Archive for the ‘My Experiences’ category

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0115

August 2, 2015

First blog of the year?

It is a sad moment for me to start my first blog of the year with news of passing away of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. There was a flurry of condolence messages and remembrances of this great personality in the news and social media for the past one week or so. Lot has been said about this great man and hence I will not repeat any of those here. The bodily Abdul Kalam has left us but his vision and teachings will ever remain eternal. I want my readers to focus on one thing he wanted from all of us – to be Unique. I quote from one of his speeches which has remained with me forever.

 

Quote:

The question is: are you willing to become a unique personality? Let me share an experience.

I have, so far, met 12 million youth in India and abroad, in a decade’s time. I learnt, “every youth wants to be unique, that is, YOU! But the world all around you, is doing its best, day and night, to make you just “everybody else”.

The challenge, my young friends, is that you have to fight the hardest battle, which any human being can ever imagine to fight; and never stop fighting until you arrive at your destined place, that is, a UNIQUE YOU! Friends what will be your tools to fight this battle. There are four criteria for building a unique personality, what are they: have a great aim in life, continuously acquire the knowledge, work hard and persevere to realize the great achievement.”

 

 

If you want to further get inspired by him, please read his book” You are unique” written and published in 2012.

 

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I remain greatly inspired by Denis Waitely, who, in his book titled “Empires of the Mind” talks about “what worked yesterday, won’t work today”. Again, it was Dr Abdul Kalam who inspired me to read this. I have quoted a few below with my own modifications for my readers to ponder on what works today may not work tomorrow. So are you thinking about this?

 

  1. Yesterday – natural resources defined power. Today – knowledge is power ( when shared)
  2. Yesterday – Hierarchy was the mode. Today- synergy is the mandate (move away from ‘me’ to “We”)
  3. Yesterday – leaders commanded and controlled. Today – leaders empower and coach (they are facilitators- leaders would lead by asking thought provoking questions)
  4. Yesterday – shareholders came first. Today – customers come first (they will be everything)
  5. Yesterday – employees took order. Today – teams make decisions (supervisors will vanish)
  6. Yesterday – seniority signified status. Today – creativity drives status (innovation will be your daily agenda)
  7. Yesterday – production determined availability. Today – quality is the key (innovate or perish)
  8. Yesterday – value was extra. Today – value is everything (keep adding value)
  9. Yesterday – profits were earned through expediency. Today – Work with integrity and succeed with integrity (integrity will improve sustainability)

 

Get bored and start thinking

 

Two months back I went to an eye doctor to check my vision and was made to wait for almost an hour. What did I do? I put on my blue tooth speaker and started listening to music and at the same time started surfing internet, following people on FB and intermittently replying to “Whatsapp”. Did I get bored? Absolutely not! I go back to the 80’s and was playing back what I did waiting for an appointment. Scan around and get fixated on a dull wall calendar or make faces expressing one’s boredom and hoping that receptionist will get the message and call you quickly. Did I get bored? (Rhetoric). Of course, nobody likes to be bored but by avoiding the chance of getting bored, we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process. Those days waiting for an appointment, since there is nothing much to do, you will pay attention to various thoughts coming to you in that empty time space… which was an escape from day to day happening. Today I have no escape until I consciously create one for myself.

In order to focus, we need to escape to focus. Get inspired by Bill Gates, takes a week off twice a year from his busy schedule just to think and read. He has consistently done this for the past three decades. You need those escape and think. Let me announce to all that I am going to follow this from this year. Since I have lost first six months of the year.. I will have one week off just for reading this year. What are you waiting for?

Date literally

As some of you know, Courtyard Marriott at Secaucus was my 2nd home for the past couple of years. Naturally, I was known to most house staff at this hotel. One of the receptionists always taunted me by asking for a date whenever I was getting out of the hotel on weekends. In one such occasion I told her that she will have a date during my next visit. So when she spotted me in the next visit… she reminded my promise of a date. I said “give me a moment” and rushed back to my room and brought a packet of Arabian dates and gave it to her. I said to her “I have kept my promise of giving you a date”. It was an experience to see the various emotions from her face but sportingly she said “Mr Suresh you are smart”.

Dessert

 

Imagination leads to creativity

Creativity blossoms thinking

Thinking provides knowledge

Knowledge makes you great ( of course when you share it)

I promise that I will write more frequently in 2015 as compared to 2014- With that promise I bid good bye with my usual signature “Life is Good”.

PS: Another promised fulfilled as this blog is only 1000 words.

 

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 1214

December 30, 2014

Last blog of the year?

People who are following my blogs must have noticed that my blogs 0714 to 1114 has gone missing. I was tempted to write on few topics and even had a sketch and outline on what I wanted to write but did not follow through as I thought those topics would create controversy in my social and professional circle and therefore reserved it for better and appropriate time. I am sure this is sounding curious and this will raise many thoughts on what those topics could be. Have patience it will be pressed (sic) sooner than later. I did not want to give a simple explanation for my disappearance such as “I went on sabbatical”.

Another year has come to an end and like any other year this year has been different in many ways. Couple of thought provoking events that stand out, from my perspective, which we need to be aware and conscious of

  1. Disappearance of three Aircrafts  this year – Is this a noise or a signal
  2. Uber rising to fame – Can the disruptive idea/model be copied in other businesses (albeit recent  bad publicity)
  3. New way of terrorist thinking- Recent attacks on school Children in Pakistan.

As you stay with these thoughts, I will write more on these topics in 2015.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Back to the future

In early 80’s, an ordinary movie ticket used to cost RS 4( 50 cents)   and  Coke or its substitute was around Re 1 per 200 ml ( 12 cents based on exchange rate prevailing in those days). As the years progressed invention of VHS and mushrooming of cable television made access to movie very easy. Many liked the concept of viewing movie in the comfort of their drawing room or bedroom. Further invention of DVD made the quality of viewing better. The digital content also posed a big challenge to anti- piracy. Many theatres in US went bankrupt and people seriously questioned the survival of movie industry. Few television movies and success of soap operas added fuel to the fire. In India the concept of multiplex was at nascent stage (one could spot few in Chennai but not in other cities) and no business was willing to invest on a sunset industry.

Fast forward to present

Transformers: Age of extinction grossed over a billion dollar in 2014. Iron Man 3 grossed a similar amount in 2013. Avatar was the highest revenue earner with $2,7 billion in 2004. Coming to Bollywood, PK an Indian movie grossed around $36 million in 11 days.  Lingga, a regional Indian movie, has grossed $6 million in first six days.

What has changed since 1980? An industry once categorized as sunset started grossing billions of dollars in revenue? Take a guess – to me it is a four letter word. Don’t let your imagination get wild as I was referring to IMAX.

IMAX story:

IMAX is about filming in IMAX cameras and using a different film print as compared to normal print and projecting them in a curved screen that gave a unique viewing experience. The initial experiment of projecting a movie was confined to museums showing natural documentaries as the proposition was simple and less expensive. In 90’s it started licensing its technology to its theatres. This meant an investment of around $ 5million to create space for projection and cost of projector (as normal projector can’t process IMAX format). This was seen as expensive given that the movie industry was seen as sinking. Further, in the pre-digital era, IMAX version of the film print was $30,000 as compared to $1,000 for a normal print. An IMAX print was bulky and it needed extra efforts to lift to the projection room. All these factors made things difficult for IMAX. IMAX also tried producing their own movie using IMAX cameras but the venture was not that successful. Although, everyone acknowledged that IMAX experience was much better than normal theatre experience, the cost and the effort was not worth it even though the initial investment got reduced from $5 million to $1.2 million.

In early 2000, the company took the strategy of installing IMAX projection free of cost and let the theatres deal with the cost of renovating the space (which was roughly 10% of initial investment). In return, IMAX received 12.5% as revenue share for providing the projectors. The theatres could charge at least 20% more on IMAX format of the movie. Further, another technology breakthrough of converting existing movies to IMAX format helped them to make a dent in their market share. But these were not sufficient reason for them to celebrate as their main goal was changing the way Hollywood was producing pictures using IMAX technology and giving differential experience.

They continued to struggle as there were still not enough believers in investing in IMAX. Changing the Hollywood way of doing business over 100 years was another barrier. No bankers came forward to give them line of credit and shares were traded at paltry 55 cents and effort for LBO failed miserably. Mid 2000 was sternest test for IMAX leadership in keeping the morale and motivation of their employees high.

In 2006 another technology breakthrough of replacing their projectors with a plug and play hard drives (costing $150) helped them install in more theatres. In the next few years network of IMAX screens grew from some 350 to 700.

Eventually, their perseverance and new business model of revenue share ( 20% to IMAX) paid off in 2009 with the release of Avatar in IMAX screens. IMAX made $250 million dollar in revenue. It was a win-win situation as theatres could charge premium on tickets for IMAX version and shared portion of that to IMAX. Currently IMAX is adding some 100-150 screens every year and has penetrated various geographies.

Today the stock price is hovering around $30 per share ( as compared to 55 cents few years ago) You can make an impactful change in the industry you are operating with and its reported revenue is close to $300 million in 2014.

You can make impactful change in the industry you are operating by remaining flexible on your business model and keep innovating. The company took several wrong turns before navigating into the right path. So my recommendation is to keep plan B and C handy to change over quickly

By the way, today in a normal theatre a movie ticket would cost you RS 100( $1.40 cents) and IMAX Rs 250 ( $4) and bottle of coke costs approx. Rs 12 (20 cents)  for 200 ml. Coke price increased by 60% over three decades whereas movie tickets increased three fold( all in dollar terms)  Who would have predicted this two decades ago.

Dessert

“Change your thoughts and you change your world” – Norman Vincent Peale

I promise that I will write more frequently in 2015 as compared to 2014. With that promise I bid good bye with my usual signature “Life is Good”.

PS: IMAX is thinking of coming out with affordable home theatre. Will this create an impact on the theatres? Take a guess.

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0614

October 4, 2014

What is Design thinking?

In my last blog I talked about Design thinking and I promised more on this subject. When I was growing, my parents wanted me to develop the habit of saving by asking me to put coins or notes in a small earthen pot with a hole. Whenever we get money by way of pocket money or gifts from relatives and friends, we were encouraged to put money into the earthen pot (which is called Piggy bank in the Western world – it has nothing to do with the animal Pig although it is shaped like pig as etymologically it also means earthenware). The Piggy bank was a great tool to save as people used it in different way viz put money daily or put in leftover change after shopping, etc. However, when the technology advanced to plastic money the concept of Piggy bank slowly started disappearing. The question is how do we bring the Piggy bank concept to the modern world. How do we create the technology to support an observed behaviour or habit? One of the Banks extended this concept in their debit card account. The customers who use their debit cards to make purchases can choose to have the total rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference deposited in their savings account. This was the birth of electronic piggy bank. Few others leveraged this idea to promote donation by asking to round off the dollar to a charitable fund or trust. The key to the concept is that innovation or creativity is powered by a good understanding of what people want through direct observation. Now having grounded you with the concept, here is a test for my readers. Go through my experiences and suggest a good design to improve services in restaurants.

Show me the way!

Scene 1: On 18th September, 2014, I missed my early morning flight from Toronto to Newark and had to spend more time in the Airport until my next flight could depart. I walked past the waiting area and was heading towards a small coffee shop and observed tables with Ipads. I assumed that these were kept for people to browse internet and check their e-mails. My immediate thought was centered on the technology progress we had made moving away from desktop browsing to Ipad browsing in public place. I needed a shot of caffeine to boost my thought process and so I approached the coffee shop and asked for a cappuccino. Lo and behold, what the person on the counter mentioned was a pleasant surprise. He pointed to the seating area and said you can place the order through Ipads, which were placed in each of the tables. Next to the Ipads were credit card swiping machine (which I failed to notice earlier) to facilitate payments. I quickly ordered a Cappuccino and used my credit card to pay for the transaction and within three minutes one of the staff served me what I ordered.

Scene 2: On 27th September, 2008, during my visit to Jakarta, my close friend Shahul Hameed invited me to have dinner with his family at Saravana Bhavan (not sure if this is owned by the Chennai chain). What impressed me in the restaurant was that the waiters had a PDA in their hands and were taking order and relaying the information to the kitchen. Once we finished dinner, the payment was also done through the PDA.

Scene 3: It was 4th September, 2010, and I was treating my wife to an anniversary dinner at a Bangalore restaurant which is reputed for its good food. We were seated in a comfortable table but it took a while for someone to show up and take our order. Any wait is frustrating these days and I was telling my wife about an idea which occurred at that moment. Instead of sending someone to take an order, I quipped that a device in the table should take the order and convey to the kitchen. This was really not a novel idea as it was a modified version of what I saw in 2008 in Jakarta. I did not think this would be a reality until I experienced it in Toronto airport.

Scene 4:On 2nd September, 2014, I went to Mas Malo at LA for lunch with my wife and a beautiful lady walked towards our table and gave us a Menu card and was guiding us in navigating through the dishes in a pleasant manner. It took me a while for me to believe that she was a waitress employed by the restaurant. I whispered to my wife “why is she here? She should be a model or actress”. Of course, my wife had a typical reaction like any wife would do which is to focus my attention on food and not on the bearer of the food. However, my earlier thought of having a device in each table disappeared quickly and immediately concluded that it was a stupid idea. Really!!!

If you have to design a service model for restaurants, what would be your design? My answer will be posted in my next blog with more emphasis on further design thinking. Please do respond with your answers.

Dessert

Minds are like parachutes; they only function when open. With those thoughts I sign off with my usual signature “Life is Beautiful”

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0514

September 21, 2014

Everything has changed, is changing, and will continue to change ?

Lot of people would have seen the change “Uber” has brought to ground transportation. The idea was conceived by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick in 2009 and implemented in Los Angles around 2010. In four years the company has operations in 45 countries and is valued at $15 billion. Travis wanted to ride in style which resulted in the realization of this concept. I can very well relate to this as recently, I was waiting with my wife outside one of the fancy restaurants in LA and a stylish black car pulled to the kerb side to pick us up. Not sure how many people, witnessing this were aware that it was a car I booked through Uber.

The concept is very simple. One pre requisite is that both driver and customer need to download “Uber” app which is an enabling technology. If you have a decent car, you can register yourself as a service provider with Uber. Uber will send you a message as and when the demand arises in your vicinity and you can accept that offer. As a customer or user you need to register yourself by securing your credit card information. If your car is travelling beyond 18 per hour then you are charged on distance but when the speed drops below that you are charged on time meter. It is very convenient and cheaper. I have become a fan of Uber and have started using this for my office airport pick up and drop in NJ. The cost of travel to Newark airport works out to $35 whereas with toll and tip, a normal cab used to cost me ( my firm) something like $55-60. You need not tip the driver and they encourage cash less transaction. However, once the trip is completed you have the opportunity to rate the driver. The driver’s continuance with Uber is dependent on their rating.

When I use Uber, I often engage in conversation with the driver as they appear professional and knowledgeable ( maybe I am profiling here). One of the drivers gave me useful information that even the customers are rated by the drivers. On probing further, he said the drivers usually rate the customers based on their conduct and their friendliness. Another fact I was made aware was that if a customer keeps ordering and cancelling, their rating goes down. I asked him what the relevance of customer rating is. He replied that if a customer had low rating, then not many drivers would come forward to pick them. This was useful information. My behaviour with Uber changed significantly thereafter. Once I order Uber, I will call them greet them and give them the exact location so that they don’t have to search. Why do I do this? To get a good rating and be eligible for further usage and saving cost for myself and the firm. A great example of how behaviour changes once you know that you are being measured.

 Food for thought: How about asking all your direct reportees to rate you as a boss and see the true meaning of “Servant Leadership”
The reason I am so fascinated by this concept is because it generates employment, brings structural changes to ground transportation and is a great example of how ‘crowd sourcing’ can be executed. Imagine we had similar apps for many of our needs such as cooking. You want to throw a barbecue party, search which chef is available, see his/her rating, costs and request their services at short notice. This concept is a great boon for all free lancers in whichever areas of expertise they practice.
I certainly see a big transformation ahead of us based on this concept. Do you see as well?

Design is closed, Long live the Design !

I am currently in a project where the Project leadership declared that the ‘Design is Closed’ which kept me wondering is Design, as a term not future continuous? How can you ever close a design? You can stage or pause it for its realization but Design can never be closed. I am great believer in continuous “Design Thinking”. One of the definition that caught my attention which I quote “Design thinking is the search for a magical balance between business and art; structure and chaos; intuition and logic; concept and execution; playfulness and formality; and control and empowerment.”
It is not an experiment; it encourages us to experiment. An organization that promotes ‘Design thinking” will always be ahead of the competition and one that maintains status quo will perish soon.
I used to be proud of my typing skills using a qwerty key board either in desktop or laptop with advent of tablets and Phablets, I have to unlearn and relearn my typing skills. What was the core strength yesterday could be your weakness today and therefore, every organization and individual need to reinvent themselves constantly. This is where the tool of design thinking comes handy. Expect more on the topic of ‘Design thinking’ in my future blogs.

Dessert

When you buy a product what do you look at? I am sure you look at the functionality and configuration of the product but more importantly you buy because of the manufacturer and associated quality that comes with the brand. People decide to buy Nikon or Cannon camera because they have confidence in the brand creators. But we don’t use the same yard stick when we evaluate our potential. God or the creator has created man who in turn created or innovated beautiful things in this world. So how can we not trust the creator of creators of these products. So have trust in the creator. God has not created you to do ordinary things in life. If Pawn in chess can invoke a powerful queen, I am sure you can unleash your potential. With those thoughts I sign off with my usual signature “Life is Beautiful”
PS: I forgot to tell you that whatever savings I achieved by using Uber was treated as allocable surplus by my wife towards shopping. Can I ever complain?

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0414

May 25, 2014

Is India Inc finally getting out of family (sic) politics ?
My last blog was one of my rare political blog and was thrilled with some of my desires coming true. So I thought of venturing into writing my second political blog and wanted to see the outcome. When this blog hits the web, India would be ready to embrace a new PM and refreshingly the country has a given their mandate to one single party. This has not happened in the past two decades as the outcome in previous elections was either fractured majority or coalition comprised with vested interest of regional parties.
Another outcome of the election is that political parties ruled by the family has been heavily punished. Nationwide congress party controlled by Gandhi family (mother and son) had to bite the dust. In other states viz Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Tamil Nadu, three different political parties controlled by father and son combination have been decimated. This is no coincidence and do not treat this as noise but certainly a signal. Unfortunately, the parties have not learnt from it as no heads have rolled nor the families have taken responsibility for their defeats. Does this surprise anyone?
My unsolicited advice to Congress party and other parties controlled by family: Wake up! The writing is on the wall. I suggest that the family members resign from their party posts and let the party be taken over by efficient talent. This election has clearly taught the political parties one lesson which is ‘reward for performance’. Mr Modi, who led the campaign of BJP was rewarded for good governance in Gujarat.
Some initial indication leads me to believe that Modi is going to perform. He clearly sent a message in his acceptance speech by asking his party men to focus on serving the nation rather than positions. His emotional speech was pointer that he will empathize with poor people and take appropriate actions to lift their lives. He did surprise many people by inviting heads of state of all neighbouring countries including Pakistan. He did not worry about opposition from his own alliance partner for inviting Srilankan Prime Minister. In fact his invitation to Sri Lanka’s PM resulted in counter good gesture from Sri Lanka of freeing of few hundreds of Tamil fisherman. Like a typical corporate CEO, he has asked all the cabinet secretaries to give a presentation about their vision for the next five years. If this trend continues, he will surely create a reputation of zero tolerance for nonsense and reward for performance.
Mr Modi if would benefit from roping in Dr Manmohan Singh as one of economic advisor as I feel that this man has lot to offer and Congress Party made him ineffective. I still can’t forget how he turned around the financials of the country between 1991 and 1995. He deserves some respect and dignity.

Lastly, one advise on the newly formed AAP (common man party), who failed miserably in the election, please use this as a learning lessons and build the trust of people. Please do not indulge in dramatics and antics as these neither help you to build trust or win elections. Take the first opportunity to guide your leader to refrain from such antics. Yes I am referring to his recent act of not providing bail on defamation case (bail amount $150) and volunteering to go to jail. Indians will appreciate you going to jail for a good cause such as fighting against corruption but not when you call someone a thief and fail to provide adequate proof.
Enough of politics and let me switch to other things as I promise not to write on politics for an undefined period of time.
How silly is your idea?
Benjamin Franklin said ‘I have not failed; I’ve had 10,000 ideas that did not work.’ Thomas Edison said ‘Of the 200 bulbs that did not work, every failure told me something that I was able to incorporate into the next attempt.’ Be bold in your ideas and remove your mental blocks. Here is the test for you all. Come up with a name for a new wine that will be launched in the market next week. Stop here and take a moment to come up with the name you believe will be a top seller.
Start being wrong and then you will realize that anything is possible. The common mistake people is that they want their idea to be accepted at the first go. There is often a fear of failure while articulating an idea but the success of idea getting realized is in the belief that you are not trying to be perfect or infallible.
By the way “Fat bastard” Chardonnay is the name of the wine which became famous in just six years. Did you measure up with this silly name? I rest my case here.
Dessert
If you are fired from your job, do not worry as these are seen as sign of initiative these days. Getting fired often means that you at odds (due to your action) with your company. I know a person who got fired three times and every time there was a progress in his career. So give yourself a spin and re-launch your career. With those fearless thoughts, I bid you good bye saying “life is beautiful”.

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0314

May 11, 2014

India waiting to be led.

When this blog hits the web, India would have almost finished their 8 phase election spanning over a month. I was not physically close to what happened as I was mostly living outside of India. However, I followed the news through NDTV and Times Now so that I get different perspectives. One thing was clear that it was a fiercely fought battle with lots of accusations and counter accusations. Politicians were slandering and sledging each other which is unfortunate and could have been avoided. India is the largest democracy but not necessarily a very healthy democracy for various reasons.

  • One of the largest party  which ruled majority of the years is dependent on leadership from one family.
  • One of the key opposition parties was banking on Charisma of one person instead of exhibiting pool of leadership talent they possess.
  • The number of regional parties that has emerged over the last two decades is not healthy as it stifles growth and liberalization. No economist would disagree with me that coalition government in Indian context has limitation as regional, religious and caste politics takes precedence over national interests
  • Lastly any new party which throws their hat quickly gets house trained and changes its color within days (yes I am referring to AAP party) – They lost a great opportunity to stand out.

I never state a problem without a solution. Here is my very simple model.

Political reforms:

  • One of the key changes that needs to be carried out is that, only parties with more than 20% seats in the parliament should be represented for national politics. Any party winning less than that should surrender their seats to other parties in proportion of % votes gained. Regional parties can fight state election but need 20% seats in the national assembly to be recognized as national party.
  • Ban politics based on religion (which is dividing the nation) and encourage inclusiveness of all religion. No religion will be treated as minority in the new world as it is a personal preference of an individual. Discourage or ban support institution such as hospitals, universities, schools which has religion bias.

Socio-Economic reforms

  • We are well past 67th year of independence and for historical reasons; we had reservation based on caste. Change that with immediate effect and provide infrastructure and support structure for economically backward people and their regions.

 

Environment reform

In the recent UN report there was a forecast that India will go to war due to climate change. Asia is facing the brunt of climate change and will see severe stress on water resources and food-grain production in the future, increasing the risk of armed conflict among India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.. The report also predicts an increase in extreme weather events, such as last year’s flash floods in Uttarakhand and cyclone Phailin in Odisha, if steps are not taken to control the rise in temperature.

  • Take immediate steps as a national priority to unify all the major rivers in addition to other environmental initiatives.

To me these reforms are precondition and necessary to any good economic model. If we miss these basics, we will continue in our status quo and see history repeating itself.

You must be wondering why I did not touch upon corruption. One of the main causes of rampant corruption is weak government (pulled in different direction by regional parties) and dominance of power by single person. I still believe that Dr Manmohan Singh with executive power backed up by majority would have far better results than what we witnessed.

It was one MK who dreamt of Independence and led the nation in their fight of independence. Here is another MK (nowhere near the calibre of the great man) having a dream for India. Will the nation deliver? Time will say.

Poll prediction and exit polls- Lies, damn lies and poll predictions.

Staying with Indian politics, I was fascinated to see how much importance is paid to these. If any of the poll prediction comes true in Indian context, it is just a coincidence. I fully understand the science, art and algorithms of prediction but fail to understand how much importance it assumes in election prediction. By the way I love the book ‘the signal and the noise ‘written by Nate Silver (became famous through accurate prediction of US election). Any forecast such as weather, currency, stocks have a purpose as it is supposed to serve as input for people to take appropriate action. What am I supposed to do with poll prediction? Go along with the prediction when I vote. How does this help political parties who develop blind spots by believing that they would win the election anyway? What do I do with exit polls when the actual results will be known soon? Why am I against poll prediction and exit polls?

When voting ‘predictability irrationality syndrome” kicks in. Couple of examples: One of my near and dear one was in favour of voting for a national party and was totally against AAP (new kid on the block) but on the day of the election, voted for AAP because the candidate was good. Another friend of mine kept criticizing Congress on corruption but on the day of election voted for congress as it is a secular party. We do not know how our mind will think at the time of pressing the button. Sometimes voting happens by human instincts or peer pressure or other loyalties.

I can boldly predict now that none of the pre poll or exit polls will be accurate and if they are found accurate, it will be by sheer coincidence. It will be funny to see how various channels will defend their prediction with such terminology such as ‘last minute swing’, increased % of votes polled’orregional polarity.

I guess the media is playing with people psychology of wanting to know the unknown. Here is another channel doing its bit. I was also greatly inspired by CNN with their coverage on MH 370 wanting to know the unknown and hats off to them for their perseverance. Even yesterday there was coverage on MH 370 for couple of hours.

Dessert

This is one of my rare political blog but like any other media I wanted higher TRP staying with current topic. I bid you good bye saying “you don’t have to be creative to be creative” and of course “life is beautiful”. By the way my next topic is “ how good you want to be”.

 

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0214- “In God we trust. All others must bring data”

March 17, 2014

If you are reading my blog for the first time, please read my previous ( MELT 0114) blog to get the context and continuity. Let me start my blog with a famous quote “In God we trust. All others must bring data”
Elementary Mr Suresh your topic for next blog is “Big Data” This was the answer I was expecting. Unfortunately no one really predicted this although some were close but not on target (sic).

We did not target your daughter but future moms
Last week I wrote about how a father got upset on Target for sending e-mail promotion for baby cloths to his 16-year-old daughter. “The father visited the store again within a week and met the manager. Here is what transpired
“I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of.” He took a deep breath. “She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”
In some 600 hospitals across the United States, new mothers get gifts from the various companies. Those companies have started a separate division to focus on parents of infants. Procter & Gamble sends gifts to new moms at the hospitals where they deliver the child.
Target thought it was too late to approach in the maternity ward and wanted to predict future moms through their buying patterns. They asked Andrew Pole, a data expert to develop pregnancy prediction algorithms based on certain trends such as buying lotions, unscented soaps, vitamins etc.
Here is the sample of what those analytics did based on buying patterns
Jenny Ward, a twenty-three-year-old bought cocoa butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc, magnesium, and a bright blue rug? The tool predicted that there is 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. Liz Alter, a thirty-five-year-old who purchased five packs of wash cloths, a bottle of “sensitive skin” laundry detergent, baggy jeans, vitamins containing DHA, and a slew of moisturizers? She’s got a 96 percent chance of pregnancy, and she’ll probably give birth in early May. Caitlin Pike, a thirty-nine-year-old in San Francisco who purchased a $ 250 stroller, but nothing else? She’s probably buying for a friend’s baby shower. Besides, her demographic data shows she got divorced two years ago. Amazing isn’t it?
Who is the big brother of the modern world?
We are undergoing a revolution in the way that information about our purchases, our conversations, our social networks, our movements, and even our physical identities are collected, stored, analyzed and used. The immense volume, diversity, velocity, and potential value of data will have profound implications on privacy, the economy, public policy and corporate strategies.
Government collects data for various reasons and so do corporates for improving their market share and profits. Social network collect data to attract advertisements. Imagine the implication where are all data are combined to start predicting and tracking your behavior. This is the big brother of modern world- BIG DATA.

Big Data- What is it
We have been using Data for analytics since ages immemorial so my readers must be wondering what the hype all about is. In the last five decades data have been used for decision making in various terms such as decision support, executive support, online analytical processing, business intelligence and analytics. Typical characteristics of data analytics in the past have been based on sampling, trends and/ or structured data (most often static). Inability to process data faster and judicious allocation of budgets for analytics were limiting factor in leaping to “Big Data” world. . We often heard “Data Costs Money”.
Netflix, Amazon, Google and others have proved through robust analytics that Data costs money but also could make tons of money. Target retail chain in this blog is a classic example of using data to enhance sales and market share. Amazon tries to predict your next purchase based on your shopping history, and gives their recommendation. They are using data although voluminous but mostly generated internally. This is where the shift is happening.
Big Data is much more than this. Typical characteristics of big data are as follows:
1. Large volumes, unstructured, continuous and in multiple formats (texts, pictures, voice)
2. Move away from sample and use whole (all) Data
3. Accept messiness for the reasons mentioned in one and two above
4. More importantly to accept correlation
5. Multiple location of data
Big data comprise of 100 terabytes to petabytes as compared to few terabytes or less in traditional analytics. To give you a feel, if we have to store 100 terabytes in any digital format, it will occupy every inch of the tallest building in the world (somebody prove me wrong here).

What will you do with the big data ? Torture the data until they confess
Ronald Coase said” If you torture the data long enough, it will confess”
An abortion lead to drop in crime rate was the conclusion drawn by the authors of Freakonomics but by a sheer coincidence and not by structured correlation. Now through Big Data we have a tool and methodology to look for other correlation for example drop in prices of condoms or arrival of new birth control pills.
We are living in age of data abundance and business leaders are ready to exploit this abundance and bring transformational change in the way we do business.
Some provocative thought on how data could transform some business
1. Auditing: No more statistical sampling. Audit the whole data as it only takes a fraction of time to process data and throw the deviations. Will auditors be responsible to report on frauds?
2. Human: Resourcing: Use intranet social network (surf through chatting trends) to formulate teams and determine effectiveness of collaboration
3. IT: Instead of reacting to hacking or security breaches how about predicting and preventing it.

What is your new career?
Leaders who took decision on hunch (due to lack of robust analytics) can now dump those hunches and rely on Big Data. What skills they need to develop? Correlate unrelated events as in the future as there are no casual occurrences. As I write this blog, MH 370 disappearance has shaken the world and this can’t be treated as casual or one off occurrence. Big Data is certainly going to take over aviation and military space (countries will now be more willing to share data in this regard to prevent such happening).
If you are young and want to build career, think about learning machine language ( Coursera offers some good on line course for free). As someone said ‘Data Scientist” will be the sexiest job of the future.

Dessert
One blog is not sufficient to write on Big Data and I will be writing more on this and hence watch out in this space. I bid you good bye saying “Data is always predictive” and of course “life is beautiful”.


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