Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Perhaps a Detour, Toyota?

Moving Forward.

Quiet an appealing slogan as long as the arrow is pointing in the right direction. In the case of Toyota, our Asian manufacturing friends, the arrow has been pointing in the wrong direction for a while now. The recent outburst regarding possible ETCS (Electronic Throttle Control System) failure is proving to be pretty detrimental to the image of this super reliable, immigrant favorite, "economic" automotive brand. The problem started when a number of "incidents" got reported to Toyota that their cars were mysteriously accelerating out of control while in drive mode and the driver being unable to control the car, in turn causing bad and even fat accidents.

To prevent stock prices from falling and eyebrows from rising, Toyota brushed these issues under the floor mats (no pun intended) and stated that there was some hardware issue that is being addressed. However, in further scratching the surface it became obvious that these accelerations were indeed pretty mysterious and may have some software issues and glitches which can be equally probable for any Toyota vehicle on the road produced around 2002 to current. It is quiet mind blowing to know that the Quality and Reliability Department (every automaker has one) was unable to pinpoint the cause of the problem initially, and waited until a massive recall had to be issued in order to address the issue.

The question of 'corporate responsiblity' is the most applicable one here. The fact that Toyota has all it's auto defects in a super secretive computer somewhere in Japan with no US access is samuraitastically 'non-global'. Being an international corporation, the limitation of the problem solving department being in only one location in the entire globe seems quiet ironic. Consumers pay thousands of dollars to buy a reliable and safe car for their families and an aggressive accident preventing proactive team is the least that we should expect from our car makers. Sure, government regulatory bodies have a huge role to fulfill as taxpayer salary recipients but at what point do corporations not need to be baby-sat? Isn't moral and ethical responsiblity shirked when millions of dollars of profits are made from sales of a product?

We question the ignorance and ineffectiveness of the government sector, but perhaps a much more responsibility and safety conscientious private sector needs to emerge in exchange of high stock prices. This isn't an issue of domestic or foreign manufacturing, this is an issue of global safety and responsiblity that should have been highlighted in the education coursework for the exectives that board the top selling consumer driven industries.

Maybe Toyota got their own slogan misunderstood; moving forward doesn't have to mean just moving up the profit chart.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Passion or Success?

Interesting topic of discussion - having brought up in America by an Indian Air Force pilot turned perfection-seeking businessman has its perks and discussions. My dad is an extreme overacheiver - by all standards. He runs two independent businesses simultaneously, can fly MIG's, graduated top of his MBA class, got a full ride to any school he ever went to, and was in fact invited to every institution he went to, and he has majored in Physics, Mathematics, Economics, and now Restaurant Management (lol, seriously; although the coursework was 100% practical).

Our discussions stem from a random statement of observation, but lead to debates about the definitive and practical nature of the topic involved. We try to keep it as civil and impersonal as possible, but considering that the topics discussed contain all the ingredients that we are so so passionate about, it does in fact surface some interesting observations and opinions we have about each other and the phenomena in question.

Our most recent (and recently most often) topic of discussion has been putting a good passion to a good professional use. Clearly this has a direct correlation to my leaning career switch from engineering to writing. I have always believed that passion cannot be defined. It's something you feel towards an activity or hobby and you can be either naturally gifted or uselessly horrible, it is nonethless something you truly enjoy and are most comfortable doing. My dad puts forth that no matter what, to some extent you have to be putting your interest to practical use for it to be a true passion.

This is a good stance when given its practicality and nature of my current state, but I still disagree on the count that it defines the intensity of your liking towards the subject. There are millions of people that work in monotone paper pushing jobs just to pay their bills, and they are indeed passionate about something or another. One might be instinctively good at painting or reading or dancing, but just because they might not have a practical use for it yet, doesn't mean that their passion is not valid. There are perhaps some logisitical and reasonable barriers that prohibit them to put this hobby to practical use limiting the applicability to their current professional state.

It cannot be argued that if there is a way for you to convert your passionate hobby to good monetary use, you should pursue it whole-heartedly and aggressively. But aside from the lucky few, most of us have to subside our true passions and resort to logical avenues that can assure job security and a steady income; mostly because that is how success is measured in today's world, and success is more profitable than passion.

The true question when making career decisions and professional choices is to answer what is more important to YOU? Passion or success, because initially, it is not always possible to redeem both at the same time. It takes baby steps in either direction to incorporate both these elements. If you're lucky enough to let success wait its turn, then I would suggest that pursuing that true hobby is a much better route - it makes for less confusion later on when professional and passion fronts are in full swing, and making either choice seems completely unfair to the other.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Got Stress?

If I had to summarize today's surroundings, it would go something like this: fast moving world, fast moving people, fast paced relationships, crash diets,crash dates, crash meetings, email synced blackberries, super crashed wonder the amount of new diseases discovered are growing each year..
I mean where does this insanity finally end? I don't consider myself extremely stressed per se..pretty average "chick"...maybe a little more free spirited than usual, but overall have led an average life..and there are enough pressures in my life to make me go "please everybody just SHUTUP for a second or two (or maybe more depending on the day)"...It's bad enough that now a days just a Bachelor's degree in any discipline won't suffice.. If I could get a dime for everytime I hear "Oh, you've done your engineering, so now what's the next plan of action; higher studies?".. Just stamping on degree after degree buys you some sorts of societal rights of respect and privelege..Oh yes, you are smart after all, not like those underacheivers with just a 'normal' college education...The word "over acheiver" has vanished out of our dictionary these days...You just can't do too much..There is always room for more..and the only way to prove yourself is by continuing to grow through education and making yourself available towards your work and career..What happened to the good ol' simple life...What if I want to just have my family and raise my kids and be happy with a decent paycheck..But then I would be selling myself short..
There are two sides to every coin though (even if it's a trick coin)...Fine, I'll go the career "smart" route...but now what happens to my family priorities? As an Indian girl, if I could get a penny for every time I hear "You must think of marriage now, you are of marrigeable age", I'd be a millionaire!! Marriageable age in Indian culture seems to be right around 25. I mean if you're past that, you're getting really old. I guess we must decide what we want...Independent career driven, education infatuated, self fulfilling-proud-equality-seeking women or well rounded, house duties driven, domesticating house wives..The shadowy area in between is starting to get really really blurry...
For one instance, let's keep the whole "feminine" side out of it. People in general these days are stressed to the nth degree. Education stress, family expectations, societal limitations, traffic laws, civic constraints..We need a breath of fresh air to prioritize and sync our lives to what we really want..I'm not sure I know what I want, but it sure isn't to run around and put out fires for the rest of my life. Can I get an advanced course in Breather for Stressers 101??

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

For Community Profit

“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” This analogy worked for Rohit Sharma, a recent law graduate from Delhi University, who had been exposed to the local laborers’ plight around his neighborhood. An avid member of several NGO’s in his area, he had done his share of not-for-profit work. He wanted a profitable venture that didn’t take up too much of his time while helping the ones truly in need of extra cash. That is when he came up with the idea of a small scale car washing business. Based out of Sector 9 in Rohini, he offers his car washing services to several apartment building residents for a monthly fee of Rs.250 per car. This includes washing and waxing on all days of the month except Sundays and his clientele has grown from a few dozen to a couple hundred in a matter of a few months.
Through this venture he was able to accommodate to his labor needs while still benefiting his employees. The local cycle rickshaw wallas outside his building had been complaining of not making enough money to enroll their kids in schools. He had noticed that they work hard for every rupee they earn, and bingo – he got his labor needs resolved; a win-win situation for both parties. He started with three guys (who complained the most) initially. Since car washing is a bright and early morning affair, their availability wasn’t a problem. The pay was decided not on quantity, but on quality. He openly stated that the pay structure would be based on how well they do the job, not on whether they did the job or not. He also promised them increasing salary as business grew – another motivating factor for them to ensure attention to detail.
Nine months and three hundred cars later, he now employs seven rickshaw wallas, and his business is still growing. He intends to move to other areas within Rohini, expanding his revenue and workforce. Starting with around Rs.2000, he pays his workers up to Rs.5000 a month depending on how business is going. The difference in pay scales is openly discussed and factors on attendance, quality, and “double-work” – that is, once the car is done, it doesn’t need to be looked at over again. Rohit’s business model has been of great help to the local workers and these extra bucks a month mean an extra child being enrolled in school, or someone at home who can now afford regular medical care that was not possible earlier.
Perhaps, the for-profit entities can have a bigger impact than they think. When asked on what drives him for this working model, Rohit says, “Let’s face it, at the end of the day, we all need to have some value to our work. Financial value is the biggest motivating factor, but finding a way to be beneficial to the society around you, now that’s my idea of ‘true value’.”

The Park Bench

Chilly winter evenings or warm summer nights, the combination of good conversation and a comfortable bench midst the breeze at a small park in the local suburban areas of Delhi is a common and familiar sight throughout the city. For thousands of citizens across town, an hour or so they spend each day in the company of old neighbors turned good friends is the one thing that defines normality in their everyday lives. Coming from an independent neighborhood outside of Chicago, this uniformity is truly fascinating. This is the guaranteed one on one interaction that whoever partakes in can use to exchange daily stories, get opinions on important decisions, gossip and exchange laughs. This is also a very simple phenomenon that distinguishes the feel of being part of a community versus an exclusive set of activities that is contained within just one’s home and closed doors.
It is a reminder that what you do, does in fact affect others around you and nothing you do goes unnoticed. Be it the recent wedding arrangement between neighbors, or the new girl in the block that every guy drools over, or the newly wedded bride in the neighborhood who dresses less than traditional. In communities where such an interaction is lacking, there is a sense of belongingness that is absent - the feeling that no matter how happy or dire my current circumstances are, there is nobody outside of the house to share that with.
For so many old retired couples that miss the presence of their loved ones in their homes, walks after dinner with their similar counterparts makes them feel less lonely. For the housewife who feels that she has to refrain from actually voicing her opinions at home, meeting with others in her situation makes her feel less burdened with her own secrets. Delhi is progressing rapidly, and new activities and places are coming up everyday, but the continued existence of parks and fenced gardens can never be replaced with anything more spectacular than the mere idea of their presence. In other parts of the world where an appointment is a pre-requisite to pay a visit and converse, these unsaid and customary meeting places are absent in their culture.
Some locals might view these daily meetings as mildly irritating and a breeding ground for gossip, but when scratched under the surface, they are a representation of the community enveloped lifestyle that is present throughout the country and what foreigners love about India the most. No matter how different we are from one another, there are common threads that bind us together for what we do and the culture we follow. Traditions such as park bench conversations and daily walks give an excuse to come out of your shell, make yourself feel vulnerable without being stripped, and openly understand what’s accepted and expected around you without always having to put yourself on a stage for everyone to judge.