Friday, January 28, 2011

The Agony of Saying NO to a Sales Call

 I don’t know if it’s just for me or for the others as well who are tilted towards the sales function. But I find it rather difficult to say a NO initially to a sales call that I get. I know what you are thinking now. It’s the sweet deceptive  female voice that does the trick eh? Trust me; I am never gender specific on this. (To my old friends – I’m a changed man now Okie??) Being in sales, I know exactly how much of an emotional roller coaster sales calls can be. Not to speak of the target pressure from supervisors. So, the least I can do as their prospect is to give them a fair hearing.

Sometimes, I do feel that I am wasting their productive time by listening to a sales pitch at the end of which I would probably deny any interest in buying. But I am not quite able to bring myself to say that heartless NO initially when the entire effort of the caller is focused towards getting that two minutes of time with me on explaining the product/service. Queer? Maybe a small minority of them consider me a sadist for wasting their time. But most callers end the call on a pleasant note with a feeling of having done their part.

I have tried my best never to abruptly end any sales call leaving the caller in a state of abyss.Nor have I spoken rudely to any caller ever since the day I qualified as a prospect for them. On the one odd rare occasion where some poorly trained caller has challenged my patience levels, I have had no choice but to forcibly end the conversation. This occurrence even though rare, fills me with remorse and guilt albeit only for a short while. In those very short moments I visualize, Managers of the narcissist variety shouting and scaring the living daylights of the hapless callers and a plethora of negative emotions enveloping the callers faces.
Sigh!... Being less imaginative would have its own advantages I guess.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Time to Change Your Sun Sign

Remember those cards, key chains and other such paraphernalia surrounding Zodiac signs which we used to get for Birthdays when we were kids? Well, that’s how I came to know that I was a Cancerian. Many Libra's, Virgos, Aries and others also came to know what they were or what they were supposed to be.

What you thought you were based on your sun sign is about to change with the advent of  Ophiuchus. . Go clean your tongue and try once again at pronouncing the name. Coz if Park Kunkle were to be believed, this Sun Sign is here to stay thanks to a change in the way the Earth is aligned today than it was in 3000 BC. To whose of you who are wondering “Park Who?”, he is a teacher at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College with a keen interest  in astronomy and is an active member of the Minnesota Planetarium Society. As a result of this discovery which Kunkle claims was known all this while to astronomers since 130 BC , the rest of the Signs have moved on to different dates.

You can check out the supposedly new dates here: The New Zodiac Dates

I can imagine the horror on the faces of people who take signs seriously and have believed in them all this while only to know that their Zodiac Signs are going to be different from now. Children when exposed to typical characteristics of each of the Star signs could even begin to model their behavior subconsciously along those lines.This means I will have to live with the fact that I am about to change from being ‘Emotional, Romantic, Compassionate and Caring’ to ‘Thirst for knowledge, May not have gift of gab but are usually good writers, appear mysterious or detached to others. Quite a change that is :- )

And what of permutation combinations of ‘Ideal matches’ which give some teenage couples a good excuse to think that they are made for each other.  What do those people do when they find out about the mismatch thanks to the Sign change? the Fast track ad says: “Move on “.

Friday, January 21, 2011

So You Think You are Rational ?

Confused? No sweat. Not everybody is a Bertrand Russell or a Sigmund Freud.
Here is the fact of the matter - Instead of always arriving at the most logical or most rational decision , our mind intutively tends to arrive at an in-between consensus or solution referred to as ‘Bounded – rationality’  a term coined by noted psychologist Herbert Simon. Now don’t get psyched out by terminology. It just means that we exhibit some element of bias in reasoning and decision making but try our best at coming to a ‘good-enough’ decision.

What could be those factors which affect our supposedly rational decision making process?

Heuristics are mental shortcuts that we take in order to arrive at quick decisions. These shortcuts are prone to certain biases some of which are listed below.

1.Availability Heuristic – We tend to believe more of what is made available to us or what is pointed out to us repeatedly. A few stories in the front pages of major newspapers on farmer suicides provides the necessary public ammo and emotional impact to bully the government into writing off farm loans thereby bringing huge losses to the state exchequer. Here no effort is taken to study the actual situation which has brought about the unfortunate tragedy.

2.Representativeness Heuristic- Just because you predicted the last two cricket match outcomes correctly does not mean you will predict the third and fourth match outcomes correctly. Nevertheless, you would brim with confidence on your ability to do so base on the frequency of the past two predictions being correct.  The same goes for early successes attained in the stock markets by a beginner.

3.Anchoring and Adjusting Heuristic - Anchors are reference points to which our choices and decisions tend to deviate to after adjusting for minor changes.  This could be used when negotiating fares even with your autorickshaw driver. Anchors could be laid by either of the parties involved in a negotiation. But the person who initially offers the first value ( which will act as the anchor) stands to win as the outcome tends to focus on that particular value going forward in the negotiation.

4.Affect Heuristic – This is one of the most prominent biases which affect decision making. That emotions influence our reasoning is no brainer. It is precisely this bias which is used by marketers and advertising professionals to influence the purchasing power of customers. Why else would people prefer to have one soft drink over the other when both of them taste almost the same? (Eg:- Coke Vs Pepsi)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

20 serious people required !

I shudder to think what the quality of the training would be like at ‘Our leading multinational company’. This poster was found at a telephone booth (Yes, they still exist) near my house which happens to be a busy commercial area and a hub for wannabe immigrants to the US of A ! And this is not the only such banner or poster I have seen here.

A rudimentary search on Google with the keywords “English Training institutes in Hyderabad” throws up 5,63,000 results. I wonder what’s been taught at these so called training institutes which have mushroomed by the dozen .Some of the IT training institutes have even started off classes on their own in English and communication skills ( Soft skills) with the intent of having a diversified revenue stream. Talk about expanding value propositions……Hmmmm !

And now, here is a no nonsense primer to start your own Soft skills school without any VC funding.
  • Rent out a portion of a building or apartment and stuff ‘em with sparse second hand furniture.
  • Buy that suit before the season sale is over. The darker, the better. You will be perceived as a ‘serious’ teacher.
  • Christen a nice British name for your institute such as Atkins School of communication or Bailey. Should sound very upper crest.
  • Download a few power point slides on communication/Time management/Goal setting from the net and do remember to always change the fonts.
  • Tie up with one of those DTP guys for some beautifully laminated course completed certificates liberally laced with typical British insignia to give an international feel for the whole thing.
                               Voila  …. You are all Ready to Rock!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Top 5 ways to spend money and yet feel good about it

1.Re-skilling , learning and self development-  Now don’t you ever start to think that you’ve learnt it all. The moment you start resting on your retro academic laurels thinking there is nothing much to learn again, you are a dead man. Dead and gone…Poof ! Any HR manager worth his ‘Training Schedule’ will tell you that constant up gradation of skill sets is one way of ensuring you get noticed and stand a fair chance of getting promoted.  So one great way to spend money is to spend it on yourself by learning a new skill or by upgrading your existing skills. This in one way is more of an investment than spending when you think of it. Don’t worry too much about the ‘validity/acceptability’ of certificates. Its what you learnt and gained that matters most.

2.On experiences/travel – Life as they say is a series of experiences . The more varied and vivid, the more better it enriches life. It gives you confidence to face adversities in life. Travel does not have to be of the luxurious kind like taking off on a cruise ship.  The idea should be to live the moment and soak in the experience of your surroundings instead of spending your time in a hotel Suite. ( Please read 20 simple steps to the Perfect persuasive message if your wife insists on taking off on the cruise liner)

3.Buy a gift for a loved one-  Go buy something for  folks at home, spouse, children or even your best friend or teacher. They sure will appreciate the care that you have shown. The happiness which you get from their reactions far outweigh the money involved.

4.Go in person and donate to a charity near your home- The joy of giving is now no more a vague feeling.  Research has now proven beyond doubt that the joy that you get when donating your money or something of value to charity is more than what you get through monetary rewards.” "The same regions of the brain that are associated with the reward and the good feeling you have when you get something yourself, like money, were the same areas that were activated when you give. That surprised us," says Grafman. "And not only were the same areas involved, but in fact they were more activated when you give than when you receive."
Read it at .

5.Buying and reading Books-  If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. Benjamin Franklin quote. So go buy a book of anything that interests you and start acquiring that knowledge which will enrich your life. After a Dog, I think Books are a mans best friends (Politically correct statement- err..this is for the unmarried dudes and those of you who don’t have girlfriends or boyfriends)

So how many of these five have you done? How many do you intend to do?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One Differentiating Factor In Retail

Today, I found out the difference between two retail stores belonging to Indian retail giants. This is not something that is part and parcel of the overall culture at that store. But if one individual could make that difference , then the store stands to benefit from guaranteed repeat visits.

      Want to know what the crucial differentiating factor is between the stores ?

Yep...t'was just an innocent smile and a genuine "Are you doing fine sir ?" which tilted my favor towards this store. A simple smile could serve that purpose which needs to be genuine of course. You dont need a Phd in Psychology to discern a fake smile from a genuine one.  Its a subconscious process.

Its a pleasure being at a place where you feel treated with warmth and respect.Nobody wishes to see a grumpy looking billing clerk at the end of a long and tiring day. To those of you who think that billing clerks are also humans and they too have had a long and tiring day..heres my point: When you are in a service environment/industry , it is the duty of the supervisor/team lead/store in charge to ensure that the team is always pepped up and exhibiting high levels of energy at work. Only then can they show concern for customers.

If my choice towards this particular store is based on just one friendly face there, imagine the difference it would make to me as a customer if majority of the employees at the store behave in the same manner.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Introduction to Tax planning for new hires

Check out this simple Tax calculator to know how much you owe to the government.

Section 10;Section 16;Chapter VI A

Now that you know what the Govt is going to take away from you, you need to quickly plan how to go about investing this money.  I have listed three options were you do not need to invest any lump sum amount initially.
Assuming you have a tax liability of Rs 1, 00,000, you could invest a percentage of that money in any one or more of these three options.  All you need to do is to inform your HR about your planned investments for the accounting year in advance so that they can stop deducting  taxes from your salary. You can then either ask your employer to deduct your monthly contribution to EPF , proceed to invest via a  monthly Systematic investment plan (SIP) in NPS or open a PPF account and transfer money online. Please make the investment date one or two days after your regular salary credit dates to prevent all that cash vaporizing into thin air.

 I have not listed ELSS as an option above as the tax benefits on them are about to be phased off. I would give No: 1 priority to NPS which will help you build a retirement corpus and give you the extra equity kicker of 50%. Long term investments in the equity market will surely fetch you better returns than PPF or EPF.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why don’t new hires plan their taxes ?

"Abracadabra, thus we learn the more you create, the less you earn. The less you earn, the more you're given, the less you lead, the more you're driven, the more destroyed, the more they feed, the more you pay, the more they need, the more you earn, the less you keep, And now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to take, if the tax-collector hasn't got it before I wake."
-- Ogden Nash
Most new hires are completely immersed & concerned about the following: 

1. Did boss notice me staying late yesterday?
2. Are my slim fit trousers looking good on me today?
3. Will my weekly appraisal pass without having a perforated ear drum?

The last question on any newbie’s mind is “how do I plan my taxes/finances?” This issue arises primarily from the fact that they have gone from earning ZERO per month till last month to about 20 or 30 or 40k from the current month onwards.   Who cares if ‘somebody’ takes a few thousand bucks from their salary.When responsibilities are nil, commitments less and age on your side, people don’t bother about what happens to their hard earned money.  Some of them get into this cycle of thinking “No money to invest in lump sum so no tax investments. Since there are no tax investments , tax deductions happen from salary on a monthly basis.That’s enough ‘Gyan’ for the day.  We will assess your tax outflow in the upcoming blog.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What’s so Kochi about the Kochi IPL Team?

The title for this blog post might sound blasphemous for most folks out there in Kochi where I was born and brought up. But what is common between Kochi IPL team and Kochi besides  the name ? Hardly anything apparently. Lets check out the owners of the Kochi IPL team

Parinee Developers: Mumbai based Real Estate and construction company.

Anchor Earth: Anchor is one of the largest manufacturer in the world for electrical switches and accessories. They certainly have got nothing to do with Kerala or Kochi except for the fact that their products are well known and sold across this part of the country as well.

Rendezveous Sports World Pvt Ltd:  Err..ever heard of them before ?

Film Waves Combine - An investment company of Dubai based Mr. Harshad Mehta.

Anand Shyam Estates - Part of the Sur Gems group, with a global presence and primary interests in the diamond industry

Vivek Venugopal -  The only true blue Keralite in the whole gang.Scion of the Elite Group of industries, an FMCG player in the south Indian market, with leadership; also part of the Medimix group of hygiene products.

Well…what about the players ?  We managed to have one player Sreesanth, yes, one player out of 17 from Kochi/Kerala. Leaves me wondering what’s so Kochi about Team Kochi !

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Gabbar of Grown ups

Back in the 70s moms in North India put their children to sleep warning about Gabbar. Closer home in Kerala the tried and tested method for two generations have been about Policemen on the prowl to catch the 'bad kids'. Quite contrary to Gabbar the cops have been wanting to catch i guess. Both anyway did the same trick. That of instilling instant fear and obedience.

When these kids from the 70s grew up, got their management degrees and joined corporate jobs, Gabbar & the Khaki policemen were replaced by : Third party Audit/Control & Compliance Teams. This annual jamboree  is kick started in most companies with heavy duty mail roll outs/con-calls/task forces all reiterating the Zero Tolerance policy of the company on audit failures. The preparations start a good one or two months before  D-Day. All questions and requests are answered by a revered reply  " Its audit , you know ".

Policy and process manuals get dusted off the shelf. Your boss starts asking you stuff that he has never even mentioned to you before. ( Its there on Page No:117  Appendix B didn't you know ?). Vendor offices are sanitized , new ID cards are made, registers filled. Hell...some of the managers actually get to meet the vendors in person for once lest the audit guys ask them for a surprise ride to the vendors office. The security guy at the office grudgingly wears his 'Topi' wondering when the whole thing is going to get over.

Request for leaves are denied unless 'genuine'. Even worse, folks at home start asking you on the daily progress of the preparations. It even starts getting rubbed off on customers who start sensing something big is about to happen.

When D-Day arrives, all hands are on deck or rather the PC to check on any information regarding where the auditors have landed. Once the initial location is confirmed as a far off state, there is a temporary sigh of relief. From then on , its like watching the cricket score on your mobile until the game is over and everybody gets back to their normal self.

Jam-packed but comfortable - Thats India !

Managed to catch this interesting view sometime before while driving to office. Had my mobile with me , so went ahead and took this shot while driving the car. Sure was no mean task as i had to balance the wheel and the lens at the same time.;- )

If the photo looks blurred, believe me folks , its not the lens...its my windshield which needs a good wash.
Was just thinking whether three wheeler manufacturers carry such live load tests to check the balance of the vehicle and the pulling power.Nobody in the snap seems to be bothered much about the comfort factor whatsoever.
My best estimate states there must be about 13 folks on board this share auto.Some of the guys are almost on the verge of popping out. All hail mass transportation !