Results Orientation : an Essential value to any org

     Continuing on with my Values Centric Organization article published recently, I wanted to introduce you all to something that the leading semiconductor company Intel cherishes the most – RESULTS ORIENTATION.  The timing of this article is coincidentally a tribute to Andy Grove who died today-  the first employees of Intel after its two founders and later years its CEO, Holocaust survivor from Hungary and a practical management guru. I salute you SIR.

      As Intel describes it, it is set challenging and competitive goals and focus on the output by assuming responsibility and executing flawlessly.  Any issues or problems that come in between have to be solved and confronted constructively and quickly to achieve the goal.  Focusing your resources on the important results is key for success and managing through people to create a positive impact for the organizations is every manager’s priority.  I do not see many organizations recognizing results orientation as a critical value.

     For all types of organization, be it a small privately held one or a bigger public company or a government establishment and even a not-for-profit one, delivering on your goals successfully is essential.  The leader in you should be able to push self and others to desired results and should celebrate successes.   The value of results orientation is the basis behind setting up a matrix organization where every talent within the organization works for a product, solution or oriented towards a service, from various functionalities.  The entire team has to agree to a set of objectives (remember SMART) and work together to achieve those with high quality.  At the end of the day, the products or services that the company sells or gives is the one that brands the company to the customers.  Even if you are in a research organization, it is critical that the development happening inside is mapped to a product that they can sell eventually or a service that they can offer later.

   Every employee should review the work they are doing regularly with their immediate management and prioritize what is urgent and more important. Each employee needs to plan their work accordingly to ensure that important goals get done within the required time.   Be realistic at your workload when you take on more work. As a manager, one must be aware of the stress levels within the team and try to re-prioritize and re-distribute the workload within your team.   It is a good practice to keep your ears to the ground and actively listen to your team and to put some sense around what they say.  Finally celebrate small successes and the eventual ones.

     In these Agile days of working, it is easier to have discrete sets of results achieved within a shorter time span and corrective actions put in place for any deviations that happen.   Three behaviours come to the fore-front to achieve results:  Effective time management, managing stress at work (there is always going to be stress, you need to find your own ways to manage it properly) and good influencing skills to get things done.   From the HR perspective, a few tweaks must be in place so that they start measuring the engagement and commitment levels of the employees to the programs they are in and to the organizations, and monitor if key decisions are being made quickly by the managers and whether they are putting undue stress on his or her employees  to an extent that it affects results.  Most metrics should be taken at a project or program level and not at a horizontal functional level.

For those of you who have not got the privilege of the working for Andy Grove and living during the times when he built Intel, I would highly recommend two books, “High Output Management” and “Only Paranoids Survive”.

The Author is a business and technology consultant based in India and if also a former employee of Intel.  He also conducts leadership programs that are based on key values of organizations.

Recruiting the right talent

   Once someone sees a job advertisement in the local newspaper or on social media, and if one feels that they do fit into the role, one immediately applies. Then of course, you are in dark days where nothing happens, and one goes from applying from one to another trying out their luck.

    But recruitment as such is both an art and a science:  art because many a times we are very ambiguous in what we are asked to look out for, and science because there does lie a process behind it, although it is hardly being practiced religiously.  Usually they companies are looking for that ‘missing piece’ in a jigsaw puzzle that has to ‘fit exactly’ – this is what they want ideally.

    Nowadays, I find in every company there are three divisions:  Human resources (either general or business oriented), Recruitment and Staffing, and then Learning and Development.  Eventually all fall under the Human Resources department.  I have a philosophical problem with the word “ resources” – this means people are treated like machines.  On one hand, the corporate big wigs talk about their people being their Intellectual property (IP), their Knowledge Solutions, their  Talents that they nurture and on the other hand, they have a department that maps them as a resource.  Finding a talent, training them regularly and retaining them is a continuous process and this has to be individually based, rather than a policy document or an objective in some performance assessment.  People have to be recruited  slightly differently based on whether it is a product development organization or a professional solutions organization. Then as a large team, they talk about ‘Pyramid fit’.

    What should a recruiter ideally do in order to get the best talent available into his or her organization?

Capture/Document:  The expectation of the hiring manager must be very clear to the person who is looking out for profile. The required technology skills and the soft skills have to be enumerated in order of priority.  It is better to have three Must haves and three nice to haves.  If one cannot capture the exact requirement in 6 lines, then one cannot recruit properly.  It is always desired for a hiring manager to put in everything that he thinks it is important, but it is like a matrimonial match – you cannot ever get an exact wife!  One needs to understand that the recruiter has to select the best fish that fits the size somehow from the ocean full of fishes. So, capturing the requirements and expectation must be the very first step. This is the reference for the recruiter to start his work

Research/Study:  It is not a given that the recruiter may be versed in the area that he is recruiting.  It is better for him to research and study the area or the technology that the recruitment is happening for, so that he is aware of the key jargons and outlier areas that may be interested as well. It is imperative that he understands what is that he is looking out for, given that he has a published reference point before him.

Search:  Now he scouts for the best fitting profiles and also uses his judgement to see if any outlying areas does fit the requirement as an extrapolative guess.  He must be able to see the profiles, make a quick call to understand the candidate and have a folder with 6-8 profiles that he deems are the best fit available.  It is always better to do a video call of the candidate at the very first instant so that there is a personal connect with the person. A quick 15 minutes call would be more than sufficient. This is just a pre-selection and once you are convinced, you must have the candidate send his updated profile across with an embedded photo. If he is able to send his profile within a day, we have some sort of assurance that the candidate is also showing interest.

Shortlist:  Based on the screening calls, a recruiter must confidentally be able to shortly 4 candidates now to further interview processes within the organization.  It would also be better if someone from the technical side is able to wet the candidates at this point with a quick call to ensure this fitment is there.  It is always better to avoid calling in more candidates for a  Face to Face than needed.

Select:  This selection MUST NOT be done by recruiter nor anyone from the human resources , nor do they have a right to reject. Selection is always done by the hiring manager as the candidate would be reporting to him and he has to be fully accountable for the same.  And al the final interviews must be done within a day and must be done face to face (F2F) and not spread across many days and over phone – this gives a professional look for the candidate as he comes in and leaves with a feeling that he is indeed joining a professionally run organization or a group.  From here on, the engagement with the candidate should be through the hiring manager and no more the recruiter. This gives a professional touch to the entire organization and makes the candidate very proud that he is wanted and  gets a feeling that he is already engaged with the group he is to join. One of the inputs to the selection process should be given mandatorily by the human resources person, both a generic HR and a business HR as they view the candidate from two different lights – this would include all the behavioural skill they had observed during the interview and the financial numbers (budget ted vs present and expected numbers of the candidates) – they must be able to sell the entire organization at a high level during this interaction.  A good 30 minutes must be spent with all interviewees and all inputs collected and decisions must be arrived at – select one, have one backup and reject two.  The hiring manager calls up all the four candidates and gives them the message within a day of interview and not later. For  the backup, one can just say we can looking at him for a different role to give a positive spin and this may take a little while for you to get back. This process is the best remembered by the candidate and they carry memories of the organization and the group here. The files are sent back to human resources department for further processes of hiring.

Secure:  I added this step as this is usually missed by any recruiter.  Once we have the selected candidate, it is important for the recruiter who called him in the first place to keep the channels with the candidate open and keep him engaged with the group and organization. Having a 5 minute call every week or so would be most ideal.  Any questions the candidates may ask can be referred to the right authority and information fed back to the candidate appropriately. By ‘securing’ him,  one knows for sure the candidate joins. If not kept engaged, you may have a no show during the joining day and the process has to repeat.  Atleast during this engagement one gets a feel of what is going to happen.  Depending on the market conditions, if it is especially for the skills you are hiring to, one can do two things:  Add a hiring bonus as a carrot (based on the person joining within a month) and making an offer for both the primary and backup candidate – this way you have a higher probability that one of them would join. If both join, it is merrier as there can always be a place for a candidate that the team selected and more work can be added to the groups plate.

How do you measure the recruiter’s work?  We used to have a metric that measures success by number of resumes screened and shortlisted that has been sent to the number of candidates selected. It has to be 33% and above (some product development companies have 25% and above), meaning one out of the three shortlisted is selected. If over 5 jobs that this is lesser than 25%, then it very well says the recruiter is not doing his job well.  We usually have this metric of 33% for consultants that we may hire for some ‘extra-ordinary’ hiring (in terms  of numbers to be filled or in terms of niche skills that may be sparsely available) – for normal recruiting, it is always beneficial to have an in house recruiter on contract to hire you the best talent. Once a consultant accepts the requirement to hire, it is their responsibility to get you the best.  Never have a external consultant contact a hiring manager and have the interface only through your internal recruiter on roll. For the first time, if external recruiters are called for, it is better for them all to come in one room face to face, get the expectations and their measurement criteria from the hiring manager , and then after that their only point of contact should be the recruiter only.

Now comes the debate of whether you need a recruiter on your roll permanently or hire a contractor. If you have a good human resource personnel on roll, then my take would be to hire a suitable contractor who has recruited in like fields for 6 months to a year and pay them a base and a bonus for successful hiring. On days that no recruitment happens, this recruitment is actually a liability on your financials.  The same rule applies for a guy on bench on any professional services organization- if he is not able to market his skills or convince his client and he does not pay back to the organization, his days are numbered within.

Queueing theory and Utilization factor in Services Company

       I recently read an interesting article on Queueing theory and the analysis of server utilization.  This theory has been there for a long time and properly researched mostly from the hardware angle.  An idea struck my mind – why not I extend this theory to the utilization and billability concept that every professional services company talks about and see if it makes real sense for them to achieve greater than 90% utilization of people resources.

Let me introduce you to the common referred graph for server utilization.   Every company has a Human Resources department which means that all employees are treated like resources.  This very concept is so appalling to me as I prefer to use “Talent Office” because every employee is a talent for the organization – we live in the days of Knowledge management.   But let me not digress and let me introduce you to the concept on which I would make some inferences later.  This graph denotes that the wait time just goes up badly as the server utilization goes beyond 80%.

The X Axis is server utilization and Y axis is the average wait time.   At a utilization of 1, the average time is actually infinity. Wait time here means that the jobs that arrive at the server have to wait that much longer to be processed. You can even apply it to any retail store format regarding people wait time where when the numbers of customers arrive faster in the line than the cashier can actually serve and be done with each customer, the line becomes longer.  The same logic applies to fine dine-in restaurants – you see a line outside because all the tables and the waiters inside are complete engaged with present customers who take a significant amount of time to get served and eat.   I will not get into the semantics of how to classify these types of time.

Now let us split the total amount of time to two segments – the actual wait time to get served, and the actual service time where your job gets executed.  Both of them together are the response time – actually this would include a variability effect as well.   To highlight the impact of the wait time, let us assume the service time remains the same for all jobs or customers which may be incorrect but let us do so for this article.  And we are talking averages here throughout.  The response time degrades the busier the resource is.  There would always be a safety capacity plan to support in excess of expected demand to cover for the variability effect.

Some observations here:

  • If you are the first job or the first customer, your response time is equal to the service time.
  • If your resources are utilized at 50%, you can see the response time doubles!
  • At 75% utilization, the response time quadruples and at 87%, it becomes eight times.
  • At 94% utilization, the response time is 16 times and at 97% utilization, the response time is 32 times.
  • When you go from 75% to 90% utilization, your response time increases by 225%!

So it is obvious that if the machine or the resources are busy, there would be lot of jobs waiting in the queue.   Now let us correlate it to what every professional services company uses as a key objective – its billability and utilization.  Without going too much into details, billability rate is usually less than the utilization rate – meaning not all what a resource does for a project can be billed. Utilization is just how long a resource gets occupied with a chartered project and billability is how much of that can the service company bill the actual customer. Ideally they would try to make them equal which is a fallacy and hence usually it is anywhere between 80% and 90% of utilized time becomes billable to the customer.

What are the usual metrics that the services company would go after?

  • Billability ratio of 90% and utilization of 100% ideally.
  • Lots of customers and new clients added per quarter which necessitates adding capacity (more resources) but to keep the cost down, they would maximize hiring freshers and manage every project with a hierarchy of varied-experienced employees.

Now let us prove how these metrics may not be the right ones to use.  Let us analyze from the bottom and try to see how much of time does an average employee have for a project.  Since this is a high level view, with each company having their own way of operation, let us just use this as an example for our story here:

  1. There are 52 weeks in a year.
  2. The vacation days (holidays and vacation put together) can be anywhere between 4 to 6 weeks depending on which geography you are in. So, effectively one would work for only 46 to 48 weeks in a year.
  3. Let us assume a barest minimum of 1 week set aside for training each employee with new skills.  Usually this is more.  Now we are left with 45 to 47 weeks of possible project work time.  In all honesty, most of the employees do not even get trained for a new skill ever!
  4. There are months where there are more orders and there are some with the normal orders.  Hence these employees would be dragged to more critical projects for a week or two, on a high priority need basis. So, we have about 43 to 45 weeks left.  Again, these are minimal numbers estimated.  So, this 5% (~ 2 weeks) is to adjust for the variability effect.
  5. Let us assume we work on projects 4 days a week of five official days. Meaning, your billability is only 80% of utilization.  You may be attending some process meetings, some team meetings to make the project work, some lectures and talks, some business meetings etc. which cannot be directly billed to the customer. Assume now that we have taken off 9 weeks for non-billable work, out of 43 to 45 weeks.  One is left with only 34 to 36 weeks of project work.
  6. 34 weeks out of 52 weeks total is about 65% (36 weeks would make it 69%).  Let us assume it about 2/3rd for calculation purposes. The employer still has to pay you for the 1/3rd that has to be accounted for in terms of salary. The other way of saying this is that a services company takes a loss of a third of the total salary paid which they have to recover.
  7. For our calculation again, let us assume 35% instead of 33.3% for this loss. If one take’s more than a week for training, and if one gets dragged into other projects more than the two weeks allotted, then this number actually increases to 40% and more. So, to recover that 35% of your salary, the company bills the customer 35% more than the salary (let us say this is the average salary for the company). This amortized over the 260 working days possible would give the company the contract rate to the customers.   Of course, this would differ from small to big based on the experience of the employee but again, we are talking averages.
  8. No services company runs for charity – they would try everything to make money.  Not only it does not want to take a loss, they have to make profit. This is a commercial venture. So, let us assume 20% as a profit margin a company would expect.  So, the services company would charge 1.55x average salary and derive the per day or hour contract rate!  Again, if you are an accountant trying to read this, sorry, I may have simplified it a lot to give brevity.
  9. Now the company has lots of overhead that they cannot bill. These could be support functions, enabling functions and even managerial cadres. Let us assume for every 10 employees there is a manager who cannot be billed. Now his salary has to be amortized over 10 employees.  His or her average salary would be 2 x employee salary.  Now this salary has to be added to the contract rate which makes it 1.75 x average salary!   Yes, there are differences you would see in these calculations (albeit minor) if you are mathematician and can definitely pick holes in my derivation but this is close enough.  Close enough is good enough for an engineer!  So, if the company is paying $10 for any BILLABLE employee on an average, they would charge a minimum of $17.5 to the customer!

I pointed out these calculations to make the audience understand at a high level how the accounting works (but there is more to this than what I have written) but may not directly relate to what I am driving at.

I am assuming 34 weeks of 100% utilization for every employee based on the above analysis.   Now the expectation for all the employees to be 100% efficient in these 34 weeks with no slack whatsoever.   Borrowing from the machine utilization analogy, the following things can be inferred:

  • The slowest resource is going to derail the project – this is the critical path ideology that every project manager would practice because of Theory of Constraints. Given this is the scenario, the slowest resource efficiency cannot be equated to the normal or faster resource efficiency.  Yes, the slowest resources are working 100% of his 34 weeks but his output is lower than the others! So, as a project manager, add resource to compensate for this thus adding cost, or push schedule and eat your TIME buffers to meet the customer milestones.   If the slowest resource is the long pole in the tent, it does not matter if others finish faster – they all need to wait for this resource to complete!   Plan for lower utilization to address this factor.
    • If something goes wrong in between, there is no slack to compensate now. Since employees are on the edge with 100% utilization, this automatically means nothing wrong is allowed to happen nor all risks are naturally mitigated so that there are no surprises.  Living on the edge can never be right.  It causes stress and stress leads to lower quality of work.  So, even in those 34 weeks, it is quite natural for the project managers to add a safety cushion for a said demand (remember, this is NOT a variability effect cushion which is based on demand)
    • Not all customers are alike nor all projects the same.  Some customers are more demanding than others, and some projects are more complex than others.  So, the response time of execution of any project is going to increase based on higher demands of a customer or due to more customers, if the capacity of resources remains the same!  Service level agreements are likely to suffer.

   With all the above factors, it is extremely difficult to get to a consistent long-term utilization of 90% and above, which would automatically means the best billability would be in the range of 75% to 80%. For the services company to stay competitive on rates, they need to reduce their operational costs and develop a decent hierarchy of experience that can still deliver high quality solutions.  It is always about quality assurance during design rather than quality control after design!    Continuously improve the process but understand there is an upper limit in utilization for your highest efficiency and this is not even close to 100%. Even if you are pushing the envelop, the incremental benefits in revenue you may get from pushing the utilization (and hence billability) from 90% to 95% or more would be definitely negated by the impact it would have on quality and customer relationships.  Remember, there would be penalty clauses at high as 20% from every customer if the deliverables are not achieved within the specified time.

       Remember, we have been just talking about averages here and not even maximum which would be worst case.  Also I have not even accounted for attrition which is usually between 8-20% for any services company which would translate to delays in response directly.   Going from 85% to 90% and beyond does have a bigger impact on response time. For a services company to deliver with good quality at all times, the target thus has to be preferably defined between 80 to 90% only.  Nothing more.   If someone is saying they have a 100% utilization, it is high time we do a due diligence audit on the calculation!

Operations of Inland Waterways in India Needs a Solid Holistic Plan ahead

Enough is being written and talked about developing the National waterways in recent times.  Although the latest budget allocated for Inland Waterways is more than a hundredth of magnitude less than what has been allocated to the rail and road infrastructure,  and the investments in waterways has always been low for the past three decades or more, today the government  is viewing the Inland Waterways as a priority sector.  It has been a proven conclusion from other countries that the waterways are the most cost effective mode of transportation, the river systems have always enhanced commerce for them and this mode has accounted for more than a third of national cargo and people movement.

    Having given sufficient background, this is a new area for me but my interests in this topic reaches new heights every time I read some article from some expert.   I have been following this topic long enough that I am here unable to resist writing about it.  My focus is not the talk about how the  linking the rivers will happen, which unfortunately in India are state owned, but more about how this would become operational once everything is said and dusted.

     Living through the apathy of bad infrastructure of many Indian cities where excellent airports have come up without any rail or public bus transport connections to the city, having seen city metro rail being constructed and delayed continuously in major cities based not on what the traffic would be twenty years from now but rather what it had been 20 years past, having seen cities explode without any adequate public water and sanitary facilities in the ‘boom’,  having seen polluting vehicles in abundance  surviving with no strict enforcement of emission standards (more like a certificate you can get for Rs 50), having seen the explosion of number of cars and other vehicles and hence the vehicle density choking every city added by selfish drivers and bad driving conditions, having seen road vehicle parking increase tremendously as no residential or commercial building make adequate  space to accommodate parking and still get registered somehow,  it is high time we clean up our act when it comes to Waterways and have a fresh start taking into account all the variables that would make it one of the best, cost efficient, safe, environmentally friendly mode of transportation that we can proudly  give to our future generation.  Combine it with some of the Smart Cities, we as INDIANS              should be proud of what we can build and execute. 

     Hence operations of the waterways remains the critical element if indeed we all remain optimistic and the waterways gets linked for both cargo and people movement in the next few years in phases. But we need to think AHEAD and for the future rather than plan for the pain level we have now or in the past years.   Here are some of the variables, given my limited knowledge that needs to be encompassed before we implement a fully functional internal waterway system – everything should be planned for Day 1 operations:

  • First, clean up all the rivers those are deemed navigable and provide for consistent depth for navigation through the year, come rains or not. All the industries polluting the rivers should be fined and their disposal of waste managed through alternate means.  I guess this would be a good idea now for the river systems to be centralized rather than the states fighting over water for their own use – it has to be distributed according to the needs of where it flows rather than someone making claim of ownership based on the origin of the river.  And this would ensure there are no tollways in the waterways as one crosses from one state to another.
    • Fix our Indian rivers first and extend them to the countries in the east and west with other countries to enhance our maritime trade and commerce with our neighbors
    • Once the navigable rivers gets fixed, it is important to look at canals and backwaters  that connects with  rivers and can transport traffic (hence forth by traffic, I include both cargo and people)  to the interiors of the cities.  Again, they have to be cleaned and silted first.  Having grown up in Chennai, I would rather have a clean Buckingham Canal that one day has boats transporting folks from one place to another.
    • Keep the lakes as is – do not get them involved in this program.  Lakes are needed for the healthy living and it is important a good green cover is made around every lake that the local population can use for walking or running.
  • Avoid overcrowding the water space.   Safety first.  Who operates what should be stringently regulated and competitive licenses should be given only to the deserving in a transparent manner.  No politicians or bureaucrats or their immediate relatives can either directly or indirectly own or operate any transportation or infrastructure in these waterways.  Keep it clean.  Never abuse a particular waterway because it is rewarding – keep the checks and controls in place properly and audit this regularly annually.   Understand a river can only take so much.
  • Highly effective alternative non-polluting fuels a must for all the vehicles that use these waterways.  Given that all the lakes in all hill stations are totally polluted with bad diesel powered boats, we do not want to see the same issue here.  Keep the rivers and waterways clean and ensure no outlet of pollutants from these vehicles go into the river. The flora and fauna around the waterways needs to be maintained well.  Strict enforcement with immediate stoppage of services of any polluting vehicles should be done with no loop holes to operate.   At no point, should the aquatic ecology be disturbed and constant effort to preservation should be made.    Also care must be taken so that no hazardous items are being transported without adequate safety measures.
  • Use solar and wind energy mills on both sides of the waterways to generate and distribute electricity for the manufacturing plants and the parks that will come up within the proximity.
  • No monopoly should be allowed to be established in this internal waterway system.  There must be open competition based on demand with a ceiling regulated by the government.  No one can have more than 10% share of this waterways market, be it transportation based or infrastructure based.
  • Given the experiences of railways (fully government owned) and the airways (mostly privatized with the government run Air India not in the best of health for ages), it is better to evolve a model that is midway – yes, it may not be the most optimal solution from a capitalist perspective, but the best alternative model for evolving this internal waterways to peak utilization soon.
  • Have smaller ports throughout the waterway to connect the water traffic with the road and rail traffic at regular intervals.  This would reduce the logistics costs of transportation and make a competitive environment. With GST rolling out in the anvil, this would be a great win for all industrial hubs and their productivity and exports.
  • Most important is to limit load to capacity.  Never overload.  Looking at all these trucks that take more than twice their scheduled load between cities, we are all living a nightmare in terms of safety.  Truck owners do not seem to care about the suspension and brakes that may not work, thus risking every other life on the road.   Licensing the drivers that enable such traffic and regularly updating their licenses (say every three years) is critical to keep them in check. 
  • Given how the recent scams have surfaced, while building and enhancing these waterways, it is best to keep all the contract documents and tender notices available in a transparent manner.  All project execution reports should be available on a regular basis for monitoring purposes and annual report should be maintained by the institution managing the waterway.
  • Skill Development – since this may involve lots of maritime skills and also different building norms, it is best for the universities and vocational schools to start preparing adequate talents to build, manage and operate these waterways.    High employment generation is foreseen in these sectors. Skills India for Internal Waterways is the need for the hour.
  • Regular maintenance and security patrol is also essential.  Due to monsoon effects and flash flooding concerns, there is a definite possibility that silts accumulate in the rivers that may inhibit navigation.  Proper silting on a regular basis has to be put as a process.  Also, to ensure no pilferage or attacks or hijacking of the goods and people take place in remote areas where the rivers wind through, increasing patrol both on and around the waterways is to be done by the central police force.
  • Proper bypass mechanisms to be put in place in case of excessive flooding that India is prone to so that the transportation does not get affected too much during the worst days.

     Doing everything in phases and doing a complete job in these phases should be the mantra.  Link River 1 to River 2 with two way traffic and show it as complete, addressing all the above variables and above before the next phase gets operational (work can start with all these variables in mind).   First phase should be stitching two major rivers in the North and the second one must be one in the South.   As the phases evolve, they must be more uniform (may have different emphasis) in operations throughout the country.

   If the Mughals and the British have done this effectively in centuries past, I am sure we can do this better but we need to execute them well with nothing left to after thoughts.  “OOpps, I did not consider it” should not be an option while we make the best transportable internal waterways of the world.   Civilizations have always flourished in and around a waterway for ages and it would continue to do so as well.  Also since land acquisitions for these waterway projects would be minimal compared to any road transport project, the only worries would be to fix any disruption of the connectivity in rivers along the way and to ensure that the clearances of the existing bridges across the rivers are maintained, to enable a smooth ride.  Any project of these dimensions would not be simple to build and operate, but I wanted the stakeholders and decision makers to encompass lots of variables together while planning and executing to make the Indian Internal Waterways system so good that other countries become envious of us.

Law School Admissions in India

     So, finally your child is in her senior secondary years and is contemplating to take law or confused between law, economics and finance.  This is fine and this confusion at this stage is considered very normal.  It is perfectly OK to even not put all the eggs in one basket and can even contemplate taking engineering or medicine, just to keep options open in this competitive world we live in. So, for those minds who are still contemplating, either as a student or as an anxious parent, I have managed to do some extensive research in understanding the admission process for a five year integrated law undergraduate degree and have captured hopefully some good observations that would be beneficial to this audience.

     Usually a student could send some indicator signals even during his or her high school years as to what her or his aspirations are.  But they also slowly evolve over time and also may also be dictated by a joint peer group.  My advice is by the time they are in their final year of school, for getting the focus, it is better to firm up the one choice or maximum two choices and start preparing for the same, along with the tough final board exams.  For those who have a fair idea about law being their choice of study for their undergraduate, it would be preferred if they take up the arts or commerce stream  during their eleventh and twelfth so that  one does not need to unnecessarily read the science subjects that they would not even care about during the law program.  Having said that, I have seen many a science students as well getting into the law program which would have made their final two years of school a little tougher.

     Now you have chosen law as a choice either in your 11th or start of your 12th.  First thing you need to pretty much understand is that the exam patterns across all the law entrances across India would have English, Logical reasoning, Mathematics, Legal Reasoning and General knowledge & current Affairs, or variations of these. The last two, Legal reasoning and Current Affairs & General knowledge is something every law aspiring student has to really put some hard effort and do a lot of studying to be on the top. The other three areas, especially for those who are from English medium and have taken Mathematics in their high school is just a matter of accuracy within the stipulated time, and should not be considered to be tough sections to handle.

     Now that you have a broad perspective of what to expect, like the IITians and Medical aspirants, it is recommended to take some coaching  for cracking the law entrances.  Coaching is not mandatory but definitely provides the right rhythm to set you for the final tests. The competition here is also heavy and all the reservation in seats applies. The duration of coaching depends on various factors – the student’s available time given that the board exam is very important as well, proximity to a good coaching center, your decision to focus only on law and your financial situation, to just point out a few factors. My recommendation is irrespective of the duration of coaching, it is better to take class room programs (usually conducted twice a week in evenings and weekends) and supplement them with online tests. This way you get to see a future peer group and get a basic reading of where you stand inside your coaching center which can give you a good extrapolation of where one would land in term of law schools.  Just to name a couple of coaching centers which may be a good place to enroll – Sriram Law Academy in Chennai and Career Launcher across India. These two institutes has enough knowledge about the entire process and are able to answer almost all queries that you would ask them, and they have been fairly decent in accessing its students and where they would land in terms of law colleges.  For those who cannot go to Chennai, I would recommend you to enroll in their short term online programs to ensure you take as many tests as possible.  More the tests, timing them and evaluating them would be the nut to crack. No big deal- some regular hard work and focus would do the trick to open up the top law schools for you.   But from January to March or April, just concentrate on your final year exams which would become critical if you do not get into any desired programs.  During your final years of school, it is very important to participate in the Mock United Nations (MUNs) that happens across various schools in your city and in other cities – even Harvard MUN gets hosted in one Indian city very year. This hones your researching and debating skills which would be the seed for being a good lawyer later. The parents are hence advised to encourage their wards to participate in good MUNs on behalf of the school.   Even in law colleges, they do have MUNs in their undergraduate program along with MOOT courts which would give you a good continuity.

     The various entrances that one would face between the April and May months of the year of admission would be CLAT (Common Law Aptitude tests) for the 18 National Law Universities across India (as of2017), Maharashtra CET (MAH LAW CET), LSAT India (for getting admission to almost all private law colleges in India), AILET for NLU Delhi and a few state entrances like AP LAWCET, Rajasthan RULET, Telangana TS LAWCET, etc.  Remember, when one applies to the state LAW CETs, you need to write the tests in certain cities of that state as they would not have a center in your city which is outside their state. Then there are a few worthwhile private colleges that have their own entrance tests like Symbiosis (common test for their colleges in three cities but separate admission process), Christ University in Bengaluru, Bharathiya Vidyapeeth University in Pune and Kalinga KITTEE in Orissa, and a few worthwhile government institutes like BHU CET and Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastra University IPU CET that are worth writing.  Do understand that since you have most of these tests happening around a 6-7 week window, there are lots of dates that would have more than one tests happening and hence you need to pick and choose your battles here.   There are couple of private institutes that I want to mention here which do not have their own entrance tests but go with either CLAT or LSAT and the students’ academic scores – SASTRA university in Thanjavur and Nirma University in Ahmedabad which are also worth considering. For those in Bangalore, where I belong, if nothing else clicks and you have no other choice, and if you are desperate to get into law, then MS Ramaiah, KLE Society Law College and University law College of Bangalore University are the choices you are left with.

     Before I start to talk about the law schools in details, one thing you should never do is to with ratings that are available online like the Outlook, The Week, EduVidya, College Dunia, India Today and Career360 to name a few.  Certainly do not take any of these surveys in isolation to make a decision, as most of these surveys are paid ones and you would see no-name, unheard off and lousy schools making a great ranking.  Also many good colleges do not participate in most of the surveys which is something you need to watch out for. NLU in Delhi is never ranked anywhere but this is certainly a law school to long for and certainly in my books in the top three schools in India.  If you want to use these surveys, get the latest annual ones across many different surveys and do a weighted average of the rankings – by which I mean, if many of the surveys talk about certain schools in the top 10, they are certainly in the top 10 to a degree of belief.

     Next, being an engineer, I see lots of difference in how I would evaluate an engineering school vs a law school.  An engineering school is evaluated by the quality of the full time professors available, the quality of the laboratories that exist, by the infrastructure there is across the various engineering disciplines, their syllabus being current and more relevant for employment, and by the research and affiliations they would have with international engineering bodies. When it comes to law schools, few things take the cake – older the law schools, bigger the alumni and better known is that school within the law fraternity and hence it works out to be great for placements and internships.  Usually a law school would have just one big academic building and this is it- a few good full time professors, an extensive library which has both an extensive hardcopy collection and a large online collection, many esteemed visiting professors, and a large auditorium.   Kindly check for this first hand before any admission process is closed. Third and most important is, if the school is in Mumbai or in NCR region, automatically you get large law firms coming in to swoop you for placements in the former and you would establish close contacts with leading High court and Supreme court law professionals while you are in the latter which would help you to get great internships and contacts for your career.  Pune due to its proximity with Mumbai hence has some its placement advantages.  This goes without saying that by inference that even lower grade law schools in these two regions would be able to attract good students and get them good placements as well.   One good yardstick one can use to choose their law schools is that they must have been around for the past 10-12 years, which means after the five year degree, they do have 6-7 alumni batches that can be used as a good measure for evaluating that school. Also it would be better if the university also has a good one year Master’s program in Law.

     I would start off with a strong statement that like doing management degree, one needs to do law from a top school which would be the cream of all the available law schools in India.  In terms of competition, the law is not that heated up yet like the engineering JEE or the medical NEET but the number of students getting interested in law as a career in India is definitely increasing over the past few years.  Let us first start with the National Law Universities – NLUs as they are called- these are the autonomous government law institutes just like the IIMs for management. Each of them is their own university and one gets a degree from that particular NLU.  The admissions to these NLUs are through CLAT – this is the most prestigious entrance tests.  As I told you earlier, Sastra and Nirma use just CLAT scores for their admissions.   There are 18 of them, all the coaching institutes would be classifying them in 3 to 4 buckets.  Tier 1 is the ones in NLSIU Bengaluru, NALSAR in Hyderabad (~ 55 acres) and WBNUJS in Kolkata. NLSIU is the oldest of them all and was established next to the Bangalore University campus in 1988 in a total of about 23 acres. Hyderabad and Kolkata were established a good decade later in 1998 and 1999 respectively. From a campus perspective, the Kolkata School has 4 buildings in total including the separate boys and girls hostels in about 5 acres– nothing big or fancy. If you get into any of these three, your career is set – not to worry.  One has approximately 191 seats in total for all these three in general quota (for the exact number of seats, kindly refer to that particular law school and not use the number I quote as an absolute reference as things change year over year).  Generally the top 190 ranks in CLAT get into these institutes (unless their preference has been elsewhere).

     Then we can talk about the Tier 2 schools in Bhopal NLIU, Jodhpur NLU and Gandhinagar GNLU. It is hard to differentiate the rankings between Jodhpur and Bhopal as they usually land neck and neck. These three schools established in 1997, 2001 and 2003 in that order, have been endowed with huge 50 to 60 acre campuses with lots of open spaces and a great surrounding away from the bustling city – a really healthy environment for the students to thrive. Jodhpur and Bhopal are unfortunately not directly connected with most of the metro cities as one needs to traverse through Jaipur or Bhopal and travel from there to these cities by rail or road. Gandhinagar NLU on the other hand is about half an hour drive from the Ahmedabad airport.  The 200 to 450 rankers generally land in these institutes.

     Then comes the next rung which although established between 2005 and at late as 2015 (Nagpur) would not be in my recommended list based on the feedback I have  received from alumni from the other top six institutes,  and the placement they have or do not.  If you want a NLU tag, then go for Raipur, Lucknow and Patna in that order where most of the South Indian’s prefer not to go due to perceived safety concerns.  Chanakya was responsible for holding the 2017 CLAT and I can say it was shabbily handled – every time they announced a date for the seats (they are four rounds), all the time they missed the time twice due to technical issues.  In fact, their first round of allocation this year had a withdrawal of that allocation for a day due to some wrong seat allocation.  Given this is how a professional institute can mess up, this does not speak well about the administrators of that particular college. And given my ‘rule of thumb’ mentioned earlier that older the law college , the better it is and you must at least have five alumni’s passing out to judge that school and get decent placements, I would rather not join the other NLUs yet.

     Before I move on, I wanted to mention as of this year, the fees for an Indian here in these NLUs ranges between Rs 2 lacs to Rs 2.5 lacs/year, including hostel- a few newer ones do not have a hostel inside their campus or anything associated with them, and hence it is worthwhile taking a look at the campus before admitting your ward.   And for admission, one needs to write just the CLAT and there is no need to apply separately to each of the 18 NLUs as they get allotted according to a system that values both merit (your CLAT score) and preference of University.  From end of May, one needs to be active on the Internet as most of these results, seat allocations and counselling happen online – once allotted a seat, you need to pay Rs 50K online to confirm your seat within couple of days after the seat gets allotted or you need to forego the seat.  And I must also mention here that all the NLUs have a free high speed internet inside their campus for their students.

     Before I move on to the state entrances, I would like to mention three other government university – National Law University Delhi (NLUD) which conducts the AILET every year and this is the toughest of all entrance tests in general, Banaras Hindu University Varanasi that conducts BHU UET and even the lesser known National Law University in Himachal Pradesh  HPNLET.  NLUD does not get involved in any survey or ratings games and they belong to the top four law universities along with Bengaluru, Hyderabad and West Bengal and they have a total of about 73 seats to compete for.  Given that this is in the state capital (same logic would apply to GGS IPU that I mention later) and is a central university, with all the network of the High courts and Supreme courts, this is definitely worth a test to concentrate to achieve high along with CLAT and LSAT. I mention the one in Shimla because this is a NLU at the end of the day and situated in a fabulous place, but nothing else I can add at this point.

     Having done with the central autonomous NLUs, let me mention a few states that have their own law exams – honestly, like NEET and JEE, they must mandate only one CLAT and one LSAT for admission to all law colleges in India and this is something we the people have to recommend to the higher authorities. Every state has their own timelines and at some point, it becomes difficult to manage mapping them all.  And to write most of these state’s entrance test, as a non –domicile status, where the number of seats allotted to such category is even low,  you need to go to some cities in that state to write them. A few mentions are Maharashtra (MH CET LAW), Rajasthan (RULET), Cochin (CUSAT). Andhra Pradesh (AP LAWCET) and Telangana (TS LAWCET).  Check their calendar as they have a long timeline and they close after all the prime law colleges close although their tests are scheduled around the same time period with other major ones. If you have not landed in anything good, and if you belong to that state, then it is worthwhile to go after it.   Many of these are painfully slow in processing, give no updates for a long time and sometimes never, never use Internet to update anything, and have an extended timeline, some closing admission in time when the first semester of the NLUs gets over.  Out of all these, I would still recommend MHCET LAW for students all over India and others state entrances to only for students for that particular state.  Maharashtra has only 15% of their seats allotted to other state students but they have a few colleges that are worth trying – Government Law college in Mumbai (over 150 years old and has the likes of Dr. B R Ambedkar, Bal Gangadhar Tilaq, Soli Sorabjee, Ram Jethmalini, etc. as their alumni) and ILS law college in Pune, which are both pretty decent.

     Now I would go with the Law School Admission  Test (LSAT) – this is the standardized test conducted for all the law colleges in the USA and Canada, and which focuses only on Reading comprehension, logical and verbal reasoning.  There is an Indian version called LSAT INDIA conducted by Pearson VUE that happens around a Sunday of May that is important for getting admissions to private law colleges.  This is for getting admissions to some good private colleges like Jindal and they all go by the percentiles (instead of marks) and your score sheets gets sent to the top 10 colleges that you would choose while submitting the application for the test – these ten colleges would certainly have your information and test scores, and start contacting you even before you write the LSAT India test on their own – not to worry. Higher the percentile, the better it is.  For OP Jindal State University in Sonepat, Haryana which charges around Rs 7.5 lacs/year (includes hostel), there are good tuition fee concessions up to 50% if your percentile is > 95. Most of these private institutes sell more than what they can offer, and I believe strongly these are more for rich kids who have a lineage of politicians or lawyers in their family who would like to spend a good five years here and get a degree – someone who joins here should get used to the peer pressure in terms of wealth being displayed.  Again, if you ask me, there is Jindal for LSAT and nothing else close to it in terms of standards and I prefer not to mention any other college names here.   You need to apply to each of these private colleges separately.

     Now I can say in most instances, the first three Sundays of May would be the three major tests that one needs to take – CLAT, AILET, and LSAT India. Other tests would work around these dates and some will clash with these dates as well and hence it is prudent for you to concentrate on these three and have the other tests work around it.  There are good private colleges like Symbiosis, Christ University and Kalinga KIIT who would have their own entrance tests much prior in April and first week of May so that their admissions try to close even before one gets the results of CLAT and AILET so that they get the good students first.  For the students, they try to grab a seat here, pay the fees and wait to get lucky and make a decision to move elsewhere foregoing part or the entire fees paid to these institutes.  Since these seats usually gets thrown up after the first seat allotment of CLAT and AILET, these seats gets filled by the waiting list candidates and one would be surprised as to the amount of seats getting opened up here for the second allotment.  Again, I view it as a conniving trick by these good private law colleges to get some ‘free money’ up front and they are used to the first allotted seats getting vacant and hence they do not create any hassle about it.  Businesses that thrive due to the anxiety of the parents – something we need to cut across and have the government go after only CLAT and LSAT India as the entrance tests for these seats and allotment made accordingly after one fills up the NLUs.

     Now let me talk about a few institutes before I talk about a few good private and state law colleges.  First is Institute of Law – Nirma University in Ahmedabad which goes only with your CLAT and LSAT scores and give you admissions.   From a syllabus perspective and their internships, they seem to be doing pretty well. Next comes Kalinga KIITEE which usually would be the first decent law alternative to close admissions – they are from Bhubaneshwar and considered to be a good institute as the founder has done a great job in the engineering  and technology side. Then comes Sastra University, in Thanjavur which goes only with your CLAT score and your 12th score to get admission, purely by merit – there is no management quota here.  I am mentioning this here because this is the only decent alternative left in Tamilnadu now. Then I would mention about MS University in Vadodhara– they used to have a good name earlier, but definitely a good alternative for anyone from Gujarat to study in.

     Now comes the private and state colleges worth mentioning in my book of law admissions:

  • Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastra University (Delhi State government) – has its own IPU CET but given that this is in capital region, and is a decent university otherwise as well, something worth taking.
  • Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, UP – again, has its own law test AMU LAW with only three centers in India – two in UP and one in Kerala. Old institute tag gives it some decent reputation.
  • Banaras Hindu University (BHU) – they have its one test UET BHU. Worst part is although this is open throughout India, they do not have any centers in South India – they had Chennai earlier but this year they made all South Indians travel to Delhi to take the test.  Sounds ridiculous but you are their mercy in these things unfortunately – they would advertise all the centers, get the fees and then a week or less prior to the test would ask you to come to some other city to take the test.
  • College of Legal Studies, Dehradun – has its own entrance test ULSAT although they accept good CLAT and LSAT scores. Approximately Rs 5 lacs as fees that includes hostel. More famous for its energy related courses but has a wide variety of Bachelor’s option in law, one specializing purely in Energy law.
  • New Law College, Bharathiya Vidya Peeth University in Pune:  this conducts its own test BVP CET and a unique way in which they make twice the money in these tests is they conduct two different tests in consecutive days for BBA and BA stream – I find this ridiculous.
  • Army Institute of Law , Mohali – has only four open seats and one cannot get any information whatsoever from them – you need to be watching for news about this as their website is not updated, and
  • Lloyd College, Greater Noida – has its own test called LET.  I am just mentioning it here, purely because this is in the NCR region and they do have some sort of MOU with NLSIU and other NLUs – something to look into if nothing else works.

     Last but not the least, I kept two private colleges that are worth the trouble after the six top NLUs and NLUD to the very last – Christ University and Symbiosis Pune (the other two institutes in Hyderabad and Noida are definitely not worth it).  Definitely something to really go after given that their reputation in both management and law is very high.  Although not a Bangalore bias as I am from this city, I would rate Christ a little better than Symbiosis Pune.  Both of them have strict uniform codes for the students, and both do not have an in-house hostel although they have associated with certain hostels nearby.   Both would not be too transparent in the way they do admissions which is a setback, as they do have their own entrance tests CULET and SET respectively.  Christ campus is the best amongst all law colleges in India as this is part of their other streams as well and not exclusive to it – they do have a 6 to 7 places to eat within their big campus for the students and have an extensive library and compete with the local NLSIU (the top NLU in India) for Internships.  Symbiosis Law in Pune has its own building (no concept of campus) which is away from their main set of buildings and closer to the Pune Airport (walking distance) but looks very stuffed up  and seems to be a good place for most of wealthy Maharashtrians to get their wards in. Symbiosis has an advantage of better placements due to its proximity to Mumbai.  So, between them it is a toss honestly.

     One mention I wanted to say here is even if you are a local Bengelurian, due to the bad traffic here, it is better that the ward stays somewhere nearby the university as law is all about doing work beyond the normal 9 to 4 pm schedule of classes.  And any private hostels surrounding Christ smells bad and is a hell hole and I would rather prefer 3-4 students joining together and getting an apartment although it would be on the expensive side in Koramangala area and be able to commute within couple of kilometers.

     Now coming to an interesting piece that I keep asked about – what about OCIs students (who hold a foreign passport and have parents of Indian origin and are of Indian origin) – how do they get classified?  The Bar Council of India does NOT allow OCIs to practice law in India today, unlike engineers or doctors who can work in India, this would most likely change in years to come – their only resistance at this point is to not allow foreign law companies to come and establish here and steal their lunch and dinner. Of course, any OCIs can act as a researcher or an advisor after their degree.  The way any private college treats OCIs is very simple – as long as they have studied their 10th and 12th (and a few institutes add the clause of at least 7 years studying in Indian schools) , they get classified under normal Indian quota. In the NLUs and NLUD, same logic applies.  But in NLUs you can also be considered as in NRI category and pay higher fees in US$ (or INR equivalent) as long as you have a sponsor for the same – again, I still cannot fathom the fact that OCIs can get clubbed with NRIs if the OCIs are legal tax resident of India earning in Indian currency!.  But if you are a non-OCI and hold a non-Indian Passport, you are classified as a foreign citizen only in all the institutes, be it private or government (there are a few exceptions though).

     Last note that I wanted to make is for the students in Bengaluru looking for a Bengaluru option for pursuing law – although I would not recommend any of them personally, some schools that do have a decent local studentship are MS Ramaiah, Alliance, NA Global. KLA Society Law College and Bangalore Institute of legal Studies.  I would still have University Law College of Bangalore University and the Law College in University of Mysore above any local institutes.

     Hope this has cleared most of the anxiety that the parents face in sending their child to the law programs in India. Law education is just started to boom given you have an increasing statistics for the past few years in the test intakes and is going to be on par with the JEEs and NEETs soon.   Unfortunately not much good information is available on the web for students and parents, and I thought I would lay it down as I see it today that would be helpful for most of the audience.

     Before I close this blog, there are two websites that one should keep in mind while doing research and getting the right information:  and  – these give you some reliable pointers and are a good resource to find most of the queries answered.  The other sites that are out there are pretty much not to the mark – they provide anywhere from stale information to wrong information.      The author is a, educational consultant and a blogger out of Bengaluru and had to do this research extensively last year for seeking admission to one of his close relatives and this blog is just an outcome of the same research that is being shar

Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent – an integration challenge

Nokia recently in mid-April announced its intent to buy-out Alcatel-Lucent for Eur 15.6B (then valued at $16.6B, and recently at $17.3B, thanks to the Euro slide against the US$) to become the second largest telecom infrastructure company in the world, behind Ericsson from Sweden.   The Chinese giant Huawei is seen as their biggest threat presently ranked third and they are growing rapidly in all technology fronts.  Given that all these giants are seeing their mobile infrastructure business coming down and there is a huge potential in the IP/cloud /TV & Media area, this consolidation may still be questionable as originally Nokia had wanted only ALU’s wireless business, if insider reports are to be believed but they ended up with ‘all-or-nothing’ package.

    For some background, Alcatel –Lucent (ALU) has about 52K employees worldwide, of which 6000 are in France approximately, and was facing weak growth prospects having not turned a profit for a while now. Nokia has a worldwide strength of about 62000 of which 6900 employees are in Finland.  Hence it is safe to say that the employee strength in their ‘head-quartered’ country is about 11-12%.  Nokia (the former NSN) and ALU have a market cap of about $26.3B and $11B.  ALU’s revenue was pegged at $15.4B and they have about $6.8B in cash.   Remember that ALU was still going through their SHIFT Plan for the past couple of years – this plan made them concentrate on four areas: IP routing and transport, Wireless, IP platforms and Fixed networks.  Looks like executing to these plans had been their challenge recently.  With this acquisition, Nokia gets a significant boost in their North American market, their research capabilities (thanks to the former Lucent labs) and also gets to add on to their Optical business, which is a big win for them.  As for ALU, not sure what their gain is.

      Given that Nokia approached ALU with a buyout target which was a couple of billions lower than the one announced, and before meeting with the French President , it is safe to say that there has been some good monetary provisions made for any potential ‘structural repercussions’  if this transaction goes through.  France, a much loved labor oriented socialist country, has announced there would be no job loss there but it is up to anybody’s guess as to what happens in a ‘protective’ European community  

    Let me digress a little about Nokia and sync up the readers about they are now – they are not what we know them to be (a mobile company).   This is the Nokia Services Network (name changed after Nokia bought out the share of Siemens from Nokia Siemens Network) and the original ‘mobile’ Nokia Research division (Nokia Technologies) and the HERE (aka OVI or Services division of ‘mobile’ Nokia once, largely still the NavTeq acquisition assets).  HERE maps seem to be making a good business in the entire automotive and embedded navigation segment through the European vehicle manufacturers and since this does not fit into the scheme of things of the present Nokia, it is being seen as a unit that would be sold soon, if the price is right.  No suitors till date for this unit.   But they are making close to 300M euros.   And if the present Nokia does have thoughts of entering the mobile handset market again, through the Alcatel acquisition (yes, there are Alcatel phones but not sure if they are part of ALU), they cannot use the Nokia name for a few more months hence, according to the agreement with Microsoft.

     It had been an integration challenge both for Nokia and Siemens, and for Alcatel and Lucent when they decided to merge with each other.   When it comes to integration, my guess is Cisco has it to an art form as most of their business is driven through inorganic routes.  This Nokia-ALU combine may not put too much pressure on Ericsson at this point as they are already structured along the future potential  Cloud, IP and TV/media areas along with being the leaders in the BSS/OSS segment and in the Radio systems area.   If there is a hole in Ericsson strategy going forward, it may be on the Optical side where lots of companies like Ciena, Infinera etc. specialize and in the network energy space that takes care of Data centers (given the boom of E-commerce, esp. in the Asia region).   

    Before I look one level down from their individual structure of Nokia and ALU, let me highlight where Huawei stands.  They, like Samsung of the mobile client world, seem to be pitching in all areas to cover their wide base.  They seem to have a solid Wireless (BTS, Small Cell) and Wired (Fixed Access, Datacom, Transport network) stream, carrier software (aka BSS), Core networking products, Data center and Network Energy (hot field of interest now), IT which encompasses both cloud and storage, and all enterprise products (to compete head-on with Cisco) as well as a reasonable consumer division (which takes care of most of the client like mobile, media and home).

      Now when it comes to Nokia and ALU, there are lots of high level domain redundancies in their IP networking and Access suites like Customer Experience Management  (ALU had acquired Motive a few years ago), Small cells , Subscriber Data management  and their IP Multimedia system.  Of course, the usual operation support function like HR, recruitment, IT support, sales and marketing would all have deep impacts.   But a good part of recent investments by ALU in Analytics, Cloud, and content device management would stay and grow together as Nokia has not yet concentrated in these segments along with their recent alignment towards anything Internet Protocol.   The original Bell Labs of ALU would have to merge with Nokia Technologies and form a giant of a research division that would be regarded as the best in the world.

     Nokia would like to compete effectively with Ericsson with their Global Services arm, and would make Core networks, IP (to do a lot of homework here with ALU’s arm to have a cohesive story) and Transport networks to be their contribution to the merger and have ALU bring in expertise through the future areas with high potentials highlighted above and their RF, wireless and optical product lines.  If these two European entities combine and integrate well, they can be a formidable company going forward.

    Convenience and availability must not be the force to drive any mergers or acquisitions, but must be a carefully thought-out process, both on the strategic front and also on the execution front on the merged product lines.  If I make a comparison to the world of Tennis, the top two singles players combining to play doubles will not make them the best doubles pair.   The markets they want to operate in, the areas where there are potentials upticks that they need to invest, the ‘cash cow consolidation’ wherein what is making money  today can be combined to partly pay for the future,  and the technologies that can give them that extra push are the main thrust areas to look into before any mergers happen. 

     Telecom , per say, is a highly capital intensive segment, and with the huge payments done by the Operators to acquire spectrums, they would have little in terms of investing for the future by buying newer technologies offered by these telecom infra company .   Adoption of newer 5G or Nanocore technologies esp., in the emerging markets is going to be slow.

Microsoft and Linkedin – not an obvious slam dunk

        Microsoft recently this June has reached a deal to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2 Billion and not going too much into whether the shareholders and regulators would approve it, let us assume for this blog this is a done deal.  Yes, slam dunk used here intentionally as the NBA finals where Cleveland managed to beat the favorites Golden State is still fresh in everyone’s mind.   And the title is relevant another way as well because Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft, owns the Portland Trail Blazers team.

      Microsoft is buying LinkedIn at a price that is about 25% less than its all-time high, but still at a 50% premium from where it is presently.  There are about a third of all the global working professionals as members of LinkedIn.  Although we see LinkedIn as more a professional C2C social network, of late, it has been trying to get into the social space much to the annoyance of the members already there.  For that, the LinkedIn members believe there is a Facebook.   What may not be obvious it that they are already big in the B2B space in terms of recruitment which  seems to be their cash cow today.

    Yes, LinkedIn gets most of its revenues through licenses and subscription charges from the recruitment space with their Recruitment platform and the Talent Solutions offering.  It has been faced with hard reality recently – slowing growth and has been offering weak financial guidance, and they would have been eager to jump on any sugar daddy that came their way.  Salesforce, a CRM giant, was also in the reckoning to buy them, as admitted by their CEO, but their valuation of LinkedIn was much lower.   By selling at a premium, LinkedIn seems to have made its shareholders rich given this may have been its only option, as even the ads business was slowing down.  Office 365 for Microsoft has been growing well for the past two years and has displaced Google in this space – a big enterprise cloud play by Microsoft.  Ah Hah:  Licenses & Annual Subscription + Office 365 = Good Synergy in Business Model?    Also their combined strength may also give them better revenue in the ads space.

    When one does the math, Microsoft has paid about $60 for each of the 433 Million members professional data (mostly), their connection details, their group subscriptions and some of the personal information that one has shared(contact numbers, education, email etc.).  If the premium was not there, your information was only worth $40 for Microsoft.  And Microsoft rightfully feels they got a steal.  Compare it to what Facebook paid for WhatsApp in 2013, $19B for about 600 million users, which works out to approximately $31 per head and that too only for your phone numbers!  Some social network experts said Facebook paid only $2B for WhatsApp users which works out to $3.33 for each phone number, and 4/5th of the money paid was more out of “Goodwill”, whatever that means.  When Facebook got Instagram the previous year for $1B for 30M users which worked out to $33 per user for the photos they shared but an evaluation by a leading bank couple of years later put that value at $80 per user as it had grown well and big under Facebook (Facebook announced they had 1B active mobile users in Instagram in April 2014).  Not bad for Mark (What a purchase, he can say!), whose main revenue source is ‘ads’ and more the user, merrier he can be.  Once he integrates his acquisition well, a business model would eventually evolve to monetize the entire user base and they get to strike gold.  Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch is the old adage and it still applies.   Can you and I live without WhatsApp now – we are all hooked and addicted which is making Facebook smile. Every corporate need to make money for their stakeholders and for the rich to become richer, right?

       LinkedIn on its own had made some purchases recently – Lynda which offers video tutorials and training and a great online medium for learning, and Connectifier which  uses AI and machine learning  solutions to search for appropriate profiles for talent acquisition.  Again, once integrated, with a solid analytics engine, this can be a money bagger for anyone who has the names, their connections, what they want to learn, and whom they want to recruit, with all data available open without any privacy issues as you had built your own LinkedIn profile, viewable to all. And campus placement would just get easier with the lowering of the age of LinkedIn membership to 14 and the Student portal available so that students have access to all the best places they want to join.   

       Recruitment in years to come is never going to be paper resume based, it is purely going to be a social recruiting through digital profile play – by going digital, we get to see the associations that the person has, conference and groups (s) he attends and recommendation he may have from previous bosses and sub-ordinates which may speak a lot about the candidate.   Hiring processes can become very fast and even passive candidates who seem to be better fits can be lured into new opportunities.  Data analytics of unstructured data would make Microsoft guide you what you want to learn next, whom you want to meet next, what you want to write about to get noticed, and above all, unknowingly the next job falling on your lap without you even applying for it.  In short, if all works out great, LinkedIn may be the sole or primary Learning and Development, and Recruitment solution of the WORLD. Whaav… now it is making some sense, is it not? They would wish that everyone pays them to avail their services.

      Microsoft, mapping it back to the 1980s has either acquired companies for the information, data and content that they possess or to kill a potential competitor that is the wings. They acquired top software engineers from Xerox to develop their WORD, bought out Forethought which had a presentation program to develop PowerPoint and bought out Fox Software for their FoxPro and had Access use their database engine.  They acquired Hotmail with 8.5 million subscribers then in the 90s and integrated them to their MSN services.  Their later bigger acquisitions from 2000-2015 like Visio for their graphics software, Skype technologies for their VoIP service Skype, Nokia for their smartphone hardware capabilities and Yammer, a smaller version of LinkedIn for their intra-organization social networking utility have not paid them much dividends.  In fact, Nokia acquisition may have been their biggest mistake to date.  Consumers do not want to see a Desktop like UI on their phones as well and they would like to pick and choose what apps and games they want to possess and the Store part of the Windows story did not offer them much. With an enterprise mindset that Satya Nadella comes with, I guess their phone business would just be an also ran but cloud software and services is where they want to invest and capitalize on.

     With LinkedIn, they may have hit a jackpot, depending on whom you talk to.  They get a huge free database of about a third of the world’s workforce, with a constant profile page for every professional and a reachable email to connect with, and a sense of their network across the world – they get your digital business card stored which is paper-less and easily accessible, and they can keep track of you and manage your relationship as well.  For now, LinkedIn is their CRM bounty.  They get to build their own bigger CRM around LinkedIn, many of the relationships already coming in for free.  Combine that with the fact that they would own the single biggest asset of the world in terms of recruitment and learning and development that you and I have to pay for to use, they are smiling to their bank all the way.    And I am sure there is more to it in this acquisition than what I can infer as an outsider through this blog.

     Just as a baseline, the top four  staffing  and recruitments companies(Adecco, Manpower, Randstad and Allegis) generate a combined revenue of about $70 billion and up, and even if LinkedIn gets 10% of this in the next 5 years, $7 billion revenue is not something to be sneezed at.   Talent solutions (Hiring and L&D) division today generates nearly 2/3rd of its total revenue and is in the order of $1.9B the year closing 2015 with projections in 2016 to be around 20% above this number.  For a $93B company like Microsoft, adding another 5% to the total revenue over the next few years would take them to a privileged $100B club just through LinkedIn. They seem to be SMAC on target.

   Integration being a challenge in any of these large name companies coming together in terms of employees and organizations, that apart, once a cohesive story builds up around the combined entity in the next couple of years, we would most likely see a subscription model that everyone has to pay for, and they may not be alone with Facebook also likely to follow that route and users like us are stuck because we need to pay for our addiction for these cloud services. It would not be big news if they get to invest in some telecom company for their technology and infrastructure so that they get to rule the way we communicate globally all the way. Google would not be sitting and twiddling its thumb either– we will have to wait for some action on their front and their story to fall in place.  Stay tuned.

    In the meantime back to basketball, we are in the fourth quarter of the seventh game of the conference finals and the scores are tied.  It is time for the real players to make it count and win the game.

   How it all started?  On the evening of the day when the news of acquisition came out. I was sipping coffee with my friend, and asked him a simple “Why”? He drew a blank, just like me, but his wife sitting next to him who works for a leading job portal said “The value is in recruitment, stupid”. Now I get it, that too after a week… Whoever said “A woman can never be wrong” is absolutely right!

 The author of this blog is a business and technology consultant and a corporate trainer for Business Intellects based out Bengaluru, India.

Making Things better for a coaching center

There are two major things in running a coaching center, other than the real estate and infrastructure part.

  • Discipline:   Not to be too liberal and not to be too strict – somewhere in between is a good place to be in. Giving some relaxation is fine but students must not take undue advantage of the same.  The instructors must be between being too formal and getting too close.  Some suggestions are:
  • Make it very clear what is non-negotiable in terms of behavior and punctuality and what is slightly relax able and reinforce them periodically.
  • The peer groups or students have to be properly managed so that they do not disturb the other groups or students to the extent of instilling a lack of enthusiasm in learning in others.  All students must be able to participate actively without any fear or inhibition. 
  • Appreciate their participation openly and praise good performance in public. At the same time reprimand bad behavior then and there. Every student has a right to learn and must not be disrupted by a few elements in the class.  The expected student behavior must be reinforced and reminded regularly.
  • If operating under the peer group concept, the students have to be grouped in such a way that there is a good mix of students in each group of various merits and peer to peer learning must be facilitated more rather than within the peer group only. 
  • Attendance and timing – these are non-negotiable for any professional life that they would get into – having a strict 90% and above attendance record is essential and having the late comers stay out for that day of class would give them the necessary motivation to be on time the next day.    5 min lateness could be tolerated as the limit and if they are not in by that time, then they should not be allowed in.
  • Projects and homework turned in on-time (with one day grace perhaps). 
  • Checking the notes of students regularly during and after the lecture would help them to be focused.  A good record of each students and his/her record has to be maintained
  • Learning methodology – this is more about how the learning happens and what are the objectives and expectations of the course and the students.
  • Learning Goals: The center needs to have good success criteria or benchmarks to measure progress of the student and course activity and to regularly measure and auto-correct the same in a very transparent manner.
  • The projects and homework must be very probing in terms of concepts and practical applications of what was taught in class.  They must be able to research independently within a certain degree and assisted to think out-of-the-box to arrive at potential solutions.   One should never make homework being seen as a burden to their learning process.  Try not to target one unique solution for any problem but rather give probing questions so that the students can come out with a few options and discuss them clearly.
  • Video and audio aids online to supplement the learning must be used regularly and some unique materials in those aids should be tested constantly to ensure that the students are using those aids.
  • The fundamentals and concepts must be the heart of the focus and then problems solved around it.  The understanding of concepts should be tested which would be most beneficial for the students.  Getting to have a Q&A session after every cohesive chapter would be nice – this can have real-life practical applications of the concepts learnt.
  • Focus must be not on covering the entire material or syllabus but rather to encourage active learning from the students.  It is important to provide the students real life examples and personal experience so that the students can visualize practical applications of what they are the concepts. 
  • The learning goals must be clearly defined and communicated to the students, and must be separated from in-class course instructor learning and in-home projects and study-work. Give positive, constructive feedback on student performance and their behavior.
  • Lesson plan for each session or a bunch of sessions should be clearly defined and an in-class test should be conducted every fortnight.  This can be online that can be submitted from home. 
  • Have a fun day every quarter for students to present on a topic that has been taught in class but described in their own words with audio and visual aids.
  • Three Learning checks:  did they understand the fundamentals, are they solving School/CBSE /ICSE related questions and are they able to solve competitive exams (JEE, CET etc.) type of questions – all three must be covered across all their subjects.  Helping students identify their own errors are part of the teaching methodology would be most beneficial.
  • Combination of black board + handouts + visual and audio aids + tests must be there and used effectively.  Each of them must complement each other in terms of learning.
  • Encourage the students to take on many competitive tests as possible and give them pointers regularly as to what is coming up and how to deal with it.
  • Constant motivation by the parents and elders at home can better the student’s success.  This can be enabled by regular meeting with parents and go through the students and overall course progress.  The parents must also be more focused on the concepts being learnt and not get too hung up on the scoring well in the competitive exams as the sole objective. 

Bucketing (labelling) in lateral hiring

Imagine this. You have applied for a specific job online that you think you like or confident you can take on.  And after a few days, you get a standard (auto) reply in the negative.  Chances are that your resume was never sent to the hiring authority but rather filtered by a clueless recruiter.  (S)he has skimmed your profile amongst the thousand profiles (s)he may have received and cursorily seen couple of words in it and then had put you in the ‘reject’ folder.   I would then say you have been ‘bucketed’.  There are lots of other words used to describe the phenomenon – Tagging, Labeling,Cookie cuttingetc.   It is not what you know or what you can do, but rather what the recruiter thinks you don’t know or what you cannot do.  

      During lateral hiring, the assumption for the recruiter of the hiring company is that you should have almost all of the required skills stated in the job description, and anything beyond those skills does not matter to him/her.   As one gets more experienced, one evolves gradually to be less hands-on and are more valued for your execution skills, positive behavior and your overall holistic systems knowledge – the companies would term it as ‘you need to have a bigger responsibility’.   And there is a good chance that more senior the role is, irrespective of the domain in many cases, the more value that you bring in are these non-technical skills that you had acquired within your past and present organizations.  With that said, being bucketed does not help either the job seeker or the employer.  Assuming instantly that the job seeker would not be capable of learning and doing the job advertised is a complete farce as one completely oversees the other value that the seeker can potentially bring in to the organization. One can overcome this tag or label only after a couple of discussions have taken place as only an open dialog can address mutual expectations. 

    Lateral hiring itself is difficult for experienced folks as what you have done in your first few years sort of puts you in a pre-defined bucket and whatever you would have done in the later years may not be seen as offering any value. After about 12 years in the professional market, you need to realize that it is NOT what you know but WHOM you know that is going to land you in your next job.  The more experienced you are, it is always better to have the HIRING manager be able to see your profile rather than have some junior recruiter, who may not have any clue of what the job really needs, dictate your destiny.    (S) he would see couple of jargons in your profile and immediately label or tag you and moves on assuming you cannot be a fit to the present opportunity.  There is an assumption made that your X domain expertise will not be useful to the Y domain expertise that they are looking out for.  Here I am assuming X and Y domains both fall into a common superset and there are some commonalities between them.  I am not talking about metallurgy and literature, or farming and power transmission as the two domains, just to put my line of thought in perspective, although personally I know of a friend of mine who quit an electrical transmission and distribution company and became a successful vanilla farmer.

  The irony also would be that an employee who is already inside the company may not even have half the skills that they are looking out for in the new candidate but still has learnt the art of survival from within.  And many of us have had prior working relationships with executives in the higher branches of the management of various companies to wonder how these folks are actually there at such critical high decision making levels? Again, this is sort of a Tagging and Labeling we unconsciously get trapped into ourselves.    

  The college degree that you had got hopefully may help you get the first job but may not be same domain you would be actually working down the road in your career.  Putting it differently, I would say that you do not get to use about 80% of what you have studied but still are able to make significant contribution to the organization you work for.

    There are reasons beyond one that an employee is valued within any organization, be it at any level which most of us may not be aware of while passing an unnecessary judgement from outside.  It is also not right for a recruiter to assume that a lateral hire is not capable of learning and executing in the newer domains but can be brought in for other values that (s)he brings to the organization.   Normally recruiters do not operate with an open mind and they blame the volumes of resumes they get for a particular job for not going through most of them.  It is important for all profiles to be considered properly, evaluated for what the skill sets and values they bring in, have a short dialog with the job seeker and then to make a decision one way or the other – this is the proper “Due Diligence”.  

      No successful entrepreneur would have made it if they had been bucketed to a particular domain or expertise.   In fact, their accomplishment is to think outside a defined box and offer a unique solution that they can market.  It is also known that a person in his/her mid-life(40s)  would have other interests in both personal and professional life that (s)he would like to experience,  which means (s)he would be more than open to newer ventures , within his risk appetite.   I am also of the opinion that  (s)he also can innovate and learn quickly by applying ideas and learning from his/her discipline onto another newer discipline in a precise methodical manner.   Doing something new every now and then keeps one motivated and hungry to learn to be able to execute and deliver and I know that most of us have this craving within us to be the best in what we do.  I also feel that they get bored after a while in doing what they are doing and want to do something different.

    Some examples to remind you that your past does not dictate your future, and it should NOT: Scott McNealy, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems – a major server company, had a Bachelors of Arts in Economics.   John Chambers, the former CEO of Cisco, the networking giant actually had a Bachelor’s degree in Science and Art and a Law degree and started off his career as a Sales engineer with IBM. As we all know Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Steve Jobs of Apple fame are drop-outs and still made their name; in fact, Steve got his hands wet with Pixar which brought to us Toy Story and other successful animated cartoons.   Rowan Atkinson, the actor of Mr. Bean fame, does have a Master’s degree in Electrical engineering from Oxford.   

       My point is as you climb the convoluted career staircase based on aspirations and accumulated expertise, each step can be different but must be climbed to get to the next step that may turn in a different direction – all previous steps do materialize.   If these individuals were bucketed or tagged, they would not have gone anywhere and done anything close to what they have achieved.  

Knowledge Hierarchy and Innovation equation

        For many folks who have been accustomed to standards and best known practices, the DIKW Pyramid clearly talks about the hierarchy and the relationships between the four levels of hierarchy.    Data is the fundamental unit which is just observations which is hard to interpret alone.   Once you infer something from data, it attains some meaning which is termed as information.  Once you process and organize the information and give it some structure and then analyze it, it becomes Knowledge. When you apply knowledge in action, you develop competency.    Knowledge is more theoretical and competency is more practical. And eventually, when you start becoming more effective and are able to make clear decisions, all attained by experience and continuous learning, you are termed wise.   Thus, if one can define them loosely in an equation:

Information = Relevant Data + meaning or value

Knowledge = Processed Information + analysis or synthesis

Competency = Knowledge + application   (this is just a step defined in between K and W)

Wisdom = Competency + experience

    People confuse knowledge with intelligence which may not be correct.    Creativity and Intelligence are more associated with some action and related to Innovation.  Intelligence takes into account the ability to reason, be culturally aware and also be situationally correct.

Intelligence = Depth of Competence + reasoning ability

Creativity = Intelligence + Fun, according to Albert Einstein

Jiddu Krishnamurthy, a well-known Indian philosopher, adds Freedom to Einstein’s definition which I would approve as you need freedom to be creative.  In a bounded environment, creativity is limited.

      Some of these definitions may differ from some other definitions by researchers and scholars and are subject to other interpretations as well,  but these are just defined in layman’s terms to give a clear picture to understand the information hierarchy and what more does  it take to be innovative. The skills required for these two would be different, as the former is more execution relevant and the latter is more about using knowledge to create something new.

     DisclaimerAll the above definitions and relationships already exist in some form and author has just compiled them cohesively together.