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 business 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 then. This is the time 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 needs, 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.

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 is and will never be a completely digital market – people’s purchasing power. 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 the local grocers continue to be in relevance. 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 ( 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?


Business lessons from the life and times of Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits

Its a curious case about Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler. People who know them would die for their music. People who don’t know them don’t know them at all. When I tell the younger generation about them and make them listen to their music, they find it weird and boring. But when I go on the internet I see kids swearing by their music. The disparity is so vividly glaring. This is the legacy Mark Knopfler has created for himself and for Dire Straits.
The name of their band in itself defines their music. They were asked to give a name to their band during their struggling years and what came first to their mind was that they were broke and had no money with them. Dire straits actually reflected their situation at that time and was not put as a funky name like other music bands at that time. This honesty has always reflected in their music. Mark Knopfler has been in many ways the Steve Jobs of the English music world. As music evolved from jazz and rock and roll from the 1960s to fixed categories of rock, pop, blues, etc. towards the late 1970s, Dire Straits was inspired by all the different categories. Their music had everything going on together. In those times when heavy synthesizers, guitars, drums, long hair and crazy outfits came to be considered necessary to be successful as a music band, Mark Knopfler refused to throw in the towel and give up his dream of making music he wanted to in exchange for fame and money. This is essentially why they were initially in dire straits. For quite some time, Apple did not make computers for everyone to use. Steve Jobs waited for his computers to evolve in the market and its demand to build up. Microsoft makes Windows for everyone to use which is in fact the hardest business model to follow. It is simply not possible to have something for everyone which is reflected in the numerous updates Windows versions needs and the different Windows versions themselves. In the similar vein to that of Apple, Dire Straits made the music they wanted to make and let people evolve into their music. Commercially this is a huge risk to take. But thankfully, in the world of art and music, creative satisfaction always takes precedence over commercial success. What this translates into is how we should position ourselves and/or our products in the market. If what we have is genuine and can truly cause disruption and create it’s own space in the market, put it out there, keep working on making it better and be patient. Success will eventually catch up.

The second and the more important aspect is evolution. From the late 70s when they started off their music evolved as more and better musical instruments were added. Mark’s lyrical and singing skills became more silken with each album. Their popularity peaked in 1985 with the release of their “Brothers in Arms” album. After being on the road for almost 2 years on shows across most of the world, Mark seems to have realized that they were moving away from making music for themselves to playing music for the people. It might have sounded ludicrous to many at that time, but when the passion goes out, so does the creativity. He could not let fame and fortune take control over his passion for making music which was possibly why he disbanded Dire Straits. This is a massive lesson for the business world. No matter how successful a company or a product becomes, to continue to be successful it has to keep evolving and to evolve the passion for it has to remain intact. This is probably why Bose Corp. has never been on the stock market. They do not seem to want business and commercial success to take precedence over their need for creative excellence.
Dire Straits did come back together to make one more album “On Every Street” in 1991 but that experience also taught them an important lesson. It is a superb album by all means but unfortunately ended up being compared with Brothers in Arms which should have never happened. They were like two different products from the same company and should have been seen and evaluated as such. If Dire Straits fans are longing for their reunion which Mark is staunchly refusing to go back into, it is because people themselves killed the confidence he had on them. Mark disbanded Dire Straits forever and started collaborating with other great artists such as Eric Clapton, Elton John and Phil Collins among many others and eventually started to make music under his own name.
Here is the most critical lesson to learn. Be it with someone’s life or academics or jobs or business or products, the growth graph will hit a high sometime. But it won’t stay there for long. What goes up has to eventually come down. Many musicians and music bands shot through the roof initially and then disappeared without a trace. This keeps happening all the time. There are two aspects to consider here. The lessons we learn from our experiences as our graph grows up and realizing that our graph has hit the high. Mark seems to have realized this when On Every Street got compared to Brothers in Arms. Dire Straits had hit their peak with Brothers in Arms. Unless they created something better than Brothers in Arms, every album they released in the future would have had been subject to comparison with Brothers in Arms. That was a phenomenal expectation and disappointment to live with. Their evolution was complete with Brothers in Arms. The option was to either continue to exist in that painful situation or let it all go and mature as a musician by himself and give everyone else in the band the opportunity to figure out their life ahead on their own.
When businesses grow and hit their highs their evolution gets complete at that point. Then they need to settle down and mature. True fans of Dire Straits know what a gifted and amazing songwriter and guitarist Mark is. He has wisely and craftily used the reputation of Dire Straits to build his own brand name. Steve Jobs has always used this strategy with Apple products. Apple has a core consumer segment that will buy anything Apple sells. After establishing that segment they released a dazzling array of products to bring more customers into that group. Now they are in the maturing phase and are focused on improving their products.
Mark Knopfler still makes music and does world tours but at his own pace. His music has always been what his passion for music has brought out from him. We need to tread the same path, be it in our professional or personal lives. True passion will eventually bring in fame and fortune but the key is to hold on to that passion at all times. Fame and fortune will wither away with time. But everything we do and create with passion will have the hallmark of fine quality and it is the quality that always stands the test of time.

The relationship and disconnect between business and projects

In an interview a few years back for a project management role, the interviewer asked me what project management was. I was taken aback a bit. First of all that’s too generic a question to ask an experienced candidate. Second, project management is such a vast area that it is not possible to explain in a minute or so what it is unless I were to record and playback what is known as industry standard definitions. So I replied that project management is the management of execution of business strategies. The interviewer looked lost for a moment and for a very good reason.

The evolution of the IT industry has created mayhem and consternation in the understanding of business and projects. The mid section of the IT industry has swelled up with managers and is bursting at it’s seams. The hierarchy and designations are complicated and ridiculous. Even more confusing are designations that are total mismatches to the roles. I have worked with the designation of Senior Consultant and the role had got absolutely nothing to do with consulting. Then there are companies with Project Manager designation but the role would be as an individual contributor. What would make sense is that a project would have a team and the manager of the project would also manage the team. The designation of Business Analyst is even more bewildering. Fundamental requirements are to have in-depth knowledge of some software applications.

In one of the case studies during my MBA program I had read about a company whose founder and CEO had approached a venture capitalist (VC) for investment. After due diligence, one of the conditions put forward by the VC was to appoint a new CEO for the company. The founder refused and walked away. Six months later, he came back to the VC and agreed. The VC had wanted him to focus on the products and services his company was offering and let someone else handle the business and financial aspects. So every company has a top management team that walks, talks and breathes only business and money.  It is here that business strategies get created with the objective of better financial outcomes.

I use a simple analogy when talking about business strategies. If I get stamped on my foot, my foot doesn’t cry. The sound comes from my mouth. Similarly if there is a problem in business the red bulb may not necessarily be flashing from the problem area. This is why understanding the business problem is so crucial. Business problem could also be a new venture for the company without proper understanding of moving ahead. Digging deeper into the business problem has direct impact on the quality of business strategy development. But having the best business strategy amounts to nothing without taking action on it and execution of business strategy is a different beast altogether.

One critical aspect of having different functions inside organizations comes into focus during execution of business strategies. The business strategy could have a strategy for the sales team which in turn could result in a strategy for the finance team and so on. Once strategies for different functions are established, then comes their execution. It could be as minimal as a small change without any consequences. But where there are financial outcomes then there would be accompanying risks as well. This is where the whole premise of project kicks in. So projects are essentially execution of business strategies with the objective to create positive financial outcomes. The execution of a business strategy can be broadly visualized as a change management program with several projects managed and executed within its boundaries.

Every project is intended to create a positive financial outcome so I visualize every project manager as having a small cloud of money over his/her head. A senior manager who manages several project managers would then be having an accumulated bigger money cloud over his/her head. Scale this up and the CEO will have the biggest money cloud over his/her head. The divide between creation and execution of business strategies has given rise to the concept of outsourcing. MNCs develop the entire premise of projects before shipping out to their factories and back offices where the projects are executed to create products and services.

Better understanding of business strategies and organizational requirements has a direct bearing on project management. But project managers usually do not get their sights that far and are not expected to stretch their understanding beyond the boundaries of their projects. This is why I believe projects either fail or project outcomes do not result in positive business outcomes. Outsourcing has only complicated and compromised the purpose of projects. A project manager in another corner of the world may not have any idea about the intended outcomes of the business strategies which has given rise to the project he/she is managing. Early in my career I had to resolve a problem with an IT application of a client and according to the SLA with the client I had 3 hours, so I worked on other more important issues. When I finally reported the resolution, the client’s staff lamented about how their work was stuck and the amount of business they lost in those 3 hours. Poor understanding of client’s business environment and requirements coupled with poorer understanding and communication were the reasons.

The relevance and importance of projects and project managers should never be undervalued. In India business degrees are not required to manage and execute projects. This in itself shows the disconnect between business strategies and projects. This is why the growth of project managers gets restricted to the project and program management levels and very few get to break into the top management. This can be observed from how companies hire for executive level positions from other companies rather than their own employees growing through the ranks into those positions.

Business – the realm of anticipation

The world of business was always a daunting place for me to go to because it was a cold and calculative realm in my mind. The business environment in my native city is dominated by the Christian community and for a very good reason. They are extremely strict and wise with checks and balances when it comes to money. Even if a shopkeeper’s parents go to their son’s shop to buy something, they pay and buy. So I being from the Hindu community grew up hearing that Christians who are into business have no empathy and compassion. When I grew up and understood the world of business, two things registered in my mind. 1) Empathy and compassion are the mortal enemies of business 2) Business is all about numbers so it is critical to be focused and calculated. Then I realized that most among the Hindu community in my city have none of these sharp business skills that’s why they have not flourished in business. This got further credence when someone I used to know started a business with family members and some good contacts and blew it up because no one could say no to the opinions and wishes of one another.

There is something about the world of business that truly fascinates me. How the world of business and nature are interconnected and how art plays a critical role in both. Business is all about money and money in turn is all about numbers. Numbers when depicted as such are drab and boring. They become beautiful and fascinating when a dash of art and colours are added to them. This is why the most critical aspect of any business meeting are the presentations and graphs. Those colourful representations of numbers stick to our minds better than anything else. I have thought for long about what would define a successful sales pitch. I had read somewhere about how corporate executives who cannot afford Armani suits buy Armani undergarments and wear them for business meetings. Wearing anything from Armani gives them that extra kick of confidence it seems. For me, a successful pitch is when the presenter is able to engage the audience with the product, data, numbers and the presentation and divert the attention of the audience from himself/herself. This is why I feel the door-to-door sellers are far more superior in their sales skills. With hardly anything to show about themselves, the only way they have to get a sale is to highlight their products and engage with the customers in the best possible ways. What is fascinating here is the amount of art that is involved here. Merely creating paintings does not make an artist successful. Making paintings that engage with people and are relevant to the world are what creates successful painters. Similarly, creating presentations and graphs is just one half of a successful pitch. Making the product, data and numbers comprehensible and relevant to the audience and the business is needed to complete the other half.

There is one word that is synonymous to both the business world and nature: anticipation. On the trail I go on my daily morning walk, among the many birds I come across there is a bird of prey called Shikra. They will usually be on one of the top branches of coconut trees and will be crying sometimes especially when they get chased by crows. For the past 2 years, I had been trying to click this bird in flight. Couple of days back I was on my way home when I heard the bird’s cries from behind me. I walked back and reached a point where on both sides of where I was standing were open grasslands and beyond that were houses and coconut trees. The cries were coming from my left side but the bird was not anywhere in sight. After looking around I was about to start walking when it suddenly struck me that the crows may be chasing it and it might just fly across to the other side. I prepared myself with my camera and sure enough the bird flew over me after about 5 minutes.

Just like understanding the behaviour of animals is critical for survival in the wild, understanding the behaviour and changing requirements of the market is vital for the survival of any business. Programs about the animal kingdom shown on National Geographic and Animal Planet gives fascinating insights. Lions hunt in packs and each lion has a specific role to play in the ambush. Before the start the pursuit of their prey and before they pounce on the prey they also have a checklist to tick for the hunt to be successful. They never chase their prey randomly. Even more precise is when birds dive down from their flight into water to catch fish. I have seen a kite lift a fish off the surface of water at the exact moment it came up to breathe. From the time the kite took flight, the whole event was so precise it was dumbfounding. I have realised that as my understanding of the nuances of nature gets better, so does my consulting, management and organization skills. No wonder ancient martial arts forms like Kung-Fu were developed by observing the moves of animals and birds.

So they say two factors determine if we are successful. 1) Being at the right place at the right time and 2) Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Correlate these two and for me 99% perspiration is for putting oneself at the right place at the right time. Space and time have to align and come together. The 1% inspiration materializes only when we put ourselves at the right place at the right time. This is how I was able to finally shoot that bird in flight. No animal or bird ever gets lucky with a hunt or a catch. There are no free lunches in nature. Similarly I believe no one becomes successful especially in business or in the corporate world by mere luck or by chance. Success in business is based purely on the ability to either see through an opportunity or foresee an opportunity in advance, prepare and then grab it with both hands. This is what is anticipation, the ability to study actions and behavior and predict the next moves in the future. Business is all about peering into and predicting the future. This is why my passion for wildlife photography has increased exponentially because to shoot animals and birds in action I need to anticipate their next moves with perfect accuracy.

Enslavement through consumerism

It is festive season in India and lights and colors are starting to flood everywhere. The festivities are going to stretch through Christmas to New Year so everyone is gearing up for lots of food, merriment and catching up with their families and friends. The business world is not far away either and in fact, they are way ahead of their customers. The objective is not just to retain customers and lure away new customers from competitors but also to make people spend more. How they do it is so enticing that people get bewitched and allow themselves to be sucked up into the vortex of unreasonable and senseless spending.

Every time I make a purchase from a mall or a supermarket store, my mobile number is taken from me and I get periodic alerts about discount sales going on in these shops. I came across a very interesting and enlightening post on a social network a few days back which goes like “If a retailer is selling a $1000 product at a discounted price of $750 and if you rushed to buy it because of the discount offer, you did not save $250 but lost $750.” It is common knowledge how a retailer is able to sell a product at a discounted price. The break even and profit margins have already been covered during the initial sales of the product without any discount and even when they are selling at a discounted price they are still making profit from each sale. But people strangely do not consider this fact when they fall head over heels over discount sales. There is one more factor that many people are not aware of. Large scale manufacturing of branded materials, especially clothes happen in India for which quality control is very stringent because these clothes are shipped abroad and sold in the most exclusive stores in the US and Europe. Even a stitch that is not in line gets rejected and these items get sold in the local market. So if we go by brands and standards, we are mostly getting to buy items rejected under international quality control rules.

Now that the festive season is on, I am getting at least 4 alert messages on my phone each day. These are not just about discount sales, they go like purchase for Rs. X or more and get assured gifts like TV, refrigerator, A/c, etc. Two factors to be considered here. First, how are they saying Rs. X? How did they arrive at that number? Reflect for a second and we will know that they are scrutinizing customer purchase and customer preference details intensely all along. A whole lot of number crunching and analysis is going on behind the scene and they have sized up their customers very clearly. Second, if I purchase gold for Rs. X and I get a TV, the same company which is selling gold is not selling the TV as well. So is some retailer giving away the TV for free? Absolutely not. This simply means the profit margins have already been calculated and fixed by all concerned parties before any sort of discount sales or offers are rolled out.

But what has astounded me is the way this is played out. Every time I switch on FM radio now, every channel is loaded with festive offer advertisements from retailers. It is common knowledge that Indians do spend lavishly during festivals and they take pride in showing off their gifting prowess to friends and relatives. Retailers have pinpointed this and they position themselves precisely even with their advertisements so much so that they ensure people see these advertisements everywhere they look, on newspapers, hoardings, radio, TV and every other possible means and we start evaluating these retailers and their offers and end up purchasing from one or more of these retailers eventually. They are bombarding our psyche and manipulating our minds so ruthlessly and we, like slaves, are letting them be. The media content that we are consuming each day is just staggering.

I was listening to a FM channel the other day and one song is usually accompanied by 10 minutes of advertisements and then the RJ keeps talking about something or the other for another 10 minutes. My mind flipped immediately to a stark reality. Millions of people go to work each day and they hardly get time to speak to their families and friends all day. The only conversation they have all day long is about work. These RJs are actually filling up the empty spaces in our lives and we let them speak directly into our minds which is why we keep listening to whatever they say and to all the advertisements that are played in between. This is why so much of radio air space is being consumed by retailers because they get to manipulate our minds so easily.

I always do my purchasing according to my needs. I know a lot of people wait for discount sales to start to do their purchases but that logic doesn’t fit into my line of thought. What about time value of money? If I need something today and if I do not buy it because I want to wait for a discount sale that is a month away, what if I do not wake up tomorrow morning or I die in an accident? By making ourselves enslaved to the market and by getting trapped in it’s wiles and guile, we are allowing the market to dictate it’s terms on us and make us do our purchases at their whims and fancies. We have chosen to forget that customers are always the kings and our enslavement will continue as long as chose to be treated as slaves.



The rise of the mediorporate empire in India

The fact that media works for the rich and the powerful is an open secret, but the growth of this relationship in India has been meteoric. If we ruffle through the pages of history across the world, we can see that media has always been under the control of the government or the affluent class and so media had to be their mouthpiece. This reminds me of the iconic HMV logo. The logo can be interpreted as “The voice is yours but the words are mine”. This is exactly what media has become in India. The words that come from their voices come from somewhere else.

As we moved towards a more democratic society with the objective of ushering in more equality, the media was expected to play a significant role in highlighting all discriminations in the society regardless of anyone’s social status. That is why media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. But little do we realize that in the hindsight, all the media companies are owned by the top business houses directly or have stakeholders who owe allegiance to these business houses and the business fraternity is naturally connected to the political class. Now this is where society gets fragmented into the classes of haves and have-nots. What role does media play here? Any incident involving normal people have little or no interest for the media unless there is any scope for them to sensationalize the matter and increase their sale of newspapers or increase their TRP ratings on television. But when it comes to incidents about the affluent class, media is gagged mainly because of one reason. The perception is that have nots are struggling to make a living and they neither have time to understand the high rise lives of the haves nor it is their business to know. So media doesn’t have to report those incidents.
Nowhere else in the world is the corporate-media nexus so strongly evident as it is in India presently. Media was always under the control of the government until big bang economic reforms opened up India’s market to the world. The corporate world gobbled up a large portion of a rapidly rising media influence in the country. This nexus helps the political class immensely because media and political class are usually at loggerheads and since the corporate class has one foot in media and the other in politics, they ensure that this “triad” is working seamlessly for each other’s benefits. There are enough and more examples to shine the light on.

The Indian media sordidly tried to glorify the achievements of the Indian government in the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Nepal with disastrous consequences. They were trolled, ridiculed and booted out of Nepal by the local people. The same media connived with the corporate to install the new premier of India and with whom they travel everywhere to glorify him at every opportunity. A hit and run incident involving the scion of one of the top industrialists was never made public by the media. The media is just being used as a tool to work in the interests of certain sections of society and to target everyone who is opposed to this elite class.

On top of all this, all that matters to Indian media is their TRP ratings. Some of the things that they do to up their ratings is truly appalling. Like going to a place where people are killed, either by natural disasters or by terrorism and ask the survivors how they are feeling at the moment when all or most of their relatives are dead. There are news anchors who are simply ranting their way through debates and discussions. They carefully choose topics for debates during which they can engage in high octane conversations. Watching most of the Indian news channels has become a disgusting and time wasting activity which gives people no true information and no proper insights into matters of importance in the country. A few of these debates were shown to the people in the US and their reactions were hilarious. They were waiting to see when the war of words would break out into a full blown battle with hands and feet.

It would be a fantasy to even imagine that we can get honest information about current affairs from the media. Social networks are filling up this void very quickly. But internet and social networks are yet to penetrate many parts of India. For those people, newspapers, radio and TV are the only sources to know about what is happening in the country. By feeding them skewed information, political parties are successfully maintaining their vote banks. As it stands, it is not possible to fight this system. Either the “triad” has to collapse on it’s own or educated and experienced people have to step out of the shadows and wage a long drawn battle. Fortunately, one has started in India right from her capital, Delhi.

There was an eye opening perspective about media which I read in an article some time back. Every information media feeds us is to enslave us to the corporate world and to create negative energy around us. This is why issues are sensationalized and we hear so much raving and ranting in debates and discussions. When I watched news channels after I read that article, I could actually feel negative energy creeping into my mind. I have argued strongly with my dad over many issues in the past while watching news channels on TV. I am presently on a boycott of newspapers and TV news channels I usually watch BBC World if I have to know about current affairs across the world. I may be missing out on some genuine news but the benefit of not absorbing negative energy into my mind far outweighs any good information I get to hear and read from the news. All it takes is honest, unbiased reporting but as long as shady corporates lord over the media companies and news is reported by those who have sold their souls, nothing will change and the “triad”will continue to wreck our minds with their banter if we allow them to.

Realms of business at the cost of humanity

So, the 7th and possibly the last of the Fast and Furious franchise garnered a billion dollars at the box office in 17 days and the whole world let out a collective groan of awe through the print and social media. Money is what we discuss about the most every day in our lives. Apart from all that we see and hear on print media and TV, on social media we keep coming across articles like “How to become a millionaire before 30”, “How to become successful like Richard Branson”, “10 investment tips from Warren Buffet” among countless others. I read them too, not to learn or get inspired from them, but to understand the way people think and approach life. Every year, Forbes releases the list of the wealthiest people in the world and I can’t help but smile at it every time. Almost every year, Bill Gates tops the list. When the world is in awe about his fortune, little do people realize how much money Microsoft and he is actually losing. In third world countries like India, software piracy is so rampant that at least 6 out of 10 computers running Windows must be using pirated version of Windows. What could Microsoft have done? It would be impossible for them to catch up with individual users. So they let it be. Why? If they had done anything to prevent it, someone else would have taken over that space with their operating system. I had consciously kept myself out of finance and stock markets until I got exposed to the dizzying world of corporate finance during my MBA. What I learnt in a nutshell is, whenever people talk of money they are only talking about one thing. Return on Investments (ROI). I get really struck by the fact that money is concentrated in the hands of a few people and the majority of the people are eking out a living compared to them. The rich keeps getting richer and the fish monger I first saw when I was five years old was still a fish monger 20 years later. When it comes to money, I have learnt a valuable lesson from my dad. Whenever we see people spending money beyond their means and abilities, it means they are using devious ways to earn their riches. I usually do not care a hoot about how people make money, except in two cases.

Money in the name of God. My amazement never ceases when I wonder how a few billion beings in a remote corner of the unimaginable expanse of the Universe can conjure up the belief that pieces of paper they make with the picture of their leaders in them are needed to sustain the power that has created the Universe itself. The irony is, people dole out money in the name of God only with the expectation of making more money. The financial statistics from Hindu temples are themselves staggering. These temples would have beaten top companies hands down if they were registered in the stock markets. By God, they would have been the best companies to invest money in, no losses and exponentially rising profits every year. In a way, people are doing just that, by donating money in the name of God. Those investments do not have any market risks. Priests have to pay in millions in bribes to get a job in one of these temples and once they are in they earn several times more than what they invested in a couple of years’ time. It all comes down to who gets the lion’s share of money that is invested by us in the name of God.

We all know by now that humanity can never stay united. From within the walls of our homes to between boundaries of countries, we are always in conflict. In the name of religion, race, caste, skin colour and so many other reasons, we have been shedding the blood of each other. But a certain group of people among us saw a business opportunity in this, to make money by putting weapons in our hands. This is the biggest business in the world now, not gold or technology or drugs. Do we ever take a pause to realize this? No. Why? This is not anything new or recent. Winchester and Gatlin are two companies in the US who were manufacturing extremely good rifles and machine guns respectively way back in the 19th century. When was the last time we saw the name of a weapons manufacturing company in the list of top companies or the CEO of such a company in the Forbes list of wealthiest people? Those names will never be revealed. They are infinitely more powerful than even the President of the US. Why else would the US leave all the military equipment behind in Pakistan and Afghanistan after their conflict with the erstwhile Soviet Union got over, when they fully knew the consequences of leaving behind the weapons in the hands of blood thirsty Afghan warlords? Why is the US still supplying arms to Pakistan when they know fully that Pakistan is one of the biggest nurturing grounds for terrorism in the world? The objective is nothing other than creating and maintaining conflict zones around the world so that the clandestine business of weapons manufacturing can thrive. Most of the weapons that are sold through government deals are also sold to terrorist organizations through the black market. This is the true premise of the first part of the Iron Man movie franchise, but it got drowned out in the thrill of Tony Stark building his shiny Iron Man suit and flying around in it. The weapons manufacturing industry is also part of the service industry. Where there are guns, bullets are needed and guns need to be repaired and replaced. The additional benefit in this industry is, the moment someone picks up a gun for a fight, it gets stuck to that person’s hand forever. Live with bullets and die by one. Death by a bullet will only instigate more such deaths, so more guns and bullets are needed. The growth in business is exponential.

What I cannot get to wrap my brain around is the fact that when I have a problem with my friend or neighbour, total strangers are waiting to put weapons in our hands. Now it has become so brazen that in places where no conflict exists, situations of conflict are first created and then weapons are introduced there. What happens when two people are equally armed? They always keep trying for one upmanship by buying more weapons. Who becomes happy? Once it escalates past a point there is no looking back. This is how arms race has been triggered time and again. I am pretty sure there are places where buying guns is easier than buying groceries. Our world has always been on the brink of another war after World War II and so many conflicts are going on right now in different countries. Why don’t we see any of these conflicts escalating into a war? Conflicts are only meant to create more opportunities for the business community and should not become detrimental to them, so even though we will see plenty of posturing by different countries to start a war, we need not fret over the possibility of one happening. Our society’s steady descend into chaos will trigger our annihilation some day and that will be nature’s way of cleansing herself from the dirt called humanity. Till then, some among us will keep making money at the expense of the lives of the others.