Saturday, January 31, 2009

That Sharp Pain in your Chest

Do you ever get a piercing pain in your chest, usually on your left side under your rib, which almost feels like a bubble ready to burst?

It causes you to catch your breath, and you try not to breathe in or breathe out too much because it’s extremely painful either way. You take short, staggered breaths and try not to move. Finally, you work up the courage to take a sharp inhale or exhale. You feel a sensation similar to a bubble bursting and the pain is gone.

What is this strange sensation that is so painful and uncomfortable? It is actually a very common condition and most people have experienced it. The medical term for this occurrence is Precordial Catch Syndrome.

Many people mistakenly believe that they are having a heart attack at the onset of this type of pain. While the pain is strong and located in an area that would seem like the heart, this condition is not a heart attack, nor is it heart related.

Precordial Catch Syndrome (PCS) is the most common cause of recurring chest pain. It is also sometimes known as “a stitch in the side” or “Texidor’s twinge”. It occurs most often in children and teenagers, but does persist into adulthood as well. The pain occurs just under the left nipple, near where you feel the heart beat most strongly on the front of the chest, and comes on very suddenly.

This extremely sharp pain causes a person to not want to move or breathe. This is where the “catch” part of the name is derived. Any movement or breathing only seems to intensify the pain. The pain usually lasts for around 30 seconds to 1 minute before disappearing. Sometimes the pain will suddenly disappear upon taking a strong breath or moving suddenly as well. This can almost feel like a pop of an imaginary bubble. After the pain is gone, there is usually a dull ache that lingers.

These onsets of pain can occur frequently, sometimes several times a day, and can occur when exercising, resting, or when in virtually any other state. Doctors have not been able to correlate PCS with any particular triggers, such as heavy activity or the like. However, there are some doctors that believe things like heavy or irregular breathing or even posture could play some type of role in bringing about an episode of PCS.

At this time, doctors and researchers do not know what causes the pain associated with PCS. The most accepted theory is that the pain is the result of a pinched nerve somewhere. Due to the fact that the onsets of PCS are so quick and disappear just as quickly, it’s hard for doctors to actually see the condition in action.

While doctors aren’t sure of the actual causes, they are sure that it poses no danger. They believe it to be a completely benign condition and is most certainly not cause for alarm. For this reason, there is not a lot of information or studies regarding the physical cause of PCS available. Doctors feel no need to intensify study of something they know to be only a minor inconvenience.

The only real worry is that sometimes, what seemed like PCS, could possibly turn out to be something more serious. The following are signs of more concerning illness:

- Chest pain that extends into the left side of the jaw or arm
- Chest pain that a person describes as a “heavy” feeling
- Pain that does not improve at least a little after 24 hours of regular doses of ibuprofen
- Fever
- Cough, especially a cough that produces phlegm ("flem," or “flame")
- Extreme anxiety with the pain or a feeling of “impending doom”
- Blueness or paleness of the lips or fingernails
- An irregular, rapid, or pounding heart rate
- Marked difficulty breathing or catching one’s breath (different from mild pain with breathing)

If any of these occur, please be sure to call your doctor’s office right away. These could be indications of a more serious and potentially threatening condition.

People experiencing PCS need no particular treatment at all. Usually, just the reassurance that they aren’t having something dangerous happening is all that they need to hear to set their minds at ease. PCS should not interfere with normal activity, and there’s no reason to use any form of medication.

If you are experiencing PCS, it may be worth a visit to the doctor just to go over the symptoms to be sure that it is not a different condition that could be more serious. Doctors can easily tell the difference between a serious heart condition and Precordial Catch Syndrome just by talking with the patient, and doing a physical examination.

In the meantime, you can rest assured that your extremely painful, stabbing feeling is completely normal and only a minor inconvenience. And remember, the key to getting rid of the pain quickly is to just work up the courage to take that deep breath, scream in pain, and be done with it.

The 9 Essential Skills of Human Resources Management - How Many Do You Have?

When interviewing a potential new hire, it’s standard procedure for a Human Resources professional to assess the candidate as compared to a list of key skills and personal characteristics needed for the job.

We at Get.Next.Job thought it might be interesting to turn the tables on the profession, and come up with a list of such attributes for Human Resources professionals themselves.

In no way is this authoritative, but it is the opinion of people, including Get.Next.Job Founder and COO Sandeep Mann, who’ve spent decades meeting with HR professionals, supporting their goals and reporting their achievements. You may agree or not with our assessments, but either way, we’d like to hear about it via the “comments” link on this page.

That said, here goes:

Human Resources Management Key Skill #1: Organization

Human Resources management requires an orderly approach. Organized files, strong time management skills and personal efficiency are key to the Human Resources function. You’re dealing with people’s lives and careers here, and when a manager requests a personnel file or a compensation recommendation that lines up with both the organization and the industry, it won’t do to say, “Hold on. I’ll see if I can find it.”

Human Resources Management Key Skill #2: Multitasking

On any day, an HR professional will deal with an employee’s personal issue one minute, a benefit claim the next and a recruiting strategy for a hard-to-fill job the minute after. Priorities and business needs move fast and change fast, and colleague A who needs something doesn’t much care if you’re already helping colleague B. You need to be able to handle it all, all at once.

Human Resources Management Key Skill #3: Discretion and Business Ethics

Human Resources professionals are the conscience of the company, as well as the keepers of confidential information. As you serve the needs of top management, you also monitor officers’ approaches to employees to ensure proper ethics are observed. You need to be able to push back when they aren’t, to keep the firm on the straight and narrow. Not an easy responsibility! Of course, you always handle appropriately, and never divulge to any unauthorized person, confidential information about anyone in the organization.

Human Resources Management Key Skill #4: Dual Focus

HR professionals need to consider the needs of both employees and management. There are times you must make decisions to protect the individual, and other times when you protect the organization, its culture, and values. These decisions may be misunderstood by some, and you may catch flak because of it, but you know that explaining your choices might compromise confidential information. That’s something you would never do.

Human Resources Management Key Skill #5: Employee Trust

Employees expect Human Resources professionals to advocate for their concerns, yet you must also enforce top management’s policies. The HR professional who can pull off this delicate balancing act wins trust from all concerned.

Human Resources Management Key Skill #6: Fairness

Successful HR professionals demonstrate fairness. This means that communication is clear, that peoples’ voices are heard, that laws and policies are followed, and that privacy and respect is maintained.

Human Resources Management Key Skill #7: Dedication to Continuous Improvement

HR professionals need to help managers coach and develop their employees. The goal is continued improvement and innovation as well as remediation. And looking to their own houses, the HR professional also uses technology and other means to continuously improve the HR function itself.

Human Resources Management Key Skill #8: Strategic Orientation

Forward-thinking HR professionals take a leadership role and influence management’s strategic path. In gauging and filling the labor needs of the company, devising compensation schemes, and bringing on board new skill sets leading to business growth, they provide the proof for the often-heard management comment, “People are our most important asset.”

Human Resources Management Key Skill #9: Team Orientation

Once, companies were organized into hierarchies of workers headed by supervisors. Today, the team is king. HR managers must consequently understand team dynamics and find ways to bring disparate personalities together and make the team work.

Nine Skills, But Also One Caveat

As we listed these skills, one thing we didn’t do was try to prioritize them. Because no general list of skills can take into account the business strategy at your particular organization. Which leads to the caveat I mentioned.

HR is a creature of, and serves the business strategy. It’s important for HR people to know what that strategy is and what makes the business tick so the approach to HR can be tailored accordingly.

Never think of HR in isolation. Because if Human Resources professionals think of themselves as ‘just HR,’ that’s what the rest of the organization will think too.

Friday, January 30, 2009

"M.U.R.D.E.R." A Study System

Set a positive mood for yourself to study in.
Select the appropriate time, environment, and attitude

Mark any information you don't understand in a particular unit;
Keep a focus on one unit or a manageable group of exercises

After studying the unit,
stop and put what you have learned into your own words

Go back to what you did not understand and reconsider the information;
Contact external expert sources (e.g., other books or an instructor) if you still cannot understand it

In this step, ask three kinds of questions concerning the studied material:

  • If I could speak to the author, what questions would I ask or what criticism would I offer?
  • How could I apply this material to what I am interested in?
  • How could I make this information interesting and understandable to other students?

Go over the material you've covered,
Review what strategies helped you understand and/or retain information in the past and apply these to your current studies

Full Cycle Recruiting - 10 Reasons to Learn it All!

Full cycle recruiting means a Recruiter knows how to obtain a search and evaluate the parameters of that job order, negotiate the fee, find an ideal candidate, manage the interview, offer, and acceptance process, close the deal, and get paid within 10 days preferably. Today there are thousands of people in the business world calling themselves Recruiters who, ironically, don't know the fundamentals of recruiting!

If a person wants to work as a Recruiter, in my opinion, the first thing they should do is get some training related to the recruiting process. New Recruiters need to understand the process from start to finish before they can be effective. I've seen many corporations push people into positions with the title of 'Recruiter', without any training. No one is served well when this happens.

If you're interested in becoming a Recruiter here are 10 reasons to "learn it all".

1. Once one knows how to handle each facet of the process they can focus on enhancing their strengths or improving their weaknesses. Recruiters who know how to recruit effectively can easily find the best niche in the industry for their personality.

2. Knowing what needs to be done during each step of the process gives a Recruiter confidence and the tools they need to evaluate their own performance. They can look back over each placement process and see specifically where they could have said something different to expedite the process or eliminate a roadblock. Their skills allow them to approach passive candidates most effectively.

3. Recruiters with FCR (full cycle recruiting) skills offer the best value to employers, candidates, and themselves. Knowledge is power when it comes to recruiting.

4. FCR is the pathway to make the most money in this industry.

5. When a recruiter is proficient in all the steps of FCR, they can work with other Recruiters to double, maybe triple the number of placements, they could make on their own. Working with a strong team of Recruiters can be both rewarding and lots of fun.

6. Full cycle Recruiters have the skills that are most in demand. The average company in India has about 20% turnover a year! That kind of turnover costs companies unnecessary billions each year. Employee retention begins with good hiring practices. If an employee senses they mean nothing to an employer (and many HR departments are famous for making new hires feel like faceless numbers) then new hires feel no obligation to those employers in return

7. When a Recruiter knows FCR they have the most control over their earnings, lifestyle, working conditions, and job satisfaction.

8. FCR is emotionaly, intellectually, and financially rewarding, in my opinion.

9. The skills a Recruiter acquires when they learn FCR are transferable to other areas of work and life. Knowing how to ask questions and listen effectively can help keep a person with teenagers sane. These skills can improve relationships with spouses, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers. These principles apply when one is negotiating to buy a company, car, home, etc.

10. Recruiters who master their craft have less stress and fewer frustrations related to 'lost' deals. They are more effective and successful than those who don't know FCR.

Less than 20% of Recruiters have been trained in full cycle recruiting. That leaves those with full cycle recruiting skills with a tremendous opportunity and vast potential to excel in those industries that attract them most. Don't try and 'wing it' with your career. Make regular investments in your personal recruiter education and it will pay you back countless times over.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Passive Income

How to Earn More and Work Less

Do you want to continue working 50, 70, 100 hours a week the rest of your life?

Good! Neither do I.

Do you want to be able to take time off whenever you want to, without worrying about what's going to happen to your business?

So do I!

There's a saying in the corporate world: "Don't make yourself irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted." As an entrepreneur, this is still true in its own way. Let's think of "being promoted" as earning more and working less. You can raise your prices, but until you can remove yourself from being directly involved in doing the work that generates the income, there's always going to be a limit to how much you can earn, and it can only increase very slowly.

Passive income, on the other hand, is income that does not require your direct involvement. Some kinds of passive income you may be familiar with include owning rental property, royalties on an invention or creative work, and network marketing. If you want to earn more, work less, and have a decent retirement, you're going to have to start creating income streams that do not require your direct involvement. Whether you're just starting your business, or you've been running it a while, the sooner you start thinking about how you are going to shift your business model to create more passive income, the sooner you can achieve personal and financial freedom.

Let's look at two basic types of passive income, and a third type of income that, while technically not passive, is a key strategy for earning more and working less.

Residual Income

Residual income is revenue that occurs over time from work done one time. Some examples include:

  • An insurance agent who gets commission every year when a customer renews his policy
  • A network marketing or direct sales rep's income from her direct customers when they reorder product every month
  • An aerobics instructor who produces a video and sells it at the gyms where she teaches
  • A marketing consultant who creates a workbook and sells it in e-book format on the Internet
  • A photographer who makes his photos available through a stock photography clearinghouse and gets paid a royalty whenever someone buys one of his images
  • A restaurant or retail owner who has grown to the point of hiring a trustworthy manager

As you can see, there are many different ways to generate residual income across a wide variety of businesses. It may be recurring income from the same customers, or the sales of a product to new customers. It may require no personal involvement whatsoever, such as an e-book sold on a web site, or it may require some personal interaction, such as the insurance agent calling the customer to remind them about their renewal and ask them if they want to change any of their coverage. Often, it's something that you can delegate to an assistant.

Note that this is different from merely recurring income. Recurring income may still require your involvement to earn the income, e.g., a coach or consultant on a monthly retainer, or a caterer who delivers lunch every Monday to the local school board. While this "active recurring income" offers welcome stability, it also tends to tie you down, and you still have limits on your earning capacity based on your own personal production capacity.

Leveraged Income

Leveraged income leverages the work of other people to create income for you. Some examples of leveraged income include:

  • An e-book author selling her e-book through affiliates who promote the product
  • A network marketer who builds a downline and receives commissions on the sales made by people in his downline
  • A general contractor who makes a profit margin on the work done by sub-contractors
  • Franchising your business model to other entrepreneurs (the ultimate leveraged income)

Again, there are many different models in many different businesses. The key is that you are making money off of other people's labor, rather than primarily your own. Note that leveraged income may or may not also be residual income. When you combine them, that's even better.

Active Leveraged Income

This is a term I use to describe income that requires your direct participation, but that you can make more money by having more people involved. This generally involves a one-time event, such as:

  • A seminar or class
  • A conference or convention
  • Concerts and dance recitals
  • Raves and other parties

Although these require your direct participation, your earning potential is much higher than if someone were just paying you a direct hourly rate. Fill a room with 1,000 people paying $50 each and you can cover your facility cost, promotional cost, and staffing fees and still have a nice chunk of change left over.

Applying It

Now is the time to think about how to apply this in your business. Can you create a product that people will buy over and over again? Can you engage others to sell your product? How could you make money off the work of others?

The sooner you answer these questions, the sooner you'll have financial and personal freedom.

Golden Rules for Career Success

By Richard Moran

“Working as a business consultant all over the world, I have discovered some basic career-related rules that everyone should know-but many don't”

1. Keep track of what you do; someone is sure to ask.

2. Never bring your boss a problem without some solution.

3. You are getting paid to think, not to whine.

4. Long hours don't mean anything; results count, not effort.

5. Write down ideas; they get lost, like good pens.

6. Always arrive at work 30 minutes before your boss.

7. Help other people network for jobs. You never know when your turn will come.

8. Don't take days off sick-unless you are.

9. Assume no one can/will keep a secret.

10. Know when you do your best-morning, night, under pressure, relaxed; schedule and prioritize your work accordingly.

11. Treat everyone who works in the organization with respect and dignity, whether it be the cleaner or the managing director. Don't ever be patronizing.

12. Never appear stressed in front of a client, a customer or your boss.

13. Take a deep breath and ask yourself: In the course of human events, how important is this?

14. If you get the entrepreneurial urge, visit someone who has his own business. It may cure you.

15. Acknowledging someone else's contribution will repay you doubly.

16. Career planning is an oxymoron. The most exciting opportunities tend to be unplanned.

17. Always choose to do what you'll remember ten years from now.

18. The size of your office is not as important as the size of your pay cheque.

19. Understand what finished work looks like and deliver your work only when it is finished.

20. The person who spends all of his or her time is not hard-working; he or she is boring.

21. Know how to write business letters-including thank-you notes as well as proposals.

22. Never confuse a memo with reality. Most memos from the top are political fantasy.

23. Eliminate guilt. Don't fiddle expenses, taxes or benefits, and don't cheat colleagues.

24. Reorganizations mean that someone will lose his or her job.

25. Get on the committee that will make the recommendations.

26. Job security does not exist.

27. Go to the company Christmas party.

28. Don't get drunk at the company Christmas party.

29. Avoid working at weekends. Work longer during the week if you have to. Moreover, don't stay late in night, it doesn't creates impression rather shows lack in your productivity.

30. The most successful people in business are interesting.

31. Sometimes you'll be on a winning streak and everything will click; take maximum advantage.

32. When the opposite is true, hold steady and wait it out.

33. Never in your life say, "It's not my job."

34. Be loyal to your career, your interests and yourself.

35. Understand the skills and abilities that set you apart. Use them whenever you have an opportunity.

36. People remember the end of the project. As they say in boxing, "Always finish stronger than you start."

Applying Meaning to Management With Ancient Hindu Mythology

Fifteen young managers with a top Indian retail company met in their office basement recently to sip coffee and listen to a talk about their specialty: brand building. The speaker, renowned mythology expert Devdutt Pattanaik, is also the company's "chief belief officer."

Cupping his chin in his hand, Pattanaik launched into a story: "Once upon a time, there was a conference of the gods to discuss the affairs of human beings."

The ancient Hindu tales that Pattanaik, 38, tells his corporate audiences are full of fallible kings, stoically suffering queens, demons enticing the gods into lawless jungles, gods with rivers sprouting from their dreadlocks, and goddesses riding elephants.

But the round-faced, bespectacled author, who graduated from medical school and has worked as a business strategist for the consulting firm Ernst & Young, says he is not like the wise old grandmother who sits under a banyan tree telling stories. Instead, he says, he is helping to create a set of management principles that are steeped in Indian culture.

He calls it the "3-B" model: belief, behavior and business.

"I am a pattern-finder. The mythologies are stars -- I point out the constellation," he said. "The world of business and the world of our mythological tales are not too different. The characters and the situations are similar. I apply their meanings to modern corporate management. Business is run on a pattern of behavior. I help create the belief that governs behavior. "

Pattanaik did a sketch of the Hindu god Shiva in yoga meditation posture and urged the youthful managers to add the traditional symbolic embellishments. They pointed out that Shiva should have a snake around his neck, the crescent moon on his head, lines of ash on his forehead, and a third eye.

"They understand how beliefs are created, how forms acquire meaning over centuries. They extend what is culturally familiar, intuitive and deeply personal to their professional space," Pattanaik said. "Brands are about image, belief and meaning."

He then asked his listeners if they knew the meaning of the symbols, countering each response with another question: Is this real or what you believe? Is belief true or false? Does the truth always have to be logical? Should rationality be put on a pedestal?

"Indians are led by emotions, unlike people in the West, who are driven by reason," said Kishore Biyani, chairman of the Future Group, who chose Pattanaik to head this program four months ago. "Not all the Western management models of standard operating procedure fit us. How do we create management practices that are grounded in our rich repository of stories and rituals?"

Since Pattanaik began his work, Biyani said, the company has seen less attrition and better connections with its customers.

A giant retail empire, similar to the Wal-Mart and Costco chains, the $2 billion Future Group employs 40,000 people and operates 1,000 stores, including the popular Big Bazaar outlets.

Pattanaik, who calls his BlackBerry a "black whip," works with almost every department in the company, including the sales executives, store managers, brand experts and accountants.

He writes a column titled Management Mythos for the Indian financial daily the Economic Times, examining corporate behavior in the light of mythic narratives. For example, he gives the name of the mythological character Narada to those who play office politics. The customer is Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. He likens layoffs to the slaughter of cows, which Hindus revere as symbolizing life.

"The standard Western management principle is 'If you can't measure it, you can't manage it,' " Pattanaik said. "In our ethos, 'if you measure it, you destroy it.' "

In this period of economic slowdown, he admonishes company heads for celebrating greed when the going was good.

A week ago, Biyani urged his employees to greet each other and customers with the Hindi greeting "Namaste," meaning "I bow to the god in you," instead of the usual "Good morning" or "Hello."

"Saying 'Namaste' is not fake drama," Pattanaik told 60 store managers recently. "It is acknowledging the other person's potential to grow. Can you measure that on the Excel sheet?"

Despite his confident management mantras, Pattanaik says he suffers from an image problem. Avid readers of his books on Hindu mythology often express disappointment, he said, when he affirms that he is not "overtly religious."

"They think I give religious discourses. They expect me to be an orange-robed guru, sporting a beard and chanting 'Om,' " he said. "They address me reverentially, because they are searching for instant salvation in the bazaar of spirituality. Instead, they are taken aback when they see me in a pub with a whiskey."

Social networking benefits validated

Texting, blogs, Facebook, gaming and instant messages might seem, to some, to be just more reasons to stare at a computer screen.

Thinking like that is so 2008, any middle schooler will tell you. Now a study that looked at the online habits of 800 teenagers backs them up.

Researchers in the study, titled the Digital Youth Project and conducted primarily at the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley, found that in our increasingly technological world, the constant communication that social networking provides is encouraging useful skills. The study looked at more than 5,000 hours of online observation and found that the digital world is creating new opportunities for young people to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills and work on new forms of self-expression.

"There are myths about kids spending time online -- that it is dangerous or making them lazy," says Mizuko Ito, lead author of the study, which will be the basis of a forthcoming book, "Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning With New Media." "But we found that spending time online is essential for young people to pick up the social and technical skills they need to be competent citizens in the digital age."

Co-author Lisa Tripp, now an assistant professor at Florida State University, says technology, including YouTube, iPods and podcasting, creates avenues for extending one's circle of friends, boosts self-directed learning and fosters independence.

"Certain technical skills in the coming years are not going to be just about consuming media," she says. "It is also going to be about producing media. It is not just about writing a blog, but also how to leave comments that say something. Learning to communicate like this is contributing to the general circulation of culture."

That means anything from a video clip to a profile page is going to reflect the self-expression skills one has, so teens might as well practice what will say who they are.

Social networking also contributes greatly to teens' extended friendships and interests, Ms. Tripp says. While the majority of teens use sites such as MySpace and Facebook to "hang out" with people they already know in real life, a smaller portion uses them to find like-minded people. Before social networking, the one kid in school who was, say, a fan of Godzilla or progressive politics might find himself isolated. These days, that youngster has peers everywhere.

"This kind of communication has let teens expand their social circle by common interests," Ms. Tripp says. "They can publicize and distribute their work to online audiences and become sort of a microexpert in that area." The study found that young people's learning with digital media often is more self-directed, with a freedom and autonomy that is less apparent than in a classroom. The researchers said youths usually respect one another's authority online, and they often are more motivated to learn from one another than from adults.

Parents, however, still have an important role to play when it comes to tweens, teens and social networking, the researchers say. They need to accept that technology is a necessary and important part of the culture for young people and, other experts say, be aware of with whom the teens are communicating.

Monica Vila, founder of, an online resource for digital-age parenting, says parents need to set parameters just as they would "at any other playground." "This kind of study puts a lot of facts behind the value of social networking," Ms. Vila says.

It is up to parents to monitor what is being expressed, she says. She recommends that parents "have a presence" in their child's online social network. That doesn't necessarily mean "friending," communicating and commenting, but it does mean having a password or knowing who your child's online friends are. One Fairfax County mother of a middle schooler, who asked that her name not be used to protect her daughter's privacy, says she was skeptical at first when her daughter wanted a Facebook page.

"I was hesitant for all the reasons we hear about, such as how it could bring in unwelcome visitors," the woman says, "but eventually I realized that this is the main medium for kids keeping in touch. It has gone from e-mail to IM to texting to Facebook in such a quick progression. [Social networking] is like the modern-day equivalent of the lunch table. If you are not on Facebook, then you are not in the loop."

The woman says she stays in the loop because she knows her daughter's password, and her daughter knows her mom can access her page whenever she wants -- and can see who is there and what they are posting.

A few rules: no putting your exact whereabouts on your status update, and be aware of who is tagging you in a photo because if that photo contains unflattering behavior, it could come back to haunt you. Also, the mom has a Facebook page of her own, although she is not yet among her daughter's 100-plus friends.

"I have become accepting that there are more positives than negatives from social networking," the woman says, noting that she is pleased to see the connection of her daughter's network through various circles such as school and sports. "It is allowing a lot of dialogue among people who may not otherwise have a chance for a lot of dialogue." Those are all good rules and observations, Ms. Vila says.

"I like to catch parents before this whole process starts," she says. "That way you can set the ground rules early and [not] be trying to catch up. If your kids know that you have a presence in their online community, you are acting like a chaperone. If they won't friend you, you should at least have their password.

"It is not that kids are untrustworthy," Ms. Vila says. "It is that they often lack processing skills. Parents need to explain that images may be damaging. They may not be able to think past the next day, let alone what will happen when they are looking for a job six years later." Studies such as the Digital Youth Project and the report "Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies," issued recently by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, show that social networking has earned a place in American culture from which there is no turning back, Ms. Vila says.

"A few years ago, parents were saying, 'I don't want any of that stuff coming into my house,' even about video games," she says. "Then they realized, 'I have no choice, it is all around me.' Now studies are saying technology is going to encourage skills for jobs we didn't know existed. At the very least, social networking is encouraging technology skills, and that is going to be essential to the digital economy." To read the full report from the Digital Youth Project, visit

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

US missile attacks compromising Zardari

The continuing of US strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan could undermine the position of President Asif Zardari vis-a-vis the Army, Western defence experts have said.

They believe that the US-led military intervention is faltering in Afghanistan and can collapse unless a robust diplomatic strategy, involving tribal outreach and a more coordinated international approach, is adopted.

Launching the Military Balance, an annual assessment of global military capabilities and defense economics of 170 states in London on Tuesday at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a group of American, Russian, British and Indian experts overtly aligned themselves to the emerging foreign policy pattern in Washington DC.

The survey warned that continuing US strikes against alleged Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in the Pakistan’s tribal areas could undermine the position of President Asif Zardari.

“To effectively pursue the campaign on terror, he will need to balance growing US pressure for military strikes in the tribal areas with the Pakistani Army’s decreasing tolerance for such attacks,” the report said.

“He will have to ensure that the ensuing domestic political turbulence, heightened by the growing economic crisis, does not place his own Government at risk from the Army.”

The Obama Administration’s quick decision to deal with the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan through enhanced diplomacy backed by assured action seems to have provided the Western analysts a chance to rewrite their evaluations more or less in line with Washington’s new mindset.

The survey said that with the global economic crisis still unfolding NATO members would find it hard to commit more troops or resources to open-ended conflicts like Afghanistan, especially at a time when the US is increasing its commitment in Afghanistan, The News reported.

There is already a division among NATO allies as to what would be a “success” in that country, the report said, and noted that the Taliban insurgency had continued unabated throughout the past 12 months and has even forced the Western forces to adapt to changes in tactics without making much headway.

The report went as far as saying that the Western alliance lacks a clear strategy for the country, and suggested that the allies improve their efforts to define a common understanding of their objectives in Afghanistan, given that the absence of any clear strategic success threatens the long-term sustainability of the NATO mission.

Monday, January 26, 2009

DeskAway: Web based Online Project Management from Mumbai, India

When we think about online project management first thing comes in our mind is Basecamp or Zoho and to some extent Google Docs here in this list Zoho being an India’s initiative by AdventNet, Inc. Now, DeskAway a new online project collaboration tool has infused some social networking elements in web based project collaboration along with in its look-n-feel too. Moreover, one can Import Basecamp data to DeskAway too.

DeskAway is web startup by Synage Software Pvt. Ltd., a Synage is a Web company from Mumbai, India delivering software as a service (SaaS) over the Internet to the global audience. The online tool has some very interesting features along with sound graphic charts elements to show comparisons, timeline, reports etc.

Deskaway has got tabbed interface divided into dashboard, projects, team, contacts and calender and social networking touch such as profile photo visible to all project team members and IM like status update feature which you could find on Facebook, LinkedIn also that allows to notify team members of your current activity/progress inspite of any email or message.

DeskAway is a on-demand business software that can handle multiple projects available free and paid both.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Your People Inventory

I came across this interesting blogpost by Organized Business Blog and thought of sharing it with you, so here's Mack for you.

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are you are in the sales business. Professional sales people know that there is something called the sales cycle. Think of the sales cycle as a circle that begins and end with prospecting. If you already have a client base, we are going to take an inventory. If you are just starting and looking for that first customer or client, we are also going to take an inventory.

Successful businesses maintain customer databases of various degrees of sophistication. The only difference between a customer and a prospect is history, a customer being someone who bought from us in the past. Satisfied customers make the best prospects. The more we know about our prospects, the better our opportunity for successful selling, and selling is the business we are in.

We want to create a prospect database that contains both quantitative and qualitative information. We will start with some initial questions about our prospects and work from there. We can always add more layers of sophistication as we develop our inventory. If you have existing customers, be as detailed in your answers as you can. If you do not have a customer base, look at who buys from your competitors.

· Who are your prospects?
· Where are your prospects?
· How many prospects are there?
· What do your prospects want from you?
· What do your prospects know about you?
· How much will prospects pay you?

Who are your prospects?

A prospect is anyone who needs what you are selling and can afford to buy it. Suppose you own a commercial cleaning company that does offices and retail stores. Prospect characteristics might include: people who own or manage buildings, have a budget for janitorial service, employ at least 5 inside people, have three lavatories, a kitchenette, a reception area, and a sales floor. They are serviced once a week after 7 P.M. by two people who and take 45 minutes on the job. Less than 10% are government accounts and about a third of them are retail operations.

Where are your prospects?

Prospects may be anywhere if we are selling online or by catalogue and delivering products by transportation we provide. Otherwise they usually live or work with a defined geographical service area, whether you go to them or they come to you. Assume you own a health club. Prospect characteristics might include: able bodied men and women, aged 35 to 55, who live within 13 miles of the club. Half of them want some training. Half of the men and a quarter of the women use free weights.

How many prospects are there?

This is referred to as market size. Do your homework and keep your estimates conservative because your projected sales will be based on your estimate. Whether your business is land based and dependent on traffic or it is web based and dependant in page views, you can search for and find data on the Internet. Another source of such data is your competition.

What do your prospects want from you?

Prospects want what you sell and they want satisfaction after they purchase. Regardless of product or service, prospects want quality, value and service. However, they want price as well, especially now. Warranties and guarantees enhance value and your prospects’ perception of quality. Sears Roebuck and Company understood the balance of perception by making the claim, “Satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back.”

What do your prospects know about you?

They know either what you tell them or what some else they know has told them. Professional sales people rely on an organized sales presentation to varying degrees. Such presentations contain facts about a product or service and the benefits to the prospect. The objective of the presentation is to build value and to get the prospect to start asking questions. When a prospect starts asking, they start owning.

How much will prospects pay you?

Prospects will pay exactly what they think the product or service is worth and not a penny more. Remember that price is relative to perceived value and to what similar products and services cost. That is called “what the market will bear.” Additionally, you want to be sure that you are not selling for a penny less than your product or service costs you. If a pizza costs you $10 to make, you do not want to sell it for $8.50. If that is all that the market will bear, find a way to make an $8 pizza.
Speaking about payments, prospects pay by check, cash or credit card upon receipt of your invoice or based on agreed, written terms. Otherwise they do not qualify as a prospect.

A sale is the process of turning qualified prospects into satisfied clients. The purpose of performing a people inventory is to be able to identify qualified prospects. Such identification helps us focus our efforts, streamline our marketing, and increase our sales – the business we are all in.

Meltdown an Opportunity for Marketing

Even when the economy looks bad your marketing doesn’t have to suffer, says Dominique Hanssens, Bud Knapp Professor of Marketing and the Marketing Area Chair at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. In fact, Hanssens, who recently served two years as the executive director of the Marketing Science Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and whose courses Andersen include Marketing Strategy & Planning and Research in Marketing Management, thinks a downturn is one of the best times for marketing to shine.

Jeremy Dann sat down with him recently to discuss the pressures marketing executives are under during scary economic conditions. Here’s what he said.

Dann: What’s different about marketing during a recessionary period?

Hanssens: The difference is the challenge on budgets, because many companies feel that marketing should be budgeted as a percentage of revenue, and therefore, if revenue does not look good because of the recession, marketing budgets are often the first to be cut. There’s a lack of understanding of the strategic value of good marketing, so if you work in the marketing function during a recession you get challenged more on your spending levels than other parts of the organization.

Dann: What can a manager do to fight this off internally and get the resources he or she needs?

Hanssens: The answer is to demonstrate the return on the marketing spending so that you don’t become a cost center where your budget is a percent of revenue, but rather a profit center where the allocations are seen as providing positive returns—especially in light of some recent findings that the impact of marketing can be stronger during recessions than during the good years.

Dann: What are some companies that have “upped the ante” during down times?

Hanssens: You can easily point to examples of companies who have done successful innovations—new products and so forth despite the fact that these were launched during a recessionary period. The big growth period for Microsoft in the 1990s, when they went from being big to being a giant, coincided with the early ‘90s recessionary years. They had a lot of new value to offer with their products and were not afraid to get behind them with very aggressive marketing. A current example, if you accept the premise we are currently in a recession, would be Apple, which has been very aggressive with its iPhones and is doing spectacularly well, despite some negative news about the overall economy.

Dann: Have you seen any impact of high food and energy prices and how they are changing consumer behavior?

Hanssens: It’s a good question, but it’s still really early to track the impact. You read about it a lot and I know a lot of companies who are extensively engaged in efforts to analyze the effects of price changes before they implement them. They’ve learned from past mistakes. Even if the cost pressures are there, the forces of competition tend to hold prices at a reasonable level. The companies watch each other; if they are forced to raise prices, they hope at least their relative prices won’t change because consumers often react more to relative price than absolute price changes.

Dann: What final advice would you give to marketers who are finding it tough to manage in the current economic environment?

Hanssens: It’s a wonderful opportunity to think through the mission of the business again and if business really is down, not just to chalk it all up to the recession. But think through the goals of the organization and look at all parts of the business, some of which are hurt more than others and ask yourself, “why?” You can get an indication of the true value being created by that part of the organization. It’s a good moment to sit down and reflect. In good times, that doesn’t happen because so much money is coming in and companies don’t challenge themselves.

You don’t have to wait for the good economic times to be successful; you can be very proactive.

Teaching intangibles with technology

Teach students some facts, and they learn for one exam at a time. Teach students to think and they learn how to learn for the rest of their lives. Ambitious work from European and Israeli researchers is making it easier to help students learn to think for themselves. This is exciting stuff for teachers.

A new system developed by European researchers will help students to learn critical thinking, social interaction, discourse, rhetoric and self-expression.

Better yet, they won’t even know they are learning. And one final bonus, the process will help them internalise hard information relevant to the school curriculum.

It sounds unlikely, but the benefits of classroom discussion have long been known. It allows students to demonstrate learning in a real situation, thereby making the information more concrete.

Until now, it has been very difficult for classroom instructors to keep track of who is contributing, how much they are putting in, and how frequently. Often the interaction is reduced to forced responses from prompting by the teacher.

This can be overcome by breaking the class into small groups, but then the teacher cannot provide the supervision, encouragement and direction needed to ensure discussion stays on topic and productive.

Technology enhanced learning tools

Step forward technology enhanced learning, specifically a suite of online discussion tools intended for use in school labs, initially. Now it is possible to break the class into small groups, have them discuss topics via computers and, with the recent work of the Argunaut project, give teachers powerful tools to keep track of who is saying what, using what kind of statements and with what degree of sophistication.

“The problem up to now is that classroom discussion couldn’t scale. It works fine in one or two small groups, closely supervised by a teacher, but once you spread that out to 30 students in six to ten groups, the unaided teacher easily loses track and control,” explains Raul Drachman, coordinator of the EU-funded Argunaut project.

Argunaut set out to build on discussion software that was very good at mapping conversations, and added to that a moderator’s interface with two important levels of operation. On one level, Argunaut sought to provide - in an easily grasped graphic - quantitative data to teachers, like who is talking a lot or not at all, and who has not contributed in the last 15 minutes. This is the shallow loop.

On another, far more sophisticated level, the researchers sought to use artificial intelligence to provide qualitative data, like the types of statements students were making and their potential value for the discussion and the underlying learning process. This is called the deep loop.

Diving into the deep

The deep loop is a learning program that builds on records of previous discussions, with various exchanges annotated by teachers. The annotations highlight types of comments that are relevant or irrelevant, and different types of arguments.

Over time, the machine learns offline but then can apply alerts, autonomously, during a real discussion. The system can also learn classic patterns of interaction that occur in certain discussions and can then spot them in a live setting.

These powerful aids are allied to a series of useful functions that help teachers do their supervising job better. Awareness and situation alerts can inform the teacher when students start to wander off topic, talking perhaps about an upcoming party.

They can alert the teacher when one student is not contributing, or is being ignored, or is dominating the conversation. It also renders exchanges in a graphic manner, readily describing the ongoing discussion at a glance. And teachers can program the software to signal when certain keywords occur, such as when Napoleon appears in a conversation about the French revolution.

The system can even tell teachers that one discussion contains only questions or comments, but no arguments. The teacher can then suggest to the group that it enlarges upon comments or statements that have been made. Along with the positive criticism, students absorb the essentials of rhetoric and critical thinking.

Enthusiastic responses

The discussion software is highly regarded and long established, with the first version appearing in 2004 after the work of the DUNES project and the CoolModes / FreeStyler project.

That discussion visualisation software is enormously popular among thousands of schools in dozens of countries across the globe, and Argunaut has enhanced the system with powerful moderator’s tools, making it a complete package and allowing it to scale up.

So far, dozens of teachers who have tested these new moderators’ tools are very excited by the developments and are eager to deploy them throughout the school. That should not be too difficult, because Argunaut is leaving the system as open source.

However, commercial opportunities for the software also exist. “If a company asks us to develop a specific, tailored package for them, then we can make that proprietary,” notes Drachman. Rather like Red Hat Linux is a commercial version of the open source software.

And Drachman believes there will be many commercial opportunities to provide training, installation and set up of an Argunaut system in schools across the globe.

But that, really, is just the beginning. Drachman sees the Argunaut kit as an ideal collaborative tool for project management and planning. Executives can be sure they keep meetings on target and moving forward, ensuring that every voice is heard and every idea considered.

As Drachman concludes: “There are many, many potential applications for this software. Teaching is just the beginning.”

The Argunaut project received funding from the ICT strand of the Sixth Framework Programme for research.

On the web:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Five steps to turning bad credit into great credit.

It’s a fact that poor credit can drastically affect your ability to qualify for credit cards, auto loans and mortgages. But did you know that poor credit can also affect your ability to find an apartment, turn on your utilities, or even get a job?

Bad credit doesn’t have to be a life sentence. It doesn’t matter if you have a previous history of collections, charge-offs, delinquent payments or even if you’ve filed for bankruptcy – it’s never too late to get back on track and rebuild your credit. While negative information will remain in your credit reports for 7-10 years, it doesn’t mean that you have to wait that long to start rebuilding your credit. By following these five simple steps, you can start improving your credit now – even before these negative items expire.

Step 1: Where do you stand?

Before you can determine where to start, you need to find out where you stand. To do this, you’ll need to find out exactly what’s being maintained in your credit reports at each of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, & TransUnion. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), every consumer is entitled to a free copy of his or her credit reports once a year. To order your free reports, simply go to

The FCRA also gives you the right to request a free copy of your credit report if you are denied credit, insurance or employment because of the information in your credit reports. You have 60 days from the date you receive the denial notice to request your free report.

Step 2: Review your reports carefully for errors!

Believe it or not, it’s very common for credit reports to contain errors. This is why it’s imperative that you take the time to make sure the information is accurate. While reviewing your reports, be sure to check the balances, date opened, account status and any other notes associated with each account.

If you have negative records in your report (collections, charge-offs, judgments, late payments, liens or bankruptcy) be sure to double-check the expiration dates. Most negative information will remain in your credit report for 7 years but there are some exceptions. Bankruptcies for example, can remain for up to 10 years. It’s important to understand that the older these negative items get, the less impact they will have until eventually, they have very little impact and expire from your reports completely.

Step 3: Dispute any errors!

If you find errors on your credit reports, you’ll need to dispute them directly with the credit reporting agencies. To do so, you can either complete the online dispute form provided with your credit report order or you can do it the old fashioned way and write a letter. Personally, I prefer the old fashioned method because you’re not limited to the multiple choice options and online explanation limited character restrictions. Be specific and clearly explain each dispute and why it’s wrong. Include any supporting documentation if you have it. It’s also a good idea to include a copy of your credit report with notations written directly on the report for each mistake. Keep copies of everything you send for your own records.

Once the credit bureau receives your dispute, they will launch an investigation to verify the accuracy of the information. The credit reporting agency has 30 days to investigate the dispute and if the item cannot be verified, it must be removed. Once the investigation has been completed, the credit reporting agency must send you a free copy of your report if any changes were made.

Step 4: Formulate a budget and eliminate your debt!

Now that we’ve identified where you stand and have established that your credit report is accurate and free of errors, we’re ready to start rebuilding your credit. In order to do this, you’re going to need to formulate a budget that allows you pay down your debt and keep your payments on time, all the time. If you’re having trouble making payments, contact your creditors and explain your situation. In most cases, your creditors will work out a payment plan until you get back on your feet. You may even be able to negotiate with them to keep your accounts current and not be reported as late. You can also ask for reduced monthly payments, or even request to change your due dates in order to balance out your monthly bills. The same strategy can be used for fixed-loan payments, but it should only be used as a short-term solution. Use any extra money to pay off debts one at a time, focusing on the higher interest debts first.

It’s important to note that once you pay off an account, you should NEVER CLOSE THE ACCOUNT. Just leave your accounts open and simply stop using them. Closing accounts can actually have a negative impact on your credit scores. This is because the percentage of your available credit in comparison to the debt you owe is an important factor in calculating credit scores. This is called “revolving utilization,’ or your “debt-to-limit” ratio. When you close an account, the amount of available credit decreases, which can result in a higher revolving utilization and lower your score. As a general rule, I always advise keeping your revolving utilization at 10% or less.

Step 5: Start adding positive information to your credit reports and keep it consistent!

This step is crucial for those that have a previous history of derogatory information in their credit reports. Because negative information cannot be removed from your credit report, the only way to help improve your credit rating is to add new, positive information to your credit reports. This may mean that you have to endure a secured credit card for a while to get you restarted. Secured cards can be a great way to start over and re-establish a solid credit history.

There you have it. With these five steps and a little hard work, you’ll be well on your way to turning poor credit into great credit!

Google Launches Options Exchange Plan to Retain Talent

Google’s Board of Directors approved and the company announced a new “employee options exchange program” today.

The company filed the requisite 8-K with the SEC and also detailed the plan on its blog:

“Recognizing that about 85% of our employees have at least some stock options that are underwater (i.e., have an exercise price higher than the current market price of our common stock), we plan to offer our employees the opportunity to exchange those options,” reads the post. “Our goal is to continue to reward our employees for their contributions and do everything we can to keep them engaged and focused on serving our users.”

The program has the following components:

• It will be a one-for-one, voluntary exchange. Employees will be able to exchange part or all of an existing option grant for the same number of new options.

• The offer period will is to begin on January 29, 2009 and end at 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time on March 3, 2009.

• Employees will be able to exchange their underwater options for new options with a strike price equal to the closing price of our stock on March 2, 2009.

• The new options will have a new vesting schedule that adds 12 months to the original vesting schedule. In addition, new options will vest no sooner than 6 months after the close of the offer period.

The blog post indicates that almost all employees are eligible but that top executives Eric Schmidt, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page do not hold any stock options.

Google estimates that the total number of options expected to be exchanged in this program represents less than 3% of total shares currently outstanding, and to takea one-time modification charge of approximately $460 million over the vesting periods of the new options.

These estimates are based on the assumption that the company’s stock will close at about $300/share on March 2. The stock closed today at $306.50. Shortly thereafter, as the 8-K filing and the blog post were made public, Google’s stock rose sharply in after-hours trading, and is up over 2 percent to above $312/share as of this writing.

One way to interpret this move, given the company’s recent program cuts and layoffs, is that management feels it is critical at this time to make an aggressive move to retain employees. There are a lot of competitors out there that would like to take a similar move, I suspect, but few with the resources of Google to do so at this time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Brand Launches

Bridal Beauty
Lakme unveiled Bridal Sutra collection comprising lipsticks, lip chrome, eyeliner, eye pot, sindoor and nail colour. The products start from Rs 85 onwards.

Vintage Sport
Proline Apparel launches Vintage sports wear comprising pullover, jacket, denim or t-shirt in variety of colours and designs. Priced from Rs 499 onwards, it is available at all leading MBOs.

Crocky Style
Crocks launched two styles as a special addition to the Winter range – Karaqusa for men and Celeste Lace Up Pump for women. Karaqusa is priced at Rs 3,659 and Celeste Lace Up Pump priced at Rs 2,395 and is available at all Crocs outlets.

Where’s the party?
Miss Players introduced party wear collection of satin tops, trousers, waist coats, corduroy, short formal jackets, skirts, sweaters, tunics, leggings and pullovers. The collection starts from Rs 595 onwards.

New Tastes
Whyte & Mackay unveiled its new range of blended scotch whisky. It includes W&M The Thirteen, W&M Old Luxury, W&M Supreme.

Cutting Edge Technology
Victorinox unveiled Swiss memory USB, which combines some useful tools with 1GB and 2GB memory.Its special features are the integrated ball point and red or white LED’s to provide illumination. Its starts from Rs 4,950.

Alluring Fragrance
Escada unveils its new fragrance Incredible Me for women. It is available at Parcos as well as select departmental stores across the country.

Chocolate Dreams
Mesmerize introduces organic chocolates made from cocoa butter, organic sugar, natural herbs and fresh butter cream. They are available in flavors like Seville Orange, Cinnamon Sin, Maple Crunch and Columbium Mocha.

Mock Tastes
Samali mock meat is now launched in India. Made from soya protein, corn, potatoes, seaweed, vegetable, cardamom and spices, it is 100% vegetarian.

Natural Care
Thai brand Spa Siam launched its natural spa and skincare products in India. Available in a variety of fusions, they are available at Spa Siam centres only.

Time Check
Seiko Watch unveiled Arctura collection, the watches have an aerodynamic profile and include Kinetic Chronograph Caliber 9T82 and Chronograph Caliber 7L22

What’s In a Name?

According to Shakespeare’s Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That may be true, but would you name your kid Skunk?

I didn’t think so.

That’s because we associate things with names - thoughts, emotions, even the memory of how a skunk smells.
For better or worse, language is the primary form of human communication. When we shop for things, we don’t point at them and grunt. We search by name.

I know what you’re thinking. Naming is a waste of money. Customers and investors could care less. Sometimes that’s true, but believe it or not, oftentimes there’s actually strategy involved, branding strategy.

Decisions, Decisions

There are brands and sub-brands, corporate brands and product brands; how do you know how much weight to put behind which arrows?coke_logo_small.jpg

  • Unless you’re Proctor & Gamble or Johnson & Johnson - a loose association of powerful product brands - fewer brands is a more efficient use of marketing dollars, less confusing, too.
  • Coca-Cola.
  • Richard Branson uses the Virgin name for all his companies.
  • McDonald’s use of Mac in Big Mac and the Mc prefix in McRib and McChicken sandwiches is a unique strategy that boosts customer recognition by having product and corporate brands that reinforce each other.
  • Similarly, Apple’s product names reinforce each other: iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone.

Market Segmentation

Market or brand segmentation is used two ways: 1) to position similar products in different market segments, usually by price, and 2) to distinguish one company’s products from another’s or from an entire category.

  • Toyota created Lexus because Americans would have balked at luxury cars from Toyota - an economy brand at the time.
  • Intel created the Celeron brand to compete with low-cost processors while maintaining high margins on its flagship Pentium processors.
  • Apple avoided the PC (personal computer) label to distinguish its Mac products from IBM in the 80s, PC clones in the 90s, and now from Microsoft.

Small World

As the world shrinks, so to speak, geographic distinctions are disappearing in favor of global

Life and Death

Brands aren’t just created; they also die.

  • In mergers, simplicity and efficiency often wins over brand equity. JPMorgan Chase now includes Hambrecht & Quist, Bear Stearns, and Washington Mutual. The H&Q name has disappeared and the others will likely follow.
  • When a brand’s reputation is tarnished in a crisis, most companies - Exxon and Perrier, for example - stick with the brand. But Philip Morris changed its name to Altria. No surprise there.
  • When a product name defines a category, like Kleenex, Xerox, Vaseline, Tivo and iPod, that’s branding Nirvana. How do you suppose that happens?

Last Word

I’ve often observed that those who protest the loudest about naming being a waste of time and money are also the most opinionated about specific names. As for me, I’m not big on names, per se, but I am big on naming strategy. Big difference.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How BI could have provided early warning to financial market meltdown

Various analytic tools could have provided banks an early warning of the risks to their loans and securities, some observers say.

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Making Ghandi talk again

Sixty-one years after the father of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was killed,, an NGO, and Publicis India, its communications partner, are all set to launch a campaign that will give voice to his philosophies and teachings. Titled Let Gandhi Talk, the campaign will give Indians the opportunity to rediscover Gandhi.

The campaign has been conceptualised by Shailendra Uniyal, founder, The project will not only attempt to resurrect Gandhi's much-needed philosophy of peace and non-violence in today’s turbulent times, but also make people realise that it is possible to dissent, demand and drive change without resorting to violence.

Citing the reasons for the campaign, Uniyal tells afaqs!, "While travelling to various parts of the world, I discovered the impact Gandhi had left with his teachings. Gandhi has left an indelible mark on all of us. This made me think that considering some of the burning issues like corruption, violence, terrorist activities, communal backlashes and oppression that bother us in our own backyard, it’s high time we Let Gandhi Talk!"

The campaign will kick off on January 30 – the day that we mark Gandhi’s assassination – from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A two minute silence will be observed in his memory, which will be marked by a short film clip on Gandhi, the core idea being, “You can kill the man, not the idea.”

Next, the gathered people will be asked to sign a petition in the form of a giant postcard, with a commemorative Gandhi stamp and a message blurb addressed to the President of India, demanding that Gandhi's quotes and messages be included on currency notes and other representations of the Mahatma.

Following this, people from the crowd can step into a large-size replica of Gandhi's sandals and take an oath of non-violence and also voice their opinions.

These activities will be followed by a campaign, wherein people will hold placards with thought-blurbs consisting of Gandhi's quotes and messages next to his statues, murals and other representations in different cities of India.

The petition will also travel to various places of public interest, including schools, colleges and youth hangout zones, where people can sign it and convey their opinions to the President.

What impact will such a campaign have? Will it see mass participation and actually push the masses to adopt ‘Gandhigiri’ as a part of their lives?

Emmanuel Upputuru, national creative director, Publicis India, explains, "Much has been done to propagate Gandhi's thoughts. However, we wanted to start a conversation among the masses with this attempt. We are trying to make the campaign contagious, so that people talk about it, take part in it and have fun, while soaking in Gandhi's principles.”

He adds, “Have you ever tried taking stock of the number of statues, the amount of currency notes that change hands every day, or the number of Gandhi murals and stamps on postcards? It's like having all the touchpoints at the right places, which now need to be interconnected and integrated into the campaign to start off a movement."

He states, "In India, Gandhi is on a pedestal right now. We need to bring him within the reach of the masses." Not to forget that Gandhi himself was against honours being bestowed on him. Instead, he preferred a simple life.

However, when we questioned whether his participation in the initiative was with one eye on various international awards, Upputuru states diplomatically that he is not taking this initiative solely to win awards, but to execute an idea that has a lot of potential to bring about a change.

He says, "Even if the campaign doesn't win any awards, but ends up creating a stir and helps the masses raise their voice, then the ecstasy is as good as holding a metal." However, he does acknowledge that he will enter the campaign for various award shows.

As far as the reach of the campaign is concerned, Uniyal maintains that they would like to take the campaign to any region of India that has witnessed violence, tyranny, state-sponsored oppression, corruption and exploitation. On receiving a positive response, the campaign might even travel abroad, since there are statues and mementoes of Gandhi spread across different countries, including the US, the UK and South Africa.

The campaign has been funded by Publicis India, Uniyal himself and some of his fellow partners. As of now, they have no brand association, but Uniyal welcomes any brand that would like to be associated with the cause.

As far as spreading awareness about the campaign is concerned, Upputuru maintains that a mix of digital and on-ground activations and events will do the job. The film, which is nearing completion, will be for private circulation and will also be in the public domain through sites such as Youtube.

The team behind the campaign includes Anup Sharma and Saurabh Dwivedi, who are working alongside Uniyal and Prasad Raghavan, who has designed the Gandhi sandals. The team from Publicis India is led by Upputuru and includes Publicis Dialog, the activation partner. Nomad Pictures is the film production partner; Hanmer MS&L is the public relations partner and Publicis Modem is the interactive partner.