Saturday, April 30, 2011

America's Immigration Problem

As someone who has been through (and is still going through) the labryinth that is America's immigration system, this story of a close friend and classmate is all too painful to bear:

America's National Suicide

Over the past few years, there have been calls from various quarters, including some business lobbies to initiate an immigration reform, but this has focused mostly on the illegal immigration issue.

An issue that either goes unnoticed or doesn't get much attention is legal immigration. This article highlights the plight that highly-qualified legal immigrants go through.

Given that this section of skilled immigrants from countries that have traditionally a high degree of emphasis on higher education have historically created jobs and have grown the American economy, this blase attitude towards such a critcial element of immigration reform does indeed constitute America's march towards a more insular and closed society.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Unemployed Activist Fails to Land Herself Behind Bars

Unemployed writer and full-time newsmaker Arundhati Roy has failed to get arrested yet again despite her latest efforts to run afoul of the law.

With her statements that Kashmir has never historically been part of India, Ms. Roy was hoping to join the illustrious company of eminent historical jailed activists of the distaff persuasion. Notable members of this club include Zsa Zsa Gabor, who notably spent 3 days in jail for slapping a cop, (and looked fabulous while doing so), Martha Stewart, who did a stint in camp cupcake for undertaking the controversial but indubitably noble campaign for the equality of cream and off-white walls, and of course Paris Hilton, a tireless campaigner for POOP (or the Prevention of Obscurity to Ostentatious Personalities).

Upon hearing that the comatose government, by dint of its sheer laziness and steadfast refusal to take steps on any matter, had once again thwarted her attempts to achieve martyrdom, Ms. Roy was said to be bitterly disappointed. In a brave but ultimately futile attempt to save face, she has said that the latest statement was aimed not at compromising the unity of the country, but to promote justice for the average Kashmiri. Or Cashmere, as Ms. Roy charmingly pronounces it in her clipped public school accent.

In fact, Ms. Roy has allegedly always taken a rigid stand against a breakup (or makeup for that matter, judging by her media photos) of any kind. She first rocked the jhola-wala community by joining her mentor and fellow anti-makeup activist Medha Patkar in her steely-minded opposition to the Narmada dam through her NGO, the Narmada Bachhao Andolan.

Even during those early days, her pro-national/pro-Bharatiya Sanskar were obvious to all, given that her stated reason for opposing the damn was that using mild swear-words were against Indian values. In the same vein, she went on to successfully oppose the Bramhaputra Heck and the Godavari Egad. The lack of publicity around these projects shows how effective Ms. Roy was in getting this project cancelled.

Ms. Roy has stated that she will take this latest setback in stride and put a brave face as she announced to reporters that she will continue her self-righteous struggle to go to jail. And just like that, she defiantly did a pirouette and vanished into the recesses of her New Delhi slum, also known as a Chanakyapuri mansion, accompanied by her fellow activists, also known as servants to sip on some much needed Narmada water, also known as a chhotta peg in these parts.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Truth About Tigers

A documentary made by Shekar Dattatri is raising awareness about the dwindling Bengal tiger population in India. More here:

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Race and Diversity in Sports: Whither Diversity?

An article that I wrote on diversity in professional tennis was featured on the tennis front page of Bleacher Report. It is here.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Trouble in the Sunderbans

Man and beast continue their daily tussle in the mystical Sunderbans. A perfect storm of climactic, economic and human factors is endangering this Unesco World Heritage Site:


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Case for Indigenous People in Tiger Conservation Efforts

A case for giving people preference over tigers in tiger conservation efforts. Also takes a look at China's conservation approach.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

All your Business Processes are Belong to Us: The Culture Clash that Ensues when ‘Equals’ Merge

In the corporate world, a merger or a takeover is never a dull event, whether it is benign or hostile. Cultures clash, systems migrate, and people displaced. To synchronize all these moving parts is a Herculean task, and very few companies (merged entities) are able to pull it off successfully. It should come as no surprise to anyone that over 50% of all mergers fail.

Cisco, the takeover powerhouse of the 90’s has a well defined and structured process complete with regular milestones and targets for “on-boarding” acquired companies. Over the course of the ten years from 1990 through 1998, Cisco’s market value surged over several hundred times, owing mostly to its growth by acquisition. Barring StrataCom, which had revenues of over $400 million when it was acquired, most of its other acquisitions were small, startup companies. Cisco largely avoided culture clashes with its acquisitions as most startups have little or no defined business processes, and readily adopted the “Cisco way”.

But what happens when two established and ‘equal’ entities merge? Do one company’s business processes prevail over the other? Or do they form ‘synergies’ (that much maligned word) that make the merged entity greater than the sum of the two merging companies?

In the auto industry, when Daimler and Chrysler merged in 1998, they were looking to combine their respective offerings to form a complete suite of vehicles. Less than ten years later, the merger collapsed, and the two companies parted ways.

What happened?

Daimler tried to bring its disciplined approach of doing business while hoping to leverage Chrysler’s innovative design methodology. While this was a sensible strategy on paper, it didn’t quite work out in reality. Industry experts’ opinions on the cause of the debacle ranged from the group’s failure to fix quality issues to their inability to reign in costs. While these definitely may have been contributing reasons, they do not usually cause demise of companies (case in point: GM).

The reason for the failure of the merger can be boiled down to one word: culture. Successful cross-border mergers have taken place before, but ironically it failed in this case because of the strengths of the two companies involved, not their weaknesses. Both companies are icons of the auto industry, and played prime roles in shaping the industry landscape in their respective countries from its inception. When it came to adopting a common, shared culture, there was significant resistance from both sides, making the joint entity a headless chicken. Indeed, the most surprising aspect of this merger is how long it lasted, not how soon it collapsed.

One of the most fundamental follies of a merger is that once executives sign on the dotted line, the role of managing the new entity is generally passed on to middle management, who tend to be operations-minded. Though it could be termed micro-management, the need of the hour is for executive management to remain deeply vested in the operations. This way, the CEO learns about problems first-hand, and not from sterilized dashboards carefully prepared to appease.

Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Nissan-Renault, is a prime example of how the CEO should retain hands-on control on the merged entity. Nissan is Japanese, Renault is French, and Ghosn is Brazilian. But Ghosn stayed engaged and understood the culture of the two companies and hand-held the new entity until he rectified cultural issues.

While there is no secret recipe for making mergers of equals work, companies would do well to learn the following from past successful mergers:

1. Executive management should remain committed to the new entity
2. Ensure that neither company enforces its culture on the other
3. Experiment often, and quickly discard strategies that are not working
4. Keep shareholders informed of company decisions
5. Focus on growth first, costs second

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