Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Changing Perspective of a Busines Analyst

My very first interaction with a Business Analyst was in my first IT company. I was working on a small reporting project where night long efforts were usual to just make reports look better in all aspects - even with its thick/thin line formatting. Permutation and Combination of excel and word expertise were used to its extremes for such beautifications. It was a tedious task - not that it was tough, but because it was repetitive enough to make us mad :)

Since that time, I always had it in mind that Business Analysts get tough time pleasing clients on even minor details. Without knowing their exact qualifcation and job responsibilities, I abhorred the very idea of becoming one of them. While pursuing higher studies, the idea remained same - a Business Analyst, working for an IT company will have no say on his personal interest on technology or domain, but to abide by all adhoc orders coming from top management. He may be good in transport domain, but since business demands him to be in Insurance, he will have to be there, sacrificing his own interest.

With this whole idea of thoughts, I entered corporate world again - but to my dismay and curiosity - as a Business Analyst. I was just afraid of losing hold on my choice of domain amongst many industry verticals. But by holy grace, I entered enterprise services - which was a Horizontal - spanning across all verticals - even Telecom!! :) I tried making it clear even during my recruitment interview that where my interest lies, with fingers crossed, as people hardly get to pick on any industry.

Once our training started, many of us who were from Markteing, opted for CRM - Siebel, SAP and SalesForce. Fortunately or Unfortunately - I got Siebel. Did some quick search and found that it was the best in Market. As expected - it made siebel guys very happy - as we were really worried about getting into some technical financial domain. While undergoing training we also looked upon seniors who alreaqdy had some domain. Luckily we came to know about a Telecom project in our company that was on Siebel. Wow!! :)

Since location was not a constraint, my first option was always domain - which some of us, including me, communicated well in advance to our interviewing manager who wanted to know our desired domain. Few minutes later, we had a smiling face - and guess what I got..  tring tring!! (No Knock Knock). :)

We packed our bags and took a flight (with some extra luggage) to Delhi. All time what we heard about this client was its weird working environment - which seriously that aroused our curiosity as well.  We were about to work at onsite (indian) with bare minimum facilities - though we were given home pick up and drop free of cost. But hey, many people dont even get to see such implementation projects even in their career of decades. First opportunity for me to work on my desired domain and that too in a market which is still beaming with ample opportunities and innovations. What else would I require?

First few months just passed by learning about client and what has already been executed for them - bad, good, best, worst.. almost all. Acclimatizing ourselves to such evironment in the beginning was little difficult as this was not what we thought when we joined. Anyway - learning comes in many ways and this was one!

As a business analyst, what is expected out of us is not only gather requirement and comunicate to technical people. It encompasses a whole lot of other stuffs which includes - in minor details -

- Analyzing finer details of requirements and maintain its integrity in documents (said and unsaid),
- Making use cases for other resources to under (pictorically) and
- Discussing functional and slightly technical scenarios - negative as well as positive,
- Understanding overall solutions design with architects team,
- Reviewing high level desigs,
- Understanding test case scenarios for user and system testing,
- Perfomance Scenario Analysis,
- Keeping ourseles updated with latest information about market and competitor (helps in consulting),
- Communicating client about each milestone while development,
- Building rapport with all stake holders,
- Being innovative by sharing knowledge in one form or other,
- Updating ourselves with technicals of products we work on and also alternate new solutions in market,
- Tracking issues and reporting,
- Helping in pre sales activities,
- More than any thing else - bringing SIMPLICITY in everything - already IT is so complicated ;)

and there we stop... may be not!!

If everything gets over and you still have time, try somenew new - for example - we started building our own micro website for our location projects and loaded it with our learnings, award and fun trip pictures, visit details by senior management, case studies, white papers, team structure, tips, blogs, section with latest news on Telecom, etc... in other development centers, there was white paper contest.. wherein best paper would be given award and recognition...  this, indeed, gives our projects and people a good visibility among our top management.

We could take out some time to contribute to the center of excellence (CoEs) by initializing some ideas to create tools, create component based frameworks on existing projects to help similar new project gain momentum during start - to save time, can provide feedback on processes to help improve some, and many more....

Life of a business analyst is half technical and more than half is functional, a perfect BA will not think twice about venturing into technical areas. 3-4 years of experience in this role surely gives us a landscape to look out for consulting profiles in product/domain and as we say even that is not enough to be said "knowledgeable"... !

For me, perspective of BA has changed a bit from just being a "data formater" to much more than I actually imagined.. and finally I am enjoying my work! :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Telecom - Who Cares What Runs It...

Had it been year 1800, people would have laughed if we spoke about passing whispers from one corner of the world to other in not even a second's lapse. Indeed, the time was not so advanced and talking about such stuffs would only end up you in some asylum for the best treatment, which would have been directly proportional to the amount of investment you could have managed. Yes, I am talking about mobile communications.

You make a call from your mobile, hear the ring in 3-5 seconds, finish your conversation and hang up, send an SMS and it gets delivered in a jiffy, send codes to receive alerts on cricket, soccer, astrology, jokes, discounts and what not! And if this is not enough, you also get to know about complete usage by the end of the month with sufficient time to pay the bills. Life has become so simple, huh!?Think Again!

But before I proceed, which may mean CRAP for some, a small warning - "this blog doesn't concern those who do not want to go down the path of technology innovations". But I will try my best to keep it simple for those who have even a penchant for slightest learning about Telecom that starts with systems and networks. 

When you make a call, it is picked up by the tower (BTS) in your network/cell (your local areas are divided into smaller portions called cells) and thus sent to the controlling system (BCS), whose main purpose it to send it to some switch (MSC) that signals the other telephone via some intelligent networks (IN). Areas are divided into cells and every cell has a tower to provide signal to your phone. As you change from one cell to other, the signal strength reduces, but hey your phone is no fool. It sincerely tries to monitor the signal between towers and as the first tower fades and second tower increases its strength, it switches for better clarity and your location on your phone changes consequently.  

And what you can do with your connection and what not is defined by the form you filled, what plans you took and what services you ordered by calling the call center executive. All this data is stored at a place called CRM (Customer Relationship Management) that does the work from taking details from filled in form to starting the activation of your service and then monitoring your activities. All your bills (for post paid) are calculated in systems (Mediation & BRM) that convert them to rupees by the end of month and in a format which a customer understands. But for a customer, it is just the call center agents and the service provider shops that matter as they are the only touch points. Nowadays we do have web services also where you can change your settings or plans. Good for the companies as they save some cost in doing simple activities which even a customer can do sitting at home in his computer. Making a customer your employee to do self service do save a lot of money, especially when you see the numbers in millions.

Above all this is the integration between the systems. Endeavor to make all of them automatic is imminent so they could talk to each other without human intervention  and it is done by various companies. Some are good at CRM, some are at Networks and some at just Billing and Rating calls. To make a connection between these systems you require a middle ware that talks different languages to respective systems. A minor miscalculation may end up taking a toll on the whole system. Very tiring job and hectic to maintain, and thats why we have these solutions architects who work day and night to design and then maintain the systems so transition could be flawless.

Now if we see SMSs, they are done directly through the networks with minimal human intervention, thus supposed to be the cheapest of all. But still companies charge Rs 1.5 for an STD SMS to increase their revenue which is already dwindling due to the low rates for voice calls. Similarly a case for alerts which are cheap but comes at a price like Rs 30 per month You take three packs like them and you end up generating more revenue than an average pre-paid user. That is why post paid is sought after plan which Telecom companies want to roll out at large scale. 

Various other questions that surpass our intellect - say, who sits to make our phone paper bills interesting to read and understand, who does the checking if our number is genuine or not when you make calls, who keeps a tab on whether you are on roaming or not and what rates to apply, who does the bill monitoring and credit analysis, who does the address verification and how long do they wait to disconnect your services after you default on your payments, how do retailers get their commissions. Answers vary and lie with different systems and over all understanding of individual systems is a must, but we are not going in detail.

A latest development that we see nowadays is MNP (Mobile Number Portability), where you can keep the same number but change the service provider. But are the systems ready to do such transitions without error? Lots of checking and testing is to be performed while implementation and all providers must keep their schedules running for best results. With the advent of 3G and LTE (4G we call it), there is bound to be more questions coming. Markets may also ask for services wherein they want to have their calls paid by their dad, or my SMS to not billed by their company. Some simple questions with complex answers!!

From service providers' side, what should be on priority - network optimization to handle 12 million incremental customers every month, quality of call, portability, adoption to new networks because old systems do not support video calls, government norms for producing pre-paid bills which is difficult to maintain or new players' tariff wars, etc... Can't expect everything in one go from them, but as we say there is no shortcut to success, even players can not excuse themselves from  these budding problems. To start with, just ask yourself a simple question: why our sim cards have cut on one of their corners :)? Try finding this and you will have answers to many more questions... 

In the end, to the guys who understood what i wrote - Happy Telecom! and to others who didn't, title of this post still remains unaltered ;)

Friday, July 2, 2010

2020 - Casting Away

Steve Jobs started with Apple and took it to the heights where we all see it now with all its touch phenomenon. Emulating the same, many companies tried to reach its level but pioneer had carved out its niche space already. Amazing, Awesome, Astonishing, Scintillating and many other adjectives took places in our lingo when we first sat Apple iPhone. A Legend in itself with ample traces to track its existence.

We have already been through so much of Apple that we do not need a blog like mine to know its story. Rather, I would post on the recently read set of ideas from Ericsson that i came across that might come into being by 2020 - http://www.ericsson.com/campaign/2020_search_application/2020App.html The ideas that we are talking here not only change our perception towards technology but may also make us totally dependent on them in years to come.

In total 76 ideas are in pipeline with Ericsson and some of them may be even in the production stage right now when we are reading it. Selected ones are mentioned below:


Eco Passport - I assume that the kind of background my friends belong, all know about carbon credits. It is credit in cash that you get when you decrease the amount of carbon footprint in atmosphere through your activities. Eco Passport is your personal identification and communication platform that not only shows your Eco balance but also shows balances of restaurants, hotels, shops, etc through a small window like screen which you can place in front of you to check the values. It also comes with an Eco Controller which can be used to read the bar code for the Eco value of the product. Hope we see it coming on cars (CNG) too so government could give us some subsidy on its usage by removing taxes :)

Translation Passport - Many a time we feel the necessity of having someone with us to translate the language of foreign national when we are on international roaming. Ericsson has this idea to come up with a digital window like hand held product that would show the translation in the window when you look though it to some foreign language and identifies it accordingly. Good for Sales guys!

Spider Computer - For some it is difficult to carry heavy laptops and desktops. What if we get a torch like computer that runs on your will. You can make it stand on a table and it will project the screen and keyboard. Use this virtual keyboard and screen to do your activities, shut it off and then take it along.Handy Comp!

Sound Walls - These are virtual walls that you can create around you to not let the sound go out. This is useful in places which are crowded or when you are discussing your personal things in public and would not want others to hear. This would also be useful to cut off the extra sound coming from outside. In short, you can talk on mobile in a very crowded area with bare minimum sound from outside a designated radius to pass through as interference. Can you hear?!


Digital Mirror - Looking for a place or standing in line for 20min to check if the dress suits you? No worries! This device lets you check the dress on your body without even wearing it. Just stand in front of it and it will show you the reflection with that dress on. As far as colors are concerned, change it as you like and vary the sizes. Good for shops where change room quantities do not match the footfalls.

Visual Credit Card - Usually we give a damn about the money going out of our credit card, because we know we can pay it when time comes. But while spending we do not see the actual practical effect of it in our balance. Visual Credit Card will display the amount you have in your balance on your card, which when swiped in a shop will show you the reducing balance. When you transfer the money from one credit card to other, you can literally see the money counter decreasing in one and increasing in other. I would love to have a card like this with very little additional cost as long as it reminds me that I may become a Pauper King by the month end!

There are various others that are posted on the site which can lead to a new level of video conferencing and virtualization in coming years.

We may also have a flying theater to run movies in towns where we do not have the connectivity or we can just convert our walls to theater screens and windows to speakers. But this is my idea ;)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Negotiation - Should I ask 5Lakhs or 15Lakhs?

How should one negotiate with one's potential employer on his/her salary? - it has always been a point of contention for many who look out for change after being employed for 1.5-2yrs or more. It remains an area of expertise for some who could always end up getting more than anyone else in market due to just mere communication abilities. Conveying right points to HR and selling oneself is something which comes by experience and practice.

Questions that come in picture while changing jobs are - Why this change? How will you add value to us? What salary do you expect? etc... Rest of the questions may be answered with full confidence but salary is one area that is one time discussed. More you discuss on that, more you show your restlessness. Deeper you delve into Basics, HR and taxes with HR, deeper you drag your eligibility away to get selected - unless you are one key resource which the company is hell bent on taking.

There are some companies that look for their own standards while selecting candidates for a profile. Say for example - for a Marketing Manager position in a company, if John applied, he would be first asked about his previous salary. Imagine that salary to be Rs 10 Lakhs/annum with perks. Now if the new company has budget of 13 Lakhs + perks, he would be an ideal candidate. At the same time the company maintains a minimum level of say Rs 11 Lakhs, below which a Marketing Manager is not to be selected. So even if John had a previous salary of 5 Lakhs, but has the proven expertise, he would get minimum of 11 Lakhs without asking questions. This happens in most of the big companies.

But normally in small companies, cost is one thing which they are more inclined to cut first. They would always ask for previous salary if they are not confident about their salary structure. If John had said 3Lakhs, they would have given him 5Lakhs. If John had said 8Lakhs, they would have given him 10-12Lakhs. This type of Marking Up strategy is prevalent in many Indian companies (not sure about abroad), which is in one way good for organization and on other hand bad too. I have had friends, who deserved 50k per month but were getting 20k. Now when time of change came, they were offered positions for packages just 20-30% higher than what they used to get. The same company would have given 30% higher for same post on 30k also for other candidate. This breaks the transparency illusion which companies talk as they are not able to justify the difference. Most of the HR work is just done on basis of maths formulae rather than  pure ability.

There is another parameter that we hear is "Industry Standard". Company HRs mainly refer to this term during negotiation when you expect more from them from your previous salary. A tactics which works in cases where the candidate is new and has no knowledge about standards and how they get defined with experience. Have that calculations done with all your facts and figures by discussing it with your friends who are in similar profiles. What experiences they have, how many success stories they share, what potential they can bring to the table, how good are their communication or interpersonal skills, etc decides your new salary.

You will find some guys so bad in studies and so good in communication that when they sit for interviews, they end up getting better packages than their peers who stood 1st or 2nd in class. It is like they were born for that 1 hr of interview and whole life they have been preparing for that ;). To get good hands on some of the questions and how the answers are given, I used a website that hosts most of the interview questions. Videos are posted so one could also see body languages (http://newgradlife.blogspot.com/). Though salary part is missing, but can be an addition to the free treasure, if you go ahead with these amazing answers ;). A lot can be discussed over this topic but i leave some for your cerebellum activities :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chennai - Beyond Temperature & Humidity?

Very first thing a person thinks after hearing word "Chennai" is its climate, which has only three seasons - Hot, Hotter and Hottest!

Whatever people say, but for me, this city has seen a major portion of my life since my school days. Some of the things which I could associate with it would include my school completion, my under grad engineering days, my first job, meeting my fiancee, my daily evening walks on beach side, and many more...

Life was never easy then, especially beyond the boundaries of Kendriya Vidyalaya and Air Force (or be it any defense area per se). It is not just the language which people might feel is difficult to adjust to, but it is also some of the cultural changes and eating habits that makes a difference. Sudden rise in temperature and humidity just adds to your uneasiness, which goes without saying. Climate is deigned in Chennai in such a manner that people sweat a lot, not only that, it also sticks to your body and doesn't go easily. If you stand near the sea, you would feel heaven in Chennai but as soon as you go away from it, you would start feeling the layer of salt deposition on your skin. Feeling the pinch??

Marina Beach is counted as one of the longest and largest beaches in the world. Few years back, this could have also been one of the dirtiest beaches on earth. My recent visit changed my perception a bit as I could see some cleanliness around with nice places cropping up like parks, fountain, skating ground, shops with dustbins and cleaning vehicles. Within its cleanliness, people were enjoying the heat and the water touching their feet with jeans folded up to their knees. Touching the knee portion of the jeans wasn't a tough task for the waves, though how difficult you make it would all depend upon how much Doppler effect you studied in your school/college - just to gauge the speed and height.

Other place which you can go around is our famous Elliot's beach (aka Besant Nagar Beach, aka Lovers' Beach), which is one of the hang out places for young crowds ;). This place is mostly filled with people from North and also a resting ground for some of the hawkers (bhajjiwalas) and shops. Mumbai's Marine drive can always oust any beach side in the world but when you are in Chennai, this could be your preffered location to feel that thunder with bikes racing around, road side bajjis, CCDs and Idli Corner shops with tea stalls... Punjabi Dhaaba is one stop which is always seen with a line going outside its shop at night times. Ideal place is the stretch where you can sit and have good talk with your partner or friends. Family people come here for jogging in morning and evening and see sun rising from sea. Come at 5:30 in morning and catch a glimpse of red sun with cool breeze touching your face and cold water touching your feet. Amazing experience!! I did it twice in my ten years Chennai life time.

If you are a movie freak then you must not miss places like Sathyam theater (Near Spencer Plaza, Mount Road) and Inox (Chennai City Center, Marina Beach). Tickets start getting sold on Wednesdays early morning, 12 midnight on internet. Catch your tickets by this time else you would only crave for a good movie release. I would have suggested you to see most of the movies in Sathyam but Inox has also come up really well with its Mall type culture. If you go to Inox, you will be inside a Mall, which is new and modernly designed on some European architecture. It has places to eat, shop and watch movies - an entertaining place near the sea shore that would satiate your desires even after your shopping/eating is done. Sit beside the statue of Gandhi Ji and see kids playing in park or fountain. There is also an area where these kids pass their time and that is their skating ground, which is very close to the fountain. You should see their spirit and enthusiasm to learn skating. They fall everytime they take a turn , but get up again to be ahead of adjascent losers.

For me, these two days were full of fun and excitement as I visited this place after three years. Major thing that comforts me here is the language which I tend to understand to some level and can also converse in the same. I learnt about reading and writing Tamil in my college, at least it helps me in understanding which Tamil movie poster is displayed, which bus goes where as most of the buses will have only Tamil written destination boards (if not the final, at least the "via" portion of it). Communication with autowalas for the bargain part had also become easy those days; even this time I felt the same easiness in me. I would suggest any new person to first read and understand Tamil.

How can we leave Chennai without talking about south indian cuisine? First thing people ask whenever they meet each other is "Saaptiya?", which means "Had food?". Food is something which you can very well rely to be adjusting to. South indian cuisine has a wonderful flavor in it, which can be noticed with its aroma. Some which could be found on any menu here are Curd Rice, Sambar Rice, Idlis, Dosas, Utthapam, Tea, Vadas, Lemon Rice, Rasam, Sambar, Varieties of Poriyals, Appalam (papad), Pickles and More (Chhach - Curd Water), etc that will become friends of your food habits sooner than you expect :)

You should also visit theaters for movies of Vijay, Rajnikanth, Vikram and Kamalahasan. If you miss even a slightest thrill in your life, just purchase a ticket in black or book at 12 midnight on internet and sit in a theater for their movies - "first day, first show". You may miss out on language, but you would not miss on the excitement which is no less than a stadium cricket match of India Vs Pakistan ;). Story line is understood automatically, as least by the moving reels and common sense :P These actors are treated like Gods here and any word against them could lead to small massacre. No movie goes flop here if you have these actors in your movie. Gravity is one thing which you would find missing in their movies, esp i fight and song scenes :P

For women, Jayachandran Textiles, Sarvana Stores, Nalli Sarees, Chennai Silks are some of the exclusive places in T Nagar (Mambalam Station). You would find sarees ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 10,00,000 also here of umpteen varieties. BEWARE HUSBANDS, strict NO NO if you are planning to go with your saree philic wives!! If this is not enough, then save your credit cards as this place is also a hub for the jewellers of Platinum, Diamonds, Gold and Silver. Especially during days when golds are cheap, please avoid. Apart from these two things, you will also find shops for every damn thing for your house - fruits, vegetables, utensils, shoes, sandals, clothes, bags, suitcases - think for one and you would get is here.
Though it was tiring, this trip has slightly rejuvenated my desires to be a Tamilian, but for the time being I should be rather concentrating on my work and not hope for a posting in Chennai, which is one of the strong contenders now.

Sorry Humidity, people can be Chennai's friend only if you shift your place somewhere else!! Please Kunj Gavani (in English - Please give some thought) :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mumbai To Bangalore - New Job Awaited

11th March | Thursday | 1000 hrs | Mumbai | My Apartment...

The day had been smooth like a snow on snow. I was packing my bags and leisurely chatting with friends before "cya"ing Mumbai. Two of my college friends were boarding the same flight as mine for Bangalore. Yes! finally I am into a job :)

It was Jet Airways, booked 3 weeks before our journey to get the best fares. My taxi was for 12 noon, just two hours prior to the departure of my flight. Seventy percent of my bags were packed and some tit bits were left to be shoved in here and there.

I believe in doing things in last minute, especially packing , as it gives you a rush of adrenaline and adds to your excitement. While doing this, I received a call from Jet Airways that our flight had been canceled and in lieu of that there was another flight arranged for us, which was Jet Konnect. I assume everyone would know the difference here and would not blame me for not taking the exchange flight at same fare. The reason of cancellation was something related to technicality of the flight, though I confirmed later that this was very normal in Jet Airways flight when their flights don't fill in time.

As if I wanted more adrenaline in life, with that call my snowy smooth day turned into a LIVE chaos - half due to the cancellation of flight and half because I broke my toe while doing alternate booking and rushing for the filling and scanning forms. Yatra website or any other travel websites do not allow booking of flight within 6 hrs of schedule of flight. What was left with me was Tele Booking with my credit card. But there were some more adventures awaiting my presence.

Forms were sent to my mail, and what normally happens when you book 2-3 hrs prior to departure, declarations of credit card payment in standard form becomes mandatory with identity documents like pass port of pan card. All this was to be sent to the booking agent within half an hour of my new booking, else seats would stand canceled. In the mean time, it was also a work of coordination as other members should also agree to this flight. I was on two calls at a time, wishing I had more ears and hands to manage. I rushed to the nearest Sify center and got everything done in stipulated time. Flight was booked for the same time (2 pm), but this time it was Go Air Business. Yes, its Business!! Imagination has no bound but I must tell you that this business is just another economy with a curtain covering your back so others can't see you getting fooled. The only extra thing you get there is free meals and permission to "alight first" - with just Rs 1000/- more than economy fare.


Anyway, we reached our Mumbai International Airport (Domestic) and boarded our flight on time. As it was not Air India, "time = money" held true for them. Slight delay could cause them to shell out Lakhs from their pockets towards Airport Authority. This on-time flight made us reach Bangalore in just 1.5 hours. Reaching our Guest house was not a daunting task, as airport had ample taxis waiting for us. But one secret - never take a taxi without brand.You will know when you reach your destination. Always prefer Easy Cab, Fast track or Meru over them. A fare of 700 in these taxis could turn out to be 1000 in unbranded taxis. "Caveat Emptor" (Buyer Beware) applies there too!!

Finally we reached our guest house in evening 5:30 and checked in for our rooms. New people were pouring in every hour and soon all the rooms were filled. Our room had two beds, one almirah, french windows, modern style bathroom, telephone, tea maker, meticulously arranged sheets and curtains, TV and A/C. "Overall a nice room to start our day with" - was our thought.

But we forgot that we were in Bangalore and not Mumbai anymore. Things like auto fights and no night life would become a common thing to adapt to. Transition could be tough, but not impossible. After all we are MBAs!! :) We may not use Adidas but we do follow the same philosophy - Impossible is Nothing!

It was our time to rest and do formality on following day, like documents verification, opening bank accounts and filling some mandatory forms on PF, Gratuity and pensions. Just a day's work and weekend accosted us to roam around and meet old friends. We did use this opportunity to meet others and make good time kill by watching movies, browsing malls and web chit chatting. The schedule was like this - first day would be introduction to our company policies and facts on our HR aspects. Post that would follow three days of communication classes where we would run through some of the aspects like active listening, mail and Telephone etiquettes, role play, team building activities, body language, etc. Three more days are to be for the domain specific training on business front from various VPs, Practice Heads, SVP, HRs and Quality head. Thereafter our streams would be announced and that training would go for a month or 6 weeks, depending upon the technology acquaintance requirements.

Life seemed to be returning on track again. But to say the least, we are still in recession mode and become readily skeptic to any kind of stability. Good for some of us who would like to have their adrenaline pump ON ;) Happy New Job!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bihar Can Never Change - Oh Yeah!!??

Recently I came across a very nice article about Bihar in Times of India (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/Berate-Bihar-pay-penalty/articleshow/5645249.cms) that spoke about imposing penalty on a teacher who used the phrase "Bihar Can Never Change" in one of the KV (Kendriya Vidyalaya) exams.This article provoked me to do some soul searching about the facts about Bihar, means abode (monasteries).

It is really amazing to know that Bihar was one of the states that led to the development of India at world stage.Though my research was completely secondary, I could still manage to get some interesting bullet points to talk about. I am sure that many of us would not know that the invention of Indian Rupee and Custom Duties started in Bihar. It was started by Sher Shah (1540 - 1546) during his regime and it is still part of our Republic. He even built longest road of the Indian Subcontinent "Grand Trunk Road", which is still in existence and helps India in sustaining transport infrastructure.

To deal more with Bihar, one should know the facts about it - it has the 3rd largest population and majorly around 60% of popoulation is below the age of 25, which is good for the service industry growth. It is surrounded by Nepal, UP, West Bengal and Jharkhand from four sides and sacred river Ganga divides it into two parts. Bihar used to a center of power with dynasties equivalent to Roman Empires - Guptas and Mauryas. Whole of the South Asia was under a central rule of Magadh Empire (which was under Maurya and Gupta dynasties). Interesting huh!!!???

As far as Religion is concerned, Magadh Empire gave rise to two - Jainism and Buddhism, which is even now followed by large chunk of population in South Asia. Ganga in Bihar was a portion of stretch where people from around the world came for their mental peace. Talking more about the religion, Sikh Guru Gobind Singh was born in Patna - the last Guru in Sikhism.

Now the most interesting fact - Nalanda and Takshila were the world's first global universities, where people from every geography came and learnt subjects like Science, Ayurveda, Geography, Arts, Maths and Advance Sciences along with 60 other subjects. It was like a huge Infosys Campus at Mysore, where more than 10,500 people studied at a time. Things which were heard after a long time from USA and other developed counties were already running in Nalanda and Takshila in Bihar.

Bihar has given us brave and political people like Khudiram Bose, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Jayaprakash Narayan, and many more who led to its development. With the advent of new government, we can see changes coming in from various fronts - from Industrial to Educational. There has been talks to make an International Airport in Bihar near Bihta. Resurrection of Nalanda would be another topic we would be looking at, but I would assume that it could take time. IIT Bihta is coming soon at areas which was segregated for Heavy Vehical Factory once, which was not materialized due to political constraints earlier. This HVF was later moved to Avadi, Chennai by Jagjeevan Ram.

Lately, when I was attending my brother's marriage party, I happened to meet the VP Global of a world's renowned bank and another Financial project consultant person. We spoke at length about the development in Bihar and the only thing I found was common among all of us was that we were very positive about its growth in coming years. Real Estate, Education, Industries, Tourism, Financial Consultancies, etc were some of the hot areas which we were looking into. Call centers were also one area which would come in abundance once the education level reaches a threshold level, so a new level of training could transform these people altogether.

I have seen people from Bihar growing leaps and bounds once they come out of the shackles of mentality that prevailed for long since 1989. Mojor portion of Collectors, IAS officers, IPS officers, IITians come from Bihar. Energy and zeal to work hard is what they have to offer. They are the preferred workers at most of the places - even in Punjab. They have a very good adaptability to cast themselves into any part of land - be it Mumbai ;).

As far as food items are concerned, names like Litti Chokha, Motichoor ke laddoo, Kala Jamun, Kesaria Peda, Khaja, Khurma, Lai, Laktho, Thekua, Murrabba, Tilkut, Malpua & Pua, Chiwda, Sattu and many more are already in cuisine parlance everywhere... One could open a restaurant with most Bihari touch in any part of India and he would succeed - But not in Mumbai ;) (pun intended).

For long caste systems have constrained Bihar and its growth but with the new systems from Mr Nitish Kumar coming along, Bihar can regain its level once again. To add to the points about growth, its GDP has grown better than any other state in the past couple of years, and this has pushed it as one of the fastest growing major state in India for now.

So should we think before commenting on any of the state's competency about growth? Oh yeah!! I would rather say no state has seen a Point Blank Change as Bihar has seen in past couple of Centuries. I am positive about its change.

Are you??

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Journey Story on Holi(day)s

Standing at New Delhi IG International Airport at 2 o clock in morning, waiting for my brother to pick me up, reminded me of my days of travels early in 2009. Its been quite some time I moved out of Mumbai. I planned for Delhi two weeks back for my friend's birthday and also Holi.

An environment full of colors and exuberance came after a long time for me. It has been more than 8 years since I played last. I generally avoid colors but this time, I was in some mood. People played Holi with various other stuffs also, which were supposed to be taking some other designated places - like car carborator, shop doors, roads, pipes, etc... i am talking about tar, coal powder, grease, etc :) However, I do not advocate these playful acts with dangerous chemicals but hey, who is going to listen to you anyway!

As this was my first Holi after 8-9 years, I was a bit scared. I poured some color on my face, hair and dress on my own, to make some fools on my way. They must have thought I had already played some good one. No one likes to color a colored face again. One thing which I didn't want to do was to pour liquid color on myself. Its quite discomforting!

Full day of Holi celebration with friends, plus dancing and hogging on sweets was the complete schedule. Next day was reserved for the travel to Rajasthan where my parents are - three days with them will make them happy too. This journey was always with Train. I am not sure about other places, but this place had only one train.

I have a habit of initiate talking and making few acquaintances with people. I have been with some good ones with very nice business ideas. Different background people talk about very different experiences. Businesses like making financial analytics solutions for financial companies with hard core IIT brains plus financial modeling, making ultra sonic thickness measurements for ships, preparing and supplying chemicals which are acid inhibitors, selling designer lights after importing from Italy, Germany, and other European countries, getting distribution of Microsoft gaming software, ans various others.


This time was also a unique business. The person I met in train was from Himachal Pradesh with bachelors in Computer Science (1991 batch). But he never went to IT line. Why would anyone go if your own business is getting you 4-6 Crores per annum? He had family business of hybrid seeds in India. Production, Marketing, Sales and other operations aspects of business was seen by him. Expanding from Punjab to Andhra Pradesh, this guy had seen the thick and thins of a business curve. All his experiences was in front of me in just four hours of our journey together. Bad days do bring some good experiences with them and good days bring the confidence to face those bad days. Every part of business life has its meaning. By the way, he had other plans also like breeding cows, making gas from the dung by using bio gas plants, dung cakes, manures, dairy products, and various other associated product lines .

Standing at Suratgarh (Rajasthan) Railway Station at 2 o clock in morning, waiting for auto to pick me up, reminded me of my days of ... hey, is it not similar to 3 days back Delhi airport trip? All the journeys this time are night ones it seems. Climate seemed gentle, with temperature around 15-18 degrees C and wind was light, touching openness of your body with care. You won't feel the spine chilling cold, which was there 2 months back. Recession my god i tell you!!

Another few days of entertaining journey and I will be back to Mumbai via Delhi. Trips and experiences never end and that is what brings excitement/refreshment in my life.

Hope to see some more stories coming along :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Please don't ask - but this is how it works!

Whenever we travel in auto, one thing we always keep note of is - "THE METER" - to check if it is really working. After traveling umpteen number of times in Mumbai autos, one thing which that noticeable was that 90% of the meters are faulty. You can judge it by counting the number of electricity poles that passes whenever meter reading changes. Normally meter reading will change with every 6th pole (when the poles are far apart) and 7-8 poles when the poles are near by, i.e. on fly overs. Also during idle time, when auto stands in traffic, meter reading changes every 1.5 minutes.

BUT



to our dismay, it doesn't happen in real life. This reading runs for every 4.5 to 5.5 poles (distant poles) and 6 poles on flyovers. A discount of 10% or so is what the Autos make in Mumbai on a journey - quite unnoticeable huh!! Similarly, the idle time of meters range from 45 seconds to 75 seconds. Conclusion - Only person that gains from these traffic stops are these auto walas (apart from other "Traffic Signal" Movie characters like beggars, hawkers, cleaners, etc).

These Auto walas pay Rs 150 - 200 every day to the owner of their autos for a time band. Petrol or Gas is not the owner's headache, it has to be borne by the driver. And we need not say that auto should be returned in same condition in which it was taken. Shift timings are known in cities in India where a same auto number could be driven by two or three people in different timings. So avoid forcing an auto in times when he is running to return the auto. He may be in hurry to go far from a place where he might have dropped a similar passenger like you.

But to write as a customer, we always keep track of the meter reading and inform the driver if we find something fishy. Maximum advantage you can have is to get down from auto at your desired location before your destination for another auto. You may also continue to fight with him for the fare difference and tell him about your fictitious uncle Aunty or cousin in RTO who would take heed of his behavior if he doesn't reduce charges. Everyone of us must have done it and very few times, we muster the courage to get down and take another suspected auto ;). But it does pay sometimes!

Talking about RTO, let me narrate my experience with RTO. Learning 4 wheeler requires paying visit to the church of driving schools (RTO). Returning from a Pune trip and instantly rush to the RTO with certificates was another experience altogether. RTO is a place full of RTO consultants, police, driving schools cars, agents and lots and lots of applications with dust and chaos. I was wearing formal shoes and by the time the process got over, they got camouflaged with the ground - unnoticeable. Even though the work was for not more than 30 min, it sometimes requires to stand for more than 3 hours.

You will find two kinds of applicants there - one for the Kaccha (temporary) learner's license (like me) and other those who had finished their learning and wanted a Pakka (permanent) license. When you reach, you will be asked to stand in line for the verification by police with your certificates and government copy of the forms. Our line started with girls, then Pakka license applicants and then Kaccha license applicants. We had in our front a car which bore the name of our driving school. You might think that it would be tough to drive while making 8 shape (which can be asked by the checking RTO team), but what we saw was completely different. Four people entered in one car and drove only 5 meters per person (or rather just held steering, as major work was done by the side driver). After all the check up, we were asked to wait for another 2 hours on statement that the security is tight for the proper verification.

Second line was for the Biometric finger printing and photos where we stood for more than an hour. Lunch break was more than 30 minutes and line was growing with time. But hey.. did i say line? Sorry! my mistake. Please accept my apologies. Actually there was no line. But from a distance, if you see, you would find some zigzag line. Agents have good tie ups with officials inside and this helps them in creating their own line as per their whims and fancies. Some entered with girls and said "Ladies ko pehle ander aane do" (let ladies come in first), on occasions even when there was just one girl/lady/woman/whatever. But along with those so called "single ladies", they would also sit for their pictures and biometric data prints. After standing for more than 45 minutes, I finally broke my line and entered another small line that was building up with agents. Work was for not more than 2 minutes and everyone thought this is over.

But guess what!! There was another line waiting for the safety test (computer based), where we were asked to stand in a dark room and asked to punch one of the three buttons A (Red), B (yellow) and C (Green) for the objective questions flashing on the screen with 3 options. We were instructed to press the answer button only once and .... only when the answer was shouted. Yes, you got it right - ONLY WHEN THE ANSWER WAS SHOUTED. Some seats were vacant but there were people who were running from pillar to post to press those buttons for Mr India (invisible) applicants. Finally we all passed with flying colors and with distinction indeed - 100% marks never came on any on my tests in life. But here I was standing with the feeling of "FLY HIGH". Whats the point? But one funny thing was that, there were people who got 80% marks also. That was the time which made me realize - copy and cheating is an art, it can neither be created nor be destroyed, but can only be transformed from one form to another!

All done finally and we departed for our places with a promise to get our license by next day. Harrowing experience for me with all broken rules. But during this time, people who made money are - agents, police, hawkers, ear dirt removers (i don't know what to call them), tea stalls and canteens. But for me, it was the time for my massage on beach at night!! :) Let him earn too...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What does an MBA worth?

Recently I celebrated Golden Jubilee (in days) of my unemployment with my friend, Indian Naval officer. It was our good times again, as we used to have in school. Beach drives till night, ferry ride, roaming in the lanes of Gateway corners, Paani Puri in Navy Nagar, Chaat, Dinner at Officer's Mess at dirt cheap prices (but with highest quality), mid-night ice cream with pista at Baskin-Robbins, Marine Drive and many more...


Life of an unemployed MBA was looking more scintillating than an employed one, the difference is just that I am losing money and then I was gaining money ;). Anyway I wanted some reason to celebrate and here I found one - "50 days without job"

Did I expect this life before leaving my job at Infosys 2.5 years back? Never... What I expected was a good job with pretty decent salary (above Rs 8-9 Lakhs) with opportunity to grow. I am sure most of us would agree with it. There are people who have got even more than this salary, but considering 2008 batch, we were very hopeful to get at least a minimum of Rs 7 Lakhs. But I guess for B Schools, 2008 is the only year which doesn't have a successor, i.e. after 2008 we have straight away 2010. Where is most of 2009? Who wants to know anyway!

2008 recession killed all hopes and what remained with some of us was the spirit of growth, sans package ;). There were companies that came to campus first time, with offers less than what we left before joining MBA. Now the question before an MBA was to take up a profile with whatever maximum available and decent profile. This was no-choice status for them, not because there are less jobs, but because s/he is laden with a burden of fulfilling loan amounts ranging from 10000 to 20000 every month and in some colleges more than 30000 per month. What if my package drops below 25000/month, Will I be able to meet my deadlines?, were the kind of questions arising in everyone's mind.

I have been speaking with many of my friends lately, and what I conclude is that an MBA is worth some Aspiration and not a package. A bare minimum package with good learning and growth environment can change the whole story of package philic attrition. There was a time when our resumes in market would fetch us umpteen number of jobs without much follow up. But now things are pretty different and companies who never used to go to campuses (due to financial constraints), are taking MBAs at dirt cheap prices. From an employer's perspective, the question is not what - but how to sustain. Are they doing justice by offering them low packages? Will they be loyal? What all decides these things should have been given a well thought before hiring.

Let me tell you one example - during our final placements, there was a leading paint company that offered very low package (normally not to be offered to a good B School grad) to one of my friend, who told me that its VP was so excited on the fact that he could manage to get them at such low prices. They also hired an IIMB guy at same price. I seriously do not want to comment on that VP who mocked these low priced MBAs during placements because they did not have a choice. He would come to know about his decision in coming months for sure.

If we see the situation now, every MBA from good institute is doing job hopping unless he is gets his/her desired stability. Another friend of mine started at a package of 7.5k per month, not to be mentioned that even a software engineer gets more than 20k/month, and with continuous hopping to 3 companies, her package has gone to 48k/month now within 8 months. But there are others, who would prefer to sit at home than taking up offers in small companies, where even getting salaries in hand at the end of month is a tall order. You will have to beg for it for 10-15 days, unimaginable, but its truth! Would you stay in a company where babu mentality prevails at work and perks or credits are given for kinship rather merit? What if your sales account is given to someone who is closer to VP, so they can show that their sidekick is doing better every quarter than you? Innumerable questions follow with the time and in the end, what happens is what we see on charts in double digits at the end of quarter - attrition percentage!, which is the only thing rising in corporates this year. There are many still left, doing jobs and struggling to get out of the shackles of poor work environments.

That gave an idea of coming up with - what are the worst companies to work for? Only take answers from the 2009 batch. Lets utilize their survey filling capabilities at least. Lets make it e-survey, what say?

To see another picture, there are some positives also which have happened during this time. These MBAs got the opportunity to know the markets and working in small companies taught them about the problems which they usually would not have seen otherwise. May be then we would come to know about the importance of HR as a subject ;) in our first trimester. These MBAs have learnt things that was only taught in class rooms and never experienced, especially not in B Schools. Politics in reality and crookedness showed its face to everyone. In classes, we were always taught about ethics and honesty - and it does pay in long run - but hey, who considers it when you can just manage your bare minimum financial obligation? Where is loyalty to ethics taking shape? Let me rephrase it in crispy manner, What is "ethics"? Should i inflate my conveyance and mobile bill to get 1-2k extra every month, will it be ethical?

Talking about the salary part again, the question that comes to my mind is "What is sold in a recessed market - Potential or Skill?" When companies take from campuses, potential takes front seat, but in open market skills do matter. When an HR asks your previous salary, what is s/he trying to conclude? What if i say 3Lakhs, will s/he just add 1Lakh to it and give me 4 or will s/he still give me what is designated for that profile? Very few companies ask previous package to meet aspirations and not to decide your current package, very few. But here we are - getting raise - package over package and job over job. We have become so smart at selling ourselves with false excuses as to why we want to change our previous company, that we can crack any interview with an ease. Some severance reasons are so true, that if told, would surely not fetch any job and those reasons are better not to be disclosed here or anywhere.

So, the question still remains - What is an MBA worth? Answer it and take a JOB free! :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Even A Broken Anda Can Succeed!

1 Month & 18 days - guess what!? Its the number of days I have been unemployed, i.e. Dec 7th 2009 till now and still counting... On Dec 3rd when i received the final words from my company I got little tensed and was trying left and right to get a job in similar profile. But who wants an overhead in recession! I was thinking more about my being jobless for a long time and in turn default on my loan EMI.


It is January end now and i am still searching for one profile that suits my competencies and also that could satisfy my professional desires. But now I have started enjoying my stay at home. This little time, instead of turning into a discouraging stint, has changed me into someone who has had his introspection done many times. This time has given me correct reasons as to why i did my MBA and why Marketing/technology. I started reading magazines and books which i used to read rarely. In the mean time, I also started with Blog writing which i am still continuing. Many don't follow and leave in between, but i am going to write about my learning.

Life is a race and you don't want to become a broken egg - right? Few days back i used a broken egg and made a nice omelette out of it. I swear it was tasty! ;)It did not lose its potential even after losing its cover.

Before doing my MBA, I used to read "SMART MANAGER" - a magazine that talks a lot about self motivation, entrepreneurship, articles from big shots. I never noticed what brought that change in me to not take failure as a discouraging moment. May be this magazine and other aspirational books instilled this "never say die" attitude in me. Edison learnt 999 ways to not discover a bulb - a self-motivational phrase for me during this time of recession, that taught me how we realize our learning. I also started browsing sites which I never heard of. Usage of Linkedin from one level to another with participation in groups and discussions left me with some good new connections. Normally we do not just add people to our network unless we know them, but discussions help a lot in building a base of people who share similar ideas.

I also learnt about new technologies like WiMax (Wireless Broadband), LTE (Long Term Evolution - 4G), HSPA+, and others. These areas have always intrigued me with its power of speed. The speed which I am talking is about the Data transfer on mobile and PC. A 256 Kbps is considered to be broadband in India but outside countries have some different parameters. 8Mbps could also be a level of yardstick that categorizes Broadband at some places. Are we really growing then? I doubt sometimes.


To make myself a Telecom savvy guy, I started with websites like Telecom yatra, Telecom You, NDTV telecom, ET Telecom, WiMax.com, CNET, CIO.com, Fierce, Wiki on Telecom, etc and started getting their feed and subscriptions. These websites have lot of statistics and white papers that, if read properly, could teach about new technologies and countries implementing them with updates. Carrier information was also present in some of the papers which were written by people from those companies - say Intel, Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson, Sprint (ClearWire), etc.

One day I found one magazine named "Voice and Data" by Cyber Media, while going through some magazines in Land Mark - with really nice articles on latest in Indian Technology (Telecom) markets. Evolution in foreign countries has gone beyond a level but India is yet to come out from its shackles of regulations. It is still at 1990 level of India's reforms. We must have another 1991 in Telecom also with respect to latest technologies and this is bound to happen as we see it coming every now and then. I don't see people using queues for their work or even requiring a laptop for their work. A simple 3-4 min work on cell phones would do the job. Streaming is an in thing and would solve all problems of the content management and its dissemination on time.

Recently I was in an interview with the CEO and VP of a Telecom company. It was such a great experience as we were discussing more on these terms and technologies. We shared the same feelings for the growing Indian market. We discussed on all latest technologies in Mobile and Internet and also gave a thought on 1/2 Paisa/second billing by Telecom providers. It is sometimes good to find people at CXO level appraising your knowledge and showing interest in you. This feeling gives a good fillip to your motivation to learn new things without break. I got that job or not was decided by the monetary benefits so I would not comment on it.

It has been more than a month and I surely feel a level up. I compare my knowledge with latest technologies - evolving everyday with new excitements. May be that is the reason i like Telecom and Technology. I hope if things continue I would have a good knowledge base to share with people around. Even if I become a broken egg, I would have to potential to fight back as knowledge is like Love/AIDS - it spreads when shared - so decide as per your perception how you want to see it :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

A New Offer

My past few posts have been about my life in a VoIP company post my MBA. I left that company in September 2009, i.e. 4.5 months after working as Management Trainee. Reason - I got another offer. As simple as that! Was it?

NO - that too a BIG one!

A leading OSS (Operations Support Services) company from USA hired me through one of its HR consultants. Reason given that they do not have a legal presence in India so they can avoid having me on their payroll. There were totally 8 people from India selected for this profile. People from batches like 2007, 2008 and 2009 applied for it. After our selection we were very happy that in the times of recession also we could see the fruits of our hard work. The money was good and it involved international travel also. No inside India Sales! What else could an MBA require?

But things change and the wrath of the 9/11 came up to me too. The security factor in USA led to my disaster. Long story! Downsizing is what I call it. Two of us got the final salary soon and life of struggle moved on. Once a low paid worker in market, to a highly paid one, and again to a pauper. I was living the life of a story teller. Just like movies. Anyway, December 7th was the last working day in the company and I had only few months to take care of myself, which I calculate after checking my bank balance. This company provided me enough to support my EMI of loan, rentals and other expenses in Mumbai till March 2010. What if I don't get a job by then? Will I be on Mercy on others for daily expenses? I am already running more than a Lakh of personal debt.

I started using Linkedin for jobs. I went through the company lists on Linkedin and found some good people in HR or VP level. My idea was to convey them what I have done and how it will help them if they just hire me ;). I asked my friends, friends' friends, my college placement team, Naukri, Monster, Consultants, and what not. I wrote names of companies where I wanted jobs, found people in those companies and sent them customized mails with my resume attached. I even went to Naukri office to flash my resume on Naukri.com for Rs 1250/- for a year. I joined more than 25 groups on Linkedin for jobs and mainly in Telecom and Technology.

My work was fruitful to an extent. I got mails from heads of some good companies but the package restricted them to offer me a position. Demands grow with time and as my age progressed, I started become more uncompromising on my package part. All home work was done as to what level could get me a stable job without much personal problems. Monetary part was the major challenge. I had to see my profile and also the package. No company offered me any profile with more than Rs 30000/month. "Market seems to be going up", who said? Companies still leverage the bad times to get talents at lowest costs. And there I was - fighting with myself for the profiles. How can i prove my worth without much experience? In Campus placements, companies come and pick us and pay for our potential/talent rather than our skills. They think that skills can be developed anytime but the talent was born with surroundings.

From Dec 7th till now, I have attended few interviews but no one showed mercy to my financial demands. Why should they? They are not running charity here, right? :) Struggle is what makes a man understand himself; it gives lot of room for introspection. That is what i have been doing till now.

Recently I was rejected from a VoIP platform making company for being "under qualified" on experience part. They wanted minimum 3 years of work experience and I had 5 months only (Telecom). I went to companies that are in security systems and new technologies, 4th gen wireless broadband, VoIP and ISP providers, IT, KPOs and what not.

Let me see where I go and what line I get into - Telecom or IT!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How Do I Sell Boss??

Time was a traveler in a fast moving train, rushing away from me with every moment of my life in this company. Either I get a good client or face the brunt of my boss. 2 months in the job and still no sales - what do you expect? Bonus?



I had to build my own Marketing tool kit without much expectations. I gathered all questions and sent to my boss who replied in his favorite line, "Sales of VoIP is no rocket Science". Indeed not. But don't we have training to even sell a pencil in market. There are brochures, guidance, field work and tips for acquiring any customer. But without all this, get ready to start from scratch. Of course an opportunity to build your foundation and learn on your own - which is one of the best learning.

But how can I run this region without all the formal introduction to staff, products and leaders in organization? But Yes! I joined this company without even knowing who at the helm and how it is being run. I had to develop my own way of working - more on theory of Marketing because that was the only thing I knew in Marketing (Oooops!! now I am in SALES). One thing which I always kept in my mind was "Customer Delight" - If you have the key to deliver that, you could be the best in any market.

I started reading more about VoIP by downloading more material from God "Google". "VoIP for Dummies" was one great book to read. I also kept good relations with my technical team and sales professionals to share my ideas to improve sales. It did improve to an extent that we got clients that fell in the category of Fortune 500, 5 Star hotel, Mobile Application company (which I heard could not be converted after i left the organization), Jewelers and Exporters with residential tidbits.

Main problem in selling a VoIP is that it loses its value proposition of cost and quality as soon as customer sees an immediate investment of installation for device. Normally it stays around but it differs on the kind of deal you are getting. I even went to an extent of providing free of cost installations to my clients on written agreements that after usage of 2 months, if they are satisfied, they would pay for the set up along with the renewal or return the equipments (called ATA - Analogue telephone Adapter - converts analogue signals to digits to meet Internet Protocol requirements for voice transfer). Clients did agree and were really happy with the service. It was not that issues didn't turn up, rather they did and in numbers but support we provided on instant basis was really commendable. I had my own SLA (Service Level Agreement) running for my quality work. I tend to compete with my previous service to see how I can give better than last time.

In a company (a leading mobile application company), I even went to an extent of staying in its office with its staff to see how they work on international clients and how their technical aspects could complement my service activation. It took around 5 days, and people there started thinking that I am a new employee :). Interesting!!? After 5 days of hard work and some hard core negotiation with Technical head, HR head and staffs, i could manage to provide them my service. This was a Rs 10000/- deal. Yes!!! you are right!! VoIP deals are of this standard only as it runs of your cost sir. Rs 10000 was for a 2 months only. There were various other proposals also we gave them and things went ahead. But during that time I left my position with my organization and my company missed out on this client.

Another case was with a 5 star hotel - VoIP for its usage. I was with my Business Partner (BP) in Mumbai and we went ahead to meet its IT Director by making a call. I was confident of making some good deal here as I was along with my BP, who had very sound knowledge on technical lines. At least more than i knew. He invited us in and we started with our proposition as to how it can save them costs. Within 1 minute of our explanation he said he has all his IP infrastructure (IP phones) in place. We didn't know how to take it forward. I started slowly by asking his permission as to how his calls are made and majorly for which department. What we could find that his Reservation department was the major potential for us. We asked him to forget about our earlier proposal for his 200 rooms and look at the reservation's perspective. He checked with his team and found that the calls are made by IP/Analogue phones only to destinations like Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, US, and more than 20 countries. We figured out that most of the calls land on land line and less on mobiles. We offered him a plan to have a soft phone (like skype) installed on his computer and start with Rs 500 plan with full talk time (at Re 1/min to major destinations). I even waived off the installation after talking to my CEO. This would have been the biggest brand that we could leverage. Rs 500/- was not a big amount for them and also for us. We just got a chance to deal with situation and an entry into one of the finest 5 star hotels in Mumbai, where even Priyanka Chopra came for shoot that day :). I had to manage this account somehow and I started keeping track of its calls and showed them, on excel, their current saving with Rs 500/-. Believe me, we saved their Rs 2000 that week. They recharged with Rs 500/- again and I again showed him his savings on bigger picture. I even took my time to make an excel to show the annual savings if the call rates don't drop. And guess what was the outcome, he called one day and said we want to go ahead with Rs 5000/- recharge. That was the time i realized how "Repeat Sales" is done and what all you need to do to remain in attention.

I will write more about other experiences in my next post :) Stay tuned!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Salesman Vs Darwin

One thing I liked most about my job, and that was traveling and meeting new people everyday. This always excited me because it left me in field without knowing who was going to be convinced today. How will I start explaining myself? Which area will i be venturing and how many people will give me respect? Questions and more questions.



Mumbai is a huge area (though not in square miles), but with its 3 different lines - Western, Harbor and Central, there was immense potential for growth. I used to travel from Andheri to Lower Parel, Churchgate, Powai, Santacruz, Vile Parle, Bandra, Dadar, Marine Lines, and many other places. Areas that brought memories of fun and pleasure, became hunting grounds for me. I was always look out for a new territory, a new industrial estate, a new list of people and companies. That search never ended.

Experience teaches more than theory and when you are out in the field, your theories take a back seat and says "Present Sir" only when required. The most important attribute in Sales, for me, was "Patience" and "Hope", backed by your zeal to achieve and "never say die" attitude. Its a cup of tea for people who know the meaning of "I can and I will". I was very curious about 'what', rather 'how', should I sell VoIP to corporates. Why should they take my connection when there are competition from Skype, Yahoo Phone out, Vonage and other domestic players. Only things that kept me motivated was to learn about technology. The USP of delivering service personally to our customers, providing good technical support and giving customized plans in less turn around time was a factor I always used to speak about. My company provided me complete empowerment to take my decisions in Mumbai, which helped me to an extent of even changing plans from pre paid to post paid. At least I could put forward my views to my GM Sales.

Cold Calling was the fun part where, sometimes, I was shown doors and sometimes a seat with water/coke or tea. The respect of being an NMIMS alumnus came from many who knew where I was from. But, frankly speaking, that didn't get me any good sale. Business came from contacts and customers' references.

To an extent, I also realized the importance of being a Tele-caller. His/her job is not very easy as most of us feel. Most of the times companies hung up without even talking to them. They are like robots, uttering the same old lines to everyone who comes in contact. Motivation is the fuel and target is their destination. Some people even tell lies to customers to at least get a meeting fixed, which I felt was not right. Because of which, we even had to hear long lectures on commitment from our potential customers. It does not add any value, rather degrades the company image. Tele-caller can make or break with his 1 minute talking, so keep ones who know the business sense. But how to get them for a start up company at less way - a daunting task! Let my HR worry about it.

In the mean time, I was asked to work on NSE (National Stock Exchange) companies. I started my work by making an excel with the complete company list and adding company website details, countries they have businesses in, contact details like phone and mail ids, comments after making calls or visits, etc. It was a difficult task, as there were 1000 companies to look out for.

Now the BIG question arises,

- If I do the documenting work then who will do sales,
- If I do tele-calling then who will go to the field,
- If I get involved in channel partners problems then how will I utilize my time,
- If I go for technical support & installations, how will I show my growth numbers,

Boss! I am a sales guy, not a Spiderman ;)

Reimbursement and call limits were another problems which forced me to use my phone for making less number of calls, unless I am ready to pay from my pocket. But as far as traveling was concerned, I could not wait for BEST buses as it used to take a lot of time to reach its destination during peak hours. I required an auto or a train (empty or jam packed enough to even breathe). Discussions went on to solve all the issues; some got sorted out, some remained.

One more interesting fact I must share, a sales person never likes to be called a marketing guy. For us, Marketing guy is a person who sits on his recliner chair in an A/C room, drinks wine or beer and jots down a number as per theory of uncertainty, which he may have calculated by multiplying previous sales numbers by some double digit figures, or anything he sees on sky after drinking. I was doing Marketing part also for my job, but not in A/C room or while drinking beer. Activities like making competitors' analysis, metrics, below the line (BTL) activities, graphs, price analysis, tacking customers' usage and providing him/her with the information about his/her savings, voluntarily, were my areas of work. I wanted to be the single point contact between my company and customers in Mumbai - be it technical or business concerns.



Demo of VoIP connections, where we show the customer how our product works with their systems, was one more area that required some basic technical knowledge. There were lot of changes to be done if our system didn't work automatically in their system. I had to take care of that also most of the times, as technical support always remained busy on some or other call/complaint.

As a sales person, I should have confined myself only to get numbers, as other do and then rush to some place where customer could not reach me for any help. :) This is a general practice adopted by some of the sales guys in every organization. Let our customer retention and complaint handling guys alone do the maths for the customers later on. But for customer, it is a reason to repent his decision. Poor king (Customer) feels the burn of not identifying who is fake and who is not, after living for more than 40 years with similar species (human and sales people have differences). Pun intended :)

Basic templates in Sales were also missing for me. Things like mailing customers after giving connections stating the hierarchy of calls for complaints, SLA declarations with lead times, cheque/DD payment modes were some of the tasks I took care of. I even passed on this formats to my colleagues to build a good image.

My idea was not to quit but to change the system. Loopholes started filling up at a rapid pace and I continued with my journey of change. But I alone could not change everything, Could I? Darwin knows about it!