Saturday, February 28, 2009

Succeed to Fail : Fail to succeed

As a person one who believes that one has to stay in the game to win, it was interesting to get exposed to a few different perspectives on how one could be on course to winning -by failing!!
Last evening I attended the monthly meeting of the Hyderabad chapter of TiE, where the speaker Krishna Natarajan, a co-founder of an erstwhile start up OrderMonger -spoke about the lessons learnt after closing a start-up! It was an unique experience -as one usually is exposed to the success stories-listening to some one who was very courageous to stand up and recount the sequence of events from the germination of the idea-to the closure of the organisation. The Q&A session-moderated by Sateesh Andra, was very enlightening-as the audience kept probing the nuts and bolts of the business-as well as the alternatives.
Interestingly, there was an article "Failing Right-knowing when to let go" in the ET yesterday too-pointing out research that failed entrepreneurs have a better chance of succeeding in their second effort than first time ones!
In the present market scenario-I keep bumping into professionals- who have been laid off-or whose talents are being underutilised! And increasingly, a lot of them are open to joining firms that stretch their adrenalin.
It is also amazing how many SME firms are just stuttering-due to the liquidity crunch, and simply do not have the bandwidth to stay in the game!! Ironically, most promoters are running to raise funds-that they take their eyes off the operations-which further plunges them down.
Am sure there are a lot of people-who also would love to get a higher return than the 'safe' banking norms.
Not to mention a generation of freshers-engineers and MBAs -and other graduates-who are waiting for get opportunities to get into the work force.
Something tells me it is the right ecosystem for unleashing the potential of entrepreneurism !! As
of now, there seems to be a severe loss of confidence in the businesses -with most people waiting and watching!!
But to win, one has to play, right??
One is reminded of the classic Keynesian problem (of production cuts due to lower demand which in turn was caused by lower salaries that curtails reduced spending.) When this disastrous cycle begins Keynes mentioned that the only solution to this problem was the government to invest in infrastructure even if it means hiring people to “dig holes and fill them”.
Imagine if we get into a game willing to fail. Well, if you fail, you win. And if you fail to fail, you win too ?? Anyone game? Isn't failure the stepping stone to success??

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some of the HOT jobs this week

Quite a few IT/ITES companies are now on the prowl!! And rightly so, they are looking for HUNTERS!! Hard core business development professionals, who can open up doors to potential clients across the world, are the flavour of this week. Please feel free to visit "pick of the jobs" for a sample!
Meanwhile, here is this week's bulletin of the sample of the global jobs , we at Options, are privy to-thanks to our partners @ NPA The Worldwide Recruiting Network.
-Lead Civil/Structural Engineer (Salary : $100,000 - $150,000 ) New Zealand
-Sales/Mktg Director - Aviation (Salary : $100,000 - $120,000) North Carolina, USA
-Drilling Engineer-Salary $180,000 : Saudi Arabia
-Plant Manager Salary : $98,000 - $105,000 : Washington, USA
-Leader-Systems Development (Mechanical) : $110,000 - $130,000: Massachusetts, USA
-Project Scheduler: $100,000 : Washington DC, USA
-Microsoft Dynamics NAV Consultant: $50,000 - $51,000 : New Zealand

Friday, February 20, 2009

Is it as bad as it is made out to be??

These days it is almost impossible to have a conversation without referring to the recession or slowdown! While some argue articulately with a lot of facts and figures, there are a lot who would like to dismiss it as a correction that was necessary!

It is very interesting to note the two perceptions-one at a national level & the other global job markets.

Excerpts from the Business Standard interview with Naukri CEO Sanjeev Bikhchandani-where he is pessimistic in the next 6 months but optimistic in the next 12 months:

- some level of unfreezing is taking place in the jobs market

-most companies are looking for short term sales not long term marketing!

-contrary to the feeling that more people would be looking for jobs, those in jobs are sitting tight, accept a zero-hike, even a pay cut, but they are not looking around.

-campus placements-Fewer companies are coming, and offering lesser jobs and at lower salaries

On a global scale, (hat tip my pal Gautam Ghosh blog) a leading search consultant quips;

1."we’ll see more cuts at many firms before hiring picks up. “Generally what happens with service firms is in a downturn, they don’t right-size themselves quickly enough. And so in a downturn, they’re trailing indicators,” .


2.firms are hiring—it’s just that now they want a different type of consultant. Someone who is a trusted adviser with real content knowledge who can serve in a very specific role. Especially candidates who have hybrid experience.

Personally I think it has got to do with the relative expectations!! If in July 08 the index was 1000, (one expected it to grow, keeping in trends with the immediate 5-6 quarters -to 1400. As against that, )the present index now @ 700 odd- would not truly indicate the disappointment of the drop in 26% of the index!!

While I feel vindicated about my observations last month, I am a little concerned about the general lack of business confidence all around.

-the Indian market , barring realty and auto, should not really be affected by the slowdown.

-there has been a decent gesture from the Government to spur liquidity in the system-even if the quantum may be debate-able.

-Or is there a sense of inertia -thanks to Satyam, and the related corporate governance issues that force most companies to be less aggressive now?

Well, the good news is that we at Options have a variety of assignments-that are keeping in line with above sentiments!

A.Increasing activities to bring in money

a) a lot of business development opportunities as IT companies expand in to new geographies and verticals ( Positions exist for people with 8-12yrs experience in US, Europe, UK, Australia-and Singapore).

b) business development activities due to innovative product mix -eg SaaS-Head of Sales in Mumbai.

c) change in business model eg Channel partners in the Advertising & marketing space, Director Engineering , Director IT services.

d)New jobs- setting of power plants- eg VP Projects, Head Budgets, Head -transmission & distribution

B. Replacement recruitment positions- in a bid to refill the positions left vacant-but now altered to make the roles more wholesome. eg Country Manager for a MNC telecom repair company

Please feel free to reach out to [email protected], and I shall keep you updated about the subtle nuances each role demands now :-)! We are working much more closely with our associates across the country-in a bid to decrease the response time, while not compromising on the reach .

There are jobs-but the companies are just getting a lot fussier! And take a lot more time to choose. It is time for each of us to add value -in our own ways-to get counted among!

Happy hunting!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mantra for the future- "Business Ready Managers"

Sport has great lessons for Business.
In the 18 months since the Twenty20 World cup matches began, the Indian cricket team has been among the top performing teams in the version, adopting a 'horses for courses' policy . It is enlightening to note the composition of the specialists to tour New Zealand - replacing about half the stalwarts who are part of the longer Test cricket!
As a recruiter, one is constantly challenged to think beyond job descriptions, and arrive at different performance profiles- to enable the best 'fit'. Some roles need lot of 'out of the box thinking'-while a large majority just require people who play a maintenance role, simply doing the same basic stuff on a routine basis, unerringly. Also, companies at different life cycles of their development, need professionals of different temperament. It's easy to surmise that no size fits all!!
Over the weekend, I was fortunate to be exposed to why Great Lakes Institute of Management is emerging among the best business schools in India. Having been in touch since Dec 2006-in person, and lately through student's blogs, and their various events-I could not resist the offer of being part of their admission process for the selection for the students batch of 2009-2010. It is an initiative totally driven by the present students, and the panel consisting of their faculty & alumni-apart from getting external observers from the corporate world & independent third party recruiters to get the flavour of what the market may demand, in tune with the evolving business scenario!!
Keeping with the mission of producing 'Business Ready Managers', the brief for a Great Laker was very lucid and clear- the future belongs to people with the following attributes:
-a problem solver/solutions provider
-a self starter who is driven by desire and takes initiatives
-a person who is knowledgeable but humble, capable but a team player and leader, a dreamer with execution capabilities and a follower of rigorous discipline
-a person with a focus on getting things done and will not mind dirtying his/her hands to get results.
-a person who acts with integrity and upholds high ethical standards in both his professional and personal life.
The mantra of Dr Bala Balachandran, Founder and Honorary Dean, is very apt- 'go beyond the CV-to look at the 'spirit' of the person to predict 'will this person hear me, understand my problem, formulate and implement a solution that will bring joy to the workplace?'
It was a pleasure interacting with the aspirants-almost all of them with great academic scores and 3-5 years of a proven track record- as they went through a grilling case study -very aptly hinging on the roots of ethical behaviour. Each student had at least 30 minutes of interaction with the panel to highlight -that in an uncertain economy, while “one cannot control the wind, one can adjust the sails” and “if there is no wind, row!
It is indeed a reassuring thought to note the creation of an ecosystem that stimulates, and provides courage and confidence for aspirants to take their rightful place among the future business leaders in the world.
Do we see the corporates adopt other benchmarks from sport? The substitutes in basketball/ soccer already play more effective roles than the twelfth man in cricket! Would 'pinch hitters' be the future 'interim managers'?
Do we see someone change the rules of the game- a la Fosbury flop raising the bar in high jump??

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The quantum leap

Would you like to believe that career management would necessitate 'soul searching'??


CB Ramkumar (CB) is a person who believes that in future, we will find employees looking for companies that have a great value system besides a stable & a growing balance sheet. Employers will look for employees who will have passions that they can help facilitate and fulfill, as only this leads to a sustainable relationship.


My interactions with CB have been sporadic but very interesting. In the seventies, my cousin and he were then part of a music band Vybrations (as was Dilip-who is now known to the world as AR Rahman!!) Late eighties had seen him pursue a career in advertising in Dubai. I then met him as he cycled thru Hyderabad, across India, on a fund raising mission. He is now living out his dream at Bangalore -promoting eco tourism and sustainable technologies.


CB is a very successful businessman today by any yardstick that one would want to use to understand that term "success". What makes his story extremely interesting is how he has achieved this!


In the talk that I had with him, a video of which is uploaded here for those who might be interested in hearing the entire version (a ten minute clip), CB envisages a further shift in the economy, from an intellectual one that we are currently experiencing to a"soul-filled" economy. By soul-filled economy he means one wherein companies and employees will get in touch with their souls to find solutions.


CB declares unabashedly that he is, indeed, talking about spirituality and the importance of meditation in today's world. The benefits that an individual can derive from meditation have been proven beyond doubt. The sooner it is accepted by companies and individuals the better , given the difficulty in finding and maintaining their competitive edge. It is a well-known fact that product-related competitiveness and image-related positioning are no longer sufficient to sideline competition. Companies need a new quantum level to operate from and this is the level of the soul. Getting in touch with your soul will provide the answers on how to become "hugely different on a quantum level from your nearest competitor". The knowledge that you procure from your soul is going to bring about a major shift in your basic system of work.


The proof of the pudding is in its eating. CB cites his own case as an excellent example to prove his theory.

PS- the video is my first attempt at uploading an interview-and while I admit that the visuals are pretty poor (need to research and figure out how I can improve it the next time!), I would request those interested to listen anyway as the audio quality is pretty decent. Here's some food for thought!!?

video

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Interim Managers- more than just a band-aid

Crisis puts interim managers in demand,an article in the daily DNA attributes a very brief quote of mine in the Mumbai edition-the Bangalore DNA Money is a little more generous :-)!

One has to see the whole perspective in the context of

- the shift from the industrial economy (here the employer called all the shots -as the provider of jobs) to the intellectual economy (where the employee has the choice of working -or not!). One can see that the life time employment has given way to job hopping- and so really each qualified person doesn’t stick around for more than 2-3 yrs in a role.

-globalisation which forces companies to look for sources with ample supply of talent! For example USA -it has slipped from the topmost destination of R&D in 1994 to the 17th position last year, as the local students are less intent on following the "STEM careers" ( read science, technology engineering and maths!) as most Americans want to be managers!

R&D has shifted to the 'emerging countries' as the 'returning natives' wanted to work closer home. Once R&D shifts, manufacturing too will go from the west to the rest of the world..or at least closer to the markets!

- the ageing workforce in the Western World. Lot has been written about the millions of the baby boomer generation retiring in the next 10 yrs..even if it means people working till 70!

The present shaky economy is just an event that highlights the need for corporates to tie up their shoes..and buck up innovatively.

One has been exposed to the concept of 'interim managers' in high tech projects in India, especially in a sunrise industry where the Indian talent could just not meet the demand In the past decade. One has seen specialists in telecom infra, insurance actuaries, building international airports, the expressways and tollways where the scale of operations have been huge and there has been no similar precedence within our country -and hence lack of professionals with a proven track record. Why, even all those expat pilots who man most of our private airlines are 'interim managers' till local talent can rise upto filling in !

There is likely to be an insatiable demand even if were to just think of the SME segment in India. About 95% of Indian companies hire less than 250 employees, and are often promoted by technocrats, who cannot afford to hire laterally- senior or highly experienced professionals with complementary skills. It is a chicken or egg syndrome. To attract good talent, one needs a stable organisation. For a stable operation, one needs good talent. Such firms often make do by hiring freshers and trainees, and deferring gratification. Imagine the potential if they could hire interim managers for a few months..even at a premium!

Yes, interim managers come at a very high cost. Most of them have a proven track record, and would have to hit the ground running. And they are as good as their latest project. And would not compromise on their credibility.

Recessions or downturns like the present one, are provoking companies to re-invent ways of operations in order to survive and get ahead. The opportunity cost could be becoming extinct!!
Interim Managers are here to stay!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Entrepreneurship - the "Future" solution !!

I just got back after watching and listening to Kishore Biyani live -courtesy a panel discussion on “Growth in challenging times” by CNBC Awaaz -as a prelude to a contest that would soon be on air later next month!

I have been an avid admirer of his-and now reflect that I have blogged about him at least 3 times before- one about the potential of jobs in retail industry, and then soon after reading a biography of his -and getting an insight into his "future"!!

The panel discussion had Mr Biyani share the stage -along with a senior banker, the local FAPCCI head and the TV anchor-while three entrepreneurs were given the chance to introduce their business, and share their dreams, in front of an audience of about 300 other entrepreneurs / small business owners. The brief case studies involved the panel quizzing the 'promoters' -and then Mr Biyani sharing his comments-and it was very evident how clearly he could feel the 'positives' and the 'USP' of each of the presenters-despite their inability to articulate as much in a 'mission statement'.

Sensing the mood that a large majority was sceptical about the platitudes of the banking community, Mr Biyani was quick to point out that the banks were quickly understanding the new businesses -and would soon live up to our expectations. He was confident that Corporate India would see the 'venture' finance companies fund, mentor and build an ecosystem for fostering entrepreneurship.

Talking about the media's obsession of 'recession'- he smilingly accused the Indian media of 'imitating the jargon of the TV channels in the West'- depicting it as 'half empty " while all what was happening was 'correction of certain excesses' -which were necessary as the respective companies were growing at hectic paces. Mr Biyani shared the example of his group becoming a 'kanjoos' -by cutting costs, inall possible places, and at same time trying to entice the 'average Indian customer' to part with his valuable money -showing many reasons/occasions to spend!

"India needs entrepreneurs". "No pain, no gain". " No fear about failure". And that the passion "kuch karne ki" was the overriding need. "Dream Bigger" -he advised one of the presenters-as our country needs it!

PS- Across the globe, Sramana Mitra too provokes us Indians to think ,while on a Forbes platform, exhorts the Westerners to channelise the 600,000 unemployed pool of highly skilled technical people about 'shoestring entrepreneurship' !! Any bells ringing?? Reach out for a strategic round table!! Or 'power of ideas' , the initiative of the Times of India group. The time is just right.

Who's hiring?

I must admit this title is picked up from the online version of Business Line daily that summarises some of the news articles related to jobs across industries and then gives a few links to some trends.

A similar initiative from the online version of Economic Times gives another version of the job market- albeit generalising industries-both within India, and otherwise.

Almost every day I get phone calls from well wishers, as well as those concerned about their careers, if the ground reality is being truly reflected by the media!!

My own take has been the following

-If there is smoke, there must be a fire somewhere!!
-Companies -especially those doing business on their own money- are hiring!
-Yes, there are a lot of layoffs, deferred salary payments, and a lot of uncertainty and insecurity that is reflected by the panic.
-A correction was overdue-and so it's happening!
Truly speaking, I do not think the situation is as bad as it is portrayed to be. But there is general sense of sanity prevailing-and most companies are making efforts to review all aspects of the business -and so, naturally 'people issues' also are under the lens.

Looking back to the days when I first started working (in 1984!! - oops I will complete a silver jubilee in a few months!)- there have been different phases- right from when government/ PSU/ Banks were the major employers, ( the pre-liberalisation days), then the arrival and growth of the MNC companies (94 to now), the self belief and emergence of Indian business groups-and of course, the attention from the world across thanks to outsourcing & off shoring!!

One glaring observation..is that the salaries in the last 3-4 years have gone up phenomenally!! And ironically -not all who have benefitted-truly deserved most of it! Perhaps it was the war for talent, the demand and supply gap, inability of companies to 'farm' talent within-and resort to 'poaching' readymade talent..and in the bargain, tripping over each other and over paying at times...
This present economic slowdown has helped most companies/employers sit up and take notice. Review processes, systems (or lack of it!). And so we are seeing a lot of knee jerk reactions from different companies! Some admit that the partying days are over, and so one cannot carry 'passengers' for much longer. Some reward the performers more appropriately ( and in a measured manner- performance related 'variable' component being more adopted now). Some force people to go on leave or sabbatical. Some admit that they are 'shaking the tree so that the bad apples fall off' .
How long will this last??

Well, it depends on who blinks first!! The employers are already willing to hire great talent who were otherwise inaccessible earlier. Perhaps at salaries their businesses can afford to pay!

On the employees side, some are yet to reconcile that one may not get the customary 25-30% hike in salaries when they change jobs in India...that the present generation have taken for granted. Perhaps it was in the context of the annual increments being 10-15% in the recent past in India. ( In the US, the corresponding figures were a fourth of these figures!! Psst- I recall even in 1991 I was thrilled when I got a double increment - (then) a 3 digit number by way of increase in the monthly salary!!)

Going by the GDP growth of around 6-7% predicted (for this year and the next!)- compared to 9% for the last few years, it is obvious the impact in India is a 'mild' one compared to recessionary trends in the West. Opportunities are bound to be lesser-and so only the best will thrive-in these circumstances.

As for the rest, it is time to get real, get back to basics- invest in their own training and development, and get used to going up by the staircase-as the elevator may not just be available as yet :-)!

Happy hunting! Have a great weekend!!

PS:As far as Team Options goes, here are some of the new positions that we are aware of-that we are working on-both directly and through our network of associates, in addition to the post made hot jobs as of 28th Jan 09 !!

-Director Software engineering for a product company @Hyderabad.

-Sales Head -enterprise solutions -for a IT product company focussing on the India market.

-ODC head for an IT services company

-Estate Manager for an infrastructure company

-A specialist is required in Netherlands! Someone who has done at least 2 full implementations with the FINANCIAL Module of JDEdwards OneWorld-ideally rolled out JDE financials at multiple locations in a client in the Agricultural industry!

- L1 Support analysts in Singapore -with at least 3yrs of experience in Unix Shell scripting, preferably with exposure to Autosys.

-SAS BI technical consultant, Informatica production Supervisor and Sharepoint developer for Riyadh

Should you know of anyone -who would fit and be willing to be considered for any of the above openings, and wish to know more, I shall be glad to provide you with any inputs you may need. Please reach out to [email protected]!!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Leadership in Turbulent times? No short cuts!!

Helping others find their voice!!

That mission statement perhaps sums up my takeaway from a day long seminar I attended last Thursday-when I had the opportunity to see Dr Stephen Covey live in Hyderabad!

I must confess I was disheartened at the end of the day (the reason why I delayed this post!) as I felt let down by the lack of energy in his lecture.

Or was it the fact that he was 77 years old-and was very measured-moving very slowly -and just filling in with 10-15 minutes of lecture in between the very slickly made video clips and the PowerPoint slides? And ironically, all those clips portrayed him as passionate and charged!!

Maybe it was to do that I was perhaps looking for 'quick fix' solutions, and here he was -sticking to the basics!! And what the heck, it was all what I knew..nothing new?

Possible that I was also looking for a better ROI- the seminar cost a bomb-certainly in the context of the present economic situation -where one is busy trying to outstretch the rupee spent. Could I have not bought all his books, audio and video CDs, and perused them at leisure?

As a marketing student-here was a brand that initially over promised. But as I reflected since- the sessions were indeed priceless! I first read Dr Covey over a decade ago, and had actually taken cognizance of quite a few of the seven habits! Tried imbibing some of them-and over the years, had even influenced my value system-and am sure my near and dear would need no reminder that I tom tom about:

-Advising a lot of youngsters regarding their choice of which career to pursue-`Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.`

-the shift from the employers market to employees market ( paradigm shift from the industrial economy to the knowledge economy)

-the concept of the emotional bank account!

Yes, over the years, some of these works had helped me find my voice!! And that's one reason why my professional and personal lives are so intermingled and often seamlessly integrated!!

Looking back, it was the time I needed to 'sharpen the saw'!!

PS there is lot of material online. But here is a good extract from another person who attended the training-with a lot of reference links! Happy hunting!