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Monday, July 17, 2017

To Fire or Not to Fire - That is the question

The biggest question plaguing almost every big IT business leader today is precisely that. Should I fire or more likely especially after the Tech Mahindra Audio Tape Gate scandal, how to fire without creating a scandal around it? The one person that needs to get fired sooner rather than later is the HR Head of Tech-M, that’s for sure.

Why this post? 

I am a big fan of Prabal Basu (he writes so well, he's a fellow alma-mater from London Business School and his articles are so spot-on on a wide range of topics). How can someone be so knowledgeable on such a wide-range of topics I always wonder. His article on the Tech Mahindra saga is interesting to say the least. He raised several important points including the impact of beliefs at the top on actual decisions taken by the middle management and how the culture change in Tech Mahindra due to HCL imports might have led to this.

My only point of contention is that this is a common dilemma that an IT manager or in fact any leader faces today and there are none around that are better than the others. With the current generation of millennial employees with limited loyalty, the only thing these companies can and should do is provide enough opportunities to train and challenge employees to utilize those opportunities to upskill themselves. Once that is being done, some hard decisions need to be made, they just need to be made. Of course, execute those decisions as humanely as you can do and that is really where the HR team needs to learn to put its foot down because that is their space.

I write today (thanks to a nudge from someone I respect a lot) to share some interesting anecdotes and experiences from my life. I've had my fair share of experiences both as an employee during the 2001 recession and as an employer in the recent past as we go through the ups and downs of trying to build a start-up with the right culture and the right kind of people. This post is more about my experience as an employer and I'll follow up with my view from the other side and the tough decisions that need to be made.

2000: The rise 

The Y2K Boom had made all the IT majors including the highly respected Infosys, TCS, Wipro and almost every IT company in Bangalore rich and greedy. They went about hiring with gay abandon especially at the entry level and what better place to get good talent in Engineering schools across Bangalore. Most of my 2001 batch (including friends across most colleges in Bangalore and as I heard later across India) got offers galore and were all excited about their bright future in the rosy IT sector. I for one had not one but two offers. Even though our college (UVCE) allowed only one offer per student, I'd gone through the PPR program at PESIT (an industry training program sponsored by a couple of companies including Yahoo, HP and Others) and through that I had got placed in Infosys. Everyone at home was over the moon since Infosys was really the star of the IT sector (largely due to its stock price) of course and in a few weeks, I even got placed in the one and only Lucent Technologies "Bell Labs" of Dennis Ritchie fame (Great pay, expectation of great work, tons of perks). I could not have asked for more. 

2000: The fall 

The recession then hit and man oh man, did the atmosphere on campus and across the city change. One by one, the companies started cancelling offers that they had made and / or indefinitely deferring the joining or in some cases suggested trainings and courses that we could take up (to skill ourselves up). Thanks for the advice, that's so kind of you, we all thought.

Back to my story, Lucent was at least clear in their thought process and cancelled its offer outright and well ahead of the others. Along with the nice letter intimating us about their decision due to changed circumstances, they gave a nice consolation sum. In hind sight, it is indeed funny. I got fired before my first day at work and I got my first severance package (a handy sum at that) without putting an hour of work. Post this experience, I realized that everything in life happens for a reason.  Infosys on the other hand sent a vague "joining date deferred" letter and left us on tenterhooks for nearly 8-10 months and for some of my friends, well over 15-16 months. We did receive a few more nicely crafted letters from their HR team every 2-3 months and kept us all hopeful. The offer finally came and while we were doing something productive in the time, many of us were happy to finally start our careers off or give it a boost. While there was a lot of bitterness about the whole affair, some of the bitterness came from the high pedestal Infosys and NRN was placed on by all and sundry including parents, uncles and aunts. Don't get me wrong. Infosys was an amazing experience for me. I spent the more time in Infosys than in any other company including my own company where we are nearing the 5 year mark. I made the best friends there and also learnt so much there that I have no regrets about losing 8-10 months. Like I said, in the long run, what is a few weeks or months.

NRN and the claims

The bitterness with the founders remains and it just creeps me out when I see the same founders of Infosys preaching about how they are holier than the rest. NRN in this article talking about what happened in 2001 says "Let me give you example of Infosys itself. When the market became very tough and it shrank actually in 2001. We all sat together with senior management and then we said: look let us make some sacrifice and ensure that we protect the jobs of youngsters. That time we had offered jobs to 1,500 engineers. Several companies were postponing the joining day. We said let us not do that, let us demonstrate the commitment to youngsters by senior people taking some salary cuts based on the disposable income as we go down the hierarchy and welcome those 1,500 engineers.”

Mr. Narayana Murthy is an honest soul and about that, I have no doubt. But then, unless I imagined what happened to me and 1000+ other friends in 2001-02, his recollection of the 2001-02 treatment that Infosys delivered to us and my own recollection is just poles apart. I'd love to know if it was just a honest mistake or was he misled into believing this is how it happened. You can forgive him for believing the stories spun by his and Infosys’ PR machinery as the holy grail.

My respect for him will go up manifold if he admits that he got his facts wrong. I do respect him, Nandan and others a great deal despite what we personally went through for he and his Co-Founders really showed us first time entrepreneurs the way and helped build that dream of starting something on our own.

Since it's already quite a long post, I'll hold off on my "own experiences as an employer" for another post.

Coming Up: The Bad and the Ugly - My experiences with letting people go and why that is necessary!

About the Author: 
Randhir Hebbar is one of the founders of Convergytics - a bespoke analytics consulting firm and is a leading tech entrepreneur who has worked with companies like Mu Sigma, Dell and Infosys Technologies Ltd. He has consulted with many large retailers, technology companies and telecom companies and is a highly regarded digital analytics consultant. He has spent over 17 years in the IT / ITES industry both as an employee and as an employer and loves nothing more than spending time with employees working with them to make a bigger impact on clients.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hospitalforsalelease.com - A new and innovative platform

What started off as a small project for Convergytics a few months ago has been a fun ride so far. We became good friends and I built a close and strong bond with Amrit Pal Singh - the CEO and Founder of Hospitalforsalelease.com. He's a really motivated and smart individual who totally believes in the concept of buying hospitals and selling hospitals made easy and that in turn helping turnaround many a distress hospital and in turn making life easier for Patients and Doctors alike. 

Is there a huge market for it? The number of people who've registered already in the first 3 months (even before launch) tells me there is surely a demand for such a platform (at least on the side of hospitals). What sort of pivot will be necessary to make this platform work for Hospitals and Investors is still open for consideration (depending on how well the launch goes) and I have been advising the HFSL Team on and off on how it can succeed and the digital analytics team at Convergytics is excited to be working closely with the HFSL Team.

All the very best to Amrit and the Hospital For Sale Lease Team as it gets prepared for a grand launch in Feb-Mar 2017! If you are a doctor or want to invest in hospitals, please do check out the site, register online and share with friends & family who might benefit from this.

If you have any feedback on the concept or want to get in touch, please use the contact us form at HospitalForSaleLease.com or drop me a message and I'll put you in touch with Amrit himself.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Results of Bommanahalli election and what next?

The results from Bommanhalli (see link) show the obvious fact that we (Yogesh and all of us who fought it together with him even if some of us with limited commitment due to personal constraints) lost the election. We lost and so did for now, the hope for good clean politics. But, while it is a small battle lost, let's not lose hope and continue to focus on the bigger war ahead. Between Yogesh Devaraj and Ashwin Mahesh, there were 15K people in Bommanahalli (or around 10% of electorate) who voted for Clean Politics. Hopefully many more thought about voting for them, but decided against considering the enemy (greater evil in their eyes) that they wanted to defeat (Congress, BJP).

While both had issues with the way each other's campaign & why we were working against each other, the promise that both made were very similar: Greater empowerment of citizens, clean governance, zero corruption, prioritizing and focus on solving people's problems instead of filling their own bank lockers and many more and nearly 10% of the electorate has responded and many more were denied the opportunity to express themselves by missing names on electoral rolls, incorrect information of booths, misleading of educated people who came out to vote (similar to attempts with misleading me and Bhagyasri Hebbar). In addition, the over 500ppl arrested for attempting to cast fake votes means that a % of the 80+60K votes that Congress & BJP polled might also have been fake (we'll never know for sure). Last but not the least, this is the story in every constituency. A LSP candidate in my constituency polled over 6K votes, many others polled between 6-12K votes and it is more often than not close to 8-10% of the votes polled.

So, what this means is good clean politics does have a chance. I know most of my colleagues at work don't even have a voter id OR atleast don't go out and vote. But the good thing is that some OR most of them because of me atleast started talking politics. I might be the taboo to some at work today because I went out and openly became a part of politics ... but hopefully, things will change and people who don't participate in politics will one day be a taboo.

And that's also probably the case in 100s of companies around Bangalore. So, if all of them get registered by the time of the next parliamentary elections and even if a small portion of us go out and actively participate in the election process by even just talking to people in our neighbourhood and most importantly, the EC can find a way to eliminate fake/bogus voting completely OR atleast to a large extent, the next election is going to be a close fight and the one after (Municipal elections 2015) will be a cake walk for good clean politics. Let us all work together by associating ourselves with the cleaner parties (AAP, LSP and others) even if you can spend just 2-3 hours per week and continuing this fight onwards towards zero corruption and good governance.

If you want to start this weekend, there is an AAP meeting (https://www.facebook.com/events/431688986927365/?ref=2) that I might try and attend (not sure yet). Ping me or Drop in a comment and I can ask some of my friends to connect to you. Of course, this does not mean I am joining AAP. I have a lot of questions & concerns about AAP including why they chose not to contest this election - but will never know unless I engage with them and some of the other parties.

More about some of these candidates I spoke about at:

PS1: In addition, let's be fair to this campaign and not judge this by the number of votes cast in his favor. We reached over 25K houses door-to-door without doing a big rally of any sort (maybe that was something that could have helped get some belief in his winnability - kind of sad if that's the case considering all of us get irritated by the traffic jams and noise pollution they cause), helped over 4-5K people register (it does look like many either failed to get the voter ids, did not receive it in time OR didn't get the intimation that they could vote with just an EPIC#), reached over 100K people per week on FB (especially in the last two weeks incl. of course people from outside Bommanahalli & well-wishers of Yogesh). Everywhere we went, people responded favorably and expressed the need for such people to come out. We just need more structured build of this rather than reactions such as nothing will happen, we are bound to suffer corrupt politicians, etc.

PS2: Afterthought, while the BJP and Congress have money and muscle power that enables their wins, what they also have is a strong committed group of party workers at the street level and while they themselves with their family not only vote for their party candidate, they are also empowered to solve problems (as heard from certain friends). i.e. If any citizen faces a problem, the citizen reaches out to the party worker in the street and he will call the MLA to get the problem solved (calling police, getting a water tanker, getting a road done, etc). Interesting similarity to a Ward Committee of sorts that all the new politicians are talking about and in a way, becoming the eyes and earls of the leader. The difference is obviously a centrally elected representative instead of the local party worker. Some might say, not much of a difference. Definitely does mean that, for good politics to succeed, we need people coming out in every street and spreading the word, working for the good. All of us should do that, even if it means a few hours a week only OR even to start with, a few hours every month. Almost like your CSR activity for the quarter. What say, folks? :-)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

B.PAC - Not a great start

A few friends asked me why Yogesh didn't get endorsed by B.PAC and many more probably wondered about that. You go to the B.PAC FB page and read the comments and you'll learn of lots of idiosyncracies in their list of 14 that they endorsed: Virtual greenhorns with no background of service (only claim to fame being that she campaigned for one of the B.PAC Core Committee members Ashwin Mahesh in his last campaign for MLC election), Candidates from mainstream parties with complaints pending against them (Krishna Byre Gowda - see link in image, Tejaswini Gowda - as seen in one of the comments, Ashwin Mahesh - click on http://myneta.info/karnataka2013/index.php?action=show_candidates&constituency_id=54), Two candidates in some constituencies but not in others where there are good candidates.
Edit: B.PAC has clarified that the complaint against Ashwin is that of a defamation case filed while he was an editor of a magazine. There are other improprieties he is a part off. But, let's leave out the criminal case for now.

B.PAC's response is that we went through a thorough process. A process doesn't become thorough by saying that you are thorough. And what about Agenda for Bangalore being endorsed by candidates from parties which doesn't endorse it. They will easily sit behind the excuse of the party to do nothing. The only ones who got unlucky are people who didn't care enough to speak to them, didn't know them personally OR those who didn't realize that saying the right things was what mattered.Having said all this, it could have been a great initiative if the execution was correct.

On the why was Yogesh not endorsed question, we knew all along that Yogesh would not get the nod ahead of Ashwin Mahesh (considering that he was on the core committee) and actually attended several B.PAC meetings (including the inauguration) as well as featured on the B.PAC homepage till recently. Per a tweet from one of the people in B.PAC, he resigned after he filed his nomination. That is a good 3 months after he started his campaign and also several months after he became president of Loksatta Party. Does reek of gross impropriety (using a position in a neutral forum to favor yourself)? And being a part of Yogesh's campaign over the past 6 weeks, I know some of the things that Ashwin and his team have stooped to during this campaign (spreading lies, spamming folks, volunteers posting on different forum recommending Ashwin without as much as a disclosure, etc) that it doesn't surprise me at all that he might have used some of his friends to get together to endorse him and a few of his party members under the guise of a neutral initiative.

Isn't this like maybe a Congress Party getting 3-4 of its promoters to form a so-called neutral governance improvement initiative and just before the elections use that forum to promote some of its candidates? How is this different?

A few friends who volunteered for B.PAC and took part in some of their activities earlier have started showing their frustration on the forum. This definitely could have been avoided if 
1) They asked Ashwin to resign from B.PAC and avoided all references to him after he officially joined politics as president of a party (especially)
2) They were more open about how they chose candidates and why they chose multiple candidates in some constituencies and not in others. If splitting votes is a problem in one constituency, it is a pain in other constituencies too, isn't it?

PS: Subsequent to this reaction, B.PAC has now come back asking other candidates to request them to consider them now. Isn't that a little too late? And will they drop the names on whom criminal cases have been found OR other better candidates were found. Question will remain.

PS2 (update on 5/2 at 11:15pm) : Two days after Yogesh submitted his credentials of over 18 years of volunteering under various groups part-time, his last 3 years of full-time service under IAC, AAP, Corruption Saaku, BANA and other initiatives after he quit his job to go into full-time public service and how he was aligned to B.PAC's AfB and there's not as much of an e-mail acknowledging the receipt and no-one receives the phone. Again, looks very convenient to favoring their favorite. Maybe, they plan to endorse Yogesh after May 5th and say "Oops sorry, we were busy organizing events for Ashwin Mahesh and others". :-) I personally have lost all respect for M.D.Pai and all the others with all of the above events. I am sure he and his group don't care about my one voice. But, I will make sure I tell everyone who'll listen about what I feel are the true colors of B.PAC.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A super campaign day for Yogesh and the Team ...

I spent the entire day (a holiday and the festival of Ugadi at that) campaigning on the ground for Yogesh Devaraj in and around Arekere with a team of 10-12 committed volunteers (all doing it just because they believe in Yogesh and his commitment for changing the system & of course changing people's belief in their ability to change the system one person/voter at a time).

Two things that stood out after a long and tiring day ... the hope that the poor and quite a few of the middle class still have for change and their needs are very very basic (Water, Roads, Drainage, Better education and Get my son a job) and the apathy among some of the apartment dwellers (some of them claiming to have a voter id in their home town) while almost scolding us saying "Why didn't you come earlier, you could have got us a Voter ID card and we would have voted for you". While it is sad that people expect to be spoon-fed into doing their most basic duty to the nation,, one thought in hind-sight was if ONLY our campaign had started a few weeks earlier, we really could have if nothing helped bring up the voting % by another 5-10%.

All in all a super campaign day ... the team met probably a record number of people today and also got a record number & % of "Yes, we will definitely vote for you". Surprisingly, among even the poorer class of people who said almost every time, we have realized that selling our vote for a few 1000 Rs. is hurting us. We will never do it again". There were a handful of jerks who said, "I have 100/150 votes, how much will you pay". We responded with lines like "Is that what your children's future is worth?", "God save you", "He'll give you 1000 and make sure that you end up spending 5000 or even 50000 more over the five year term for Water, Electricity, Travel from one place to another and for your child's education", "Keep getting fooled" and so on and so forth.

On the positive side, we also heard several people say, "I/my family/my extended family of 20+ have been voting for BJP/Congress for the last god knows how many years. Now, we have had enough of it. Thanks for coming today and giving us hope. We will definitely vote for Yogesh." And as the buzz gets stronger and stronger and spreads across wards, any fears that people have that my vote will go waste is slowly and surely going away.

Yogesh is sure to make an impact and the best testimony to that is some so-called good parties starting a dirty game of spreading lies about Yogesh (again revealed because they happened to say the same lies to a friend of Yogesh that we met) and also spreading cleverly written propaganda (read lies) about them being supported by AAP, establishing cheap alliances with mainstream political parties with a record of corruption, violence and no match in ideology OR reason for doing so. Come on, guys. What is the difference between you and the Congress and BJP now if you will do all this to try and get a few more votes?

Anyway, to end this on a happy note, I will share what Yogesh said to us during the break. I will never stoop down to that level even if I lose this election because of not doing so. Because, I am thinking long-term and the cause of cleaning up politics and governance in India. I don't want people to lose hope that there are good people in politics. And people will see through their lies & cheap tricks either today OR some day when word gets around and they will lose out their place in this campaign for cleaning up politics sooner rather than later. The crusade will go on.

Read more about Yogesh at www.vote4yogesh.org and his Facebook page. Please like and share his page with friends and do try and see if you can join one of his Weekend campaigns (one contact with him and your belief in the possibility of CHANGE will definitely increase). You can enroll for one of the campaigns by calling Yogesh on his personal no. 94803.25600