Are Indian companies Internet-ready for business?

reliance-chatThe answer in a single word is: No.

Here is why. I wanted to set up an audio conferencing service. Google search gave me multiple leads – Reliance, Eagle Conferencing, and Arkadin India. Google threw up another link to Quora, where a respondent listed Exotel as a company that provided conferencing services.

I first went to the Reliance Website, and used the chat option. I provided the details they needed to begin the chat – and then got a message that I was in queue (for a chat!!!!). After about 5 minutes, Reliance decided I was not worth the effort, and shut me down with the image you see on the top.

Okay, so next I tried calling Arkadin. Must mention that I had sent them an email yesterday and got the templated response:

Dear Sunder,

Thank you. We have received your request and an Arkadin agent will be in touch shortly.

If you’d like to talk to us right away, please don’t hesitate to give us a call during business hours at +91-120-3074500.

Best regards,
Arkadin India

Well, no one had called, so I called them. Sure enough, the call was answered by a person who wanted details so they could ‘transfer’ me to Sales. I asked the MOT question – will I be able to set up the bridge today? No, they take a minimum of 24 hours to respond. (And this in an era where we all want ‘fast’ Internet!)

The next in line was Eagle Conferencing. Called the number listed on their website, and got connected to a Voice Response system that asked me to dial 1 for sales. I did, and then waited for 25 rings – no answer.

That is how Indian Companies respond to Web-driven sales. Amen.

PS: Got through to a company called Exotel, and need resolved on one call. Apparently Audio conferencing is not their core business, but they set this up in response to client demand after Sabsebolo shut down. Great work, Exotel Team! Take a bow!

How to build an Emotional Bond with your children


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Another 15 year-old hanged herself today.

Why are India’s youngsters killing themselves? In 2013, the number of young children ending their lives was 2413. According to a recent World Health Organization report, India has the highest suicide rate in the world for the 15-to-29 age group. It stands at 35.5 per 100,000 people for 2012. The problem is exacerbated among urban and developed cities, where the wealthier and more educated live.

Each tragedy comes with its own drama that draws public attention for a short span, and a spate of proposals from the Government and schools. Is counselling children the answer? In my opinion, the challenge lies with the parents.

Sadly, the most important job in the world, Parenting, is perhaps the only position for which it is neither possible nor expected that candidates have “prior experience”. In an urban nuclear family, children are often left to the mercies of school teachers, tuition teachers, and sundry adults who largely take up defining roles in their young lives. These adult role models have to struggle with the sheer density of children that they have to deal with, besides the overwhelming academic curriculum that they have to complete.

Parents must realize that they are the emotional anchors that their children depend on; and learn to deal with them with a raised level of Emotional Intelligence. This will strengthen the bond between them, enable children to be aware of their own emotions; and enhance their ability to share that with their parents. Here are some tips:

  1. Understand and be aware of your own emotions: Emotional self-awareness is one of the pillars of Emotional Intelligence, along with Emotional Self-Expression. Parents who are aware of their own emotions are able to use their sensitivity to tune in and become aware of their children’s emotions.
  2. Work closely with your children to get them aware of Emotions: Parents must use the natural trust that their children share with them to create ‘safe’ environments for children to express their emotions. Once children are aware that its ‘okay’ to experience emotions, and share that with their parents, it creates opportunities for parents to help children learn how to deal with them.
  3. Learn and share the ‘Emotional Vocabulary’: Most people are unaware of the wide range of words available to express and verbalize emotions. Learning this and actively practicing it will help children to classify and state their feelings, without having to use extreme emotional language or behavior.
  4. When interacting with your children, change orientation from ‘self’ to ‘other’: In Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), one skill practitioners learn is the ability to change ‘orientation’. Being ‘other oriented’ simply means tuning out all internal ‘self-talk’; and focusing attention on the other person. Reframing and rephrasing are other skills that help keep the ‘other orientation’ on track. This is the art of ‘Active Empathetic Listening’. Parents must use this skill to build rapport with their children.
  5. Don’t coach when emotions are high: When your child is upset, use that as an opportunity to get closer rather than as an opportunity to teach or coach. Like all of us, children also need to be supported unconditionally through their emotional highs. Coaching and teaching can wait till the surge subsides.

Raising children to be aware of their Emotions, and coaching them to verbalize them goes a long way in improving parent-child relationships. In times of high emotional stress, children will learn to share issues with their parents, thus mitigating the build-up of negative emotions and the associated risks.

Sunder Sharma is a Facilitative Corporate Trainer, and works extensively in the area of Emotional Intelligence. He is a Certified Practitioner of the EQ-i v2.0 and the EQ-i 360; and has completed another program in Emotional Intelligence from IIM Lucknow.

Ordinary Man?



‘Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got, I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block’ crooned the sultry Jennifer Lopez, letting the folks back home know that she was still a ‘regular’ girl. India’s Corporate Czars are now on track to show their employees that they too, are from the ‘Block’ – don’t mind the billions, please!

It all started with Francisco D’Souza letting the people in Cognizant loose – business casuals any time! Apparently the magic worked because CTS has been exceeding industry expectations constantly. It didn’t take long for Infosys to follow suit…err…’un’suit! Apparently the Cognizant model showed that it was all in the Jeans!

Indian corporate dress policy has always been somewhat straitlaced and prudish, like our publicly displayed sense of morals. Apparently employees, like the limerick, needed to be kept on a very tight rein: being furtive and mean, they sneak off to the slums and promptly become – drunk, disorderly and obscene.

No matter that the world flattened out, and everyone knew how the Googles, Apples, Facebook and the like were making money hand over fist despite their employees walking around in – God save them – flip-flops. It took a Cognizant for the others to take cognizance that un-tie-ing employees actually freed up their thinking!

Harsh Goenka started the new trend by asking all his employees (oops – colleagues) to call him ‘Harsh’. (And he did not mean that as an adjective!).  I do not know if he was inspired by Lynyrd Sknyrd:

            And be a simple kind of man

           Be something you love and understand

          Baby, be a simple kind of man

         Oh won’t you do this for me son,

         If you can?


I’m just one of the Guys, he said. Though it hasn’t really worked so far according to a follow up report, but we hope the guys at the RPG Group keeps persevering. Some day they can pat him on the back like any regular guy and take him out for a beer! As Wodehouse would say, the imagination boggles!

And now the super-rich Ambanis have hopped onto the bandwagon. No, you can’t call him ‘Mukesh’ yet, but the group has taken one step towards getting closer to the office proletariat. The bosses will now work from an ‘open office’ at Reliance Jio. I do not know how this news was received by the junta – but it must make the fortunate (?) seventy key execs (who have been so honored) wonder what was coming next.

Dabbas from Antilla, anyone?

Emotional Intelligence 101 – The value of Interpersonal skills



With the passing away of Brijmohan Munjal, we lost a more than an industrial giant – we lost another person who built an empire by excelling in interpersonal relationships. ‘One of the key reasons for success of Hero MotoCorp, industry insiders say is Munjal’s strong inter-personal relations with his firm’s vendors and dealers. His relationship with them was such that they enjoyed the comfort to reach out directly to Munjal on any issue rather than approaching the concerned department. Company executives say Munjal knows almost every dealer by his first name’.

In this e-commerce age, are such relationships relevant? In the race for frenetic growth in sales (and valuations) are these e-commerce firms neglecting a very important factor in their business – their sellers? E-commerce companies depend on their sellers to provide products that meet customer demand. When relationships are poor, and growth is based on quantity rather than quality, customer satisfaction takes a hit which will reflect back to the organization.

Foodpanda, the food delivery startup, is an example. Among the many things that apparently went wrong with this food-ordering platform was a complete lack of relationships with key partners – the restaurants who are supposedly the fulfilment partners. The result – fake restaurants, inflated billing, incorrect data…the list goes on.

Dealers, re-sellers, agents and the like are regarded by most organizations as a necessary evil. It is this mindset that makes them rush to the Internet – a platform that gives them direct access to their customers. In the initial euphoria of the success of direct-to-customer sales, companies are only too happy to bypass this channel. However, in this melee, organizations forget that if customers do not have a channel that builds and nurtures relationships, the long term effects will be disastrous.

Organizations are chary of dealing directly with customers – they would rather leave this messy aspect to a convenient channel. What they forget is that customers need relationships – if not through dealers, the organization had better create solid channels for relationships. E-commerce may sound neutral, but what when customers want redressal?

Consider the ongoing conflict between the dealers of electronic appliances and the e-commerce companies. Appliances require service and maintenance, and dealers banded together to deny customers that service if the appliance was purchased online. Sure, a strong service network may alleviate this problem to some extent, but with the spread of markets in remote areas, this may well be impossible.

The dealer-company conflict is exacerbated by the passion of young managers who see the internet as the solution to this perceived evil. The challenge is that they perceive even customers as a necessary evil – someone who they need to sustain their business, but not as someone who is integral to their business. Witness the burgeoning ‘outsourced’ call centers – which give organizations the ability to ensure that customers are kept at a neat distance. (But that is another story).

I recollect the relationship-building ability of Mr. Naresh Goyal – like Mr. Munjal, he built Jet Airways through an outstanding network of agents with whom he enjoyed great personal rapport. I have met agents not only across India, but even in the US and Europe who still fondly recall the relationship they enjoyed with Mr. Goyal. Without exception, all of them rue that this connect is missing – and Jet is no longer the number one airline in India.

It is imperative that organizations build engagement and relationships with key stakeholders – including suppliers, dealers, agents, re-sellers and the like. Ignoring this is a recipe for disaster.

Take away the ‘Yaaawwn!” from Induction Training – Facilitate!


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‘Inducting’ new hires into an organization can be challenging, especially when the intake is regular. HR and Trainers struggle with sharing the same content over and over again, and the routine becomes a repetitive activity that no one enjoys.

Here is how to change the induction session into something interactive and fun-filled, yet helping participants to learn and retain content!

Sharing company policies with new recruits – leave, attendance, performance review, dress code, email etiquette, IT security, physical security, compensation and benefits, medical benefits………..and so on, is mandatory, but can be daunting and extremely boring.

Want to change this to something fun, yet have a lasting learning experience?

Use the ‘Textra’ Magic Wand! Here is how:

Break the participants into small groups. Groups of five or six are ideal. Have printouts of each policy document (leave, medical and so on) printed out and ready. Give each team one policy document (one copy for each member of the team) to read and discuss. Allow 10 minutes for this activity (longer or shorter based on the number of pages).

Ask each team to prepare a flip chart with highlights of the policy – let them get as creative as they like! They should also prepare a set of questions that they would expect others to ask, and be ready with the answers.

Each team should now make a presentation to the rest about their understanding of the policy. After that, all other participants can ask questions. If now questions are forthcoming, the team presenting the policy can use their prepared set of questions to ask the others – this way they test the understanding of the group.

And that’s it! No more PowerPoint! Not only will you be able to keep the group engrossed, but you will find that they learn and retain more of the content!

There are dozens of variations you can bring into Textra – it is only limited by your creativity! ! With creativity and imagination, there is no limit to what you can accomplish with even ‘routine’ training, without sacrificing efficiency but enhancing participants’ learning exponentially!

What do you think you can do with Textra? Share and let me know!

Sunder Sharma is a member of The International Association of Facilitators ( The India Chapter has over 70 members, and organizes learning and sharing events regularly. check out the website; or the Facebook page for more information.

The IAF is celebrating ‘Facilitation Week’ from October 19th to 25th, 2015. This is a world-wide coordinated effort to spread the awareness and advantages of Facilitation. As a part of this, the India Chapter of the IAF is providing pro-bono services to several organizations, groups and Institutions to help them get an overview of Facilitation and how it helps them to share learning, encourage participation and get involvement from each individual. If you wish to explore a session in your organization, please email me at

Waiting for Godot


The Vladimirs and Estragons keep waiting till 11.30, getting vague updates – he is on the way, will reach any time, held up due traffic and so on. Finally – wonder of wonders – Godot appears! A brief, curt apology, and Godot is off. Missing again for an hour – and Vladimir and Estragon keep waiting – they expect to do business with Godot.

The Great Indian Stretchable Time Malady is a great leveler – a malaise that straddles generations, languages, cultures, industries, businesses, everything. Indians, as a class, seem to be unable to keep appointments or schedules.

Across the world, business professionals schedule their work and meetings – and keep their schedules. Meetings not only start on time, they end on time. I’ve scheduled multiple meetings in a day at different part of a city in the US and Europe – and had people coming on time, every time. But back in India – and waiting!

Let ‘em wait!

The Great Indian Stretchable Time Malady is not restricted to managers – it can go all the way to the top. Indian corporate leaders seem to derive their power and prestige from making people wait – the higher you are on the Totem pole, the longer you make ‘em wait. Two of my CEO’s were notorious for this – if they scheduled a meeting with you, that’s all you could have on your calendar. And even so, the meeting may not happen at all! I recollect the entire Executive Committee – 18 high-powered Executives – wandering around the Corporate office for an entire day for a meeting to begin because the CEO was dealing with ’other priorities’.

It starts from the first job Interview

The induction to the corporate version of the IST Malaise starts right at the first interview. Have you ever walked into a large company’s office and seen people milling around waiting to be interviewed? I wonder what standard of professionalism the organization communicates when it assumes that the candidates’ time is of no consequence – after all, they are job seekers.  What do you expect these future employees would do? Make people wait!

People work, and time is the resource they offer, which is what organizations pay for. Wasting that in any form is criminal. Can you even estimate the cost of lost hours due ‘waiting’?

Dealing with the Malady

How do you deal with this? This is what I do.  I am willing to invest 25 minutes in waiting for any face-to-face meeting, and that is my consideration for the chaotic traffic situation. After that, I walk away. This is a practice I have followed since I was a struggling entrepreneur, when I walked away from a scheduled meeting with the COO of the then Hutchison Max. (At least the man was courteous enough to rush out and offer to buy me lunch when his secretary informed him I was not willing to wait).

Great Leaders set examples

All is not lost, however. There are still the old-time business leaders who keep their appointments. One lasting memory I have is that of Mr. Adi Godrej, who promised to attend my daughter’s wedding and said he would come to the venue at 7 pm. And he was there – 7 pm on the dot! No excuses – a new place, no directions, traffic, other meetings – nothing! And that is Corporate Leadership – by example! How do you stack up?

‘In Pursuit of Happyness’

Happiness square

I have found my key to being Happy – every day.

Emotional Intelligence is a measure of Happiness. What impressed me most in the study of EI is that it finally ends up measuring your Happiness – your current state of satisfaction with what you are, who you are and what you do. Okay, but how can I be  Happy every day?

I went through a hundred quotes on Happiness to read what wiser heads had to say. All are uniform on the idea that Happiness is a state of mind, and that it is internal. Somehow, this still did not satisfy me – how could I make myself Happy every day? I have been searching for that elusive key for a long time. I finally found it for myself, and here it is:

Each morning, I realize I have a choice – to be happy or not.

I realize that while the choice is mine, just making that choice is not sufficient.

I must do, or act , on something that I do or act on by my choice alone – and by my choice alone.

It need not be something great, but something that I do of my own free will, by my choice.

It need not be anything great or stupendous. It doesn’t take much of my time. Five minutes – that’s all I need!

I can miss my usual train because I took five minutes to stop at a little garden on my way and admire the flowers.

I stop and gaze at the sky, lit up by a brilliant sun, and enjoy the clouds drifting past and the wind on my face.

I stand at a corner and watch people rushing past, and realize that I am a part of that seething mass of humanity.

I stop to watch a group of small children on their way to school, laughing and chattering.

I stop my car to let a group of women and children cross a busy street

And so on….

Five minutes. That’s what it takes to make me happy.

And I keep the memory of those five minutes with me all through the day. I made my choice, and acted on it for my happiness alone – and that is the thought I cherish all through the day, and that keeps me happy!

You have a choice too – to do something that makes you happy and then keeping that memory close to you, like a huge enlarged picture that you can see every moment.

Do something that makes you Happy – now!

Management Lessons from a Terrace Garden

Garden picManagement Lessons from a Terrace Garden

This season, I’ve been trying to grow organic vegetables on my terrace, using a mix of pots and large plastic drums. Yesterday, I had to empty a drum that contained an end-of-life colocasia; so it could be used for new vegetable plants. The soil had to be turned over to get rid of the colocasia roots; and then I planned to add some compost and organic manure to the soil.

The top soil was pretty easy to turn over, but the roots were enmeshed even lower, and I had to dig deeper, layer after layer. While digging, I realized that there were several management lessons I could learn from this experience:

  1. The top soil is the upper layer, and it’s easy to keep checking that for moisture and nutrients. That’s what companies find easy to do – this layer is visible, and we keep an eye of that all the time. This is the ‘valuable’ layer.
  2. All nutrients are applied to this layer, gently turned over so as not to disturb the plant too much. Rewards and recognition come easily to this layer.
  3. It is this layer that we keep checking for water and moisture content – one look here helps us decide whether it needs watering. In an organization too, this layer is constantly monitored – the temperature here tells you the organization’s health.
  4. I had to dig deeper to remove the roots, and made more discoveries. The deeper I dug, the soil got drier. This though the plant was out in the rain. I realized that water would drain through areas it found most convenient, or the drain holes in the sides, leaving parts of the soil dry. Organizations face this challenge too – values, vision and mission percolate through the organization only to areas that are receptive.
  5. The deeper I dug, following the roots, the harder the soil was. Organizations have to realize that their roots are deeply enmeshed, which is what sustains their growth.

Lessons learned:

  1. Pay attention to what is happening at the root level – and that has to be a constant effort.
  2. While it is important to pay attention to the top layer, the roots go far below the surface.
  3. Beliefs and practices tend to harden perceptions at that level, and unless there is attention from the top, the organization will tend to harden to a point where the water and nutrients drain away from the top layer itself, letting the plant dry and die from the bottom.

Complex Management Lessons from Nature!