Why innovation is critical to success?

The following was a short essay I had prepared for one of my b-school applications. Sounds pretty right in the end, doesn’t it?

“Let me get straight to my line of work in telecommunications consulting. With every passing day, telecom companies face huge challenges of meeting the exponentially increasing data and service demands and the consumer expectation of receiving these services at all touch points, whether it is at home, office, while travelling or on holiday, at all times at competitive pricing across all their devices. This data “explosion” means huge investments on operations, network and storage for the companies facing little revenue growth. How can such a business model of continuously providing more at the same prices be sustainable? How can competitors compete on quality when the basic business requirements are increasingly difficult to catch up with? This is why innovation becomes critical –- the need for new efficient network technologies which can transfer data faster than ever, and meet coverage and quality challenges at minimum cost; for innovative personalized price plans to squeeze maximum value; for innovative storage models which not only handle larger data but also provide value from the data via high-tech analytic solutions and in turn create additional monitory opportunities. Simply put, today, telecom companies have the choice to either innovate constantly or perish.

So innovation is definitely necessary, but does one apply blind faith to it then? It can all go wrong if you just keep jumping from one idea to another for the sake of it without really implementing any. It should also be seen differently from “imitation -– just because a competitor became successful with an idea, doesn’’t mean you will too! (Google‘’s obsession with Google+ after the success of Facebook is a classic example) Also, while constant product “improvement” is definitely innovation in its own way, it should be contrasted from “re-packaging” which doesn’’t really add any value. Innovation, therefore, is one of the most critical success tools, but it is to be implemented with great discretion for the risks involved can just as easily lead to failure.”

Looking beyond the AIEEE

Tonight I share an article where my father expresses his views on a situation many Indian parents end up facing  –
9th June, 2012 11:44pm
I was half sleep when a text message woke me up. It read – ‘AIEEE 4111′. It was from one of my ex-colleagues whose son was aspiring for an admission to one of the top engineering institutes in the country. The rank, 4111, was a really excellent one  in the AIEEE exam, considering especially that more than a million candidates appeared for the exam in May. In fact, what makes this rank even more remarkable is the fact that the first 3000 – 3500 students may not even join any of the institutes available through the exam as they would be most probably be joining one of the IITs or dropping an year to improve their JEE ranks the next year.
The message made me wonder about 2 other students, whose parents I knew.  I informed them immediately that the AIEEE results were out. On calling them the next day, I found out that one of them had secured a rank of 45,000 while other had ranked around 2,35,000. Creditable as they were, such is the cut-throat level of competition for the limited number of seats, that they would normally not be enough to make it to one of the  nationally reputed top engineering colleges.
The first question that came to my mind was – What should be the next step for these two students ? What if one of them was my own son or daughter? Would I consider this a failure on my child’s part? Sadly, in India, most parents do. What they need to realize is that this is definitely not the end of the road; but rather a great chance to explore other exciting education and career opportunities. We have, over the years ended up building a regime of expectations from our children, where the two most direct routes are –
Engineer -> MBA
In my view, only if a student is really interested in the various engineering courses offered, has appeared for other entrance exams like the BITSAT or State entrance exams and scored well, should he/she opt for pursuing the engineering route. To me, it makes no sense what so ever, in both settling for a mediocre institute or in bluntly keeping on banging for an engineering birth by dropping an year (and possibly more). I would rather sit with my son; discuss our options; take a hard, long look at his interests; and pursue a field that would play to his confidence.
I would not really go into great detail, but here are some of the opportunities (assuming a science background in the +2 years of school) you might want to explore if you find yourself in a similar situation –
-A direct officer level entry to the Indian Navy (Logistics Branch) or a Marine engineering degree through the navy or otherwise.
-Look for an esteemed career with the Indian Army beginning at the NDA
-If you have a penchant to sketching or design, try for an admission to one of the top architecture or fashion design institutes.
-Take up an under-graduate course in Hotel Management or Business.
-Take up a course in sciences if your child has a dream for it. Remember, there are always excellent opportunities available in R&D, especially in bio-sciences, pharmaceuticals, space, etc.
-There are several courses very similar in structure and opportunities to engineering like BSc (IT), BSc (Computer Sciences). One could always pursue them even whilst preparing for another attempt at the engineering exams, instead of entirely wasting an year.
The list is of course long, and great success always follows wherever passion and hard-work are. I can only advise and eventual success depends upon the individual’s drive. In the end, it is of utmost importance to understand the psyche of each individual student and providing the right counsel.
– Sudhir Kumar Pant
With over 30 years of experience in IT & Telecommunication, Sudhir is one of the founder members of the safalmantra initiative and the prime visionary behind the idea. Over the years, his counsel and initiative has been helpful to many young students looking for the best career option.

A miss and an eventful day

After a run of 20 straight nights of posting on the blog, I missed the one on Friday. I still intend to have 31 new posts in a month since that memorable night in Munich as a tribute to my European Champions Chelsea.

Today was another day of studying for the GMAT ( although as it turned out once again, only for a couple of hours ), some intense hours of tennis, and the Hell in the Cell UNO night. That last part might seem weird but we have a very competitive ( full of frequent scuffles ) UNO  battle going on in the house. Tonight’s epic battle ended in an unbelievable 4 way tie, with the defending champion DK retaining his title, after creating some of the most dramatic moments in the final games (yes, I was this (.) close ).

Confession Time – It has also been a  couple of days when I was successfully played by a girl after a long, very long time. Gracious in defeat. Payback awaits 😀

Tomorrow, I plan to do a piece on Architecture as a career option in India. I’ll try to keep it as informative as possible. Happy reading !

Analysis of an Argument

This is the first of the series of the GMAT writing posts I’m planning. This is how the official GMAT website defines the “Analysis of an Argument” question –

In this section, you will be asked to write a critique of the argument presented. You are NOT being asked to present your own views on the subject.

Here’s the argument I will be analyzing in this first post –

Most companies would agree that as the risk of physical injury occurring on the job increases, the wages paid to employees should also increase. Hence it makes financial sense for employers to make the workplace safer: they could thus reduce their payroll expenses and save money.

Here goes my analysis. Hope it reads well !

“Brute force is not for the clever”

While the argument provided fairly evaluates the cost of physical injury; the underlying assumption that financial compensation is a linear increasing function of the physical nature of one’s work seems extraordinarily misplaced; and not just in today’s corporate-driven world, but throughout human history.

Why, if this were to be true, it would have been the invalids who carried the rock under the unforgiving sun, those who cemented the bricks and welded the steel while dandling on thin ropes, during the construction of some of the most magnificent wonders of the world, who would have walked away with wealth and fame beyond imagination as a result of their hardships; and not the likes of say, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri , Adrian Smith or Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who simply dreamt of, planned  and designed the Taj Mahal, The Burj Khalifa tower, and the London sewer system, respectively. The creativity of one’s mind, it has to be admitted, has proven to reward much more, than the strength of one’s muscles. Therefore, it becomes extremely difficult to fathom that a potentially injury involving line of work is valued as highly as is suggested here.

On the other hand, organizations, especially those closely involved with physically challenging work environments, heavy machinery and manufacturing, do end up paying a hefty sum towards insurance premiums, covering for accident hazards, damages, employee claims and what not. The annual insurance bills can in fact attain parity levels with the annual payroll at some of the more strategically inclined modern industries. This is where, I believe, safety and risk-aversion measures have a crucial role to play in cutting down costs.

Carefully planned workplaces, which follow stringent safety norms and regular disaster management drills will not only prevent physical injury, but also go a long way in preserving a companies’ fixed assets – its machinery and infrastructure, whilst also drastically cutting down the insurance bills. No wonder then, that today, almost every organization around the world is going earthquake proof, making infrastructure and machinery investment decisions after exhaustive research, and working closely with skilled safety and disaster management experts. Avoiding damages, it seems, is the best way to cut losses. After all, the less you lose, the more you make !