Book review – The speed of trust

Speed of trust
Speed of trust

Price: 500 INR

Author: Stephen MR Covey

This book was suggested to me quite some time back (by one of my mentors) got a chance to complete it recently. Written by Stephen MR Covey, son of Stephen Covey (senior), Speed of trust is a wonderful account of trust building in human relations. Personally, my experience with trust building is been a roller-coaster ride for me. I enjoyed tremendous amount of benefits in cases where I enjoyed higher level of trust, on the other hand struggled a lot when trust levels are low with the other person. Its hard to explain trust, mainly because “things happen” when it is there and “you feel it when you have it”. I was looking for some framework to work on getting better with trust building, where this book perfectly fit into. To start with Stephen establishes a business case for trust by connecting trust, speed and cost. In case of high trust environment, more things happen in real than talking or following-up. Hence speed goes up and cost comes down. On the other hand when trust levels are low, both individuals and organizations end up paying “trust tax” which slows down the progress of the overall progress. So level of trust has direct impact on organization’s  top line and bottom line in terms of financial implications. In case of no tax, top line and bottom line both goes up creating a ‘win-win’ proposition.

After establishing business case for trust, Stephen delves into multiple layers of trust and what are the key behaviors that will enhance the level of trust in any given situation. He starts with individual trust and further followed by relationship trust, organizational trust, market trust and societal trust. He goes on explaining key elements of building trust at various levels starting with individuals. Because if as an individual we don’t trust ourselves with highest level of authenticity, it becomes naturally reflected in other activities we handle and it gets passed on to others as a lower trust message.

As a part of trust framework, Stephen mentions how credibility is fundamental in establishing trust. In order to establish credibility four cores namely intent, integrity, capability and results play a vital role by laying down strong foundation. If these four codes are having issues with an individual, no amount of behavioral tactics will help in building trust. Once these cores are established strongly (thereby having higher credibility), individuals need to demonstrate certain key behaviors to establish higher trust environment. He talks about 13 behaviors (Talk straight, Demonstrate respect, Create transparency, Right wrongs, Slow loyalty, Deliver results, Get better, Confront reality, Clarify expectations, Practice accountability, Listen first, Keep commitments, Extend trust) as key behavioral elements.

With lucid examples and case studies Stephen takes though the framework of trust building. Stephen also talks about “Smart trust” where balancing right level of trust by tuning these parameters. Extending too much of trust sometimes might backfire (and I have personal experience in doing that) whereas extending less might create lesser trusty environment. So assessing the situation and extending right level of trust is key to have desired results. From outside trust might look like a intangible item, but its implications are very deep. It was a very hard and enriching learning to go through the framework and understand various elements of building trust.

Favorite books list

Recently I was talking with my colleague about book reading habit, he was asking me to get a list of my favorite books. Few years back I created a list consisting of my favorite books using Google drive (it was called Google docs then). This list grew over the years when my friends started adding additional items into it. Recently I have updated the list; latest version can be downloaded from the link below:

Favorite books – Link to PDF document

Hope you find it useful.

BOOK REVIEW: My journey – Transforming dreams into action

Abdul Kalam
Transforming dreams into actions

Author: APJ Abdul Kalam

Price: 195 INR

For most Indians, reading about Abdul Kalam and his work is always an inspiring item. Post retirement, he started off his journey into writing by scripting his auto-biography titled ‘The wings of fire’, followed by some popular books like Ignited Minds, Envisioning an empowered nation, Turning points etc. Most of them talk about his early life in Rameshwaram followed by his experience with various defense and space research organizations. Another popular theme in these book is about “Vision 2020”, where Kalam is been articulating India becoming super power by 2012 by achieving excellence in technology, rural transformation, self reliance and self sustainability.

In this latest book ‘My journey – Transforming dreams into Action’, Kalam has followed pretty much the same canvas but gone into very small and specific stories. Unlike his previous books, he has chosen real life anecdotes and shared deeper learning from them. Growing up in town like Rameshwaram with very high aspirations and dreams is not very easy situation to handle. With lesser resources and exposure, Kalam need to go thru lot of struggle and build his career brick-by-brick. The most inspiring part is about him overcoming umpteen numbers of challenges and overcoming them with very strong vision and value.

For example, he explains how he became a working person at the age of 8 by supplying newspapers in Rameshwaram and struggle associated with it. Every day he would to get up at 4 AM followed by his morning tuition and prayers. In order to support his family Kalam takes a part time job of distributing newspapers to Rameshwaram household. Thanks to some policy change, Chennai-Dhanushkodi passenger train which carried daily newspaper bundle from Chennai removed Rameshwaram station from the list. This resulted in Kalam doing every day stunt by catching paper bundle thrown from a moving train at Rameshwaram station. Kalam will then go on distributing them after which his school day would start. In the evening he would finish his homework and complete settlement of newspaper daily account with his cousin who gave him this opportunity. It was quite obvious to see the amount of stress and pressure he might have gone thru as a 8 year old boy, but the way he put it across along with key learnings is simply amazing.

There are multiple similar stories related to his profession filled with struggle and failures.  Inspired by the vision of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Kalam and his team went on building Indian space story from the scratch.  He recalls how his professional career is similar to his early life in Rameshwaram – Lesser resources, Limited knowledge, larger challenges and a passion to win. Taking references from Bhagavat Gita to Thirukkural, Kalam mentions how he taken inspiration from these great ancient text to lift him up when things went wrong due to mistakes.  There were some repeated stories (ex: Church in Thumba becoming ISRO office, thanks to the local people), however they are always inspiring ones to hear again and again.

Unlike his previous books, Kalam kept this one very simple which can even read and understood by a high school kid. Definitely worth reading!

BOOK REVIEW : Games Indians Play (Guest post by Sai Madhav)

This is a guest post by my friend Sai Madhav. I have been trying to pull him into blogging 🙂

Title: Games Indians Play review

Author: Raghunathan

Vocabulary of the book: Very good

I initially thought the book is about consumers–traders who try to maximize their rewards/returns in this pragmatic world. However, I realized soon, that the book is about social life in conjunction with psychology and philosophy.

Raghunathan believes that we, the Indians, need self-regulation in the fist-place rather than regulation by external factors (i.e. law/government). He proved that behavioral economics, Game theory etc are nothing but the phenomenon we encounter in our daily lives, from which we fail to grab positive results.One interesting aspect which the author highlights is, Intelligence is not about quick returns but maximizing rewards by sustaining relationships. His analogy between Gita and Game theory is commendable.

With the examples he quoted (about Indian politicians / executives / administrators / common people / legislators), one cannot deny the fact that we, ‘the Indians’ has to self-regulate and self-realize too!!

To mention few of them

– Overt lies by politicians , but people believe it every time

– Irregular Speed-breakers

– Crabs in the bucket attitude of Indians and Indian Government

– Circumventing law

– Traffic dead-lock at Railway crossings

– Ministers over-riding Judiciary (Supreme Court !!) orders

The excerpt that captivated my attention, in particular, is,

“Our corruption is so unique that we must be the only country in the world where even giving away money can involve graft!!Why else would we need to grease the palm of the officials in the land registration offices? “

The above fact is absolutely TRUE. The most intriguing part about land registration process in India is, despite multiple payments (the official and unofficial (understood!)), there is no stipulated rule that the same land WILL NOT be registered to others. Guess what!! Multiple claimants for the same land! Registration doesn’t verify Authenticity of documents!! I don’t understand the rationale behind the Registration process. One cannot rely on our Judiciary system either. It takes years together to solve a land dispute. Whom to blame!!! There are myriad instances in Bangalore, one being, 200 plots getting registered to nearly 2000 people.

To conclude, after reading this book, I cannot claim I am morally cleansed and enlightened, but definitely there is a paradigm shift in my thinking process!! I started self-regulating!! I hope this persists.

Book review: A search in secret India

Author: Paul Brunton

Price: 450 INR

Understanding spiritual history of India is not all that easy. It traces back more than 3500 years in time and most of the contemporary interpretations exist in deteriorated form. The current state of affair is so pathetic — sometimes makes one feel spirituality is worthless. At the same time, developing deeper connection with spirituality is very critical in order to achieve harmony within. Especially in the current materialistic environment, human beings have become more cynical, thereby closing all doors of self realization. In the current setup spirituality needs to be approached from a western, critical perspective where it can be learnt by applying logic. The book ‘A search in secret India’ is one such spiritual account written by a westerner with an analytical approach. For present day Indians it provides a simple, logical but very insightful journey into spirituality.

The book starts with the author Paul Brunton, a British embarks on a journey to India in 1930s. His interest was kindled by his Indian friend living in England, who provides him certain insights into simple living by embracing spirituality as a way of life. Upon driven by this spiritual quest he reaches Mumbai. This book covers his experiences and memoirs about India and his search for spiritual Guru. Even though this book comes under non-fiction category, Brunton’s story telling style might make certain chapters boring. After landing in Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay), he first meets an magician from Egypt near the lodge he was put-up. The magician plays certain tricks thereby demonstrating his ability to make certain things vanish and come back again. This leaves Brunton with some amusement but he was not able to understand or feel anything spiritual about it.

Followed by Mumbai he continues to travel towards South. On his way he meets many holy men, some genuine and some are fake. He also sees people who can perform actions that can’t be explained by physics, like turning a seed into a plant in a minute and people who are not affected by poison. Of the former he discovers to be a mere magical trick while the later remains unexplained, attributed to Yogic power. In Adayar, Chennai (erstwhile Madras state) he meets up with a young yogi, who was able to provide certain analytical perspective of Yoga. The ‘anchorite of the Adayar river’, what Brunton calls this young Yogi performs certain breathing practices, thereby he could demonstrate Brunton the ability to control heart beat, bring down the pulse, remain in solace for hours together. Then he goes on explaining the inner workings of Yoga, which starts from understanding inner meaning of breath. According to this Yogi, the life of human beings is not controlled by the years they live but the number of breaths one takes. Upon learning certain breathing techniques, explained in ancient Yogic texts, one can reduce the number of breaths compared with time, thereby increasing lifespan. Many of the mystic Yogis living in Himalayas are able to master this technique and live for many hundred years. The Yogi goes on saying that how important it is for human beings to repose and take control of their breath.

There is been quite some amount of research happening about certain species living in extremely cold continents like Antarctica and how they are able survive and live longer. The study showed that the fishes in Antarctica activate a seasonal switch in ecological strategy – going from one that maximizes feeding and growth in summer to another that minimizes the energetic cost of living during the long, Antarctic winter. The research demonstrates that at least some fish species can enter a dormant state, similar to hibernation that is not temperature driven and presumably provides seasonal energetic benefits. Scientists already know that Antarctic fish have very low metabolic rates and blood ‘antifreeze’ proteins that allow them to live in near-freezing waters. This study demonstrates that Antarctic fish – which already live in the ‘slow lane’ with extremely low rates of growth, metabolism and swimming activity – can in fact further depress these metabolic processes in winter. The Yogic methods place human beings into a similar hibernation state by controlling their breath.

With the help of Adayar yogi, Brunton comes across another sage near Chennai who never speaks. By locking himself into a small room the sage remains in ‘Samadhi’ (the ultimate state where a human being in completely connected with the bigger universe outside) for days together with hardly eating anything. His eyes remain frozen for hours together without even blinking, which leave Brunton with strange experience. After waiting for hours together, the sage comes to normal stage and communicates with others by writing. Followed by Chennai, Brunton travel further south and gets an opportunity to meet the spiritual guru Shankaracharya. Based on his instruction, he further goes to Thiruvannamalai, where he meets Ramana Maharishi. Initially the Maharishi hardly gives him an opportunity to meet and never talks. After many attempts he was able to interact with him. The Maharishi urges him to start connecting with the spiritual plane by asking the question “Who am I?” to himself. This leaves Brunton with surprise, happiness and fulfillment. In the later chapters he explains about some other magicians and prophets he had met in Southern India.

This book is a very good read for anybody, who wants to start understanding India in a deeper sense. It also helps the reader to start thinking about spirituality in a step by step manner.

BOOK REVIEW : Go Kiss the World

Author : Subroto Bagchi

Price: 399 INR

Related posts:

Book review: High performance Entrepreneur

Book release: Go Kiss the world

The first book of Subroto ‘The high performance entrepreneur’ primarily depicted various aspects of Entrepreneurship. If the first book is all about ‘work’ the second one ‘Go kiss the world’ is all about ‘life’, thus completing the ‘work-life’ hemispheres. In the year 2006,Subroto delivered his famous speech to the students of IIM-Bangalore on the same title, where he shared some of his life lessons with management graduates. This book is an extension of that speech covering many aspects of his personal and professional life. This book has couldn’t come at a better time where India is going through a huge transformation. Thanks to economic policies and availability of talent pool, the number of jobs for young professionals is growing at an exponential phase. Well paid global jobs are getting poured into the country in every industry including — IT, ITES, Finance, Law, Services and Manufacturing. Its really amazing to see professionals walking with six figure monthly salaries, buying houses in their early twenties and getting global exposure. At the same time these young professionals (which includes me) need to learn and understand the importance of values and critical real life lessons. In this context, Bagchi shared some of his life lessons in the book, which turns out to be very for a young professionals who are ready to take on the world.

Initial chapters of the book talks about Subroto’s family members and his early life. As his father’s job had many transfers, he ends up spending time in many of the semi-urban/rural places of Orissa. He vividly shares about tiny but beautiful anecdotes of his early life and some of the lessons he learned from his parents and elder brother. As a town brought up, I was able to connect much better with them. After completing his graduation in political science, he started his career as a lower division clerk in the state government. He fondly recollects his first boss Khuntia babu, from whom he learned how to open a file. Upon not knowing where to go and what to do (typical issue faced by any person from town), he starts looking for a better job. After multiple rounds of interview he gets a job as a management trainee in DCM, which was a premium job during those days. After facing some adversities and internal politics, he quits the job and takes up an entry-level sales job with HCL by taking 40% pay cut. It was totally a different industry and job where the sales job teaches him hard realities of life. However HCL played a significant role in Subroto’s life by providing an entry into ‘less-known’ IT industry.

After working for a few IT companies in sales and marketing function, he takes early plunge into entrepreneurship along with few few friends by starting up a company called Project.21 in early 1985. The objective of the company was to provide computer training to working professionals from many companies. Even though the company was able to generate cash in the initial days, it gets into problems from multiple angles. In fact this is what happens to many entrepreneurs when they don’t have holistic understanding about building a business. After three years there, the company comes to a grinding halt after which he decides to get onto some job where he can expect some stability and a decent growth. The main turning point comes in the form of his job with Wipro, where he served for 10 years. As his initial job provided him shop-floor level experience, Subroto was able to clean up the sales function of Wipro and quickly raise in the corporate ladder. He explains some of the exceptional persons he met in Wipro and learnings from each one of them. The subsequent assignments in Wipro takes him to the US, where he builds an ‘on-demand’ R & D lab from the scratch.In pinacle of his career with Wipro, driven by internal “call” Subroto starts Mindtree along with his like-minded individuals. The subsequent chapters talks about how he and his team went on building Mindtree, providing leadership during adverse situations (during 2000/2001 downturn) and taking up the role of ‘Gardener’, inspired by servant-leadership.

The beauty of the book is not about knowing Subroto’s life and his career growth. As mentioned in the prologue of the book, he used his life as a canvas to share his significant learnings with external world. As a young professionals many of us think that a job from a company X or salary of Y or position of Z will take where we want to go. In reality the success or happiness is not all about a job, position or money but the amount of learning and value system an individual carries along with him. That way the biggest reward in life is the journey itself. Without understanding this, many of us crib, worry and complain about many things in their jobs. How many of us in the IT industry even think that the salary we draw is at least 10 times more than what our parents earned even during as their last month salary before retirement? How many of us thank the veterans who built the IT industry in early 90s where the western world didn’t even know where India existed in the world map? How many of us are able to see the difference between job and career? What is the amount of learning happens at the workplace, on a daily basis? How many days did we spend not complaining about our bosses, company or a colleague? It takes a big heart and humility to enjoy, learn and make a difference to the world we live in. As young professionals we need to learn a lot from veterans like Subroto and live a complete life.

In a way this book plays a significant role in planting thought process mentioned above.Instead preaching (which the young professionals hate anyway), Subroto used his life as an example and shared many things. In many places I felt a chord hitting my head heavily, thereby opening up many avenues to think. I would like to take a moment and thank Subroto for sharing his life lessons openly with the bigger world. I am sure it will make a difference to many people. I can proudly say I am one among them!

Book release : New Age Of Innovation

Last Friday there was a book release function held in Crossword Bangalore. Famous strategist and professor C.K.Prahlad and his colleague M.S.Krishnan launched the book and spoke about what new age of innovation is all about. For more details check out their website.
As businesses are growing globally, it becomes critical to provide a great ‘experience’ to each of their consumers. Every consumer is unique with their own choice and providing great experience comes with having proper offerings. This is what they call ‘N = 1’, where N denotes the unique customer experience. In order to provide a great experience, companies end up sourcing resources from multiple sources, which they call ‘R = G’. Prof.CK quoted the famous example of Apple iTunes business model, built around their revolutionary product iPod. Every user of iPod has their own choice of music (Classical, Rock, Pop etc..) which is unique to him/her (N=1). In order to provide N = 1,Apple sources music contents (R) from many sources(G). The R = G phenomenon, is caused by connected global networks like integrated supply chain, social networking and on-demand applications.

After the brief introduction mentioned above, authors answered some of the questions asked by audience about US recession, cost effectiveness of Indian firms, innovation etc. Overall it was a well planned session (spanned for 45 minutes) with about 50 focused audience. (check out the picture below) I learned that there was a separate business session hosted in the evening, which I couldn’t attend.

Got a copy of the book signed by the authors. Will read and post the review later. Anyways, many book review blog posts are pending, which includes:

  1. Search in secret India by Paul Brunton
  2. Satyagraha in South Africa by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
  3. Political history of Pakistan by Pa Raghavan (Tamil)
  4. Go kiss the word by Subroto Bagchi
  5. Business at the speed of light by Bill Gates
  6. Astronaut Sunita Williams by Aadadhika Shama and S.Seshadri

BOOK REVIEW : The three mistakes of my life

This is the third book by Chetan Bhagat.

I have never read fiction ever since the reading habit caught into me. Chetan’s Five point someone (FPS) changed my habit by taking me back to my good old college days. With similar expectations I bought this book and I would say I am fairly happy with the book. The most interesting point about Chetan is the canvas he uses to paint the whole story. He used business, cricket and religion as a background in this book (similar to IIT in FPS).

The story starts with three friends Omi, Ishan and Govind belonging to lower middle class family in Ahmadabad. These folks are perceived as not-so-smart kind among the neighbourhood. With his passion towards building business Govind pulls in his buddies to start a shop, selling cricket accesories inside the temple’s shopping complex owned by Omi’s uncle. Ishaan (the local cricket buff) offers free coaching tips to customers, thereby creating a good reason for people to visit their shop. As the business grows they face multiple problems in form of Gujarat earth quake, Godra riots and local politics. Added to that author adds more spice by introducing the love story between Govind and Vidya (Ishaan’s sister). As I am passionate about business, I just can’t stop appreciating the Govind character. As every step he thinks like a typical businessman with a dream of building a big business. To start with, he “leverages” Ishaan’s cricket expertise and Omi’s contacts to setup the shop. Followed by that he creates a growth plan for the company by booking posh shop in forthcoming mall. In order to bring in more revenue he thinks of multiple product offerings thereby bringing in maths coaching and stationary selling into his shop.

The story then takes multiple turns with many events and characters. These folks find a 13 year old boy named Ali who is a naturally gifted cricket player. Ishan gives coaching for Ali to make him a national player. Luckily they get an opportunity to visit Australia and take part in cricket coaching camps for a week. Somehow the chapter about Australian visit doesn’t fit well with the overall story and I found it boring to read thro’ those chapters. Finally the story reaches the climax with post Godra riots, which affects these folks pretty badly. I don’t want to write much details about it as it is not fair on my part.

Overall it is a pretty decent book for timepass.

Related post: Book review : Five point someone

Book release : ‘Go kiss the world’ by Subroto Bagchi

Followed by his famous book ‘The high performance Entrepreneur’, Mindtree chief gardener Subroto Bagchi has released his second book titled ‘Go kiss the world’ yesterday. The book release function was held in Crossword book store in Brigade road and I was present there. Subroto formally released the book by handing over the first set of copies to Sudha Murthy, Girish Karnad and VG Siddhartha (see photographs below). Followed by the release, he read some chapters for the audience followed by a Q & A session.


The phrase ‘Go kiss the world’ was told to Subroto by his mother when she was in her deathbed. These simple yet powerful words have become the mantra for Subroto’s life who has become a successful Entrepreneur, coming from a very humble background. In this book he has used his personal life as a canvas to provide some of the most imporant life lessons to budding young professionals. I have bought a copy for myself and skimmed thro’ the first chapter yesterday. Found is pretty interesting. Will write the review once finish reading it. Followed by the book reading, Subroto answered some of the questions from audience. The questions ranged from attrition in IT company to building emotional infrastructure in organizations.

It was really a useful evening,worth spending time with such great people.

BOOK REVIEW: Word of mouth marketing

Author: Andy Sernovitz

Price : 24.95 USD

How smart companies get people talking?

As an engineer it’s quite possible to think everything from a technological perspective. Most of technologists think what if they have some ‘cool’ product they can build a business around it. In reality only 15% of overall product cost is spent towards engineering the product. Remaining amount goes for marketing, sales and support functions. No matter how much ever better the product is (in terms of technology, cool features, price and performance), if it is not marketed properly it will be a failure. Most of the technology startups fail not because of their technical expertise, but mainly because of their inability to market and sell the product. In fact, marketing determines the success or failure of these ventures.

Coming to marketing, quite some numbers of methods were invented over the years. For a startup/entrepreneurial venture (which is of my interest), its hard to invest heavily on some of the methods (like advertisements, campaigns, celebrity endorsements etc…) as it will cost them dearly. So what is the cost effective, yet most powerful marketing strategy startups can afford? The answer is ‘word-of-mouth marketing’ (WOMMA). Especially if you are trying to sell a consumer product/service to retail customers, WOMMA is the way to go.

In his book author Andy Sernovitz, introduces to some of the easy, yet very powerful WOMMA techniques. To start with, he defines WOMMA as ‘Giving people a reason to talk about your stuff and making it easier for that conversation to take place’. It’s all about making Consumer to Consumer (C-to-C) marketing happen. There is nothing more powerful than an existing consumer getting another customer. Added to that, it comes for FREE. In core WOMMA is all about building trust with existing consumers and getting more business with help of that.

To start with, it’s critical to understand the power of the end consumer of this era. Thanks to the invention of internet and mobile phones information flow has become seamless. More than a sales pitch, consumers will take their decision based on what their friends, family or some review site says. Just think of examples in your real life about how many times you have taken certain decision (like buying a mobile phone, car, laptop or even real estate) just because it was recommended by someone.

So, how to make the WOMMA happen? The author introduces to four basic rules of WOMMA which are: Be interesting, Make people happy, Earn trust and respect and Make it easy. Then he goes on explaining how to create each of the above mentioned things. Basically any consumer talks about a product/service to his friend/family members mainly because of three reasons:

  • They really like the product/service
  • They want to feel good
  • Feeling connected with that product/service.

At the same time not every consumer will feel the same way. The challenge lies in identifying and helping the consumers to spread the word. The author goes on saying that WOMMA has had a far greater impact on businesses than what we really think. In the next few chapters the author introduces some of the ideas to generate word of mouth. With a good product, great customer experience and consistently making them happy WOMMA can be multiplied in no time. But the end results are really stunning.

Then the author introduces five Ts of word of mouth marketing (Talkers, Topics, Tools, Taking part and Tracking) and goes on explaining about how to go about executing each of these Ts. In each chapters he gives some tips like maintaining a simple website, saying thank you to the consumer, writing blogs, participating in forums, consistent present in the internet, making the recommendation process easier, free samples, leveraging social networking sites, giving cost effective goodies etc. He also emphasizes how important not to do any sales pitch, which will bring down the impression of the company.

I heard from my MBA friends that marketing is a theory subject and people find it very dry. In this book author Andy has made all my perceptions wrong by providing easy step-by-step practical approach to WOMMA. In fact after reading this book, I have become a big fan of WOMMA and Andy. I am following his blogs regularly, where he provides very easy but powerful real life examples.

If you are involved in marketing job this book is a must read. For entrepreneurs, who are bootstrapping their business, this book is a real treasure.

Related links:

BOOK REVIEW : Marketing Mayajalam

BOOK REVIEW : Crossing the Chasm

My experiences with the chasm