BOOK REVIEW: Games Indians play

In 2002, I visited USA for the first time. During transit I spent some time in Singapore and Hong-Kong. I was totally shocked to see the great infrastructure, well defined rules, robust systems and responsible individuals. After I got back to India, I was frustrated and disgusted to see the Indian system. We Indians just don’t follow any rules; Even if we follow, it is short lived. Take example of Indian roads: We can’t lay good roads; Even if we lay, we will not maintain it; within months, the newly built road will have numerous potholes; Added to that we spit, throw garbage, urinate on it and make sure it is spoilt to the maximum. This phenomenon is very unique in the subcontinent. Take the well developed western world, Middle Eastern and south East Asian countries – they all well built and properly maintained.

After some more experiences, I learned that it all finally boils down to an individual’s behavior. Even though Indians are as smart as anyone else in the world, what makes us to behave the way we do? Why can’t we follow basic rules by taking responsibility? The same Indian follows rules, exhibits basic civic sense, and drives properly when they travel or migrate to other countries. This has got nothing to do with culture, tradition, education, rural-urban divide, globalization etc. It is just the way we are; what goes behind this ‘Indianness’ behavior?

On top of all, I had very interesting observations when I visited Singapore earlier this year. The whole of Singapore is clean and rule-bound. But there is an area called ‘Little India’ where things are totally out of control. I can just cross the road without even bothering for traffic signals, just like the way we do in India; The interior streets of Little India really stinks and I have seen people even spitting on roads in late nights. Some of my friends in Singapore told me that the government couldn’t impose the rule in Little India area in spite of consistent efforts. How can I explain this behavior? Wherever Indians are living in larger chunks and form a community, the system goes for a toss (Another example: Edison in New-Jersey area). Why on this planet we Indians are like this? If we can boast of having a great system for sanitation during Indus valley civilization times, why the system is in pandemonium now? While I can give a whole lot of philosophical explanation for this condition, it always great if somebody gives an analytical perspective of the situation. The book ‘Games Indians Play’ just does that and much more.

The Author Mr. Raghunathan (professor at IIM-A) came across very interesting observations when we was teaching ‘Game Theory’ for his B-school students. Basically Game Theory is a mathematical technique, used by economists in the behavioral context. Using some of the principles of Game theory (especially prisoner’s dilemma) author has tried to characterize the whole behavior of Indians. The author has mapped the game theory with practical situations, which gives great motivation for the reader. I was getting multiple feelings as I was progressing each chapter; Sometimes I felt like a student; Sometimes I broke into laughter; Sometimes sad; Sometimes guilty; At the end of the book the author leaves the reader with an urge to do something to make the system better by exhibiting default ‘co-operative’ behavior. In the last chapter he compares Game Theory with Bhagavad-Gita, which left some ever last lasting impact on me.

In conclusion, this book is a must read for every educated Indian. As an engineer I was able to appreciate the book better as it combines analytical and emotional aspects of Indian behavior. As India is becoming more important piece in the world map by growing economically, behavioral change is the need of the hour to sustain it. Books like ‘Games Indians play’ are very critical to sow seeds for the behavioral change. If not anything, at least the reader will think before throwing garbage or spitting on the roads.

Brilliant book!

Related posts:
India : A garbage land
Am I proud to be an Indian?

BOOK REVIEW : Only the paranoid survive

Author: Andrew S grove

Price: 600 INR

Andrew is one of the famous CEOs, who lead Intel into the path of microprocessors. In this book he shares his experiences, which can be applied to individuals’ career as well as organizations. Andy introduces a term called ‘Strategic Inflection Points’ (SIP), which has got equal probability to make or break any business. The businesses who adapt these SIPs (paranoids) will go successful, failing which will make them to shut the shop. He explains about how the businesses are affected by many factors which he calls as ’10X’ forces which primarily drive the organization beyond the SIP. These 10X force could be in the form of new technology, innovation, economic reforms, business model etc.

Throughout the book, Andy explains his SIP and 10X concepts with the PC business as an example. In 1970s the PC business was a ‘vertical’ one which was heavily dominated by companies like Digital Electronic Corporation (DEC). By ‘vertical’ he means that the hardware, OS, software, support will be provided by the PC manufacturer himself. Companies like DEC where pioneers of this vertical business model and no-one could even question their domination.

However the 10X came in form of two major innovations:

  1. Micro-processors: This innovation brought the computing to become de-centralized and the power shifted from mainframes to Personal Computers (PC). The cost of computing came down tremendously and lot of component manufactures (like memory, keyboard, disks etc…) emerged in the eastern world (Singapore, Malaysia, Japan etc..) from nowhere. Fueled by system integrators (like Compaq) the computing industry was going through 10X amount of change.
  2. Software revolution: The first innovation lead to the change in the way people perceive software. From the ‘processor-tied’ approach the software became more of ‘usage-tied’ and Microsoft rode this wave big time. The perception of seeing software only as a ‘freebie’ with the hardware changed totally.

Now the only chance to stay in the business is to adapt to this change. Initially Intel was into memory chip manufacturing. When the 10X change happened in the computing industry, Andy made Intel to exit from the memory business and move to the microprocessor business. This caused what is popularly known as ‘WINTEL’ phenomenon (Windows + Intel) and the rest is history.

After explaining this 10X, the author extends his discussion into people side. When such chance is going in the industry, its extremely challenging to change the mindset of the people and make them work in the new technology. This is mainly because people still ‘perceive’ that the old technology (say mainframes) will be alive and PC cannot change the world. Taking people through this change is very challenging for any leader and he calls such changes as ‘death-valley’. He also talks about how important it is to listen to lower level employees, who he calls as ‘Cassandra’. These Cassandra’s would bring informal but important information about the 10X well before it is understood by the top management.

I would rate this book as one of the classics which mixes Technology and Business very well. I would strongly recommend this book to anybody who is in the technology industry.

BOOK REVIEW : Wise and Otherwise

Author: Sudha Narayanamurthy

This book contains collection of short stories, which the author wrote in many newspapers and magazines. The author has traveled extensively to the rural parts of India where she met different type of people in India. She explains how people in rural India are having very high value system and leading a self-contained life. This book contains almost 50 small stories. Written in very simple English, this book explains the author’s experiences. Reading this book also gave me the background information of Infosys able to contribute to the society. Basically the author experienced everything, which made Infosys as a good corporate citizen.

However at some places, the author mixed too much of sentimental stuff which I didn’t like it. Also at some places it became boring as it had similar kind of stories. I would strongly suggest to read this book if anyone is interested in doing charity in India.

BOOK REVIEW : Straight from the Gut

Author : Jack Welch
Price: 750 INR

This is autobiography of Jack Welch one of the very well known CEOs of the world. Initially the author talks about how he became the CEO of General Electric (GE) and talks some thing about his personal things as well. Things like ‘Fix,sell or close’ policy, which he applied to each and every divisions of GE, ‘Churning bottom 15% people’ has became alltime favorite of the business world. One simple lesson, which at least I learned from this book, is neither the organization nor the technology, will give lifetime employment for anybody in any hi-tech industry. Only working in a focused way for the customer will give that.

I got impressed with this book so much that I gave the same name to my blog 🙂

BOOK REVIEW : Count your chickens before they hatch

Author: Arindham Chaudhuri
Price: 200 INR

This is one of the best selling books in India. This book consists of two major sections. The first section is more of a ‘Self development’ stuff where the author talks about the ASK paradigm (Attitude, Skill and Knowledge) in order to raise any individual. The second sections talks about the theory ‘I’ management. The ‘I’ stand for ‘India Centric’ management. Particularly I liked the second section where the author mentions that the management policies in any country should be based on the social architecture. He compared the western and Japanese management and gives a proposal for India,which is quotes lots of examples from Mahabharata.

BOOK REVIEW: Think and grow rich

Author: Napolean Hill

Price: 150 INR

Its been long time since I stopped reading motivational or self-help books. I used to read them during my school days to ‘pep-up’ myself during examinations.Recently one of my mentors requested me to read this book ‘Think and grow rich’ by Napoleon Hill and found it different from typical motivational books. The Author Napoleon came up with this book based on his 25 years of experience in studying success philosophy, inspired by Dale Carnegie.

This book consists of thirteen principles for becoming ‘rich’. The author describes ‘rich’ not only in terms of accumulating material wealth but also in-tangible wealth — in terms of success, accomplishment, love, peace, courage, purpose, happiness and contribution. To be very honest, I found the initial chapters as boring and it was covering typical motivational topics — imagination, auto-suggestion, having a purpose in life, daily to-do list etc.

The later chapters got much more interesting when the author started focusing on real life examples and some philosophical explanations. In the chapter on DECISION, the example of Richard Henry Lee and his famous proposal to congress on June 7, 1776: ‘That these United Colonies are,and of right ought to be,free and independent States’ was good. The story followed after this proposal was quite inspirational and makes is really interesting to read. Followed by that I liked chapter 10, which talks about ‘power of master mind’. The author defines the term of ‘master mind’ as: ‘Co-ordination of knowledge and effort in a spirit of harmony between two or more people for the attainment of a definite purpose’. As the world is becoming more and more interdependent, it makes sense to collaborate with like-minded people to accomplish anything significant. In this chapter the author covers the power of coming together as each one in the team positively influence each other to achieve the common goal. Followed by that the author covers the ‘infinite intelligence’ which he defines it as: ‘The source of knowledge experienced through creative imagination’.

The highlight of the book was chapter 13, THE BRAIN, which talks about the scientific aspects of human brain as follows:

‘It has been determined that there are from 10,000,000,000 to 14,000,000,000 nerve cells in the human cerebral cortex and we know that these are arranged in a definite patterns. These arrangements are not haphazard. They are orderly. Recently developed methods of electro-physiology grow off action currents from precisely located cells or fibers with micro-electrodes amplify them with radio tubes and record potential differences to a millionth of a volt.

It is inconceivable that such a network of intricate machinery should be in existence of the sole purpose of carrying on the physical functions incidental to growth and maintainability of the physical body. It is not likely that the same system, which gives billions of brains cells that media for communication one with another, provides, also the means of communication with other intangible forces?’

This is one of the points where the author interfaces with the philosophy, from the motivational landscape. In my previous blog about ‘personal experiences with yoga’ I have experienced somewhat similar stuff the author is talking about.

Overall it pretty good motivational and philosophical book.

BOOK REVIEW: The Argumentative Indian (Part – I)

Author: Amartya Sen

Price: 690 INR

This classic book has been in my reading list for quiet some time now. I have finally started reading it, in a phased mode. Unlike my other book reviews, I am planning to write a series of reviews for this book. This is mainly because of the sheer density of the material that author Sen has presented in this book. At the outset this book illustrates a vivid perspective of the Indian mind.

To start with, Sen explains the ‘argumentative’ nature of India, for which it is very vital to understand contemporary India. The very nature of Indians is to get into arguments or lengthy dialogues whenever they get an opportunity. Ranging from weekly status meetings to the cauvery tribunal, I can quote numerous examples for this nature. This is due to ‘dialogue’ based approach existing in our culture for a very long time. For example, Arjuna, in Mahabharatha, gets profound doubts in the battlefield. In order to get clarifications he takes up the dialogue based approach with Krishna. The author also gives examples from ‘Brihadaranyaka Upanisad’ and ‘Kiratarjuniya’ to illustrate the argumentative nature of Indians. Allowing arguments makes lot of sense in today’s democratic India. As India is the biggest democracy in the world, providing freedom of expression by allowing arguments is a very crucial element to sustain it. In today’s globalized ‘flat world’ India scores against China mainly because of its vibrant democracy and expressive media.

Next, the author starts his viewpoints about secularism and diversity. Unlike any country India is much diversified -– in terms of language, food, culture, rituals and literature. The long history of heterodoxy of India is a basis for its diversified views, which is in alignment with scientific way of thinking. The more diversified any system becomes, it inherently becomes more resilient. I have written my viewpoints on ‘celebrating diversity’ as a separate article.

The political ideology of such a diversified country should be mainly driven in an inclusive way by collectively addressing consensus of all the people. Whichever king or government or dynasty failed to understand this important point has had a hard time ruling India and has eventually failed. Among the mughals, Akbar was the only king who understood this and created his own religion ‘Dhin-ilahi’. Apart from him Akbar, Ashoka was the other king to understand India in a detailed manner. In the contemporary India this concept has evolved as ‘secularism’. Even though other countries like France can claim that they are secular, it never allowed any religious symbols in the workplace. After independence the Indian constitution points to the importance of taking issues in an inclusive way for which the ‘secular’ viewpoint is very vital. In a way designing a political ideology for a country like India is extremely challenging. This is mainly because every other country in the world is uniform in someway or other.

On contrary to ‘secularism’ the ‘Hindutva’ ideology was created by Veer Savarkar. Fundamentally the Hindutva is based on two main points:

  • In India more than 80% of the population are Hindus. The political ideology should be based on this religion.
  • Tracing back in history (from Indus valley civilization) – Indians are primarily Hindus. So there is nothing wrong in looking at India as a ‘Hindu-rashtra’ or ‘Bharat-varsha’.

This Hindu political moment was fuelled by ‘Hindu-mahasabha’ and organizations like RSS, VHP, BJP and Shiv-sena are some of organizations spawned from this ideology. In this book Sen argues, looking at India with this myopic view will create religious fanaticism. He gives examples of Ayodhya and Gujarat riots when this Hindutva ideology got the political backup.

I am of the opinion that, religion cannot be ruled out of the political arena completely. Given India’s diversity there needs to be a common ‘bonding’ factor to bring people under one umbrella. Let me throw some of my questions:

  • If religion can act as that umbrella why can’t we accept it? If Sen can substantiate for secularism by taking riots as example, I can argue for ‘non-secularism’ with bomb blast examples.
  • If terrorism can be justified as a way to protect a religion, why can’t we justify ‘religion-based-governance’ for a better tomorrow?
  • If the so-called ‘open-society’ Americans cannot accept Bobby Jindal as Louisiana state governor without converting himself into Roman Catholic, how can only India accept every religion by giving all sort of freedom?
  • The real rural India is fragmented in all possible factors. What sort of progress the ‘secular’ governments in the past have brought so far? How much % of real ‘inclusive’ growth has taken place in the past 60 years?

End of the day there needs to be a law of the land and everyone should follow them. If that can be brought by using religion, I welcome that. At the same time I am not arguing for religious forces, which will vandalize the societal harmony. We are singing too much of this ‘secular’ song for the past 60 years, whereas India continue to be ‘pseudo-secular’ in reality.

Am I sounding like an ‘argumentative’ Indian now?

Related blogs:

BOOK REVIEW: Give me back my guitar

Author: Potharaju Ravindra

Price: 160 INR

About a year back I read the book ‘Success Vs Joy’ by Geeth Sethi. Two things stand out about this book; its simple language and the overwhelming effect it has on an individual’s thought process. Built along similar lines is the book ‘Give me back my guitar’. In this book author Ravi talks about mind control, inspiration and energy management. The joy of reading and re-reading such books is in the inspiration and support that they provide by telling you just three words: Follow your dream. And just as success vs. joy, give me back my guitar is also blessed with the use of simple and unambiguous language which makes it a pleasure to read.

The first thing about the book that interested me was the title itself — What is this topic all about? Who is going to give the guitar to whom? But, when I started reading the book I found that the book is all the nursery parables that we have all read and enjoyed being modified to suit the present scenario. Sounds different? read on!

Basically the title is derived from the story The ant and grasshopper ,where the ant works all summer by gathering food and the grasshopper ‘wastes’ time by playing the guitar. When its winter the grasshopper struggles to find food and learns the importance of working hard. But when he tries to work hard like his ant friends, he gets frustrated. This is mainly because the grasshopper really enjoys playing his guitar. Now — What if the grasshopper gets a chance to do the work he ‘enjoys’ as well as ‘earn’ his food? What about converting the ‘wastage of time’ (as perceived by others) to a revenue generating task? Sounds interesting? In fact this is the crux of the book. It re-iterates the importance of choosing joy compared to success. As a matter of fact the latter is the by-product of the former.

Apart from this, the book talks about five other popular parables with a modern moral- known fable- unknown interpretation. The author urges us to ‘Enjoy, Adopt and Practice’ the ancient Indian wisdom by reading this book. It appears that the intention of the author is not to motivate but to make the reader think on each of the messages conveyed. This is typically recommended for folks who are bored with the grueling corporate life style – those who in their rush do not have time to stop and smell the roses.

As the book is targeted for wide range of readers, the author has written the book in both conversational and message style. I am not sure how it will be taken, as this style may not be liked by everybody. Also there are some stories in the ‘Epilogue’ which it not related to the main topic. On the cosmetic side, the author has given three email IDs for communication which can be reduced to one.

In conclusion, if you want a book to kindle your thought process this is for you. For more details about the book visit:

BOOK REVIEW: A biography of Charlie Chaplin (Tamil)

Author: N.Chokkan

Price: 80 INR

Whenever I see TV advertisements, short comedies or mimicry programs I cannot stop appreciating the creative thinking that goes behind the scenes. Over the years I am able to entertain my friends circle using my amateur imitation shows and I can very well understand the challenge to entertain people. Making others laugh is one of the toughest job and requires very high amount of creativity, timing and constantly coming up with innovative ideas. Added to that, the comedy artist needs to give a peak performance in a very short period of time, failing which will lead to negative impression among the audience. This book talks about one of the all time great comedian who entertained the whole world only with his actions (without words) using his amazing creativity. He is none other than Charlie Chaplin and this book talks about his life. Even though people know him only by comedy, his personal life is one of the standing examples for ‘rags-to-riches’ success stories.

Born in a very poor family, Charlie had no formal education and begged in London’s streets. He spent most of his childhood on the roadside, hardly ate three times a day but finally made a mark in the world history. He made history only by his sheer hard work, determination, hunger for success, commitment towards his profession and never ending passion for providing quality entertainment to the worldwide audience.

Shortly after Charlie’s birth his father deserts the family and the whole family responsibility falls under his mother’s shoulders. She was an amateur stage artist and hardly made a living by performing small roles. But she always used to tell Charlie that one day he will become a great artist and her son is the smartest kid. In spite of all odds, his mother planted sowed seeds of self-confidence in him. During one of the programs, Charlie’s mother gets throat problem on the stage and she was forced out of the stage by the audience. Now in order to save his mother’s skin, the young Charlie appears on the stage and starts entertaining the audiences in an effortless way. This way Charlie’s first stage performance gets on the way and there is no full stop for him after that.

After slowly getting popular among small plays, Charlie joined the ‘Karno’ troop as a theatre artist and slowly becomes popular in London. The urge to perform better forced him to constantly re-think and re-invent his acting. Finally it resulted as the ‘tramp’ character (most of them remember Charlie only because of this character) by which he became world famous. As his plays were more of a mime, it attracted audiences irrespective of the language. Till the end Charlie was very adamant and made only one feature film. After gaining popularity in London, Charlie moves to the United States in order to achieve more in his career. Initially he joined Keystone as a movie artist and slowly moved to Essnay and Edna. Every time he moved to get more autonomy in terms of movie direction and also made sure that his pocket is growing in size. After multiple job hops Charlie understood the pain of working for others (like any other professional) and co-founded his own production firm names ‘United Artists’ along with some of his co-actors. His vision was to provide quality entertainment to his worldwide audiences at any cost and finally lived up to it.

As Charlie comes from a very poor background, he always created characters belonging to downtrodden and labor class. This was mistakenly interpreted by CIA and the ‘communist’ tag was stamped on him. By that time the success of USSR and communalism has already caused huge amount of concern among Americans and Charlie became victim of this suspicion. After giving everything for America and Hollywood he was forced to move out of the country. This made him to move to Switzerland where he spent his final days and died in 1977.

This book is the first attempt to capture Charlie Chaplin story in Tamil and it is well written. The author has written the book in a conversational, story-telling type which makes this book an interesting read. In conclusion Charlie’s life is a standing example for commitment, self-belief, innovation and sheer hard work. Reading his biography is definitely an energy booster.

BOOK REVIEW: Silicon Valley Greats

Author: SS Kshatriy

Price: 180 INR

ISBN: 81-259-1459-5

When I visited Silicon Valley in the year 2002, I was amused to see so many Indians out there. Not only Indians are one of the major immigrant communities in the San Francisco bay area (which consist of counties like San Jose, Santa Clara, Fremont, Sunnyvale etc.) they are also one of the most successful group when it comes to Entrepreneurship. I remember reading one of the WSJ articles where as much as 30% successful Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are from Indian origin.

Thanks to Nehru’s socialistic democracy, bulk of highly educated (mainly from IITs) engineers migrated to the US and made fortunes there. Right from 1970s these folks built tons of high-tech organizations and generated abundance of wealth, which built a very strong brand for India. Two decades later when Indian opened up the economy in 1991, it was ‘homecoming’ experience for these wealthy entrepreneurs as they acted as a bridge between India and USA.

In his book ‘Silicon Valley Greats’, author Kshatriy met some of these ‘rags–to-riches’ Entrepreneurs, compiled their profiles in a good way. Starting with K.B.Chandrasekhar (co-founder of Exodus communications), the author presents the profiles of B.V. Jagdeesh (co-founder of Exodus), Kanwal Reiki (founder of TiE), Sabeer Bhatia (hotmail) and also domestic Entrepreneurs like Pradeep Kar (founder of Microland), Narayana Murthy (Infosys). All these people come from a middle-class background and migrated to USA with some hundred dollars in their pocket. From there these folks rose to one of the world’s successful tech-entrepreneurs.

At an outset the author compiled their profiles to answer questions like: What made them successful Entrepreneurs? How did they build their companies? How did they raise money for their venture? What drives them to contribute back to India? What sort of donations they have made to Indian universities? How do they lead their personal lives? What sort of ‘Indianness’ do they have inside them? How did they create a global brand for themselves? While compiling their profiles, author included some of the small but interesting incidents in their lives which had a profound impact later. For example, Sabeer Bhatia has always had ‘another method’ for solving mathematical problems during his school days. This lateral thinking helped him to think the web based e-mail, which lead to the birth of hotmail.

However at some of the chapters I found pretty lengthy as it was getting too much into their family and background information. It could have been more concise and brief. Also the shape of the book was bit odd and bulky. The publisher (Vikas publishing) could have taken more care while designing. Especially for bedroom readers (like me) it’s pretty hard to hold it and read.

In conclusion, I found this book is a good read technology professionals who are aspiring Entrepreneurs. I very much plants ‘positive’ and ‘progressive’ thought process in that direction.