to reach around the world.

The book also sheds light on what the uprising did to Saudi Arabian monarchy and the effect of the Ulemas in determining the general attitude of the kingdom towards all things external. Moderate interpretations of Islam were relegated to the backseat - a struggle which we are witnessing to this day. The author goes as far ahead as to claim that the widespread fundamentalist attacks today all over the world and especially in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan can be traced to the seminal event in 1979 and Juhayman al-Uteibi's teachings.

Information can be very hard to find in a society like Saudi Arabia's and an extraordinary research and journalistic effort has been spent in fishing out the details for this work. The pictures in the middle of the book including many photographs of the uprising are an additional treat.

I not only immensely enjoyed reading this book but also understood, as a result, a little better why the world is the way it is.