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#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 24


Today is devoted to preparing for the interaction with analysts. In the meanwhile, the company is churning out insights, crystal ball gazing on how various industries are going to cope with the COVID 19 situation. There is a deluge of information everywhere and all of them are reactions and snap judgements. Frankly, no one knows what the next day will bring. Human will however will help navigate the roughest seas.

Any business who has always kept his customer at the center of all his actions will know what needs to be done to keep his customer satisfied. Similarly, governments who have the citizens, businesses and its soverign borders at the core of its actions will know what needs to be done for each of them.

Online grocery portals have tried to create a disruption in a country where the neighbourhood store (kirana) has a better pulse of buyers in its vicinity. For the online portals, this crisis was the best opportunity to showcase their capability to adapt and deliver, giving the same experience to the customer. Lack of clarity in government rules aside, these portals have largely flattered only to deceive. Our first order was delivered flawlessly but only after close to 30 hits on the site trying to check for a delivery slot.That was the last order on the site after which multiple issues started surfacing

  1. Stock outs – within 2 weeks of the lockdown, they have completely stocked out and have not been able to replenish even basic items like rice
  2. No intimation mechanism about delivery slots opening up. One has to randomly try after loading the basket and if one is victorious with grabbing a slot, consider yourself lucky!
  3. There is no way the basket is reflecting the availability. Between picking items in to the basked and whenever one pays during checkout, atleast 70 – 80% of the items are stocked out and one is left with items which one may not need
  4. Grocery sites are definitely a no-go for fruits and vegetables. Stale vegetables, over ripe fruits and damaged goods have ensured that this category should best be left handled by the local market

A neighbourhood store operating for over a decade is confident with his supplychain and has most of the distributors eating out of his hand. If there is one thing that is good about online grocery that is about ordering remotely for things to be delivered to elderly folk living on their own.

Calls continued throughout the day. Set aside an hour to review a few proposal documents and shared comments and prepared the team for a discussion before the final submission.

Lunch was a simple rasam with a bitter gourd subzi. Easy on the stomach and lesser chance of hitting the sack.

One more day and then the weekend arrives to rescue.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 23


India does not restrict movement of people for economic purposes. This has seen a lot of youngsters move from their home states to other states for economic reasons. Many times the home states may not have seen industrial development or the migrating worker may not own agricultural land and of course there is always the issue of skill. The lockdown has truly impacted the migrant labour and their employers and state administration have shown little empathy in dealing with their plight. The incident of DTC buses transporting huge number of migrant workers and dropping them at the borders of New Delhi – UP, migrant workers evicted by their landlords walking back home / taking refuge in public places or the one on 14th of April where purported migrant workers assembling outside a mosque in suburban mumbai expecting trains to resume. All these incidents collectively point at only one root cause – lack of timely intervention towards arresting fake news flooding social media or instant messaging channels. Once the incident happens, there are many analysts and conspiracy theorists dissecting the issue and in some cases even pointing at extreme political conspiracies. The reason the Hon’ble Prime Minister has established a direct connect with the people via his apps or other digital mediums is to ensure that people hear directly from him and not through other channels which are prone to distortion.

Other incidents of businessmen waving a letter issued by a Home Secretary of a state and zipping past policemen to a hill station have resulted in a lot of anger towards the establishment and crooked ways of the entitled lot.

Another day of calls. The HQ comes back with full force and there are scores of calls through out the day on various subjects. Chosing which to attend, is one adequately prepared, are there outcomes defined; if the call set up does not meet the above laid out objectives, better to stay away.

An analyst briefing is slotted for friday evening with global leaders joining in. Preparations are underway with daily time invested by a senior leader towards reviewing of content and in specific cases, taking it upon him to write them. Generous in praise and always ready to step in; this man has truly won some of our hearts. When a guy does it and leads by example, others naturally gravitate towards him/her. Leaders are great schools to learn at!

Lunch today was a nice sambhar with salad. Sambhar contained a medley of brinjal, onion and potatoes. Missing some crunchy fried snacks which normally accompany such dishes. The Mrs. is now dividing her time brilliantly between washing vessels, cooking and attending travel industry webinars.

A plate of rice on which there is a sambar of potatoes, onion and brinjal along with a green cut salad
Sambhar rice and salad

Mid way through the week, looking forward to the weekend and covering ground with discussions around college admissions of Miss and future of travel with the Mrs.

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 19


Weekend is here and out come the grocery bags for some missing items. Looks like the whole neighbourhood chose the weekend to get out; queues outside stores with people standing outside stores within circles maintaining a safe distance. People buying Amul butter in multiples of 500 gms, multiple condensed milk tins, multiple packets of all purpose flour; Not sure if they would have generated such volumes on a normal day. Indians are unit level shoppers and usually buy in sachets, single piece items and not in terms of value packs. In the future if an FMCG company puts up a notice that few of its plants are shut for maintenance for 20 days, am sure people will flock to pick up whatever stokcs are available.

Daughter has enrolled in to an online learning session on office productivity tools. Essential Word, Excel and Powerpoint. In crucial times, someone who is able to clean up an excel sheet or make a few presentation slides is more valuable than just a textbook student.

Lunch was Methi Thepla with Alu subzi. The recipe for Methi Thepla was from the original home cook tutor, Ms. Tarla Dalal. Adding a bit of curd to the dough makes the thepla ultra soft it seems. An enjoyable saturday lunch! Kudos to the Mrs. and Ms.

Methi thepla with Alu Subzi and gujarati chilli pickle with mustard
Methi Thepla with Alu subzi and Gujarati chilli pickle with Mustard

Afternoon nap after flipping a few pages of the book Midnight’s Machines by Arun Mohan Sukumar. Fantastic read about how India embraced technology post independence. A huge point the author makes is about how the leaders (PM’s) took it on themselves to communicate to the people on technology and in the process maybe did huge disservice to the people by not focusing on technology to enhance people’s lives. A notable miss is the semiconductor complex in Mohali for which we seem to be paying dearly!

The vegetable truck was in and people were lining up to stock up for the week. Not much variety in the vegetables.

Adai was back to reinvigorate the evening. White butter and jaggery made it the perfect combination. Avial ? Maybe next time!

Adai with Jaggery and White butter
Adai with white butter and jaggery

Sunday was Rajma chawal and the Mrs. had done the soaking of Rajma beans.

Good night!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 18


Officially a day off due to Good Friday but there is always someone who is ready to pile on some work with some cheesy and patronizing line like…”I know its a holiday in India, but can you please try and send me something by your end of day……”. I seriously wonder how executives survive without data at their finger tips. Dont they keep their own “Go-To” folder with all the data, essential presentations and key reference material. It takes some real discipline to get there and continue to stay. 12 monthly business reviews, 4 quarterly reviews, 4 investor relation calls and numerous adhoc presentations. So much material gets generated from such reviews. All one has to do is keep them handy and refer to them regularly for all inputs. Executives have to get skilled in basic excel and that includes tools like Power pivot and using templates in power point. What if support teams are removed or made exorbitant from a service stand point ?

Reactions on the win mail start pouring in.

  • Congratulations
  • Congratulations All
  • WOW
  • Its been a long wait but well worth it!
  • In times such as these, this is a fantastic achievement
  • Fantastic win guys ! Hey, XXX let us discuss on how we should organize to deliver flawlessly (sane voice)
  • Did you write this mail ? Wow! Really good one, thanks! Please support till contract is done

The one i treasure the most came in from a senior leader who specifically called out my leadership, efforts and not dropping the ball while juggling multiple jobs. Also highlighted how much the deal meant for the company and the practice. It is very hard to bring in the collaborative spirit especially with territories marked with a red line. However, the company comes before all of these and one has to only protect the interest of the company while addressing the needs of the customer. In such matrix organizations, ceding control is out of question. The moment control is given away, it is a dog fight with no real owners stepping in and it pretty much becomes like a dysfunctional democracy. Family’s happy as they were the ones to watch the effort going in to the pursuit.

One interesting perspective offered – this deal might have just saved a few jobs. Hope so!

Data collected for the overnight requested, prepared and submitted. An evening presentation with the executives lasts all of 45 minutes with requests for offline copies to work on. Another submission was finalized and readied for submission. Closure is important for everything !

Lunch was simple. An Amti (A tangy Maharashtrian Dal with Kokum for sourness) with Rice, broad beans curry and some grated salad

Rice with Amti, Broad beans curry and a grated salad
Amti with Rice, broad beans curry and a grated salad (Radish, cucumber and carrots)

Had taken ownership for evening dinner and towards that had soaked for Adai, a protein rich pancake made like a thick crepe. Soak a cup of Idli rice with a handful of raw rice, handful of chickpeas, green gram, black gram and green chick peas. In another vessel soak half a cup of a dal medley (Red gram, Moong gram and bengal gram) along with red chillies. The whole thing is ground after 8 hours and allowed to ferment. Creative additions like curry leaves, additional chillies, moringa leaves, drumstick leaves and onions make this a power packed dinner.

Adai eaten with Jaggery and leftover Amti
Pardon the shape but the protein power is top notch. Jaggery gives great iron and energy. Leftover Amti is for some brownie points for not having any leftovers.

A great week draws to a close. Need to chart out a course of action on how to design one’s life in the weeks and months to come.

Almighty’s grace is all over!

#India is in a #Lockdown to fight #Covid19 #Coronavirus – Day 17


Day for buying vegetables. Two options exist – purchase from the truck which drives in to the building campus every alternate day or shop from the fresh produce store 50 metres away. The fresh produce store seems to have a better variety and no queues. The downside is a premium for some of the produce which seem to have risen due to shortfall in supplies. A kilogram of cucumbers for example cost Rs 100/- (1.5 USD).

Fresh vegetables, fruits and greens. Laid out, washed, dried and then packed off in to the refrigerator. Advised to wash once more in salt water before use

The raw mangoes are useful for some pickle and the upcoming Tamil New year’s day festival.

The deal is done. An announcement from the customer is greeted with much relief by all parties. A strict cap on communication ensues and everyone maintains a steady silence on the outcome and saving the honors of communicating to the Boss. Drafting a note announcing the win with details of the effort and the people involved began. An 8 month pursuit takes a small building complex. Apart from recalling the names, mandatory to also recall the specific contribution; necessitated to avoid snide remarks later on. The ones who are left out are the ones who left the company during the course of the pursuit. 4 pages of details ultimately goes out as an attachment to an email rather than going in to the body of the email. How does one get the attention of the reader ?

Evening calls are becoming a drain on energies. 45 minutes is a barrier after which attention flags.

How to get people to solve their problems by themselves ? A culture of running to the boss to resolve issues of work assignment, priority assignment has to be uprooted. It is an antithesis to ‘collaboration’. What will it take for a team member to call another team member and plan regarding utilization of a shared resource ? How many are mature enough to do that ?Begun the process of withdrawing from such interventions by indicating explicitly via emails. What do you do when no one is watching ? Do you want someone always to watch over ? Ease the burden of reporting and elevate the level of engagement with the team. Each one is free to design the way they want to organize work for themselves.

The evening town hall call to report on business continuity passes of incident free ! Outcome is townhall with another business head. We have now become a presentation vomiting factory/deck churning factory ! Aghast at the number of presentations churned out and the dependence that a lot of people at leadership level have on associates to prepare material for them. No idea how it happens at various levels but this preparation is a mighty bandwidth guzzler.

Lunch involved a good amount of research by Mrs. This time it was a Dal Fry inspired from a recipe by Sanjeev Kapoor

Dal fry, Basmati rice and a lot of Salad
Healthy eating is happening by default – Dal Fry on Basmati rice and salads. The red chilli flavor stands out.

Mrs. is busy attending numerous webinars organized by tour companies from Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Good learning on new destinations and how to pitch to customers.

The win mail hits every inbox that matters and the responses start coming in.