Saturday, March 30, 2013

Of Mind and Money

I am no longer posting on this blog site. You can now access my blog at

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Hidden Key to Productivity

Every company worries in some way about how to make people more productive. To do this, most companies normally focus on two things: training – building knowledge and skills, and technology. No doubt this does yield returns. However, there is something else, perhaps even more powerful, that is largely ignored.

Productivity is how much you produce or create within a given period of time. Therefore, it has an implicit rate component to it. This means how productive we are depends on how fast and how effectively we act. Our knowledge and skills certainly play into how effectively we act and technology can speed it all up. The other hidden component, however, is how fast and effectively information travels through an organisation every day. Information about who else is doing what, information on resources in the company and the larger ecosystem, information on happenings in the market and about customers – the general buzz and chatter. If you don’t know about something, you can’t incorporate it into your planning or decision-making. You can’t act on it. This is true not just for companies but for societal productivity and progress in general. Still, the value of how information flows through the company seems sort of intangible. Just how valuable might it be to employee productivity? How do you put a number on it?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Microfinance: Time to move towards financial inclusion

As printed in the Economic Times

The numbers that describe India's economy are mindboggling. Just one-tenth of the population participates in the formal economy. Of these, only about 35 million pay taxes. That's less than 3%.

No wonder then that our economy produced a GDP of only $1.42 trillion at last count, about the same as that of the city of Tokyo which has a population of 35 million. There are simply too few producing value and wealth in India and so there is not enough to go around.

The financial inclusion agenda so far has been largely focused on redistribution of wealth while what is required is inclusion in the creation of wealth. Financial inclusion so far has meant debt distribution and nofrills bank accounts.

Microfinance has been one major channel of debt distribution to the poor. While the original assumption was that these loans were for investment in micro enterprise, the Malegam committee report in 2010 indicates that 75% of the loans went towards consumption. Contrast this with the distribution of bank debt in India where less than 20% were consumer loans.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Scrap the MBA

Part of the Big Ideas Series for The Smart CEO

What we need are Masters in Enterprise Building (MEBs)

Ask MBA (Masters in Business Administration) students what they want to do after they graduate and the answer is usually a variant of ‘Get a good job’. A good job, they will explain to you, is a job with a good salary, good personal growth opportunities, good work environment and good facilities. Large multi-national corporations will top that list. At the recent IIM-A Confluence, Satish Pradhan, executive vice-president, Tata Group likened business school placements to the Pushkar Mela. wherecandidates, like camels, are dressed up, paraded and sold to the highest bidder. . A student countered that they were ‘trained’ to find jobs.

What’s wrong with that, you might ask. For a country, where less than 10 per cent is employed in the formal economy and where the college capacity extends to less than 7 per cent of the potential college age population, access to a higher degree like an MBA is competitive and coveted. It is natural then that people see this as a rite of passage to personal financial success.


As posted on

There is a certain romanticism that we all carry about rural living. For many of us it represents the simple life, a place where you go when you need to slow down and not do much. And it is precisely that. The world’s relentless march forward occurs in the cities. Almost three quarters of the world’s productive output, its GDP, comes from its cities. There are simple reasons for this. When we cluster closer together into large agglomerations it brings us close to resources and information. City living is more expensive because we are willing to pay more for the choice and opportunity that this results in. For the entrepreneur, it allows you to access the resources you need quickly and efficiently from legal to administrative to people and gives you rapid access to a larger market. For the job seeker, thriving entrepreneurship means more jobs, more choice of jobs and therefore an implicit safety net that if one job doesn’t work out there are other jobs to be found. For the consumer it means more products available just outside your doorstep. There is immense value in all this.

Happy Nation

As posted on

Many CEOs and HR folk will tell you that happy people make for more productive employees. In fact there are even studies that demonstrate that when you are happy you are more productive. Therefore, the reasoning goes, it is important for companies to make employees happy so that they will be productive. Some even go so far as to say employees first, customers second. An article in the recent issue of Outlook on happiness made me wonder if they haven’t got it all backwards.

Monday, November 7, 2011

One World, One (Giant) Language

As posted on

Take a risk. Use your imagination. Transform your world.

Try to say this in any Indian language. I challenge you. You will fall short. Short on comparable, easily accessible vocabulary, short on that easy feel of flow and short on memories of when you last heard something like it said. English is the language of progress and possibility. English is the language of technology. English is the language of change.

To be progressive, therefore, one of the most powerful things we can do in this country is make English mandatory curriculum in every school, and then in the next generation just switch to English as the sole medium of instruction. One world. One language.

OK, I hear the critics. Some of our languages are so beautiful. So much of our culture will be lost. Then quick, start translating. English is one of the fastest growing languages in human history. According to the Global Language Monitor, the number of English speakers has grown from 250 million in 1960 to some 1.53 billion today. In China alone there are apparently now 250 million English speakers. In India, 100 million.