Sunday, April 11, 2010

The first few days of not being an i-flexer!

Replicated from

My first post after leaving i-flex, and its been 10 days since! And a hectic 10 days if I may add.

First few days in NIIT (Yes I've joined NIIT Technologies for those who don't know yet) have been decent enough... too early to comment whether its for better or worse, but its definitely not unmanageable, except for the commute. It takes me 1.5 hours or more either way, and for a person who has till date managed to stay close to office or have office transport available, this is definitely the most difficult hurdle thatz come in the new job. This blog is about my life at i-flex, so won't say more about my NIIT experience here.

Many friends have repeatedly asked me how it feels to be out of i-flex and into a new job. And I repeatedly keep telling them - too early to tell. Too early to tell what...??? The latter yes, possibly (will definitely take more than a few days to know how I feel about the new job), but how I feel being out of i-flex, it was very much evident and known much before I actually left.

Leaving i-flex, as I have said again and again, was definitely not an easy decision, but I think it was made much easier by the fact that last 1.5+ years was spent in Equinox (OFSBPO). Now before I'm misunderstood, the OFSBPO experience was great, with ample amount of learning coming with it. But no one would deny that the Equinox office culture was nothing like i-flex (maybe better, maybe worse, but definitely not the same). Had I been in Bangalore or Mumbai when I resigned, it would have been much much more difficult. But in a way my exit was cushioned by the move to Equinox (much like if you fall off height but a break in the fall saves you from getting hurt). When I moved to Equinox, I was still connected to i-flex but at the same time, it was already like joining a different organization, and the final exit in a way was from Equinox, and not from i-flex.

Still, severance from equinox wasn't easy either, as I'd grown into a comfort zone in equinox pretty fast, made a lot of good friends in Gurgaon office, and in a way had recreated i-flex for myself there. There are a lot of things I'll miss about i-flex, some I may come to ignore, some I may get in other places, and yet, some that will always be missed. The recognition that came to you when you walked into any office (Gurgaon, Mumbai, Bangalore) even when in some cases it was after years is something I doubt I'll ever get elsewhere. And I know, even now after leaving i-flex, I'll get the same whenever I choose to walk in.

A recent example of this was when I was in GO office and a security guard came up to me. The gentleman was happy seeing me (I was seeing him after at least 5-6 years) and told me that he is now based in SEEPZ and happened to see my entry in SEEPZ register a few months back on his off day and was disappointed to miss the chance of meeting me. This incident touched me a lot... getting this kind of respect from Security/Housekeeping after so many years is something I hold more dear than getting the same from other colleagues. Not to sound prejudiced, its just that with others, even if you don't visit them in their office, you tend to interact on email/messenger, but with the security staff whom you've not interacted at all in years, and even when you did it was limited interaction... you'll assume they'd have forgotten you by now! And the fact that they still remember you shows you must have done some good.

Now that I've started in the new organization, I wait and watch how things will turn out. Maybe life will be good after all, but it will never be the same!

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Final Countdown!

There are people who treat a job as just that - A JOB and a means to earn their livelihood. And then there are those, who find a home, a family in their job and colleagues. My journey of 11 years in i-flex, the second company I worked for, would fall into the latter category.

Before someone comments on the name, yes I know its no longer i-flex. It was CITIL when I joined, and OFSS when I leave, so technically I never joined a company called i-flex and will not be leaving a company called i-flex either... but I'll always prefer to call it i-flex solutions.

It has been almost 11 years now since the day I stepped into the city of Mumbai and reached this building in a side-road (took me a while to find). And the sight that welcomed me on arrival is etched vividly in my mind - a building under construction (VP office had 2 floors then, 3rd and 4th were still under construction) with wooden frames all around it, construction material spread everywhere. This sure didn't help quell the already running thoughts in my mind about the wrong decision I'd made by joining CITIL (more on my entry into the organization in my next post) but anyway, there was no turning back at that point, so slowly I made my way in... to face the music!

That was the day when I became part of a 700 strong organization, and now I have reached the point where I'll soon be leaving a 15000+ organization (not counting the Oracle numbers). In precisely 10 days from now!

Leaving i-flex was never going to be a easy decision for me. My wife always referred to i-flex as my first wife, and even when I'd officially resigned, she refused to believe I'm leaving, firm in her belief that I'll sooner than later retract my resignation. Proving her wrong (FINALLY) is a mixed feeling for sure!!!

Now that I stand on this juncture, moving into my last 10 days in i-flex, I felt it apt to start a blog and share my 11 years in the company, my views of the organization and the people I've known here.

This will I believe give me the right forum to acknowledge almost everyone (almost because I may inadvertently miss out some) who impacted my life in i-flex. Sending those Good Bye mails reaching everyone has sure become cumbersome after moving to Oracle emails.

Friends reading this who may have some pictures that form a part of my i-flex journey, please share the same with me. I'd love to include them in my future posts here.


Monday, February 08, 2010

What an IDEA Sirji !!!

M-Commerce: Adding convenience to life (and saving the environment) ???

I've never used IDEA mobile, but their advertisements never fail to impress me. Hats off to their creative team who deliver a social message with every advertisement, be it Eradication of Caste Politics in Villages, Spreading the reach of Quality Education, Health messages with Walk the Talk, or the latest Use Mobile, Save Paper message.

The last one intrigues me the most, as it touches two subjects I keenly advocate, summarizing the first very well with a question and presenting the second as a answer to that - दुनिया नहीं बचेगी अगर पेड़ नहीं बचेंगे, और पेड़ नहीं बचेंगे जब तक पेपर नहीं बचेगा. अब पेपर कैसे बचाएँ ? (The world won't be saved if trees are not saved, and trees won't be saved unless paper is saved. Now, how to save paper? )

The question is pertinent to the grave need we have today to Save our Environment. Enough has been said about the need to save the environment by the who's who of the world, and though the Copenhagen summit was tagged a failure, I'm sure its coverage in the media helped raising awareness about the need to save the environment and leave a habitable world for our future generations. What surprises and appalls me though is that in spite of the seriousness of the situation being highlighted in the media through direct coverage and ads like PCRA, the so called educated class is still oblivious to the need of the hour (I won't even want to blame the uneducated yet!).

The world climate has been skewed a lot in the past couple of decades, and there is more to come, given the present progress we are making. The so called developed world with their disposable incomes is still not over its romance with fuel guzzling SUVs and upcoming economies like India and China are adding to the woes with more and more people now affording cars. Paper usage in offices is rampant, and I am pained to see gross wastage of paper in my own office. Again, the ever so educated around us make faces and laugh behind your back, if you so much as request them to recycle paper, or print back-to-back for rough usage (God only know how they'll react if I dare to ask them not to print at all and read digital copies directly on their computers).

All it takes is small efforts which collectively will take us a long way towards making our world a better place. Simple things that I call every individual to follow are

  1. Read documents on computer, and print only if you need a hard copy for records (many of us have not got used to reading on a screen, but believe me, you do it 5 days and then you'll take to it like a fish to water)
  2. If at all you print, print on both sides of the paper unless forced to print single sided
  3. Switch off your monitor in office when you take a break, and switch off the PC at the end of the day
  4. Switch off your vehicles at traffic signals and in traffic jams
The first 3 may not lure you, as it saves money for your office, not you... but remember, it saves a lot more than money that your future generations would thank you for!!!

And the answer to the problem given by IDEA, is Mobile Commerce. The advertisement shows the use of technology to save trees beautifully. I've read a few comments online that question the practicality of implementation of IDEA ideas. Some are simply due to lack of awareness and knowledge of m-commerce and these I choose to ignore. But one comment that got me thinking goes as follows - "similar hype that we see around m-commerce could be seen for e-commerce a decade ago, but e-commerce hardly affected the use of paper in our day to day lives". 

I tend to agree and disagree with this comment. For one, e-commerce sure has made some difference in the use of paper and can do more so, with a little effort from our side. For example, air tickets earlier were this big booklet which wasted a lot of paper, and caused inconvenience to the passenger carrying the booklet. Introduction of e-ticket sure helped save some paper there... I know we still print these tickets, and some would claim that only the cost of these papers have shifted from airlines to passengers. This is why I mentioned "with a little effort from our side". How many of you have cared to print what you really need of this ticket. You get a e-ticket on email, and you blindly hit PRINT, thus consuming 3 or sometimes 4 sheets (back to back printing, whatever the F*** is that???). This when you need just the first page for boarding the flight, and effort required from you is a mere 5 seconds extra - instruct the printer to print page 1 only. This is but one example and there would be zillion more I can share, should you be interested.

But the bigger factor here is penetration of computers and internet, viz-a-viz, penetration of mobiles. Computers didn't reach enough to people in 50 years, whereas, mobiles managed to reach the masses in both urban and rural areas in just a decade. E-commerce was very much effective but it could reach only those who had computers, which was primarily urban population, that too in offices or schools only until recently. M-commerce would again be able to reach those who have mobiles, and this is where it differentiates itself... "Who have Mobiles" today include our local vegetable vendor, the rickshaw-walla, the maid, almost everyone in the urban centres, and a sizable population in villages as well. These are the people who have not seen computers, don't have bank accounts, and form the market waiting eagerly to be tapped by m-commerce vendors.

 WHAT IS M-COMMERCE??? It is the ability to transact using your mobile devices, to put it simply. M-commerce has been in existence since 1997 technically, but is still in a nascent state right now. Biggest use of m-commerce today is Mobile Banking being offered by banks (where mobile phones are used as an additional and convenient channel for the existing products and services offered by the banks). But in the last 2 years, m-commerce is evolving further and many players have jumped into the market offering direct m-commerce platforms and services that may not rely on existing banking infrastructure.

Coming back to the IDEA advertisement, it shows this as simple as it gets, when the aunt down the street buys fish and pays for the same by transferring Rs. 100 from her mobile to the fish vendor's mobile. Some call it wishful and impractical, but you'd be surprised to know that this is not something we'll see in the future, but is very much available today in India and around the world.

Paymate is one vendor offering such services in India allowing you to not just pay merchants using mobile phones (they allow you to link your bank account or credit card with you phone, or fund a wallet in their system which works like a pre-paid account), but also to buy movie/air tickets, transfer money to others, pay your utility bills or top up your mobile phone account. Other vendors offering similar services are Oxigen, Obopay, Mchek to name  a few.

The beauty of this system and the reason why its bound to succeed is that it allows a user to transact using something they anyway carry around, and not burdening them with an additional item to carry (like credit/debit cards). More important, a mobile phone will feature in the pockets of people in the remotest of villages, even those, who don't understand the concept of a bank account or a credit card. Not to forget the ease for the merchant who need not install POS machines for accepting payments. All they need is again a mobile phone, which, lo-and-behold, they would find right their in their trouser pocket. This is where m-commerce would go beyond not just e-commerce, but plastic money transactions as well, as this technology allows smallest of merchants to acquire transactions unlike cards, where the bank would give a POS machine to the merchant who commits a minimum turnover.

Coming back yet again to the IDEA ad, the solution presented by them lies not just in using mobile phones for commerce, but also as a effective delivery channel. How then do they propose to use mobile phones and save trees (very much realistically if I may add)
  • Newspapers delivered or accessed on mobile phones and handheld devices (made much more easier with the launch of iPad) - many of us already do so by checking news on the web through our mobile phones, or subscribing to news alerts on SMS
  • Waiters taking orders on mobile devices - already prevalent in up market restaurants where waiters carry PDAs
  • Carrying e-tickets and boarding cards on the phone instead of printing it - now this is interesting, will save that 1 sheet of paper I mentioned earlier (very much possible, just needs support and acceptance from aviation and other transport industries)
  • Sharing documents with each other electronically - the most commonly used of them all (we send millions of emails every day), but what needs to be done now is to stop printing those emails and access them on the phone anywhere as and when needed
  • Delivering messages through mobile phones instead of printing pamphlets - here IDEA shows a politician sending a MMS message instead of putting pamphlets (again limited use of this seen in the last elections when political parties used SMS as a means of propaganda)
  • Payment through mobile (the example of buying fish I talked about earlier) - this doesn't translate directly to saving paper (unless we are talking removing print currency - this I'd say would be wishful at this stage) but this is the best use of mobile devices for me
The ad again shows some traits of wishful thinking when it shows an entirely paper-less world (the lady laughing at the raddi-waala when he asks for old papers, the star giving autograph to a smitten fan on his mobile and transferring the image). I am in no way suggesting a paper-less world is possible (for another 100 years at least) or should be desired (what would we do without the good old smell and feel of holding a book). But then, its hit the nail on the spot and if we implement half of what IDEA suggests or what I've talked about above, we are GOOD TO GO!!!

The advertisement closes beautifully when the tree cutter finally asks the tree (played by Abhishek Bachchan -  transformed from a dry and dead to a fully blossomed tree as the world saves paper) - IDEA सर जी, आप कोन से पेड़ हो, pre-पेड हो के post-पेड हो :)

(See the ad by clicking on the subject)