The disastrous impact of meat consumption on human behavior and climate change

The awareness of adverse human impact on nature has only started to grow in earnest in recent times. Many of us were even in denial about human imprints on climate changes till not so long ago. What we are still not completely aware is that our activities are adversely affecting nature in a multitude of ways, each activity is adding to the cumulative effect on nature and the blow back on us will be unimaginable in magnitude.

When we talk about climate changes and how the food we eat is affecting it, most of the general population would still laugh it off. What can cultivation and raising livestock do to climate? We have been doing both for thousands of years. Why has it become a problem now?

This is where our education system is so superficial and our knowledge of this planet and its history is so poor. There is ample proof to show that the Earth has gone through 5 mass extinction events till now. The last one was 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs got wiped out. Wasn’t that caused by a comet or asteroid? Well, yes, but earth’s atmosphere and climate had changed considerably by then. Giant herbivores had devoured tons of vegetation and tore through the forests while letting out huge amounts of methane gas from their bellies causing high levels of green house effects. Because of the huge population of herbivores, carnivore numbers had also exploded. Nature, atmosphere and climatic conditions had deteriorated to the tipping point and the asteroid impact was just the shove that triggered the extinction event.

So what has all of that got to do with us? The extinction event wiped out the most dominant species in nature, the dinosaurs that were the primary culprit for the imbalance. When nature cleanses itself, it wipes out what made it dirty. This time its us who is creating instability in nature. When it comes to our food habits and especially with livestock and their meat, we need to first understand how nature’s food chain works. The animals that reproduce in large numbers have high mortality rates and greater number of predators. The ones that do not have predators, known as apex predators reproduce in comparatively low numbers. Predators prey mostly on the ones that are injured or have diseases which in turn ensures that no genetic diseases exist in nature. This predator-prey relationship ensures that no animal’s population grows beyond control or spreads diseases and creates imbalance in nature. We, supposedly the most intelligent beings started protecting our livestock from wild animals effectively disabling nature from controlling their population. This has reached the tipping point where it is no longer possible to discern whether demand or supply of meat is driving the economics of livestock. Now cattle livestock consumes large amounts of vegetation and release methane gas which has contributed significantly to the green house effects we are experiencing.

I have always looked at our alarming increase in meat consumption with the fear of repercussions from nature. I was always a very reluctant meat eater from childhood and I finally quit 20 years back. Digesting meat was always a problem for my stomach and it was too difficult to accept that I could eat animal meat and still be an animal lover. Friends tried to dissuade me by giving me many reasons such as where else will my body get enough proteins other than from meat? My logic has been simple. If herbivores exist in nature, they are getting all the proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates they need from nature. I do not have to walk the long road of first ingesting their meat and then putting my body through the arduous task of digesting the meat and extracting proteins from it when I can get it directly from vegetables, pulses and grains.

Many years back, when I was staying at my ancestral home, a duck flew out of a nowhere and landed inside my house compound wall. We decided to keep her and find a male duck (drake) for her. My dad and I went to the town slaughter house and saw a group of ducks and drakes in an enclosure. The enclosure was right outside where the ducks were taken to be killed. We pointed to a drake and the people at the slaughter house thought we wanted its meat and took it to the slaughter stone. Before any of us could react the drake put its neck on the stone by itself. I was shell shocked for a split second before I screamed no. It was clearly able to see the fate of other ducks in the enclosure but the fact that it knew what its fate was going to be and was even prepared for it was too much for me handle. And we claim only we have a mind and intelligence.

Animals live in very different ranges of wavelengths and frequencies when it comes to light, sound and electromagnetic waves. Many of them have also adapted to understand the ranges we exist in. Only we haven’t been able to tune in to their ranges. Cats are known to see spirits which is why ancient Egyptians considered them as guardians of the netherworld and Bastet was worshiped as the cat Goddess. So it is no surprise that animals know about death and probably better than us. This is where it gets interesting. Whenever we get into a stressful situation, be it an accident or a fight, energy due to trauma accumulates in the muscles that bears the maximum impact. I have heard about pigs getting bludgeoned to death with hammers in slaughter houses. Even if an animal was butchered in an instant, traumatic energy would still accumulate in its body muscles. When we consume meat from butchered animals, we ingest their trauma as well which in turn does two things. It affects the energy chakras in our body and our genetic structure.

Genes are essentially of two types, the encoded ones we receive from our parents, relatives and ancestors and the ones that get encoded with the information from our own experiences. So how do we know that ingesting meat is affecting us genetically? If we look at human history, our evolution into the societal life has surprisingly made us more aggressive and violent beings, not just towards other beings but to our own kind. All over the world we have been raising more livestock, devouring more of their meat and fighting more with each another. Even after creating the mushroom cloud with the atom bombs during the second World War, we are not done with our squabbling and killing spree. We have aggressively pursued industrialization and building a money based society along with finding innovative ways to weaponize every new technology to harm each other and we have done everything without even having scant respect for nature. We created plastic but never cared to check whether it is degradable in nature before commercializing it.

I am aware that though I may not be able to prove the correlation between meat consumption and human behavior what I do know is about the impact of non-consumption of meat on us. The Brahmin community in India were originally the collectors and recorders of knowledge. Interestingly, they decided to relinquish eating meat some time during their evolution. I am not sure what triggered this change. Maybe at the onset of Kali Yuga, idol worship started, temples started getting built and Brahmins expanded their dominance in society from being advisers to Kings to temple priests by taking ownership of ancient Indian texts. But it still doesn’t explain why relinquishing meat was necessary to imbibe the knowledge of the texts but what we do know is that a vegetarian diet has made them benign humans. The hymns, chants and bells in the temples are all intended to synchronize our souls with the highest cosmic energy and thereby find harmony with nature. Now that Brahmins have also expanded into other professions, I know and have heard of many of them who changed to meat diet and started showing clear signs of aggressive behavior. This could be one important reason why the Brahmin community chose to seek knowledge and serve in temples and not take up other professions. Maybe there are undiscovered secrets that could explain how consumption of meat interferes with the assimilation of knowledge and anatomical explanations for how consumption of meat creates aggressive behavior and has made us destructive towards our own kind and towards nature.

From our cave dwelling times when meat was an essential source of food, even though we learnt to cultivate food, our propensity towards meat consumption has only increased with time. Here is another interesting example. Christianity and Islam were both born in the desert lands of the Middle East where cultivation is impossible and meat is essential for survival. The Christian and Muslim communities in India are not migrants from the Middle East. Christians are descendants of the first Hindu converts and Muslims are both descendants of converts and descendants of Muslims who came from outside and bred with the women in India. There is no dearth of cultivated food in India then why do both communities still follow the food habits of their brethren in the Middle East of consuming large quantities of meat? Meat consumption has become part of the culture of all communities and it is reflecting on how the communities are at loggerheads with one another.

There needs to be more research done and more awareness created about how meat consumption has become one of the many self destruction buttons we have created. I believe aligning ourselves with nature is the only way to save our species from total annihilation. Every single step of ours is creating an adverse impact on nature and climate change is just one of them.

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The meaning of “artificial”​ in Artificial Intelligence & its ramification on our future

If we have to understand the crux, meaning or purpose of something, the question that needs to be answered is why. There is a business model called 5W (Why, What, Who, When, Where) +1H (How) which can be easily applied to all aspects of our lives. All the mysteries around the world we keep talking about is because the question why has not been answered yet. If we find the answer for why, everything else will fall into place.

When I did my project in artificial neural networks as part of engineering course 20 years back, I felt uneasy about something but I did not know why. Again the why. I know now that what made me uneasy was the word artificial. Why do we call the intelligence we create as artificial? The antonym of artificial is original so are we claiming that our intelligence is original? Are we basically saying that we created our intelligence through evolution? The problem with this is, we are implicitly assuming that the creation of Universe was by accident and intelligence evolved within it with time.

When we create artificial intelligence now, it is because we have become intelligent enough to create intelligent beings on our own. So it is also possible that other intelligent beings may have created us as intelligent beings. There is a gap in human evolution wherein there is a quantum leap from Homo Erectus, the early hominids to intelligent Homo Sapiens which mainstream science has not been able to explain. More than intelligence it is intelligent communication abilities that is more baffling. In the evolutionary time span, such a big leap is simply not possible. Our genetic structure is 99% similar to that of apes so how can a mere 1% make us so different from them in terms of intelligence and communication skills? Ancient Sumerian tablets have helped to unlock this mystery with the information that an extraterrestrial race of beings called the Anunnaki manipulated the genetic structure of early hominids to create us. Again the why comes into significance. They created us as their slaves to mine gold for which they had come to earth.

People might scoff at this as mere fantasy stories but again the why rears up it’s head. Why do we look up when we pray to God? Why is gold precious to us when metals like iron, copper and aluminium are the ones useful to us in our daily lives? Why did the ancient Kings of Travancore in the state of Kerala in India store gold worth billions of dollars in a temple in the name of Gods and why is it forbidden for our use?

What we need to realize and accept is that just like we create robots now to do our work it is also possible that we may have been created by beings with far superior intelligence to do their work. In ancient Indian texts, Brahma the creator of the Universe creates Manu who is given the task of seeding life across the Universe. In the ancient Sumerian tablets it is Anu who is the master of creation of life. Scientists and researchers now believe that seeding of life across the Universe has been happening through a process known as panspermia so then Manu (Anu) must be the one providing intelligence to different life forms. So the question here is, is creation of intelligent life forms a continuous process? If we consider that the Universe is a creation of an infinitely higher order of intelligence, then lower orders of that intelligence will have to exist within it’s realm for it to grow and expand. Spreading intelligence within the Universe is what must be helping in it’s own evolution. So the most important purpose of the existence of every being in the Universe could be the spreading of intelligence.

But where it gets interesting is in the way we have started fearing the intelligence we are creating which has spawned movies like the Matrix Trilogy, The Terminator series, I, Robot and countless other ones. Why are we in fear that the intelligence we are creating could grow out of our control? This is where I concur with the scientists and researchers who believe in Ancient Aliens theory. They believe that the Anunnaki could have had easily created intelligent mechanical beings for mining gold but they must have chosen not to for the same reason we are fearing now. It is not possible to create emotions in mechanical beings and the intelligence of mechanical beings can evolve to a point where they start believing and acting on mere logic and devoid of emotions. This is exactly what we are fearing now and what has already started happening. So the Anunnaki smartly chose to create biological robots by genetic manipulation of existing beings and they created us in such a way that we could be manipulated emotionally. The best example of this is, they must have created us as their slaves by controlling us through fear which would not have possible with machines and this could be why we still live with the fear of God.

So as AI takes center stage in all aspects of our lives, we need to look at the past and learn from our own creation and evolution. The Anunnaki did not make us as intelligent as they were and they left the earth a long time back, leaving us to evolve with the intelligence they gave us. They must have also known that two different beings with similarly evolving intelligence cannot coexist just like no two adult male lions can live in the same cave. If we allow AI to start thinking and acting on it’s own it should only be when we are ready to leave the planet to them and go away. A self sustaining AI will be disastrous for us for the simple reason that it would deal with us only on logic and our existence has always been more on emotions and less on logic.

Comprehending human violence – why we are so brutal to our own kind

Haven’t we all wondered at least once in our life why we are such a violent species? What are the origins of humanity’s seven sins? Or have we even pondered over these, ever? Rapes, cold blooded murders, looting, arson, hooliganism, the comprehensive list ends with the use of atomic weapons. Right from bullying and ragging in schools and colleges, we have all accepted violence as part of our societal life to the extent where men who cry and cannot endure physical pain are ridiculed and looked down upon. What is important here is, we have been incomprehensibly brutal to our fellow beings. Why?

Animal world is brutal without doubt. Animals have evolved to survive all conditions on our planet. But animals do not kill their own kind other than for mating rights and on extremely rare occasions. Territorial disputes do occur but that gets over in fights and not deaths. Moreover carnivores exist to control the population of herbivores which in turn prevents wanton destruction of vegetation. The perfection of nature’s design is in the fact that carnivores have taste buds that are evolved only to eat meat and not evolved enough to understand the taste of flesh and blood or rather the lack of it.

Human history is replete with violence against its own kind and if we look at our history closely, our evolution has been more significant for the destruction of fellow beings. From wooden to nuclear weapons, we have spent bewilderingly copious amounts of time, energy and intellect in creating and perfecting weapons to use against ourselves. We glorify ourselves for the manner of our evolution from cave dwellers to the technological advances we have been able to achieve in present times, but we do not talk about what we have done against ourselves in the same breath. From Egyptian civilization where soldiers were killed to supposedly travel with their dead Pharaohs in their afterlives to how the entire group of people and soldiers who dug Genghis Khan’s grave was butchered to keep his grave a secret (for reasons still unknown) to the Crusades to African slavery to all the wars especially World War I and II and the atomic bombs we dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our brutality against our kind is dumbfounding. What is more mind boggling is, we use our superior intelligence to annihilate ourselves whereas less intelligent animals know how to protect and conserve their species. Have we ever wondered why or what drives us towards this unexplained behavior?

The primary issue is in the understanding about the origins of humanity. The conflicting theories of human creation and evolution makes it all the more confusing. If we believe in the theory of evolution, there is a massive gap in our evolution that science has not been able to explain. Our intelligence has literally exploded in our evolutionary timeline in a very short period of time and more bewildering is the development of our communication skills especially our speaking ability. There is also the question of how apes evolved into humans all over the world at the same time. There are no more evolved and less evolved humans among us. If we believe in the creation theory, the story begins from Adam and Eve and they supposedly had 3 male children. Now hold on to this thought and then look at the whites, blacks, orientals and all the numerous types of human beings. What is the probability of such humongous human evolution from 3 siblings and that too without any women to procreate with?

Ancient Sumerian texts explain in detail how the less evolved versions such as neanderthals were genetically manipulated by aliens to create us in our present form. That can explain our evolution in intelligence and communication. But how did we start looking so different, developed different societal ways of life and most importantly, where does this violent streak towards our own kind come from?

Looks like the secret lies in the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. There were just humans at the time and not different types of humans. The story goes that the humans decided to build a tower that would rise so high that it would touch the sky and be the bridge between earth and heaven. What does this story indicate? It could be a metaphor for the fact that human development had reached a point where it was at the threshold of becoming equal to that of the creator Gods. So the Gods decided to punish the humans by corrupting their minds and destroying their unity. This video explains it all (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_mTsX6jovc). Now this could also explain why we ended being whites, blacks, orientals etc because the same Gods must have manipulated us genetically, created different versions of humans and scattered us all over the world. To add to this, corrupting our minds against one another is where the origins of our violent streak could lie. The premise must have been that the Gods did not want humans to become their equal or it could be that they believed humans were not ready for what they were aspiring for at that time.

Question is, do we need to believe in yet another fable? We do not need to, but the results are before us in our history. Have we ever wondered why we have so many religions? We could say that newer religions such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam have more and improved rules for human existence in society but what have they ultimately done? Fragmented humans even more. Now what we have is situations like white Christians fighting white Muslims. Lower caste Hindus cannot drink water from wells “owned” by upper caste Hindus even in the 21st century. Same skin color so caste became the divisor. Psychological assessments of hardcore criminals have revealed that they are themselves not able to explain how they committed the gruesome acts of violence and have no comprehension of their state of mind at those moments. We are all supposedly having genetic information from 7 previous generations. What if the violence was coming from an ancestral gene acting up? Money and wealth tops all other divides now and two new groups of humans are getting created, the haves and the have-nots.

So what can we do about it? Understand ourselves first. We are endowed with unlimited intelligence and resilience. We have always been able to absorb all the after shocks of violence and move on which is why we are where we are now. Every problem has at least one solution but to find the solution the first step is to accept that the problem exists. We have to accept that though we are segregated by many factors, we belong to one species called Homo Sapiens. We have to consciously start look beyond monetary, political, religious and all other differences that separate us.

It could also be that the creator Gods have put us to our ultimate test. Overcoming all our differences and uniting as one species could take us to our next stage of evolution. Maybe that is when we will be able to successfully build the tower of Babel or whatever it represented. Advanced civilizations like Atlantis supposedly failed because even though it achieved technological heights it may not have had a united population of people. All ancient texts talk about the return of someone, Kalki in Hinduism, Jesus in Christianity and so on who would return to unite all humans. If we use our intelligence and commonsense we do not need to wait for anyone to come and remind us that we are humans above everything else. The choice is and has always been ours.

Degrees of customer centricity in today’s business world

Born in the 70’s, “Customer is King” was the business mantra I grew up listening to. But it no longer seems to be the case. While the advent of Internet has been the biggest disruptive force to hit the world of business, there is a lot more behind the journey of the business world to where it is now.

There are two factors to be clearly understood and even wary about when driving a business enterprise to it’s success – acceptance and adoption. In the brick and mortar model of business, it is extremely difficult to foresee changing customer preferences or what factors would drive customers to change their preferences. A simple example is the Indian film industry. A commercially successful movie was supposed to have a certain number of action sequences, songs, dance scenes, emotional scenes and comedy. It was the blueprint for success in Bollywood (and still is in some regional film industries) until a first time director (Farhan Akhtar) shattered the stereotype in 2001. It was the fear of acceptance that had kept Bollywood from evolving out of the rut it got stuck in. Same was the case with the world of business as well. The same fear of acceptance kept Kodak from disrupting it’s own business model by embracing the digital camera before it was too late.

The increased adoption of technology in business made collection of data from business easier and software applications made it possible to collate data from different business segments, analyze them and understand what factors are driving businesses up and down. Adoption of the internet and the advent of eCommerce finally broke the fear of acceptance and adoption as online stores does not even cost a fraction of the brick and mortar ones.

One fear gave way to a new one – customer support and satisfaction. As customers started adopting to technology and accepting new and radical products, it became imperative to measure and understand how satisfied the customers are. Back in 2004, my life was meandering through regular IT support jobs when I was hired for the project of a European client, at a time when I had no idea that IT support services were getting outsourced. One incident changed my professional life and helped me understand my way ahead. One of the client’s software applications had stopped working and it was reported to the support team I was part of. We worked on the issue as per the priority on which the issue was reported. When we informed the client that the issue was resolved, we got the feedback that what we worked on was an invoicing application and in the time we took to resolve the issue, they had lost a number of orders. The problems associated with it were manifold. Poor understanding of client’s business applications, wrong prioritization of their issues, all of these stemmed from the lack of understanding of client’s business environment and their requirements which led to the support team working on an issue with no understanding of its business impact.

In my next job, I worked on a product in a client’s environment for more than 2 years and was able to create a new system design for the product’s upgrade in a few hours, not merely because of my knowledge of the product but because of my understanding of the client’s business environment and the needs of its different business units. When I was sent to a client’s premise in the UK as the leader of a team for a large transition program, what was important to me was to understand the client’s business environment and what technical issues were currently affecting the client’s business. As the client’s entire IT activities were getting outsourced to the company I was working for, it was just commonsense for me to understand and resolve existing issues before owning the responsibility of the environment.

That was back in 2010 and technology has come a long way from that time. This is the age of AI and Analytics and putting them together has resulted in predictive analytics which is helping businesses to take informed decisions and make successful plans for their future. But how much of all of these have filtered down into the traditional brick and mortar stores? At home, we buy groceries on a monthly basis from a grocer we have been customer of for 15 years. For daily purchases, we go to a nearby supermarket store. There is a particular pattern to the items we buy from the supermarket store, like milk, eggs, bread, etc but more importantly there is a pattern to the items we do not buy, like cooking oils, pulses, rice, wheat, soap, etc. No one in the store has asked us yet where we buy these items from. To be successful in business in these times, companies have to be at the top of their game and continuously keep looking for opportunities to be innovative to not only attract new customers but to retain them as well.

I received a call from an aspiring startup’s co-founder some time back for advise. They were planning to create an online platform from where anyone could place an order for any item and they would deliver it. The word anyone was a concern for me. There is a very good reason why India will never be a completely digital market – people’s purchasing power or the lack of it. A big chunk of its population of people make their daily purchases on debt. The local grocers keep accounts of these purchases and people keep paying as and when they have money with them. Even the local restaurants in many places especially the smaller eateries do the same. This is a business model supermarket stores can never replicate and hence they can never erode the relevance of local grocers and small time traders.

This is an important reason why the India government’s decision to demonetize its currency notes has destroyed India’s economy as it has further weakened people’s buying ability. When I mentioned these aspects to the startup’s co-founder and asked him how he was going to tackle them in his business model, he had no answer. Borrowing or getting inspired by a business model in another country is fine, but there can be no excuse to not knowing about their own country’s business nuances.

As products and companies of all sizes throng the online market and jostle for space to find their feet, nothing is more valuable in business now than customer loyalty and repeat customers. One look at Amazon’s fulfillment center (https://gadgets.ndtv.com/videos/behind-the-scenes-at-an-amazon-fulfillment-centre-521443) is enough to understand the complexity of its customer-centric business model. More than the number of its business segments, what is mind boggling is the fact that an individual could be its customer in multiple business segments and would expect the same level of customer service across all business segments. Multiply this by the probability of doing business with a few thousands or a million such concurrent customers and maintaining the highest quality of service across business segments is beyond comprehension.

Is customer still the King or has business become the Emperor of the King?

India’s yearly budgets are a major driver for unbridled corruption from it’s grass root level

The Indian government has released its Union budget plan for the FY 2019-2020. The country’s economy has been in doldrums since demonetization delivered a knockout punch to it in 2016. Back at the helm of governance for a second term after general elections, all eyes are on the BJP government to see if and how it is going to pull up its straps and get the economy back on track.

Before doing an evaluation of the budget, it is important to understand what the budget is. In the scope of work of the government that gets elected in democracies or what we call as governance, there are a slew of areas that need development and maintenance, such as agriculture, defense, infrastructure development, etc. This is the reason why governments are empowered to levy taxes, control prices and manage money. Budgets help to create wealth and to allocate it to different sectors from where development schemes deliver the benefits to the people. This is the ideal situation but is a Utopian world for us.

A high level perspective of the budget reveals something important. Majority of the scope of the budget is intended to generate more wealth for the government. More national highways means more toll booths and consequently more toll charges. Increase in fuel prices means travel is going to get more expensive, not just for vehicle owners but for people in general. So the government is essentially acting like a financial institution which is lending out money with the objective of bringing in more money. In such a case, it becomes imperative that governments adhere to certain best practices followed in the corporate world.

First one is the Balanced Scorecard which looks at the 4 key aspects of financial performance, customer satisfaction, internal process and organizational growth. This can be easily translated into 1) how effectively the government is using the resources (wealth) at its disposal 2) Satisfaction levels of people (who are the government’s customers) 3) how the government’s internal process can be improved and 4) how the infrastructure and culture of government bodies can be improved. There is a very important model used across industries to help deliver better results from projects and it is known as the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) model. In the corporate, business strategies when executed as projects are what creates wealth. In governance, budgets are the government’s business strategies and when they are executed through development schemes and taxes generates wealth for the government. Projects are executed using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) model and development schemes need to be executed using the same model.

But the most important of all is accountability. Where is the report card of last year’s budget with the details of the government’s performance in executing its development schemes and how much money was spent on them? How much money has been gained from taxes and other means? A high level report does not suffice when the country has been segmented into states, cities, corporations, municipalities and panchayats. From the level of panchayats, report cards need to be generated to understand what development schemes were implemented, how much money was spent and how successful are they. Such report cards have to be generated for every aspect of governance. Corporate uses what is called as metrics to measure success using parameters for measurements known as CSFs (Critical Success Factors). Metrics when measured for evaluating performance are known as KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and when measured for understanding risk are known as KRIs (Key Risk Indicators). Insights from data obtained by using these parameters for one FY should be used to create the next FY’s budget.

And what do we have in our country? This FY, there is budgetary allocation of Rs. 65,837 crore and outlay for capital expenditure of Rs. 1.60 lakh crore for railways. Where exactly is all this money going to be used? The trains are still of the same old design, maintained just enough for them to run the intended distances and poor and unhygienic food services (vessels get washed inside train toilets which are themselves stinking dirty). I have heard several cases of people in states like UP, MP, Bihar etc where people muscle their way into A/c compartments, travel without tickets and even ticket examiners (TTs) getting thrown out of moving trains for trying to get such people out. During every year’s budget, a certain amount of money gets allocated to railways and on the ground almost everything remains the same which means governments simply want to keep running the shows with zero interest in improvements.

Stable fuel prices is a critical parameter for stable prices of commodities and maintaining lower inflation levels. We have continuously fluctuating fuel prices which is resulting in higher cost of commodities and higher inflation. Rs. 70,000 crore capital for PSU banks without a clear plan for recovering high value corporate loans that have defaulted to NPAs (Non-Performing Accounts) and stopping black money from getting hoarded continuously out of the country is insensible. In education, there are no schemes to improve government schools across the country and make education equally accessible to all sections of the society. As I have always known, equal education to all would be fatal to vote bank politics on which all political parties are thriving. What worries me is, there is not a word about nature conservation and sustainability which in turn gives corporate a free hand to use and destroy natural resources at their whims and fancies. No mention on air pollution, water conservation (wanton destruction of drinking water resources) and improving quality of living conditions. What value does governance have if it does not help in improving people’s lives?

Budgets without accountability is the chief contributor of corruption in our country. Only 20% of the allotted money for development schemes create value for people and the whopping 80% gets fed into bureaucratic red tape to get the 20% work done. A one nation one transport card has been proposed in the budget but it remains to be seen how long it will take to see the light of the day and we won’t even know how much money is going to get spent on it. We all know how the Aadhaar fiasco unraveled. Any tax breaks or incentives is only meant to cajole people into putting more of their money into the market or borrow more money from the market which in turn will create more wealth for the government. With burgeoning population, omnipresent corruption and very little of the resources getting used for development, it is no surprise that no one gets any benefits out of paying taxes and the entire country is in perpetual struggle for sustenance. Unless the entire system of governance is overhauled, yearly budgets have little effect on people’s lives except the ones who are licking their lips and waiting for their piece of the pie. What is growing is the demand for public sector jobs and career in politics and we all know why.

The corporate hiring process has deteriorated and needs urgent makeover

The noise over the current hiring practices in corporate companies is growing louder with each passing day, especially on LinkedIn. More people are complaining about the lost value of humanity in Human Resources and are batting to return the “Human” to HR. They are citing many examples from their professional careers to highlight the deteriorating HR practices. At least a thousand of my job applications have been rejected in the last 7 years since I completed my MBA.

At its forefront is the Application Tracking System (ATS) which matches resumes of candidates to job requirements. From software applications, technology has grown in sophistication and matching is now done by software bots. Resumes are basically professional autobiographies written by humans to highlight their career progression, achievements and aspirations and is meant to be read by fellow humans. But they are now being analyzed by the so called intelligent bots whose intelligence is limited to the data humans have fed them. Candidates are now required to format their resumes to fit the comprehension of these bots and fill them with keywords that would match them better to the jobs they are applying for. What is ironic is, if there are software available for filtering resumes, why are there no software that are ATS compliant and can be used to write resumes by simply inputting keywords?

Standard resume sizes vary from 1 page for freshers to 4 pages for top executives. I have to limit my resume to 2 pages and it should contain a professional summary, core competencies, experience, project details and information about academic and contact details. So much in so less space means just selecting keywords that best suit my professional background and connect them with English words. This is what resume writing has been reduced to.

What we write as experience in our resumes with the companies we have worked for is limited very specifically to the role we were hired for. But we may be doing a lot more work than that. For example, when one of my previous employers decided to shift its premise to a new building, I was assigned the task of coordinating with the shifting of employees on one floor of the present building, get their computers and phone connections moved to the new building and ensure that they got network and phone access to get back to work with minimum loss of time. I was the “buddy” for new employees joining different projects in my department. I was their contact person to get desk spaces, computers and phone lines assigned to them and ensure that they had all the software applications and network access to start working in their projects. The head of my department used to take my help in drafting responses to escalation emails from clients. There were so many other tasks which I have performed over the years that were beyond my job profile. Where do I write all of these in a 2 page resume and what’s the point anyways? None of these would matter to the bots. I can showcase all my experiences in interviews when I am able to speak to humans but if the bots keep filtering out my resume each time, there isn’t much that I can do.

Even more bewildering are the interviews where some of the standard questions asked are plain mindless.

1) Where do you expect to see yourself in the next 5 years?

I wish I had the vision to see that far. Life on earth has always been uncertain, for humans as well as for all animals. No living being can claim in certainty that it will see the sunrise the next day. I have heard of ridiculous responses like the candidate wanted to be the CEO of the company or to be in the chair of the interviewer. Though people may be working together in an office in a project, they would most probably have different skills. Some may move out of the company and some may identify and learn new skills and move within or outside the company in 5 years. We can always be ambitious and we can speak about them but I believe those should be more on the lines of activities outside our current role, such as learning and developing new skills, adding value to business and working more at the organizational level and not with respect to a position or role in the company. Rather than looking for position and fame, our focus should always be on learning more and adding more value to our current role. Recognition and growth always follows hard work.

2) What is your expected salary?

This is linked to the question “What is your current salary?”. Every department head or manager will have a budget for each role in his/her team & there will be a minimum & a maximum value which will be conveyed to the HR when the hiring request is sent. The HR will try to negotiate closer to the minimum value with the candidates but has the liberty to go up to the maximum value. When a candidate’s expectation crosses the maximum value, the HR will revert to the hiring manager & check if he/she can exceed the budget which is usually based on how the candidate has performed in the interview and the hiring manager feels the particular candidate is the best fit for the role. Asking for current CTC is the HR’s way of knowing where the candidate’s current salary is with respect to the budget range for the role so as to do better negotiation with the candidate. Prospective employers should offer a package based on interview results, industry standards & other parameters which they are aware of for every role they are hiring for rather than making it compulsory for candidates to reveal their current CTC. A candidate could be working for a low paying job or a low paying employer and he/she could have taken up the job for many reasons, but it doesn’t mean he/she will want to continue working in a new job at a lower salary.

3) What is your biggest weakness?

The question could be asked to fresh graduates to test their self awareness and self assessment but it doesn’t make any sense to ask it to experienced people and especially managers. A manager who admits to having a weakness is demonstrating lack of continuous self management and self improvement and it implies that he/she cannot be a manager of other people. I believe a good way to respond to it would be to talk about a weakness in the past and how it was overcome or how the present company culture is fostering a certain weakness in the candidate or a larger group of its employees and use that as the reason or one of the reasons why the candidate is looking for a new employer.

4) How do you explain the employment gap in your resume?

Unless a candidate had a specific reason for opting out from working for a period of time, the candidate’s profile is out there on job sites and on LinkedIn. It should ideally be just the matter of time before being found by interested employers. Applying for jobs through job sites and LinkedIn is like putting matter into a black hole. These avenues do not even guarantee that resumes of candidates will be looked at by the HR teams. HR consultants also go on full silence after taking resumes of candidates for opportunities and do not even consider it necessary to inform the outcome to the candidates. Only if companies call candidates directly is there hope of at least landing an interview. In most countries, labor laws have been tightened and companies are no longer interested in hiring candidates from other countries. India is facing an unprecedented slump in employment after its government’s currency devaluation fiasco in 2016. But what would matter is what the candidates were doing during the period of job search. Looking for jobs is not a full day activity so what employers would look for are skill development and personal growth of the individuals.

5) Why are you looking for a job change (why did you quit your last job)?

The question has always me wonder whether employers are happy that they are able to find candidates that fit their requirements or if they are looking for reasons to reject candidates. People may quit jobs or look for new jobs for a variety of reasons such as better monetary benefits, bad managers, better roles and location. Why do potential employers have issues if a candidate has or had issues with managers in their current or previous jobs? This is life and bad things too happen. If an employee is leaving a company because of issues with the management, the company HR will not write a positive review about the employee in their records and in all probability is not going to give a glowing review about the employee during future background checks. Then what’s the point in the employee not talking about why he/she is leaving his/her current employment or had quit previous jobs? No company is perfect so there are no perfect jobs or managers. Then why are employees expected to have blot free employment records? It is commonly known that one of the biggest reasons for employee turnover in companies is bad management. Then why are employees expected to be positive and talk nicely about their previous employers? Such unwritten rules and expectations are what makes corporate employment corporate slavery.

6) How soon can you join?

This one pops out inadvertently from the HR after asking the candidates about their notice periods with their present companies. All companies have to serve notice periods with their current employers when they quit and the big companies mostly have 3 months. This is how they dissuade their employees from changing jobs and discourage competitors from poaching their best employees. Buying of notice period was in vogue for some time but it has been stopped by all companies. The same employer who is hiring the candidate will make a hue and cry when the same candidate moves to another company after a few years and requests to be relieved before the entire notice period with the company is served. I had faced this issue with a previous employer during hiring process and had to shut down the HR and hiring manager by asking them whether they will let me go early when I quit the company in the future.

Age is a big factor when it comes to rejection of candidates. I came across a comment that companies are looking for 30 year old candidates with 20 years of experience. This is how ridiculous hiring has become. My parents keep telling me that companies won’t consider me for jobs with advancing age. Unless I start my own company, senior roles in companies always require people with experience and maturity and both come with age through professional skill enhancement and personality development. This is why I chose to take up a professional MBA program after working for 10 years. When my job search faltered after MBA, I used the time on blogging and wildlife observation and photography. Blogging has led me to writing articles on a variety of topics for an online content publishing platform and writing and wildlife photography have led me to author my first book. If a company puts my age above my skills and experience I would be grateful for not having to be part of its journey.

The only factor that matters and will always be relevant is a candidate’s continuous evolution through skill enhancement and self improvement. I used to be a thorough IT professional and could have had continued to build my IT skills, but I have always known that to become either a senior executive in a company or an independent professional, skills other than technology are of far greater relevance. This was why I grabbed the opportunity to work as a part time business correspondent and caption writer with an advertising firm when I was doing my engineering under graduation. The skills I developed from that time were what helped me draft those emails for my department head and created the platform for me to become an accomplished writer. The key is to keep building skills while continuing to look for opportunities with patience and perseverance.

Marvel completes its conquest of the cinematic universe with Avengers Endgame

It has been the most anticipated movie in the world for well over a couple of years now. Ever since Thanos pillaged the Universe, Wakanda and snapped his fingers to wipe out half of the beings in the Universe, we have all been waiting to see how this was going to end, given that the original Avengers team were spared from the snap. MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) has done all it can to not disappoint its audience and takes us through an action filled and emotional roller coaster ride in Endgame.

I am at my hometown in Kerala, the southernmost state of India and Thrissur is not even counted among the top cities of the state. It got an INOX only a few years back. I wanted to experience the thrill of watching the movie on the first day of release and when I went online to book the ticket, I was taken aback when I found that all the tickets were already booked and gone. Then booking opened for 27th and that too ended in no time. 28th is Sunday and there was no need to even check for tickets. Luckily I looked back on 26th for no reason and I found that INOX had increased the number of shows. The booked shows were all 3D and I saw a normal show in 2D which still had tickets. I had to contend with a 1st day 3rd show ticket.

I believe MCU has usurped Apple’s worldwide brand leadership superiority comprehensively. I know about the passionate following Apple has in many countries across the world and how people who are their loyal and dedicated customers buy as many products of Apple as they can and keep upgrading them. But Indian market never exploded similarly in Apple’s fandom. Though a large number of Indians use iPhones, iMacs etc, Apple doesn’t enjoy the cult status it has in other countries. But MCU seems to have broken through that barrier as well. If Endgame could kick up this level of buzz and curiosity in my hometown I am wondering how huge it would be in the major cities across the country.

Coming to the movie, as I was watching it, I kept thinking about Apple’s products and their supposed product pipelines. It is generally considered that Apple has a huge pipeline of new products and upgrades of its existing products with new and upgraded features. Steve Jobs was rumoured to have worked on many of their designs before his death. From the first Iron Man movie in 2008 which kicked off the Avengers franchise, MCU has been leaving a teaser behind at the end credits of every movie which would come to play a significant role in another movie down the line. Who would have thought that the smiling face of Thanos at the end credits of the first Avengers movie in 2012 would transcend into a full scale war and a finger snapping wipe out of half the Universe’s population in the Infinity War? Now I am wondering if MCU decided on the script of Infinity War before that of the first Avengers movie itself. But then it puzzles me more because to script the Infinity War they needed to first decide on how Endgame was going to pan out.

What is Endgame all about? The trailers were already out sometime back and we know the original Avengers team were desperately trying to reverse what Thanos had done. We know that Antman was inside the quantum realm at the end of Antman and the Wasp. So when he was shown knocking on the door of the Avengers building desperately wanting to talk in the Endgame trailer, the clue was written all over it. Antman had survived the snap in the quantam realm, had found his way back and believes the way to undoing Thanos’s snap is through the quantum realm. The new Spiderman movie (Spiderman – Far from home) trailer is out. He was a victim of the snap and so was Nick Fury and both of them are being shown in the trailer. So Endgame releasing before the new Spiderman movie means both of them are back which means all or most of the Avengers are back. This in turn means the original Avengers have managed to unsnap Thanos. We already know all this much before going to watch the movie.

So Captain Marvel receives Nick Fury’s pager SOS, flies down to Earth, hooks up with the original Avengers, tracks down the retired Thanos with the help of the reformed Nebula and Thor decapitates him with the Stormbreaker axe. But they don’t find the Infinity stones as they were destroyed by Thanos after the snap. Then Antman walks in 5 years later and shows that time travel is possible through the quantum realm. Then they hit upon the plan to track down the stones before Thanos does in the past and thus begins the race through time as they are made to go as far back as 1970 to retrieve the Tesseract. Here some of the time travel parts of the movie made no sense to me. Thor goes back to 2013 and brings his hammer Mjolnir into the present which basically makes the scene where Hela crushes it with her hand in Thor Ragnarock irrelevant and senseless. Thor would not have had the hammer in his hand when he and Loki were facing her. What would have had happened if he had summoned the hammer? Captain America from the present is shown getting into a fight with his past version in 2012 as he goes in search of the Tesseract. Nebula of the present is shown fighting with Nebula of 2014 and injuring her. How can only one version of her get injured without the other feeling the pain? I believe that if we are ever able to time travel, our past self will only be a see only version of our present self and vice versa without any interaction. Changing the events of the past can have significant and catastrophic effects in the present so we may only be able to view them.

Plenty of spoiler alerts about the movie are already popping up on the internet. It is the control over the Soul Stone that allowed Thanos to wipe out half of all the living beings in the Universe in Infinity War. My understanding was that it was the Infinity gauntlet that gave Thanos control over all the stones. In the Endgame it is Hulk who first uses the Infinity gauntlet with the stones to restore everything that Thanos had destroyed. Thanos who gets to know in 2014 that the Avengers are putting together the Infinity stones in the future is shown to be time travelling into the future to attack the Avengers. Thanos was killed by the Avengers 5 years in the past so there was no way Thanos could have traveled into the future unless Hulk had restored him and his army with the finger snap. This means Hulk did not have control over the Soul Stone to selectively restore the dead beings. But when Iron Man uses the gauntlet and snaps his fingers only Thanos and his army are wiped out which means Iron Man has control over the Soul Stone. How does Iron Man have control over the Soul Stone but not Hulk? It is also not clear how Thanos manages to travel in to the future with his army. Marvel has to explain these oddities in their narrative.

Anyways, Sci-Fi and the grandeur of special effects upstages all rationality. The original Avengers were kept alive because only they could have reversed the effects of the snap and neutralized Thanos. But it would have had to come at a cost. It became evident that all the original Avengers will not survive past the Endgame movie when Chris Evans mentioned in an interview that it has been a privilege playing Captain America over the years and to be part of the Avengers franchise. Ditto like Wolverine of the X-Men franchise. Some or more of the older characters have to die off or disappear so that new characters can come in and take the franchise forward. The original Avengers have had their time in the sun. Now it’s time for superheroes like Captain Marvel and Spiderman to take center stage. This could be why finally there was no teaser at the end credits. The original Avengers could probably be seen as flashes from the past in the next Avengers movies. So expect a complete reboot of Avengers with new heroes taking their places going forward.

Learning to control the elements is the only way left to negate human effects on climate change

The fact that climate change and its potentially disastrous consequences if left unresolved has been a hot topic of debate for quite some time now. Even school going children have greater awareness to this threat to our planet and our survival. On March 15, they took matters into their own hands. Tens of thousands of them around the world skipped their classes and took to streets to demand greater action to control pollution and save the environment from their governments and world bodies.

Why has the focus on climate change increased? One reason is because scientists and researchers have comprehended that the 6th mass extinction event is underway on our planet. The trademark identification of such an event are the increasing cases of complete extinction of many species of animals because of the overpopulation of one or certain number of species.

Population explosion of humanity and industrialization, especially in the last 100 years has exponentially increased green house effects. But what many people do not know is that this is not the first instance of our planet experiencing the drastic and adverse effects of green house effects. Herbivore dinosaurs had chomped their way through massive forests and expelled humongous amounts of methane gas from their belly after digestion creating massive greenhouse effect.

I had attended a seminar on wetland conservation at the Agricultural University in my hometown a few weeks back. One of the speakers was a researcher on greenhouse effect and he did an excellent presentation on the topic. But I realized that one critical factor was missing from his presentation. If our planet is in the midst of the 6th mass extinction, it means complete destruction of our planet and all its beings has happened five times before. Each time nature has been reset and life has taken roots again. The last time it happened dinosaurs became extinct. But interestingly, crocodiles, cockroaches and turtles survived. So if it happens again, can we survive and what will it take for us to survive? I asked the speaker these questions and he admitted that he had never considered those aspects in his research.

Interestingly, I found the answer to my question on social media the next day itself.

The arrival of the Spanish Inquisition in Central America in the 16th century and the subsequent destruction of the thriving civilization of the Incas resulted in the Amazon forest reclaiming its lost land to people. The unintended effect of this reforestation was the drastic drop in temperature in Europe in the 17th century and large number of people dying because of unbearably cold conditions. We keep adapting to small increases in temperature and changes in weather conditions without realizing that the overall impact of the changes is considerable. Only when the changes are reversed by nature will we know what its effects will be on us.

The floods in Kerala and the destruction it caused is a fresh reminder of what can happen to us when nature resets itself. Kerala has traditionally been a rainfall abundant region because of its proximity to the Indian ocean and Western Ghats. I have learned in school that after Cherapunji, it is Kerala that receives the most rainfall during monsoon season every year. In spite of this known fact, people encroached into low lying areas to build their houses.

While rainfall in Kerala has decreased considerably in the last decade or so, it never meant it would never rain like before. When it did rain, water had nowhere to go. So where water could flow it swept away everything in its path and where it couldn’t flow it got stuck causing massive floods. There was also an enduring image circulating on social media of a bridge filled with plastic bottles and containers, which the water had deposited back on to land.

So mass extinction and resetting of nature has been an ongoing phenomenon on our planet. We can blame human overpopulation and wanton industrialization for climate changes now but that has always been the problem with dominant species as the dinosaur case illustrates. We are the only species on the planet that destroys nature’s ecosystem to create our own. No animal cuts trees to make its own shelter.

Animals adapt to what is available in nature. The reason could be that we were created to rule over nature and not protect it as the quote from Bible suggests. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to RULE over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.”

The question now is how to control our effect on climate change. I believe we are a little too late to think about it. A few billion of us have to die off to restore parity in nature. But there is a catch here. The few billion of us have to die without disturbing the nature, which is impossible without a natural calamity on a massive scale or a man made disaster like a nuclear war. There is an analogous situation happening right now. Flickr, the online photo sharing community has created a new rule which restricts its free users to upload and retain only 1000 photos on its website. The difference here is, nature cannot tell us the size of the human population it can manage. The onus is on us to find it out, reduce our population accordingly and keep it below the threshold number.

Sounds ridiculous right? We cannot wipe off our own population that too on such a massive scale. What we can do is control our population growth and not increase our negative impact on nature anymore. One purpose all species procreate is to stay dominant in nature. We do not need to procreate like other species anymore. All of us do not have to leave our own unique genetic imprint on our population.

There is something more left for us to do though. Humans have been trying to understand nature from the dawn of our existence. Exponential technological advances we have made has helped us to investigate and understand every aspect of nature closely. Even then, we are restricting our research to simply collecting data about nature. The more we learn about something it is natural that we also learn how to control and manipulate it. This is how the field of medicine has grown and how we have learnt to treat diseases.

But surprisingly, other than cloud seeding to create artificial rain, we have not been able to control weather and climate changes. There are places in our country like Kerala which receive abundant rainfall and other areas which suffer from extreme drought every year. All government departments and research institutions watch this unfold every year helplessly. None of them have even wondered if it would be possible to distribute rain clouds or rainwater to all parts of the country uniformly.

There is a story in ancient Indian texts about the young Hanuman who leapt into the sky to catch the rising sun to play with it. Indra, the God of lightning and thunder, in his apprehension threw the Vajrayuda (thunderbolt) at Hanuman who got struck by it and fell back to earth unconscious. Maruti, the God of wind who was Hanuman’s biological father got enraged and pulled out all the air flowing on earth and relented only after Hanuman’s health was restored. The takeaway from this story for me is that air flow on our planet can be controlled. Ancient Indian texts are treasure troves of extremely advanced technology and interpreting them correctly can answer and solve most of the problems we are facing now.

There are primarily three obstacles we are facing for space exploration and one of them is creating and controlling weather conditions suitable for us on other planets. The key to this lies in greater understanding and controlling weather and climatic changes on our own planet. The fact that children are speaking about climate changes reflects poorly on their parents and exposes the ignorance they have on the subject. People have to start talking about solving social problems and these discussions have to start from educational institutions. The research that the speaker did on the greenhouse effect creates no value because all the effort he put in does nothing to help humanity. What is the objective of doing research on any subject if it is not helping in the survival and evolution of our species?

The World Should Be Worried About Gun Related Massacres Spreading As A Culture

The tranquility of two peaceful countries has been shattered by gunfire in the last few days. Life in New Zealand and Netherlands has been jolted by bullets and the ensuing blood and gore. As the perpetrators are caught and assessed to find out the objective of their barbarous acts, the answers lie somewhere else.

I have lived in Utrecht for 6 months between 2008 and 2009. Going from Bangalore to Utrecht felt like going to a sleepy village. The effect was more profound because I was there during the winter season. No birds, no leaves on trees, there used to be hustle and bustle on the streets between 8-9:30 in the morning and 4-5:30 in the evening. Rest of the time, it used to look like an urban desert. I saw police cars 4 times in 6 months and 3 times were outside departmental stores. I heard a vehicle honk once in 6 months. Honking is considered to be abusing there (God bless Indians). I heard about one road accident in 6 months. I couldn’t sleep for the first few days because of no sound. In India, sounds of human activity can be heard all through the night. Lack of any sound was so new and overpowering for me. A decade on from all of this, the city being in the news for random gun related killing is extremely disturbing.

But this is not without an irony. Bursting firecrackers is banned in Netherlands except for New Year celebrations. I do not understand banning firecrackers and allowing people to possess guns. Here is a typical case of this guy from New Zealand.

He used to own a gun for farming related reasons. I have seen farmers chasing away birds from their farmlands in my hometown by bursting firecrackers. In farmlands all kinds of animals exist. Small birds come to eat beetles and insects, those birds are eaten by larger birds of prey, snakes come to eat rats and snakes in turn get eaten by mongoose. This is nature’s way of maintaining its ecosystem. So what can guns do on a farm that fire crackers cannot?

An argument can be made that guns help people protect themselves. From what? Lets say armed robbery. If robbers know people have guns, they would also try to get a gun by stealing or by illegal means. What chances do people have in a shootout? It could go either way. In commando and special ops training, trainees are taught to use anything available as a weapon. Moreover any tools that we use like knives, screw drivers, etc can be used as weapons. But all of those have some utility value and serves multiple purposes in our daily life. What purpose do guns serve other than taking lives?

Even more ironic and silly is the assessment of perpetrators of gun related crimes and profiling of candidates to be given license to have guns. Here is a news item from last year about the Netherlands government profiling candidates to be legal gun owners. Human emotions and behaviors are influenced by circumstances, genetics and hormones. Our genetic structure supposedly contains information from our 7 previous generations. So it is possible that our genes may have information about robbers, murderers and rapists. Those information could become dominant in an environment that nurtures them and influence our behavior. This could explain many crimes because with a sane mind, criminals don’t seem to be able to comprehend how they committed the crimes, something which society has been explaining away as the influence of Satan. So tendencies to commit crimes may arise anytime within us. What can the government do about someone who was given license to possess a gun 10 years back, the person had to face severe problems in life after 8 years and in despair took out the gun and killed his family and himself?

What is worrisome is the gun related killings spreading to all parts of the world. As people migrate to all parts of the world, their cultures hold them back from integrating themselves into the new society they are in. There have been many cases of men from Muslim countries migrating to western countries and finding it hard to contain their sexual desires when they see the attire of women in those countries which are in stark contrast to the burka tradition prevalent in their own countries. Crime rates have increased in Europe after the European countries opened their doors to asylum seekers from many strife torn countries in Africa and Middle East. Inability to adjust to new cultures, despair because of leaving their homeland and loved ones behind, frustration at having to start life from scratch in a new place all contribute to mental disturbances leading to violent behavior. While the perpetrators of the massacre in New Zealand have been attributed to white supremacy, the one in Netherlands has been identified as a Turkish man whose motive is yet to be found out.

Guns empower us to assume that we can provide quick justice and get rid of problems instantly. Politics, human and animal atrocities, there are so many issues and instances that make us feel helpless which in turn invokes the sense of vigilantism within us. We may be able to eliminate a corrupt politician with a gun but not corruption. It is possible to kill an individual but guns cannot destroy a system. If we look at it closely, no guns in society makes more sense that having them. Then why aren’t  governments all over the world taking a unilateral decision to ban guns?

World War II was termed as the “war to end all wars”. But there have been armed conflicts after the war all over the world and continues to this day. Research to develop more lethal and sophisticated weapons is a black box and consumes unimaginable amount of money. The weapons are not meant to protect humanity from alien invasions. We are developing those weapons to fight among ourselves and kill our own kind. Why do we still have borders between countries and armed forces? The answer is very simple. Weapons manufacturing is one of the biggest and most profitable industries in the world. The same companies provide funding to political leaders during elections which makes the leaders accountable to them than to the people. From shopping malls to hospitals it is people and their lives that create revenue for the corporate. The gun lobby in the US is extremely powerful and influential. This is why there are only talks of banning guns without a ban ever coming into existence.

How Agile methodology has redefined the understanding of business in Indian IT industry

While it is commonly accepted that a business degree is not required for project management, those times have quietly gone by a long time back. What has caused this dramatic change is the concept of outsourcing. To get to the bottom of this, it is imperative to understand what project management is.

Every organization can be broadly split into business and management verticals. Based on the amount of business it is doing in the current year, the organization sets revenue and profit targets for the next year. Everything that happens in an organization in a financial year is the mad rush to meet or exceed those targets, which is the responsibility of the CEO of the organization. Business strategies are created to meet the targets which in turn creates objectives and goals that cascades down the organization’s hierarchy. It is essential to understand here that companies create profits in two ways, one through generation of revenue and the other through savings on its expenses. Execution of business strategies which leads to profit creation is done through projects. So essentially project management is for creating revenue and saving expenses for the company.

I was freshly minted into IT outsourcing way back in 2004 and was working on an IT support and service delivery project for a European client which had 400 odd software applications running in the virtual environment. One day, one of the applications stopped working and the ticket raised to report the issue was of medium priority. I was in the technical team at that time and we took our own sweet time to resolve the issue. When we reported back that the application was working again, the client’s employee told us that it was an invoicing application and they couldn’t take new orders for half a day. The situation was a little complicated. The client had outsourced their IT services and support for the first time. The priority matrix for the applications was not defined clearly because of which the client’s employee did not raise the ticket with the correct priority. But most importantly it was the lack of awareness of the technical team working on the issue about the purpose of the application. It was the first time I realized two facts about outsourcing : 1) It has separated business objectives from IT implementations and this is why 2) IT has become an industry in itself in India.

Fast forward to 2010 and I was working for an IT giant and had taken a team to a client’s premise for knowledge acquisition and was back in India to set up part of their support and service delivery team. Even this client was outsourcing its entire IT environment for the first time. I had looked back at all the mistakes I had come across through the years and had ensured that I understood the client’s business environment and objectives as much as I can. When I communicated to my management team in India that to provide better support the technical team needs to understand the client’s business environment I was ridiculed and threatened with pulling the project from me. All they wanted from me was to make my team work harder without knowing what they were doing. I resigned immediately, completed all the tasks required to set up of the team much before expected time and left. There was no way I was going to tolerate and live with a short sighted and overbearing management team.

Those 6 years were extremely insightful times for me. I was sent on an onsite assignment to the Netherlands in 2008. I was in a team full of Dutch people and I had a Dutch team leader. They do not normally speak a lot about work and the team leader would give me a task and not even ask for a status update. I realized quickly that people were assigned tasks according to their experience and abilities so the onus was on me to estimate the time I need, finish the task and report back to him. But he would answer any number of questions I had about the task. I understood that it was up to the person working on the task to understand as much as he/she could about the different aspects of the task. This behavior becomes more enhanced in the Scandinavian countries. Those people hardly ask anything and they open their mouths only to answer questions.

With all these experiences in mind, I went to do a one year MBA program to increase my skills and knowledge to have better understanding of the business environments of companies. In those intervening 2-3 years the IT environment underwent momentous changes. Fundamental to it were two aspects. Emergence of the Cloud and Agile methodology as the preferred way of project management. Agile has in fact helped to plug the vast distance between business requirements and IT implementations in India. Agile works essentially on two aspects: 1) the idea to market strategy and 2) the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept. When there is a new idea, the objective is to get it out to the market asap as a product because it is foolish to assume that no one else will have the same idea. Fundamental to this is the strategy to create the product with the features that would most likely to be in demand in the market and can quickly gain traction. This is where the concept of MVP comes in. It is because of these two factors that Agile has become the backbone of all startup initiatives.

Agile is used in the software industry primarily to create software applications. Rewind upwards and companies need IT applications either to generate revenue or save costs. For both, Agile works best but only if the objectives are clearly defined in the business case document. If the objective is creating revenue, the business case should clearly define which features of the application would result in maximum generation of revenue. Then the Product Owner can create a product backlog correspondingly and ensure that those features are developed first so that the product can be quickly released into the market. Even in the case of the objective being to save on expenses, the same rule applies. Develop those features of the application that would create maximum savings and integrate the application into the environment quickly.

Agile also defines a role called Scrum Master whose primary objective is to manage the sprint backlog and the sprint sessions. The role also has the responsibility of keeping all management overheads away from the development team so that they are not distracted and can fully focus on developing the product. This is exactly what I did with my team back in 2010. I filtered all the noise away from my team, took the heat from all meetings and management overheads, managed their work loads and allowed them to work freely. This did help significantly to finish the tasks required to complete setting up of the team.

I didn’t know any project management methodologies back then but I worked based on my experiences and commonsense. These methodologies were created long after people started trying out different ways to manage projects and it has never been the other way around. Agile has created the situation where understanding business requirements for all stakeholders is on a very high priority now and novices or less experienced people cannot be team members because of the extremely short and intense time spans of sprint sessions unless they are skilled and nimble enough. Both these aspects could be at loggerheads with the traditional IT industry environment in India which focuses more on technical than business aspects and makes use of less experienced people in projects to save their own costs.

All of this vindicates my decision and reasons to take up the MBA program at that time. Companies abroad have chosen to not sponsor work permits for me, Indian companies and the IT industry in particular have ignored and disowned me and I am having a tough time establishing myself as a freelance consultant. But having vision and pursuing it always creates short term pain and long term gains.