Monday, September 21, 2015

Book Review: Amongst Monkeys

Amongst Monkeys is a satirical take by first time writer Naredran on life inside IIM-A, Indias premier B-School. Till the last chapter, the book provoked my thoughts on who are the real monkeys? – the clever beasts roaming freely on sprawling IIM campus or the academic system which spots the leaders and  digitizes their functional skills to grades. Afterall, your grades decides your placement at IIM-A.

Randys decision opt for IIM-A  was partially to fulfil his deceased fathers dream & primarily due to his inner desire to nurture his hands on leadership skills. This was where his dreams started to crumble. Randy, ‘the liveware’, fought back with testing all his hands on leadership skills on himself. But the ruthless grade driven academics at IIM pulled him down everytime.
If you are looking for some Chetan Bhagat like emotional outpour, this book won’t disappoint you either. The plot is honest and based on real life experiences of our protagonist – Randy.
Prior to Randys decision to get into IIM, the book offers the readers an in-depth background into the life of a  22 year romantic chennaite. His engineering degree had secured him with a cushy job at a PSU. Infact he was the only employed member of a middle class family. Despite his self-awareness and proactivity, he failed to impress girls. His impeccable table tennis skills and close friends advice were of no help either. In atleast two of his romantic encounters (at the 3rd year of his engineering college & later at the CAT venue), he couldn’t win a girl. The initial chapters offer plenty of real life emotional anecdotes to make you hysteric.
The book also hilariously cites the lighter side of life inside IIM – peeping in the dorms, adult movie screening at the MAD club and dunking.  
Amongst Monkeys” is written simply and had transported me back to my college days. At the same time it has left me perplexed like the fictitious John of B School case studies with my quest for an answer – Are the B-Schools curriculums real monkeys? 
The book can be read the in one sitting. The pricing of the book is just right for the target audience - young people. And Narendarn has ensured that this book has the masala, emotion and pace to turn into a potential blockbuster.

The book is available on Amazon and other leading book stores. 

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why I'm not giving up on DoCoMo yet?

The old saying says “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were”. In today’s market, consumer loyalty is eroding. With each instances of service failure you are going one step away from the consumer. IMO, this message can be adapted  to something like this “If you love your customers, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't learn from your competitors”.

During the Christmas of 2011, I ported out of  Airtel and joined Tata DoCoMo network. Their billing transparency and  pioneering 1p/sec plan soon transformed me into a DoCoMo loyalist. When you are into a relationship you accept shortcomings. DoCoMo call quality was not the best, however I decided to live with that.

So far so good. My love/hate relationship with DoCoMo started during the summers (July) of 2014.

One fine day I found that the network bars were playing hide-and- seek inside my office premise at Mahim. For first few days I became  a recluse thinking -may be just like its DTH cousin , Tata Sky, poor weather might be playing foul here. Mind you, July is the peak of rainy season in Mumbai. Eventually, I grew impatient with every passing day and subscribed to miss call alert at Rs 30/ month. I decided to formally take it up with DoCoMo customer care.

Outcome : I got a case ID and not the resolution I was looking for.

The next logical step suggests escalation to Appellate authority. I decided to pursue that route.
Outcome: Even more mind-blowing. I received the following response from Sowmya at Appellate desk

"Kindly be informed that coverage on wireless network depends on various parameters, such as number of users accessing the internet at that particular point of time, geographical area, indoor and outdoor signal coverage, weather conditions, other causes of radio interference, material used for the building, configuration of the building, .. etc. So is the case with any other wireless network Operator. However, at TATA Docomo we understand the customer experience is of foremost importance."

While her academic gyans were not something I was looking for, I became  curious

  1.        Indoor signal coverage - Why the same logic is not applicable for Vodafone, whose network coverage is excellent within our office premise?
  2.       Internet users – To the best of my knowledge my office premise close to a parsi locality. They can be Tata loyalist, but recently Tata Docomo hasn’t done any activation which would take the internet usage up in the area. Ofcourse this is to the best of my knowledge.
I responded anxiously to Sowmya inquiring further resolution and a timeline by which it could be fixed. And this one pissed me off completely.

"We will not be able to commit any timeline currently but definitely it will be done in the near future. Further to avoid the billing issue you can migrate the number in prepaid or you can keep the number is safe custody"

The advertising legend Oglivy once said “ Customer is not a moron, She is your wife.”
How does moving into prepaid solves a network issues?? Rather harsh – assuming a part of concerned persons salary comes from my monthly subscription , will he/she accept a salary cut if I port out of DoCoMo family due to wrong advice?

I was relentless. I decided to approach the highest level of authority - DoCoMo president assurance desk.An email and I was done.

How does it feel when you are trying to reach someone in your family and you can’t?  Desperate – right? The missed call alerts from Mr Chaitanya  ( president’s desk) echoed  similar desperation.  I must say it was pleasure talking to him. 24 Hours and counting I am patiently waiting for a resolution. Every miss call alerts adds salt to my injury, but this time I have decided to see the end.

Having said that the marketers within me urged me to think, what different I would have done if I had a customer problem similar to the stated one. My solution goes hereby.

If you are in a business on of networks, service unavailability is not an excuse. Most of the time your customers will be addressing their problems with front end executives. Empower them. Let them think out of the box solutions towards most challenging customers problems. So why not to innovate solutions like this ?

Hey Apurba – We know that we have some challenges towards providing you uninterrupted connectivity. We are also aware that our competitors  have  unmatched network coverage within your office premise. As a resolution , please feel free to buy a competitors SIM of your choice. We will offer you FREE call forwarding from your DoCoMo SIM to the new SIM. This is an intermediary measure, till the time we fix the network issues in next 10 days. During this period you will also have FREE subscription to our miss call alerts , so that you can reach out to your near and dear ones uninterruptedly. Thanks for your support.

Afterall  DoCoMo has innovations inbuilt into its DNA.

Update: I was horribly wrong. Despite my repeated reminders, I have not heard from Mr Chaitanya on the progress. Instead, got an SMS from DoCoMo stating that my issues has been resolved. Yes, there was a courtesy call from customer care, stating the network problem is being worked and there is very low chance that it will be resolved in next 72 Hours even. Beyond that - No timelines. 

So I got my porting code & my hello to new operator. 

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to take a perfect Selfies?

"Selfie" has been named as 2013 word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries.The phenomenon belongs to taking self portraits and posting it on various social networks. The mania behind 'Selfie' has been investigated in details by Charissa Coulthard in this BBC article.

The write up also suggests 5 tips  from photographer Mindy Stricke on how to take perfect selfie?

  1. Let there be light: "Natural light is best. The 'magic hour' is the hour after sunrise and just before sunset, and will produce the most flattering sunlight." If natural light is missing, stand by a source of artificial light and make sure the flash is off.
  2. Out of arm's way: "Having your arm reached out in shot is only going to be so flattering," says Stricke. She advises experimenting with a mini tripod for your smartphone, or downloading a free self-timer app.
  3. Rule of thirds: "Try to think of how to compose in thirds, like eyes a third of the way up, head a third of the way into the picture - ideally from the top or side," says Bedford-based photographer Stuart Kearey. He advises ensuring a space between you and the background, to achieve a depth of image.
  4. Your 'good' side: "Positioning the camera slightly above your eyeline tends to be the most flattering," says Stricke. She also advises angling your face or body to one side.
  5. Be bold:You might feel silly, but trying out a new look or different hairdo can help you feel more confident. "Changing your look can help make you feel just a little different or more fancy in a photo, and this confidence will shine through your final images," says Emma Chapman of A Beautiful Mess. Kearey suggests adding a prop such as a hat, scarf or piece of jewellery.
I decided to investigate further on the rule of thirds and superimposed the  author Charissa's images used as an example there on a Fibonacci golden spiral.

The one on the left is a wrong selfie and the one on the right is a good selfie. if you notice closely various facial curves and accessories roughly fits on a Fibonacci spiral. 

So a good selfie composition is also about mathematics and getting the Fibonacci spiral right.

This gives me my next DIY idea on Fibonacci viewfinder. How about printing the golden spiral on a transparent sheet and use that as a reference for composition in your digital camera or camera phone?

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Monday, December 30, 2013

What they do not teach you at school?

Last June, I was on a short trip to my hometown, Jamshedpur. In my wee hours of the day, I checked my niece Shreya's progress on her academics. She will be appearing in her standard 10th board exams in 2014.

Our discussions spun around optics/refraction of light.

Almost all the textbooks of class 10 physics will suggest something similar to this ray diagram on bending /dispersion of light through a prism.

In order to assess her conceptual know how of optics, I posed following 2 questions to her:
  1. Why do light rays bend?
  2. Will the above ray diagram be always true?
What followed was a numb eerie silence. 

To highlight the problem here, our academics system has turned into parochial system. Students are expected to read and mug up the text book without any understanding of the concepts.Students lack the analytical skills on turning the text book concepts into practical insights. IMO, Grades/CGPA/GPA doesn't matter much when it comes real world.

None of Shreya's teacher had taught her that:

  1. Like electrical energy and heat energy , light is also a form of energy. And, like electrical properties ( resistance) and  thermal properties (specific heat), refractive index is also a 'resistance' property of a medium prevalent only for light energy.
  2. When light travels from lighter to denser media, it bend towards the normal and vice versa. This is a powerful assertion. The above ray diagram 'assumes' light traveling from lighter ( air/vacuum) to denser medium (glass) and will not be true if the medium on the left hand side is denser than the prism refractive index.

Wish this changes soon.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Death of a Goldfish and resurrection

Last April when we shifted our base to a new rented apartment, much like all of us it was a stressful journey for our pet goldfish as well. Upon reaching our new home we found it almost dead, floating upside down. 

We prayed and added some aeration into its tank.Within few hours it was back into life.

True resurrection !

Meet Gobbler, our 2 years old pet fantail Goldfish.

The disaster was alarming enough to teach me few basics of fish relocation. Here it is for you:
  • Container and Plastic bags:  Insulated container or cardboard box of right size. Place the Goldfish in a large plastic bag partially filled with aquarium water.
  • Temperature: Goldfish uses less oxygen in colder water. Pour ice cubes around the plastic bag.
  • Salt and Water: Salt reduces stress. Add roughly 1.5 teaspoon of aquarium salt per gallon of water (0.2% solution).
  • Aeration: Not very critical over small distances. However, micro air water pumps ($5) are useful. They can operate on USB power.

  • Water Parameter Monitor: If you have a Seneye aquarium monitor, plug that in to USB power source to monitor the change in  water condition (pH, NH3 and Temperature) during transport.

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DIY Konstruktor: How to build 35mm lomo camera

Somewhere around this November, I decided to experiment with analog photography. Choice of my camera was Konstruktor, a DIY 35 mm camera kit from Lomography, launched last June.  

Why analog and film cameras?
IMO, analog cameras and the art of capturing on film cameras is endangered  and must be preserved for our  next generation. It’s a small cult. While digital cameras are “build to work” for the mass , analog cameras demands the photographers “know how” of the device and the film. It becomes a part of your life, demanding immersive involvement with the environment. If you have a sedentary work like yours truly, it is indeed a lifestyle changer.

 For example:
  • The 8 teeth Konstruktor  film sprocket gear [P4]  must  spin one full rotation (i.e. 8 film sprocket)  for a complete film advance. If the film loses tension, the gear assembly won’t work  and you would experience issues like film jamming or overlapping of pictures.
  • Blurry images due to camera shake and poor focus is almost absent from all modern digital cameras. In contrast, while shooting with SLR cameras (..and with Konstruktor) you will have be very disciplined. I learned the proper way to hold the camera, create tripod with my arms and knees. I learned the virtue of waiting for the best shot, holding my breath and then click. These yoga like postures are calorie burners.

  • While I can shot ton of photos with a digital camera, that's not true for an analog camera. Lomo cameras are cheap - films are expensive. Accordingly, with film photography I am much more selective with my shots. That’s indeed a quality improvement/waste reduction.

  •  Analogue invokes creativity. Multiple exposure photos and cross processing is possible only with films.

With the help of online community, I assembled Konstruktor within 1 Hour or so. In return, I contributed generously to the Flickr Konstruktor forum on possible solutions to the known issues..a sense of self fulfilment.


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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Getaway To Tudor Retreat - Khapoli

Time to backpack again. During monsoon the entire Sahyadri ranges turns into an eclectic blend of fluorescent green mountains playing hide and seek with freely roaming clouds.Our destination was Tudor retreat farm, located by a lake near Khopoli off Mumbai-Pune Highway.The farm, spread on 10 acres of land, is surrounded on three sides by lush green forests and hills.

Getting out of mumbai is always tiring. We started off early evening & by the time we reached Tudor, it was 7 PM. Navigating to the place was again tough as there were no sign boards and despite of its huge spread,the place was poor lit. As if those were not sufficient - a real shock when I entered our bungalow. Arrangement within the rooms were clumsy and looked no better than any dharmasala.

I am a gourmet.If not the room decor, I had hoped that atleast the dinner would appease my discontentment.But all I had was again disappointment.

A moon walk along the banks of lake may seem enchanting - but strictly not advisable.The wall fencings were damaged and one of our colleague narrowly escaped getting drowned into the lake.

The saga continued till next morning when we found intermittent water supply in the bathroom.

The only area where Tudor could earn some good points was its breathtaking natural assets.The lake looked heavenly.And the surroundings appeared as if the mother nature has meticulously painted it with various shades of green.

The contact details of the resort :

Tudor Retreat
Lake Kalote, Khopoli
Off Mumbai Pune Highway
Contact person: Mrs Khan / Mr Saif
Contact # +91 98 210 26639

Mrs Khan claims she runs this resort not for money.However I would question - can you run a resort so unprofessionally ? I am sure the answer will be a big NO !

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