ymMBA: Today’s special


Series of posts titled “Your movie MBA”, where we’re using famous hindi movie lines to make management gyan more approachable. So you thought you couldn’t learn anything from a David Dhawan-Kader Khan movie. Yep, you’re right! Unless you count that bit about the blood clot.

Of all the outrageous comedy movie settings I can recall, there could be none more moronic than Kader Khan’s greedy landlord in “Mujhse Shaadi Karogi” where the running gag is that Kader Khan has a mysterious blood clot in his brain. Everyday he wakes up, the clot shifts to another part of his brain, stopping the flow of sensory information from another part of his brain. One day he wakes up deaf, while another he is blind, mute, mad, and so on. Being that the clot is inside Kader Khan’s brain, the people around him cannot tell what’s broken that day, and find it enormously inconvenient to interact with him.So this guy walks up to him and starts talking, only to realize a 5 minute monologue later that “Aaj Bahre Hain” (today’s special: deaf). How much damage can this do to a guy’s social life, especially in the era before facebook? Kader Khan comes up with a unique device to improve his social interactions- he uses a white board to announce his “malady of the day”. As you’ll see in the screen grab below, the board of the day says “Aaj Andhe Hain” (today’s special: blindness). This eases things tremendously. Now visitors can alter their communication style based on what’s missing that day. You walk up to the man, read up the special, and choose to communicate accordingly. QED.

Go to the 5:17s mark for the sequence.

And you’re still wondering, what the!? What could possibly be the practical use of this wisdom? You’ve got this golden nugget from me, and yet you are unable to encash it, or tuck it away in some cranny in your brain to use it later. All this wisdom, and nowhere to put it to use…let me tell you something. Top secret. Come closer so I can whisper it into you ear.

Psst…the company you work for has a brain clot too.

Sometimes its Aaj Green Hain, (Today’s special: Green), while other times its Aaj High Growth Hain. You never know where the clot has hit the company, and what’s the fad of the month. If you read the company wrong, you’re still talking green while the company has woken up overnight to the joys of profitable growth, or global integration, or, I don’t know, saving the african rhino.

Do yourself and your company a favor- Get with the program, people! Go and figure out what your company’s fad is today.

Once you find out, put it on the white board to let everyone know today’s special.

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ymMBA: Dog of Dance


Series of posts titled “Your movie MBA”, where we’re using famous hindi movie lines to make management gyan more approachable. Today’s theme-customer segmentation! The source material is illegal phone-taps, so reader discretion advised.

Follows this base post. And oh! This is fictionalized.

In the wake of 2010’s 2G scandal in India, newspaper offices have become used to receiving strange packets with USB memory sticks full of illicitly recorded telephone conversation. One such package arrived at our doorstep yesterday, marked simply “Gabriel’s Dogs, 1994“. Our curiosity piqued, we plugged in the USB drive to hear the inner workings of the IT industry in its infancy. The year was 1994, and this was a recording of a conversation between Virendra, VipInTa Technologies’ founder, and Haema, the company’s relationship manager with Gabriel Electric. Haema, as readers will recall, later became (in)famous as a corporate lobbyist and her other phone recordings have already been made public. It appears that Haema’s calls were being tapped much earlier in her career as well. This was one of the recordings. The uncut transcript is below.

Haema: Veeru, this is me. I know it’s late…sorry…but I need to talk with you urgently ya!

Virendra: Haan bol! Did you get any sleep? Those crazy guys at Gabriel have made me completely sleepless. I don’t know why we have to do this renegotiation tamasha every year. Why don’t they bloody ask for our first-borns and right arm as well? Buggers!

Haema: No ya! I didn’t get much sleep either. I was working with Balu on the financials. If we give Gabriel’s guys any more discount, we will make no money on the deal at all. Balu is furious, and I am ready to give up now. It’s your company, ya!, you tell me what you want to do!

Virendra: Arrey…we gave them a discount last year as well. They keep coming back every year to arm-twist. Tu aisa kar, you tell them that you’re not able to reach me. Let them give us some more time.

Haema: What are you saying Veeru? This is our largest client, and they are negotiating with all the other desi companies. I can’t just go and tell them I can’t reach you. Tell something else…should I just give the discount, and we will try to be better prepared next year?

Virendra: Basanti..<audio garbled>

Haema: Hellow?! What did you say?

Virendra: <muffled audio> Basa…ton ke saam…<muffled audio>

Haema: Can you repeat? Your voice is cutting off…Hellow?! Should I call back?

Virendra: Basanti, in kutton ke saamne mat naachna! <translated: Don’t dance for these dogs>

<Editor’s note> Customer segmentation is a very important part of a company’s strategy. Not all clients are alike, and some clients are not worth having. VipInTa had run into a very big problem- their biggest customer, Gabriel Electric, was now a problem client. Gabriel’s men routinely came down to India to ask for discounts, and the relationship had become toxic. Veeru had to decide whether to continue to give discount to the single client that gave them 40% of revenues, or to walk away and take their chances with other more profitable clients. They chose to walk away, and the rest is history. The company still doesn’t do any business with Gabriel’s men, but happens to make the most profits in the industry. Those who danced for Gabriel’s negotiators have had to sell their companies for a deep discount. (Non-fictionalized version of the story here at #19). (Non-fictionalized reference to a company that likes dancing for Gabriel is here. They sold the company in early 2011, at a fraction of the valuation of the other companies in their industry. Cheap clients make poor business partners!).

Not all customers are alike. Learn to pick well. That’s your bollywood line for the day.

Basanti, in kutton ke saamne mat nachna! Can there be a more iconic bollywood line? For those who slept through the 1970s, the line is from Sholay, and involved Hema Malini (as Basanti) and Dharmendra’s character-Veeru. Veeru is strapped to a pole, and the arch-villain Gabbar’s henchmen have asked Basanti to dance on shards of broker glass as a life-line to save her boyfriend Veeru. Incensed, Veeru is asking Basanti not to dance. She does. He lives. Happy Ending, bollywood ishtyle.

ymMBA: Empowerment and initiative


This is in the series of posts titled “Your movie MBA”, where we’re using famous hindi movie lines to make management wisdom more approachable. The opening post is here.

We have all come across people in our professional life who go above and beyond the brief and deliver that truly “Wow!” experience. People who don’t refer to their job descriptions every day, but go do whatever it takes to get the job done. The “Can do”  people. They don’t need direction, go out on a limb, have distinct personalities, and create their own momentum. The A players. The goto guys. The movers and shakers. The “buck stops here” heroes. You know the type.

Are you one?

Unfortunately, most people in corporate situations are far removed from this ideal. They find themselves under-empowered, at the mercy of forces outside themselves, and desperately in need of coffee and carrots to get their job done. They have excuses for answers, and hyperlinks for results (ask him, tell her, don’t look at me!). The buck passers. So who’s to blame? Is there a simple way to check if we’re in this rut, and what to do to get out of it?

The movie “Khosla Ka Ghosla” is a fantastic comedy about underdogs who con a Conman. The capital C Conman is a land-shark, and has stolen the underdogs’ land. The underdogs enlist the help of a drama troupe to create an elaborate ruse about a wealthy NRI who needs to sell his land to the Conman. To get access to the Conman, the drama company must first get through the Conman’s underling, a lowly property broker. In their first meeting, the drama company must convince the broker of their wealth and power, and the actor playing the role delivers brilliantly with a 5-word question that I propose must be embossed in gold and adorn the desks of all self-respecting professionals. He asks, “Aap broker hain ya party?” (Are you a BROKER or a PARTY). The insinuation being that no one wants to deal with a middle-man, a broker or an underling. No business discussions are real unless the opposite party is a PARTY- someone who has the authority to make decisions, take risks and is accountable for results.

(read on below the video …post abhi baaki hai mere dost)

Go to the 1:55s mark for the sequence.

So do yourself a favor and ask yourself this question- “In what I do, am I a BROKER or a PARTY“? Am I just acting on behalf of others, have no real decision making authority, and have no stake in the outcome? Am I just making excuses for my performance. Do I blame others for what’s going on around me? If that’s the case, why should anyone respect me professionally…I’m just a broker, no!? A broker that has no skin in the game, no real value addition, no accountability and no reason to be part of any decisions. Am I just a broker? Do I want to be one?

Ask yourself, How can I become a PARTY instead? How can I take more accountability for the bottomline. How can I bring the locus of control back to me? How do I exude can-do confidence in my dealings, proud of my rights, aware of my duties and ready to take all the risks and rewards in this transaction? How can I stop slouching and start standing up for what I believe in?

Don’t be a broker. Take charge! Be the PARTY!

You have my permission!