Tag: culture

Corruption: India’s Silent Language

We have democratized and normalized bribery in India.

In India, bribery has become ubiquitous, crossing regions, religions, castes, and genders. It’s a language everyone speaks, whether you’re a Dalit, a businessman, a South Indian, a North Indian, a man, a woman, or a student. Bribery isn’t just effective, it’s expected.

You have to bribe to get a driving license, register a house, get a police verification for your passport. My friend told me that when his father passed away in sleep, the local authority demanded bribes to issue a death certificate. Either we’ve become numb to it or we’ve accepted it as inevitable.

As a society we have accepted this as a fact to the point that we even suggest, “Why not give something so things move faster?”

Is there a way out of this?

Citizens are mostly powerless. We can protest and demand change, if we are allowed to protest at all. Although we can push back, we can’t always refuse to bribe outright because we risk denied essential services. In India, bribes often facilitate action – unlike in some countries where bribes are paid to prevent action.

In order for real change to happen, those in power need to make a difference and punish wrongdoers. Until then, I’m afraid the corruption will fester.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve listened to people talk about a corruption-free India. Still, nothing’s changed; it’s only gotten worse. It used to be that government jobs paid little, but that’s no longer true. While they don’t match market rates, these jobs pay decently now. Still, greed and the belief that one can get away with corruption drive people to do it.

There won’t be any change unless those in power take the lead.

Building family culture

Culture is not just important for businesses and institutions, but also for families. As a homeschooling dad, I often wonder what kind of culture I want to create. On my podcast, I talked to a retired major general about constructing a winning culture. He highlighted three essential elements:

  • psychological safety,
  • success, and
  • stories.

Imagine a team where everyone feels comfortable expressing their thoughts, disagreements, and suggestions. A place where they can try new things and know they’ll be supported. Psychological safety lets everyone explore and grow.

Success is key to any thriving culture. We have to define what winning means to us. Without success, the team will crumble, and interest will wane. Families are no different.

Last but not least, powerful stories reinforce the values we want to instill. We learn what’s acceptable and what’s not from stories.

As a family, we value good citizenship, respect for elders, and independence. I encourage my boys to be honest and bold. If they make a mistake, but tell the truth about it, I don’t punish them. They still lie sometimes, but more often than not, they’re honest.

Success, for homeschoolers, is different from that of traditional schools. We don’t chase grades or vanity metrics. Instead, my children set their own goals each quarter, writing them down and pursuing them with fervor. As their guide, I’m there to help them – whether it’s registering domains, organizing industry tours, or buying tools. Ultimately, they decide what they learn.

We review progress weekly, walking the path to success together. At each quarter’s end, my children celebrate their accomplishments. They have had their fair share of victories – from polishing their writing skills using AI tools to my son passing the Trinity guitar exam.

Stories are our lifeblood. Around the dinner table or on the porch, we chat about family history – my upbringing, my dad’s lessons, and my college days. These stories reveal to them what we value at home. I also encourage boys to talk about what they’ve learned, and what they want to be. Our dinner table is surely full of stories.

Although I hadn’t explicitly focused on these three factors – safety, success, and storytelling – I am going to consciously focus on these to build our home culture.

Focus on customer delight, sales will flow

The key to increasing sales in an era of algorithms and AI is to focus on fundamentals: customer delight. Although technology can certainly help, it shouldn’t be driving your sales. Your sales fundamentals should dictate what tools you use and how you use them.

Let me give you an example from my recent trip.

We planned a trip to Kashmir recently. I asked friends for recommendations a month before our trip and one recommended a travel agent. Trusting my friend’s judgment, I contacted the agent and shared our itinerary, passenger details, and preferred dates. She offered various packages, ranging from four to five days with varying luxury levels. Once we picked one, we paid the deposit and got confirmation.

Our travel agent was incredibly responsive and attentive throughout our trip.

We were originally booked in a family room for our group of seven – two families with four adults and three kids. However, we quickly realized that one bathroom wasn’t enough. I asked the agent if it was possible to have two separate rooms instead of one. She successfully negotiated with all four hotels and booked two rooms everywhere.

We stayed in a boathouse on Dal Lake in Srinagar on our last day. There was no toilet paper, and the staff wasn’t very helpful. I sent a WhatsApp message to the travel agent, and the boathouse owner called me within an hour and ensured all our needs were met.

Even in the age of technology, it is essential to remember that human connection and exceptional service remain the cornerstones of continued sales.

I don’t know much about her professional background – if she operates independently or with a bigger agency. I trusted her because of a friend’s introduction and my own positive experience with her. We weren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet or CRM record, we were treated like individuals. She used modern conveniences like UPI payments and WhatsApp, but she focused on providing an exceptional experience.

I’m writing this as a delighted customer.

If you ever visit Kashmir and want someone to arrange everything for you, don’t hesitate to contact Namyi of Glitz Holidays. Glitz embodies customer service with a smile. That is the only way to get more sales.

Winning an AWS Award

AWS Market Disruptor award

An initiative I spearheaded within the company received the prestigious AWS Market Disruptor Award this year.

In the past, I worked on internal improvements like engineering processes, DevOps procedures, and exploring nascent technologies like Flutter. Our attention this year was on generative AI, a hot topic among industry leaders.

The first thing we did was use Amazon Code Whisperer to boost developer productivity. Our initial focus was on internal applications for employee efficiency and process optimization. Our AWS account manager and CEO convinced us to consider how generative AI could benefit our clients.

In a stroke of luck, one of our retail clients asked about using AI to identify objects in photos. For retailers and brands, this was a big deal. Mega-brands use planograms to arrange products on shelves. Compliance with these designs usually requires manual verification at every location, a laborious process.

We used Amazon’s AWS image recognition models, trained on popular products. We didn’t solve the planogram challenge we set out to solve, but we identified products and matched them. Identifying products from photos taken at varied angles and light conditions was challenging enough. AWS awarded us a Market Disruptor Award for our innovative solution.

Success is often a lagging indicator of skills and processes.Our recent win is not just a reflection of what we’ve done recently, but also what we’ve done all along.

We’ve built a culture of experimentation in our company over the years. Each year, we survey the emerging waves, trying to catch up and build upon them, curious where they might take us. This annual pursuit has become a well-oiled machine, streamlining the process of discerning which waves to chase, what kind of proof-of-concepts to construct, and how best to determine their utility for us and our clients. The AWS award is the culmination of everything we have done so far.

Happy to end the year with an award.

Three stages of Indian software industry

Indian Software industry has evolved through three distinct phases:

• Cost arbitrage
• Internet arbitrage
• Talent arbitrage

In the first wave, Indian companies sold cheap extra hands to US companies looking to fix Y2K bugs. It was crazy how fast computer coaching centers popped up everywhere. You had a job if you held an Aptech certificate, a flight ticket to the US if you could type faster than your colleagues, and an upgraded seat if you wore a tie and pronounced the letter “r” rolling your tongue.

As a result of rich dollars and the possibility of even more dollars, businessmen invested heavily in Internet infrastructure and demanded even more from the government. Every global company started offshore development center in India. If you wrote a hello world program in Java, you got a job as a developer; if you knew how to debug someone’s hello world program you became a senior developer. Products were designed elsewhere, we developed and delivered from here.

In the last two and half decades, Indians have developed, marketed, and sold every conceivable idea for others. The talent mafia in India is astonishing. Whether it is coding, UX, or marketing, there is no better talent than Indians. There are more unicorn startups in India than anywhere else.

Companies are still playing the cost arbitrage game. While they scramble for pennies, those engaged in talent arbitrage make mega profits.

Why is this important? If you are looking for a job or you are thinking of switching job it is important to find out if the company is playing the game of cost arbitrage or talent arbitrage.