Inactive Blog

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Howdy? Guess what? I tried to shift my entire blog content to WordPress site. I realized it was a futile effort. I left it midway. This blog is inactive. You can check out my updated blog at

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Tuesdays with a farmer – Science and Surrogates

This post is under the series of posts I have been writing about surrogates. You may want to check the first post here to appreciate this post better. I have further written about the prevalence of surrogates in every sphere of lives here. 
Farmer: Most of the science is a play of human mind. It isn’t real. Let’s assumethere is something called as a line. There is no such thing as a line. There are no lines. Euclid said “Let’sassume there is a line”. The entire realm of human design was based on one guy saying let us assume a line. There are no lines in nature.We have got nodimensions except our lens. 
Take the Pythagoras theorem for example, with the familiar measurement of 3,4,5 triangle. It works great. Try stretching the line. Take 4000 metres , 3000 metres. The hypotenuse would be no whereclose to 5000 metres. Only in your little microcosm, it works.Understand what science is meant for. This reality exists in your microcosm. 
It is like the game of Monopoly. There are no people moving around in the street,building houses made of little plastics mould, paying rent when they walkaround. Understand this. When you play that game, it becomes real. Thelarge part of it started when we assumed this is like this. And then it begins toget real.

Student: I recently had the opportunity to attend a program on Quantum Enigma.  It was fascinating to explore another well-known mathematical proposition that thethree angles of a triangle when added together always add up to 1800. I learned that mathematically it can be shown that if this is true, then the universe inwhich we live is infinite. If anyone can prove that the universe inwhich we live is finite (like a sphere), then the three angles of a triangle donot add up to 1800 – forthe two are mathematically inconsistent with each other. 
Farmer: You are right. If you look at modern science, it has sofar relied exclusively on indirect modes of perception tounderstand that vast section of reality which we cannot see directly: includingmind and life, so central to our existence.  

Look at life. If today’s modern man finds life empty and meaningless, it is because he never gets to experience the real. Everything was dealt in surrogates. He is thirsty for real experience. 
“Recognition of theimpossibility of understanding living things in terms of physics and chemistry,far from setting limits to our understanding of life, will guide it in theright direction” – Michael Polanyi, eminent scientist

Posted in Living, Quantum Physics, science, Tuesdays with a farmer | Leave a comment

Innovation is a joke!

Somebody once asked a mystic of the networked world, “What is Innovation?”. Laughing heartily, he quipped, “Innovation is like a joke! It is like a fish in the ocean searching for the ocean”. He then narrated a story.
“Once upon a time, there was a congregation of fish, who got together to discuss who among them had seen the ocean. None of them could say they had actually seen the ocean. Then one fish said, “I think my great grandfather had seen the ocean!” A second fish said, “Yes, yes, I have also heard about this.” A third fish said, “Yes, certainly, his great grandfather had seen the ocean.” So they built a huge temple and made a statue of the great grandfather of that particular fish! They said, “He had seen the ocean. He had been connected with the ocean.”  ****
When I look at innovation today, I often wonder, how could we talk about networked age and in the same breath, talk about innovation in the traditional way. Check out what people are talking about with #innovation. More often, you would come across these words: radical, disruptive, game-changing,challenging the status-quo
Even while we are talking about Open Innovation, Crowd sourcing and other models gaining strong currency to foster innovation in the networked world, most of us, try and put some of our familiar vocabulary, old ways of description into the new world. 
While there has been several definitions and interpretations and for this word, I define innovation,  for the purpose of discussion, in broad terms, as “significant positive change”
 Innovation in the previous Era
Thomas Kuhn in his seminal classic, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, talks about “The Essential tension”, which led to innovation through paradigm shifts. This further evolved into classifying Innovation broadly as Incremental Innovation and Disruptive innovation. 
Everybody wanted to be at the top end, Disruptive Innovation, of the spectrum. Innovation gurus and consultants advocated Disruptive innovation to their clients, as they feared large companies might be fraught with risk of getting caught unaware by new entrants. Incremental Innovation was considered uncool as it involved tinkering  with the old which gave limited competitive advantage. Disruptive innovation was considered game-changing, as it involved disrupting business as usual.
Central to this discussion about innovation in the previous era, is the importance of pre-requisites. Innovation was made possible only when companies had sufficient upfront access to capital and information. 
This implied that businesses had tofully conceptualize, structure and make the product ready before they could make profit out of it. No wonder products had long life cycles.

So what has changed?

Innovation in the networked world

It is high time we jettison our old definitions and redefine business once again. Simon Wardley provides an excellent definition of business in his blog.

A business is a living thing, comprising a network of people, a mass of different activities, and reserves of capital including financial, physical, human and social. It consumes, it produces, it grows and it dies. Like all organisms, any business exists within a number of ecosystems in which it competes and co-operates with others; it’s shaped by and shapes its environment, and hence needs to adapt constantly merely to survive.
Business is increasingly following the principles of biology and not physics (Newtonian mechanistic model, to be precise, while, it definitely teeters around Quantum Physics, but that’s another post sometime).
As Greg Satell had pointed out recently, radical changes rarely works. Radical change works by changing the levers of business ecosystem.  The hidden assumption here being, it is possible to shape the industry conditions in a static business environment.

As businesses get further networked, the ecosystems are becoming more complex every day. Incremental action alone can work, where business works around the edges, evolving continuously, in sync with the way the ecosystem evolves. 

With every incremental innovation, infinite starting points open up, creating further exciting possibilities to extend the business.  While each incremental innovation has the potential to  become disruptive, the critical difference being, it manifests, not based on firm’s decision, but only when the ecosystem necessitates them.

How do you start innovating incrementally? Simple. Start with what you have. What’s intrinsic to your business? Develop relationships around it.  As you become more, you offer more. 
I was delighted to hear what Jeff Bezos had to say about Incremental Innovation recently,  “Ninety-plus percent of the innovation at Amazon is incremental.”
Have you ever wondered how pollination happens in nature?
You have no clue where the bee will come from, which flower will it sit, out of that where the honey will go, which fruit will be created. Wait, Did I just share how innovation manifests in the networked world?
**** Story adapted from Sri Sri Ravishankar‘s talk on “What is Enlightenment?
Posted in Biology, Ecology, Incremental Action, innovation, management, Nature, Networks, Social Enterprise, Technology | 2 Comments

Tuesdays with a farmer – The death of surrogates – Part II

This is a continuation of my earlier post, The death of surrogates. While you can read this post individually, you might want to check it out  to appreciate this post better.

Farmer:  Just because an engineer’s son might have imbibed some learning from the influence of his parents, do we let him call himself an engineer? Any surrogate, at some point of time, becomes illogical. Isn’t it surprising that a planet full of rational people continue to build more and more robust structures of surrogates?

Take the case of Marketing. We love calling every customer group as a segment. There is no such thing as a segment. You make up this idea of a segment because it is inconvenient to deal directly with the customer. At some point, the segment becomes real and the customer becomes secondary. You start dealing with the segment, while in actuality you are dealing with the customer.  The surrogate becomes bigger than  the customer. Look at any metrics. Everything you measure. The meanest mean  or the GDPs of the world. 

Aren’t they surrogates ofreal? They are supposed to represent value of a certain kind. Eventually the focus shifts only towards the number. E F Schumacher once said that GDP grows when a small business goesout of business. It also grows when a big business makes an unfair profit. 

Yet we keep saying that we have to increase the GDP. That which we never intended turn out to be the outcome of this devotion towards GDP. If we say that GDP is increasing, then everything seems fair. Isn’t it just a metric? It is just one way of measuring something. It is asurrogate.  It doesn’t mean that those whoseGDP is high are great nations and those whose GDP is low are lousy ones. Because of such surrogates, our mentality itself has changed. That is themagic of surrogate. It becomes bigger than the real.

 Look at currency. It is a representation of value. Very convenient, but extremely inefficient.  Why is it convenient? Because you don’t have toworry about it.  Everything is measuredin terms of currency. Everything will have a dollarvalue. Who says that? We simply agreed. A shirt will cost somedollars. A table will cost some dollars. Ajob will cost some dollars. A job which is dangerous will cost more. And death will also cost you dearly. What do you get when you die? You will getsome bucks. Everything isequated to monetary value.

If you look at currency, it is the base surrogate of value. After sometime, weforget that value is really what we wanted. Now we have agreed thatcurrency is what we want. It doesn’t really matter whether I want value or not. There is ahuge amount of inefficiency that isactually injected into the system by introducing the currency. 

If I was really thirsty,I would buy a water of bottle for Rs. 10000. While petrol may beso cheap in Iran that you may wash your car with petrol. Water is expensive there. Selling bottle of waterfor 10 bucks everywhere across the planet is bad economics. Because it ensuresthat there is lots of value everywhere. Somebody has to pay more and somebodyelse has to pay little. Finally the bottle of water doesn’t get the value itdeserves, higher or lower. If you take the whole system, there is sheer loss ateach transaction. Because currency is fixed and price in turn is fixed by it. 

If you look at nature, it doesn’t have any currency. There is never an intermediary. Transactionshappen directly. We never have a material intermediary called as currency.

 Student: It seems everything we measure becomes a surrogate. I am reminded of Galileo’s line, “Measure what can be measured, and make measurable what cannot be measured.” Aren’t we always trying to measure something? I am not sure how do I distinguish between measuring something and surrogacy.

Farmer: Thereare many parts of human life which are not measurable in numerals.  They are measurable in experience. They are experientially measurable. The urge to have a number for an experience is agame of the mind. No great philosopher would say measure everything.Buddha didn’t say measure everything. He just said, Experienceeverything.  You don’t have to measure ifyou start experiencing.    
Student: When we look at the old barter system model, didn’t we move over it as we weren’t getting the right value for whatever we sold?

Farmer:  The problem with barter is not that people didn’t get value.The problem was, it ensured that the market always remained local.  If you wanted something that wasn’tlocally available, you were at loss. Actually, barteris extremely efficient. It ensured that both the parties are happyfor what they got. Somebody had easy access to wheat and no horse. Whilesomebody had 12 horses and no wheat. It was easy for him to give the horse awayand get valuable wheat. He could decide really how valuable it was.  When he went home, he got exactly what wasvaluable. The problem with barter, being a local phenomenon, youcould only deal with horse and wheat and all that were available in the local market. Youhave a currency because it ensures you stretch beyond local.  

Broadcastalso started with the same idea that if you extend the market beyond the local, youcant really have this one-to-one correspondence. So you had one-to-many kind of medium to deal with the bigger market.Currency enabled you to deal on a standardized level at a larger marketscale.

Student:  If I look at the whole spectrum of economics, I feel, it has been trying to measure the value of life and opportunity.  Isn’t economics focused on measuring every possible thing?

Farmer: Measuring something doesn’t mean forcing a value. Weare always  looking for value. We are notlooking for a unit. You may do this because it is convenient. But we mustunderstand that there is a cost involved. At an economic level, they are sayingthat it is better that we forgo efficiency for convenience. We will have a cost if we forgoefficiency for convenience. Economics doesn’t say that value of the money is important,it says the units are important. Its like what econometrics say, let us assume this is one ofunit of this.  After sometime, let us assume becomes this is it.
Posted in currency, economics, Environment, finance, marketing, schumacher, surrogates, Tuesdays with a farmer | 2 Comments

Book Review: Tribal Leadership

Long long ago, we lived together as tribes. It seemed to work very well until we became civilized and began forming societies which was hierarchical rather than tribal. The Industrial revolution era marked the apogee of this hierarchical civilization as the modern society was built based on its principles. 
Are we living today in the midst of a fundamental shift ( definitely not evolutionary) where we are returning back to the tribal way, driven by the networked world we are beginning to inhabit?
Everybody(including marketers) is talking about communities these days.  As the Web broke the cardinal rules of business, bringing the customer back to the epicenter of business, organizations are striving hard to be nimble and humble. Today’s business ecosystem behooves leadership of a different breed altogether to address its complex challenges. 

Behind every successful dot com, the stories we hear are the same. An extremely passionate tribe, driven by a larger-than-life vision which seeks for a better world. An incredible work culture with absolute freedom for employees to choose who their leader would be and what they want to work on. While it looks romantic when seen from outside, what really happens inside? how do they work? What are the levers behind great organizations?

Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King & Halee Fischer-Wright answers these questions convincingly as it takes us through the five tribal stages a company progresses  from the lowest stage of survival to miraculous innovations at its apogee.  With these five stages being applicable to individuals as well, the book elaborates in detail about each stage and helps us assessing which stage we are currently in based on the language we speak. I personally benefited a lot from this assessment as it made me introspect my behavior and actions to understand my leadership predicament.  

Is it possible to lead someone without the baggage of being led? I had raised this question earlier, as I talked of the need to jettison the traditional super-human archetype of leadership. While it is easier said than done, the critical shift happens only when the epiphany dawns that the individual is incapable of winning alone.  As I introspect over my actions and behavior, I realize I am yet to come to terms with this shift.  Among various coaching tips given by the authors to facilitate this shift, the one which stood out for me was to change in focus from time management to space management.  While it is quite common for talented achievers within teams to complain about less time, while they try to bite more than they can chew, the perspective is completely shifted to a different plane, when the attention forces to find a solution through managing space between people.

Triading concept is one of the biggest strengths of this book. It was one of my biggest take-away from this book as it made me rethink how I created business relationships. With a treasure trove of anecdotes and examples across diverse industries,  the book showcases how tribal leaders use triads to forge relationships, foster innovation and also resolve conflicts in their teams. 

The research behind the book draws extensively from the works of Ken Wilber, Dan Beck and other leading thinkers in systems theory and development. I am personally intrigued by Dan Beck’s Spiral Dynamics and its applications in organization development. I would be checking them out soon. 

Although the book delves into necessary technicalities to enable us understand the intricacies behind networks, you never get lost in them! A wonderful read for anyone who is keen to understand how organizations ought to be built in the networked world. 

You can download the audiobook for free here  

You can buy the book here.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher with no charges. I’ve taken enough care to ensure that this hasn’t influenced my judgement about the book. 

Posted in book review, hierarchy, industrial revolution, Leadership, Networks, Old Era Vs New Era | 2 Comments

Tuesdays with a farmer – The death of surrogates- Part I

Farmer: What is a surrogate?

Student: That which takes the place of another. 

Farmer: Surrogacyis an interesting phenomenon very much prevalent during the Old era. Surrogate is simply a substitute. It isnot the real thing. It is quite similar to the concept of Mithya in Hinduism where whatyou see is not real. The Industrial Revolution was the first timewhen humans stopped using animal or human labor to create work. They used energy which wasn’t even there.  Instead of using their own energy, they used Oil,a substitute, which fundedthe changes that were happening across the world. 

 Broadcast is anotherexample of a surrogate. It was one of the pillars of the last era. It is essentially no one talking to no one. Thecommunication seems to be real. It is unidirectional,as it substitutes the real. Mass manufacture is yet another example where somebody intervenes and creates a process such that the stuff you need is kind-of made  very efficiently. Machines substituted humans to create service which never came directly. It came through a mechanism which created the service. 
What was the real reason behind doing that? Paucity of information.Somebody had information which others didn’t. You ensured that you gave just enough information that ensured that you could keep leveraging it overand over again. You don’t give the real thing. You give something instead ofthat.

Education is a great example of how surrogacy was done in theprevious era. Somebody came and delivered a packaged messagetargeted to a specific group of people.

 If you are graduate in arts, it stood for your learning.It’s a symbol of learning. Youhad to be a graduate to be considered a learned person. If you think about it, thereis no connection between learning and degree. The truth was that you went far away from learning. Degree simply became a surrogate forlearning. 

How will you measure anyone’s learning? Ask him what he studied?  We have now created this whole bubble around learning assymbolized by degree. Haven’t we seen amazing engineers who have never gone toengineering college.? Amazing literateurs who have never gone to artscollege? We have seen whole range of several learned men who have never goneto school. 

However, for the society at large, the connection between learning wasa symbol called degree.

Student: Weren’t they created with an intent to tangiblize something as intangible as learning something? When I say I am learned, isn’t it something intangible?

Farmer: What does tangibilize mean? You tangibilize as much as you learn. But this enables you to quickly slot somebody . It makes the system look at you very easily because it doesn’t need to go into the  details of you in multi-dimensions. It is part of the whole mass manufacture philosophy where I don’t need to deal with you as a person. I can deal with you as an object symbolized by a surrogate. Education began as a series of steps in surrogates. You kept going up the ladder, and there is a whole hierarchy to that, and each time you went higher ,you were considered more learned than the one lower, and the truth is, well, everybody knows what the truth is!

It was also true that it could have been difficult otherwise. You don’t get a job if you are not a graduate. You couldn’t  really practise art/craft if you were not qualified/certified in that particular art/craft. The processes are designed so that you have no choice but to follow its regime and get to that level which is acceptable by that standard. But it was a surrogate. It had nothing to do with real learning. The problem with surrogate is, as it matures, you tend to forget  what it was really for.

You tend to look at the surrogate as if it was really the cause for all of this. It was supposed to be resting on  something else, which really was, in essence, what was required. 

If you look at the social statuses, the three Cs, Class, Clique, Community, or, Club, Cars, Clothes, they were social surrogates employed to ensure that everybody had to measure up. If you didn’t measure up, you were never counted. But it was a surrogate. It ensured one more thing. Only those who came from the higher class got its benefits. Everybody wanted to be part of that, whether they were worthy of  any good class or not. At one time there was real aristocracy. There were others who wanted to overtake the aristocracy and establish themselves in that place so that they could get its benefits. 

I’m just trying to show you that it was an era of surrogates.  Over the last two hundred years, everything that could be recognized was done in terms of a surrogate rather than something real.  Once we bought into these surrogates, we began building more and more structures which spawned even more surrogates.  At one point they become bigger than the system.  

Student: As you talk about surrogates, it seems that the traditional Indian caste system is perhaps an example of surrogates. Profession was a substitute for an identity. Brahmins who were doing the work of a priest were called Brahmins.  

Farmer: If you are doing the work of a priest, you are called a priest and you get its due honor. Tomorrow, if your son is called a priest, that is a surrogate.  He begins to get the same honor that you get!  Now you are sitting in this table. You are Venky. After you walk out of this class, somebody else comes in and sits here. Will I call him Venky just because he sat in the same place? Till you are sitting, the name is meaningful. The moment this becomes more important than the person sitting here, we then have a problem!

Student: Let’s say the other person who sat here also did the same thing Venky did. We might still consider calling him Venky. 

Farmer: But that’s not how it ended right? Let’s say Brahmins were doing the role of priests for twelve generations. What happened to the  thirteenth generation? He was having a business. But he is continued to be called a Brahmin because he had twelve generations of Brahmin history.  We didn’t keep refreshing this and ask again, Can we call him Brahmin now? That’s the truth of any system. Once you put the system in the job, the sail is in the ground and everybody is rotating around the sail. 

Posted in broadcast, Education, industrial revolution, oil, Old Era Vs New Era, philosophy, Society, surrogates, Tuesdays with a farmer | 5 Comments

On parasites, shampoo and planet Earth

I have been interacting with Dr. Ashish Shah, Environmental Education Expert at Centre for Science and Environment in their Facebook page recently. The discussions turned out to be a wonderful learning experience as he patiently answered my questions in a detailed manner. I thought of sharing those discussions here so that everyone can learn. You can join their Facebook page here, if you wish to take part in the discussion.

Venky: I often hear environmentalists speak about urban denizens living like parasites in planet Earth! Do parasites really behave parasitically or is our perception limited by our understanding of its ecology?

Dr. Ashish Shah: My dear friend,  it is just the way we look at it. Every living being on this planet is a parasite for the environment it lives on. We are also parasites of a more deadly nature. We alter the eco-systems we live on beyond repair. The beings we call parasites have been living in their respective eco-system niches for millions of years without altering the overall balance. Take for example the micro organisms in our guts. They help metabolize food in our intestines and help in extraction of important stuff for our body. Think, how we urban denizens contribute to the distant eco-systems we feed on? In fact we don’t, as our consumption patterns are linear and the end result of urban process is destruction of an eco-system the way we have known it. On the other hand natural processes are cyclic. The millions of species in our eco-system help maintain this cyclic nature.
Venky: I read quite a strange article recently in The Hindu about how excess CO2 in our atmosphere is beginning to ‘supercharge the food crops’ by acting as a fertilizer. It is called as “CO2 Fertilization effect”. Can u demystify it for me? This article seems to suggest its okay for us to be the way we are, as our action is becoming beneficial for the environment.
Dr. Ashish Shah: It is natural that the plants benefit from the increase in CO2 in our atmosphere. Simply put, the plants take water and minerals from the land using their roots, take sunlight from the sun using chlorophyll or more precisely the magnesium prophyryn and take CO2 from the atmosphere to make carbohydrates (food) for themselves and for us. An increase in any of these factors will lead to faster growth in plants. If all the three factors increase in proportion, it will give super growth effect in plants. Green houses are one example of using more heat and humidity for plant growth in cold areas. The rain forests all over the world are good example of effect these factors can have on plant growth. The nutrient cycle in rain forests is so optimal that they appear to grow sometimes on pure sand.

On the other hand you can call this effect adaptation also. It is beneficial for us, humans in the short term I guess because the fast plant growth will soon outrun fertility of the soil base since we return nothing to the soil except fertilizers and pesticides which in the long run render the soil base useless. See the green revolution states for example. The fall out of faster plant growth schemes like better seed, use of pesticides, use of artificial fertilizers and irrigation have had tremendous side effects. Now if we use excess CO2 as fertilizer it will also have some side effect later. 

This is the problem with our scientific approach since our idea is to extract maximum for our benefit out of natural systems. The means we use have tremendous side effects on our environment and us in the long run. Name one technology we have developed that has been tested to have no side effect over a period of 500 years. Look all around us there are millions of species working in such diverse ecosystems to produce what supports our species with side effect that does not matter for us since it is over so many thousands of years.
Venky: Thank you for providing an insightful answer. Scientific method is kept in such hallowed portals that it is considered blasphemous to question some of its ideals. For instance the popular scientific tenet, “Average is considered as normal”, has such dangerous implications in our life, that to think of its multifarious impacts on our life is mind-boggling. 
For instance, the average duration of pregnancy is considered to be 275 days. When this average is assumed to be the normal criterion for pregnancy, irrespective of the makeup of the individual body, it plays dangerously with the health of the pregnant women.  Isn’t it ironical we keep calling pregnant women patients inside hospitals?
Dr. Ashish Shah: You are right! Based on my experience of science I have come to believe that there is a serious problem with scientific approach. Anything that science has produced till now as solution to one or two of our problems has given us more problems than it has solved. We, humans somewhere lost the cause we began studying nature, environment with. In present times, applied science has taken over completely we no longer study anything for the sake of knowledge. 
Our aim is to know nature, environment from the point of view of using it to make our lives more and more comfortable. We want to become immortal and all powerful. There is a serious flaw in the scientific approach (Cartesian). It gets us on a treadmill where we cannot get down. It seems the only way is to go faster and faster!
One wise man said that nature will give us anything we want but simultaneously it will give us things that will render our initial want from it meaningless.
Venky: My 6 year old niece uses ITC’s Fiama Di Wills Shower gel. I was surprised to see Sodium Lauryl Sulphate mentioned in the ingredients. I have heard quite often about the harmful effects of Sodium Lauryl Sulphate. In the case of consumer products, which clearly showcase harmful ingredients, what is that we could do to build awareness? 
Although, personally, I wouldn’t want to create a big scene out of this. I would rather consciously take my decision for the products I use. I am also eager to know how could awareness be built amongst the common masses who aren’t aware about these ingredients in consumer products.
Dr.Ashish Shah: This is a genuine concern. The story of beautiful hair is long. What the shampoo companies do is that they conduct research on people who have beautiful hair. They find out what are the constituents in their hair and the proportion of their combination that makes their hair beautiful. They also research on agents which cause hair damage again by studying people who have damaged hair. The shampoos they produce are of two types: conditioners and shampoos. 
Conditioners are product of first type of research and they are meant to nourish the hair. Shampoos are the second type and they are meant for washing away the damaging agents. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a compound which is used for cleaning oil, fat and grease. It is there in most detergents. If used in excess quantity or used for a long period of time it could cause skin problems like rashes, dryness and very rarely cancer. Its cousin SDS – Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate is in fact a greater skin irritant but it has never been known to cause cancer. Both these compounds are not dangerous if used within limits.

The more funny part of the story is that all the beauty products are meant to work using mechanisms of our body. Therefore, they work differently in different body types. For example the hair growth and quality a person has at the age of 16 to 25 can never be attained again no matter what you use. You might want to check this video out!

Few lines from the video:
“Why do the makers of these products use these toxics? Are they really trying to poison us?No…They are working on 1950s mindset where people are totally swept up in better living through chemistry. In that excitement, they forgot to worry about human health impact!
Personal Note: I have been using Meera Shikakai shampoo for years. If I look at the ingredients of  the shampoo, it says, it is a surfactant based shampoo. Which surfactant is used in my shampoo? I dont know.  I have mailed the Corporate Communications of Cavin Kare which produces this shampoo asking for details along with the link to this blog.  I shall share their reply once I get an answer.
Do you know which ingredients are present in your shampoo?
Please feel free to share your knowledge, comments et al. 
If you have any query for Dr. Ashish Shah, you can address it here. I shall mail him and share his replies. Or if you wish to mail him directly, you can do so at ashish [at] cseindia [dot] org. He will be happy to answer your questions!

Posted in consumerism, Ecology, Environment | 3 Comments

Hovering the clouds – 2nd Annual Cloud Computing Summit

“It’s bright and sunny in the cloud front”.  Lux Rao, National Manager –Cloud Consulting Services, HP, quipped, starting the proceedings of Virtue Insight’s 2nd Annual Cloud Computing Summit with a bang, bringing out the beautiful oxymoron which describes the present state of the cloud. While Cloud Computing has gone far beyond being a fad, the picture is still cloudy if we bring in the challenges involved in implementation. Lux pointed out that while what of cloud computing has been settled, the question of when and how still remains. 

Narsipur Amarnath, Senior Architect, Yahoo addressed the first morning session on how Cloud Computing can be used to address Internet scale computing needs. He pointed at the inevitable fixed budget trade-off, essential in balancing Agility and Stability. With more than 38,000 servers and 170 peta bytes of storage, he walked the audience through the Cloud Architecture with Hadoop Clusters. Internet Scale encompassed handling asymptotic behavior for corner cases & boundary conditions to cope with the increasing complexity of the systems. 

Social Enterprise

The energy levels surged as Steve McWhirter, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Sales, Asia Pacific, Salesforce took over the podium in front of a visibly excited audience to deliver his key note on “Cloud 2- The Next Generation of Cloud Computing”. Steve pointed out how cloud computing represented the natural progression from Mainframe to Client-server. He pointed out its cost advantages, as companies are able to reduce their Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) by 54%. He also highlighted the impending shift from Waterfall to Agile development. 

In a social enterprise, you can become a friend of documents”, Steve teased amusingly, showcasing the amazing possibilities that emerge from harnessing social technologies within enterprises. He also brought to light Cloud’s greener side as it is 95 % more energy efficient than on-premise systems. “We are entering the Post-PC apps era”, Steve declared, with the growth of next generation devices. He pointed out to a Salesforce study titled, Post PC revolutions – Is India Inc ready? which stated that India would have 205 million mobile workers by 2015.  

Telcos hovering around the Cloud
This was followed by a panel discussion on Driving telcos in the cloud-space, moderated by Sridhar T Pai, CEO, Tonse Telecom. Sethu Madhavan Srinivasan, Director Marketing and Strategy, Huawei Telecommuncation addressed the need to bridge the Web 2.0 world with the Telecom world, who are no longer satisfied with the traditional plumbing role, through a social Community Map layer. With live examples, he talked about Huawei’s Single Cloud, which unifies the Service Cloud with the Enterprise Cloud. He used the metaphor of a digital shopping mall to explain the nature of Single Cloud. He pointed out that the transformation of IP based networks to Cloud remained one of the big challenges. Lux Rao corroborated the evolution of telecom, which once used to run last mile operations, has shifted towards distribution of IT services. He advised the telcos to invest ahead of the curve.

The journey to the cloud has to be a holistic journey involving the transformation of the organization”, Lux Rao shared from his personal experience over the challenges involved in adopting the Cloud. The discussion veered towards the standardization, which went together with openness, as the panelists enthused about DMTF   and SNIA’s cloud efforts. The panelists voiced their support towards an Open Cloud Architecture based on X86 hardware.To an audience comment about the organic evolution of technology, the panelists opined that the regulatory environment also played a major role in deciding the course of evolution

ERP on Cloud
Shyaam Sunder, Chief Knowledge Officer, Ramco Systems addressed the drivers behind the shifting to Cloud. In response to the debate on standardization, he averred that markets often do not wait for standards in perfecting the solutions offered in the cloud. He recollected the pioneering efforts  of IONA towards standardization of the erstwhile CORBA architecture. He highlighted the transition from time dependency to time sensitivity, approaching towards Time Criticality.  He showcased Ramco’s gateway products such as Zero Touch and Switch-on Analytics, which  enable enterprises to take baby steps towards the cloud world. He contrasted the ERP implementation of the yesteryears with the Cloud, where firms, which previously had to implement ERP first in order to install Analytics, now could switch on Analytics as they proceeded with the implementation. 

While integration is implemented today through EDI and Web-services, Cloud ERP integration would be WSO2 compliant in the future.He averred that Cloud would be able to bring down the implementation time. He corroborated the benefits of multi-tenancy, standardization and economics of scale, which has been the fundamental compulsion for an organization to move over to the Cloud. Every time the finance minister announces the budget change, the change can be modeled into the application through one central activity for the benefit of the subscribers.

Every firm has a distinctive approach to the Cloud. Private Cloud would be preferred when business model is unique and does not lend itself to easy productization with standard ERP delivery. Business data is not contained in the metadata of the application and products that are available. Vendor is unable to provide resources time-critically. Financial impact of time-criticality would be cost-structure elasticity, being able to pull and push the components into it.

He also introduced Community Cloud, where any group of people can be grouped into a Community Cloud. It is presently used in the Aviation industry to subscribe to the industry specific templates through the Cloud. He advised the need to take baby steps, as and when one is comfortable so that one becomes proficient with using Cloud based solution, either through a general ledger or inventory of purchase applications and then move bigger. One doesn’t have to take the great leap like Lord Hanuman did when he saw the sun up there and thought it to be a big orange.

To an audience question about metadata conceptualization challenge in Cloud, he pointed out that such a challenge exists as there is ambiguity about developing use-cases. The four modes of intermediation-disintermediation, new intermediation and re-intermediation and intermediation-constantly evolve on account of new technology development shifting technologies of today to oblivion. As long as this happens, metadata conceptualization would remain a challenge. It is impossible to completely simulate every use-case that is going to happen in the next ten years. If one could do that, quarter and quarter predictability of profits should also be possible.  He categorically asserted that businesses cannot be run like a metronome.

Infrastructure, Deployment and Integration
Ashish Varlekar, Head of Microsoft Practice & Alliance Manager, L&T Infotech walked the audience through a case study which involved successful implementation of a performance management system built over Azure platform. He highlighted the Load Balancing features of PaaS and L&T’s Silver Line application to control and manage PaaS Apps.

Subu Iyer, Section Manager, IPG R&D Hub, HP presented his session on the future of printing in cloud. By 2012, Internet will be the biggest driver of pages, with 35 % of the pages being printed from the Web. He talked at length about Web connected printers which possessed email addresses for printing, and Driverless printers which can print documents anywhere, anytime.

The Afternoon session began with a panel discussion on Evaluating Key Emerging markets for improved strategy, moderated by Mani Doraisamy, Co-Founder & CTO, Orange Scape. Jyotish Kumar Ghosh, Sr. VP & Head IT Services, Sify presented an interesting case study on the deployment of cloud at Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority. Mandar Naik, Director, Platform Strategy, Microsoft talked about cloud’s eventual development that would be defined in terms of one- size-fits-all approach. Mani Doraisamy brilliantly brought the necessary business shift, which is all inclusive, to bring Cloud Computing to the fore with an analogy recollecting Steve Jobs famous words, “We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to live, Microsoft has to die”.

Sudhakar S Marthi, Vice President Sales & Marketing – APAC, Zoho Corporation presented his session on “Cloud Computing for SMEs”. With 14% of SMBs already on cloud and another 10% expected by 2012, cloud is becoming more of a reality for SMBs. He also highlighted few interesting features in ZOHO where mail threads are converted to forum threads and wiki articles.

Pavan Yara, Consultant, Eucalyptus Systems talked about the unique features of Eucalyptus systems and its hypervisor Independence. The ensuing Panel discussion on Infrastructure, Deployment, Integration & Security Strategies focused on the unique challenges in deploying the cloud. Integration has to be upfront activity rather than an afterthought after installation. Mathan Kasilingam, Regional Manager, Systems Engineering, Symantec highlighted the initiatives taken at his firm to provide confidence about security to the clients. The panelists agreed on the need for federated clouds to talk to each other.

In response to an audience question on security strategies in VoIP space, Bikram Barman, Senior Engineering Manager at RSA, Security Division, EMC talked of possibilities of extending private cloud to a public cloud in a secure way. Girish Dave, Head of Core Network Solutions presented interesting case studies in Cloud deployment, ranging from Pudong’s Health Cloud to China Mobile. He stated that deploying cloud required higher operational skill sets.

 The final panel discussion on Sharing resources in the cloud value chain brought the legal perspective in the purview of the Cloud. Anu Vaidyanathan, CEO, PatNMarks urged the audience to look at Intellectual Property as a defense card rather than an offense card. She highlighted various examples where big companies have used patents as weapons against the competitors. Mani Doraisamy concluded the session eloquently showcasing the innovator’s dilemma in offering services that have never been offered and the incredible opportunity that lies in providing these services.
Posted in Cloud Computing, Conferences, CRM, ERP, IT, Open, Social Enterprise | Leave a comment

Tete-a-tete with a Maverick – Part III

Read the Part-I , Part – II of the interview here.

Venky: I have been hearing from many ecologists that SolarEnergy and other renewable sources, which are popularized by green-activists,aren’t really renewable, if we take into consideration, the energy cost thathas been built into it. How do you see this? What is your take?

Vinod:Yes.This is true. But, there  is something we need to be careful about. A lotof us are accustomed to look at polar opposites: good vs bad, in this case,Capitalism vs green. The truth is: Neither Capitalism nor Green is onemonolithic entity. I like to say that there are various shades of green. Therecould be shallow sort of green. For instance, replacing light bulb with CFA, orEarth hour etc. There are people who would do that as it feels good to them.
 Onthe other hand,you have the green extremists, who are upset and angry at a lotof things they feel the other side is doing. They live an extremelifestyle, which often puts people off.

Ifyou tell the average person, who is trying to make a livingfor himself and his family: What you are doing is evil and you are supportingthe plunder of the Earth. Stop driving the car! Go and live in a forest!, He is definitely not going to get it at all. He is going to feel crazy! 

Sowhy cant we find a middle ground, where we can make a gradual transition? Takeyour time over it. Try and make better and better conscious choices , coming outof your understanding. 

Theyare not the enemy. They just are ignorant about certain things. Its not thatthey are deliberately trying to rape the planet. They have been taught a humancentric world view, and hence they don’t understand ecology.  I didn’tunderstand it neither for several years, and I was perfectly happy living that life.OnceI understood, my whole lifestyle suddenly didn’t fit in. It made meuncomfortable. I naturally dropped it. No body held a gun to my head and said ,you have to stop changing your lifestyle. It just fell away. 

Venky:What are your future plans. I know it’sfoolish to ask someone of this  mindset, when everything keepschanging in the environment.But still, what is the broader vision you are lookingat?

Vinod: I would want to liveearth-friendly way as possible. I will have to see whatshape it takes. At the moment, I see myself being far away from the city in a house that Iwould build  for myself with  local material, powered by renewable energy sources likesunlight,designed intelligently without grid. I would grow my own food and be a part of a community of similar minded people and help more people understandwhy we are living this way. The community is building up. Ihave friends  who are interested inliving this sort of lifestyle.  We’vebeen discussing and talking about it. We have decided on the land. We spend timein other people’s farms who have already taken the plunge . We learn from their experiences.  

Inthe meantime, I am also engaging with young people. I think its not anintelligent move to cut myself out from this society and move into that sort oflifestyle. Even if I have an island of close-knit community of like mindedpeople who are doing interesting things, the rest of the outside world is stilldoing the exact opposite. 

One day, It will come to apoint that they will be at my doorstep on my day. That’s how the world seems tobe expanding. At that point, I don’t want to be fighting or defending myself.  I would rather invest my time right now talkingto these people and working with the broader world, so that it doesn’t come to thatpoint at all. Ifthere are more and more people who understand this right now and made theswitch, it wont come to a point where the city will explode. May be,we will start designing more intelligent cities. May be, we will be usingbio-mimicry to re-engineer our products so that we are following nature’sprinciples. Iwould still not want to  live in a city.But atleast people living in a city will be much more aware and harmonious. 

Venky:How are you engaging with the students who have come here in this conference?

Vinod:  Iwas here for an one hour presentation. But I am staying here all the six days (of the conference) and weare having long conversations with the kids. I like to plant the seeds . Many of them would take itup someday. They talk for years. Some of them do it up. I can see people doing.  There isno anxiety that it needs to happen day after be tomorrow. But, we areworking  towards it! 
Posted in Ecology, Interview, Living, Nature, Sustainability, Systems thinking | Leave a comment