31
Dec

The Best Of Bollywood – 2016

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Mediocre is the word to describe Bollywood in 2016. While I was reviewing the noteworthy movies of 2016, I could only count a handful of great movies. In the past few years, there was an abundance of good movies and we were spoilt for choice. I did not experience the same luxury this year.

Bollywood saw shutting down of a few corporate studios as the ignorance of golden fundamentals and reckless decision-making proved costly. Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil brought politics back into Bollywood stream. Aditya Chopra’s directorial venture did not burn the cash registers.

Please find my picks for top movies of 2016:

1. Aligarh: An empathetic portrayal of a retiring academic who gets involved in a controversy. The restrained and internalized suffering of the humiliation and contempt is presented in a very sensitive manner by Hansal Mehta. The movie has several layers – Homosexuality, A Maharashtrian professor in Aligarh Muslim University, Professor befriending Rickshaw Puller, University Politics etc. Rajkumar Rao played a pivotal role and continues to rise. Ultimately, it was the best ever performance of Manoj Bajpayee as Professor S. R. Siras that gave Aligarh its strength and power. Movie of the year!

2. Dangal: A great blend of meaningful cinema and entertainment. Mahavir Singh Phogat’s story was given a winning treatment by perfectionist Aamir Khan and Nitesh Tiwari and team. The movie proved to be a universal hit and won hearts and appreciation. (Read My Dangal Review)

3. Udta Punjab: One of the most controversial movies of the year, Udta Punjab was a gutsy movie. Abhishek Chaubey’s drama brought out the depth, indifference, helplessness and industrialization of drugs menace. An honest mirror on the ground situation, it was strengthened by sleek film-making style and strong performances of its actors. Alia Bhatt once again stole the show with her heart-rendering performance.

4. Dear Zindagi: Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi is fast food wisdom and philosophy on the tap. Alia shines and SRK does a great support act – a welcome move. The movie has a feel good effect and it is an easy watch. The movie has its moments of confusion as it cannot decide about its portrayal of Alia.

5. Neerja: An impressive biopic that built a slow and steady tension in the hijack drama of the year. Sonam gave us an inspiring and authentic performance in a complete de-glam fashion.

Notable Mentions:
1. Kapoor & Sons:
2. Phobia
3. Waiting
4. Pink
5. Sultan

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30
Dec

Making The World A Better Place!

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Nothing can be as contrasting as traveling to Auschwitz and Cannes between two weekends. Auschwitz and Cannes paint polar portraits: Introspection & Illuminati, Guilt and Glamour, Prayers and Party. One starts questioning a lot of things. One starts wondering a lot of actions.

Amidst these different shades of thoughts, I was traveling in Nice and we were passing through the beautiful beachfront in the French Riviera. It was a sunny day and the beach was bubbling with life. Inevitably, we started talking about the elephant in the cab: A few months back, this was the place where the terrible terror had struck. The happening Promenade Des Anglais had turned into a cemetery within 4 minutes on Bastille day. The cab driver started describing the details of the terror attack and impact on the local people.

I asked the cab driver about the upcoming elections, the rise of the right and if Marine Le Pen could indeed win the presidential election in France. We had already seen how the world has been changing and getting divided. Brexit results had sent the first shocks in June 2016 and US presidential election results in November 2016 had accentuated the rise of intolerance and rejection of globalization.

The cabbie told me the what happened was unfortunate. It is leading to further intolerance and promotion of stereotypes. But he does not believe in politics.

I asked him what is the way out. He has a simple philosophy and he promotes the same philosophy in his family and neighborhood. The society is a good place if you do the right thing. If you are a good citizen, work hard and care for your family and neighbors. You automatically take right decisions and help the poor and needy. The world becomes a better place with you. Simple, deep and wise words.

I guess as we embark on 2017 and a difficult environment across the globe, let us make the world better place starting with us. Let us do the right thing. Doing the right thing may be difficult but it will save us from future Auschwitzs and create more Cannes.

Happy New Year 2017

Image Courtesy: visitnc.com

30
Dec

Are You Ready For The Robo-Revolution?

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The Robotization topic has moved from moved from tech unconferences to boardrooms to factories and warehouses. Organizations are implementing the Robotization use cases across the industries. And this is happening fast along with machine learning and improvements in artificial learning. 

Recently, I visited one of the largest milk dairies and saw that less than 15% of employees are employed as compared to previous few years. The control center did not even have a machine – if things go wrong, it will have start an alarm. McKinsey has predicted that within eight years, one-third trucks on the road will be self-driving trucks. So, will the truck-driver be an anachronism? (Truck driver is one of the most common jobs in the US with 3.5 million people in US.)

Robotization is for real. How will its spread impact jobs? Already people are suffering from unemployment and discontent across major economies which have created political challenges. Will this create further joblessness? Will this lead to more Occupy Wallstreet? Will self-driving trucks render drivers without work? Will politicians stop targeting immigrants and target robots for job losses? Will it raise the case for universal basic income or profit-sharing policies? Will it create new public policies? 

Lot of important questions are to be answered. On the other hand, there is a fear psychosis being created – ‘Half of the jobs will be lost to robots’, ‘Robots will take over jobs by 2025’, etc., etc. How do we address these wrong fears?

One more important thing, this time the robotisation of work will eat into more knowledge-based jobs as compared to low skill jobs alone. Accounts jobs can be taken by software. Robot-advisors will help with portfolio planning and investment decisions. Robotization and AI can threaten best of the jobs! Uber already raises invoices automatically, classifies it as a business or personal expense and send it to you. The software can receive these invoices and file them electronically. 

So, since the white-collar jobs are at stake, there are more predictions of doom and gloom. But one needs to understand that automation and process improvements have always existed. The invention of the steam engine to the wheel to robots – all are the part of same technological progress. Technology has always been a net creator of jobs. 

Of course, there are short term challenges but in the long run, everyone is better off. It will create opportunities and help reskilling of people. It will drive employees to high-value jobs and force skill upgrades. Data scientist, creative visualizer, UX expert, social media guru, search engine optimization etc. are the new jobs. As IBM CEO Ginni Romety quoted, the future of job creation is no longer white collar vs blue collar – its new collar. Or there is no collar, only hoodies :)

Robotization is not be feared but to be celebrated. It frees us from high risk and day-to-day drudgery. It allows us to do more meaningful work. It helps us to evolve as a society. Of course, we need to make more decisions as a society and control our destiny. How much automation is good? What skills do we value? How should people spend their time outside of jobs? If they are working less, how do they live a more fulfilling life? What is the new definition of a job? Will the world economic production be on auto-pilot while we are working on creative and imaginative high-touch passions? Will we move to artisan and creative industries? Will it lead to more self-actualization? 

How do you deal with the new normal? How do you get ready for the Robo Revolution? 
1. Accept the change. Do not fight it or challenge the change – it is a futile effort. 
2. Burn the box. Discard the status quo. Work on cultivating new skills. Problem-solving, creativity, judgment, team skills, digital and social skills will be never out of fashion. 
3. Invest few hours every day in the emerging technologies – it will give you the headstart. Organisations will support the change-agents and people willing to upgrade. 
4. Start small on new skills and emerging technologies. Work on small projects. Create new modules and build on the success. 
5. Create learning groups and share the journey – difficult questions, fears, hacks, tips etc. It is much easier when we are together. 
6. New processes and new styles of working will also create new opportunities. Identify those. Have a break-through idea or a radical thought – build on it. 
7. Finally, do not panic. If you have good work ethic, are disciplined and willing to change, things will be fine. This too shall pass. 

Academia, organization, society and governments have an important role to play to prepare the talent for right skills for the future. Training and collaborative approach is a must to avoid mass unemployment and skills gaps. That alone will help people to be more confident for the future and allow everyone to work to their competitive best. 

What more can we do? How can we live where robots rule? I have asked my robot assistant to research on this and come back on the topic. 

25
Dec

Dangal: A Movie With A Right Heart

Aamir Khan hits the sports-based patriotism and universal message formula once again. While Lagaan was his tryst with sports-based patriotism, 3 Idiots & PK delivered a social message with entertainment.

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Dangal has its heart in the right place. The story of Mahavir Singh Phogat has been dramatised for entertainment purpose, but his and achievements of Geeta and Babbita are indeed inspirational. As rural and less-educated India learn to celebrate the female child, this is the strongest endorsement for the fairer sex. Especially coming from Khap-ridden state of Haryana.

The story is simple and everyone knows the eventual outcome. Mahavir Singh Phogat is a wrestler who gave up the sport for practical realities of life. But his hunger for winning the gold for the country remains and he aspires for a son to fulfill the dream. But the fate has other plans and he is blessed with four girls. An accidental altercation of children gives him the brainwave to train his daughters for wrestling and the rest of the film is about their journey to gold and glory.

The film scores on all areas – script, direction, casting, acting, authenticity (wrestling scenes) and succeeds in delivering the overall message.

Aamir Khan once again excels and proves why he is the best in the business. He lives and breathes the character of Mahavir Singh Phogat. It always has been his strength – to bring alive the characters but here he has set a new benchmark for himself. His physical transformation definitely creates an impact but it is his attention to detail (clothing, mannerisms, conversations, angst, hope) that steal the show.

The actors playing both junior and senior Greta and Babbita excel. And Amir Khan gives them space to shine – which is a triumph. Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar deliver great performance as senior and junior Geeta and Babbita respectively.

Pritam’s Daler Mehndi title song gives you the right adrenalin rush. Director Nitesh Tewari and the scriptwriters have done a great job to bring life to a predictable story. The father-daughter differences have been beautifully captured and strongly brought to life by the actors. The initial differences were brought out in a light manner but the young bride’s food-for-thought discussion make a transformative effect. The differences at the later stage get one of the strongest impact creating finale in a father-daughter fight. The emotional distance and the disappointment that follows has been beautifully captured.

The movie is a great watch but it is not a masterpiece. The editing could have been much crisper. The community stigma for girls wrestling as well the sports apathy in the administration are real challenges in India but they come across as common stereotypes.

As noted by Malay, we also saw people standing for the national anthem with pride during the Indian triumph scene in the movie. This act is more powerful than forced standing up for Indian anthem. Respect comes from within and can never be enforced.

Dangal is a great watch but it is not the perfect film. But is a movie with the right heart and the message that needs to be spread. Watch it!

23
Nov

Attitude For Gratitude – Happy Thanksgiving Day

One of the most under-rated traits is an attitude for gratitude. We receive so many gifts from people and the world around us but we never acknowledge it.

It is nice to be intelligent, smart, kind and efficient but it is equally important to be thankful. Attitude for Gratitude matters. So let us be thankful for everything that we have got.

Thanksgiving season is here. More than the festivities, it is time to recollect our wonderful times and blessings of amazing people around us.

I wanted to acknowledge and thank all my friends and colleagues for the continued support and encouragement. Wishing you wonderful family celebrations with friends and family.

Have a memorable Thanksgiving!

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29
Oct

Happy Diwali & Prosperous New Year

Wishing You And Your Family A Very Happy Deepawali & A Prosperous New Year!  

Have A Sparkling Diwali & A Bright New Year !!!

Warm Regards
Karania Family

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29
Oct

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Review

Rituals Of Kali Chaudas Include Visiting Crematorium or Smashaan. Also One Has To Kill Evil And Laziness.

I Visited Karan’ Johar Movie At The Theatre & Was Disappointed Today By Bollywood’s Laziness. Karan Johar Was Trying To Be Brave In Exploring Mature Relationships But Was Confused & Stuck To Several Stereotypes. Invoking Too Much Bollywood Nostalgia Was Sign Of Weakness.

Anushka Was Good – The Dependable Rahul Dravid. Fawad Was Definitely Wasted. Ash & Ranbir Will Need To Work Harder To Come Out Of The String of Bad Movies – Karan Johar Does Not Help Them.

Foreign Locales, Stunning Lifestyle, Great Music – Was All There But Something Was Missing. The Movie Sounded Fake. The Only Saving Grace Was The Title Song.

I Think Raj Thackeray Actually Was Helping Promote The Movie…….

Ajay Devgan’s Shivaay Was Already Doomed & Cannot Gather Courage To See It….The Movie Poster Always Tell Us Something…

I Saw ‘Court’ & ‘Dhanak’ On Flight A Few Hours Back And Now This…I Pray That Bollywood Kill Laziness & Become More Courageous….Happy Diwali

22
Oct

Dilbert’s Simple 9 Point Investment Plan

Financial Planning and Money is a very important subject. One one hand, people are very casual about this and on the other hand, they over-analyze with complex books and expert advice and long formulas.

Simplicity is often not given the merit it deserves. Dilbert’s Scott Adam has curated the investment wisdom and put it in a simple 9 point plan. And it is very powerful indeed.

Here are the Scott Adam’s 9 Point Investment Plan:

1. Make a will

2. Pay off your credit cards

3. Get term life insurance if you have a family to support

4. Fund your 401k to the maximum

5. Fund your IRA to the maximum

6. Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it

7. Put six months worth of expenses in a money-market account

8. Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker and never touch it until retirement

9. If any of this confuses you, or you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issues), hire a fee-based financial planner, not one who charges a percentage of your portfolio

One has to follow the above in the step by step by order. The Indian equivalent of 401K and IRA would be PPF and EPF – not 100% same by near.

The Money Equation In Life

The Money Equation In Life

15
Sep

The Emerging Ideas In FinTech Space….

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The Payment & FinTech Space continues to evolve with lot of new possibilities. The cash payments continue to fall and rise of digital payments continue in UK and developed world. The digital payment offers completely new possibilities and scenarios for the digital natives. Let us look at interesting new ideas and use cases in payments: 

Facebook Messenger Bots can now accept payments from customer without leaving the messenger app. This allows Messenger to become a complete commerce platform in itself. With a user base of more than 1 billion people, it can become a significant player. Pizza giant Dominos allows you to order Pizza via FB Bot in US. Indian Mobile Payment Startup Niki helps people in India hail a cab, order food, and pay for laundry or the electricity bill, among other things via Nikibot. 

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Voice based Payments are here. Speak “Pay $20 To Amy” to Amazon Echo and the payment will be made using Alexa and other technologies. German Digital challenger bank N26 allows its customers to transfer money using Siri. “Siri, Send 21 Euros to Anastasia with N26”. A box within Siri will then appear checking the recipient, the amount and asks for confirmation. N26 also allows payments via iMessage. 

Future Is Shining…The next big things in the payment space are the use of APIs, Virtual Reality and Biometrics. Connected Cars and Smart Equipments will make the payments. The refrigerator will buy and pay for the milk. The jury is still out on BitCoin….

Interesting Ideas Are Emerging…DigiSeq has integrated payment, access control and loyalty into one smart wearable device. Universal Basket is a smart idea. It recognises any product on any website and allows shoppers to buy with one ID and shopping profile via a UB-powered website or application. Swedish Payment giant Klarna has got is first big customer in UK – Arcadia Group. Klarna allows customers to try the product and pay later.If customers like the product, they can delay payment for up to three months interest free or start paying off with interest after three months are up. If they don’t like the product, they can send the item back. 

Image Credit: Tech Insider.IO & Philips

11
Sep

India’s Silent Revolution…

A silent revolution is happening inside India. A revolution that is led by India’s leading minds. And they are putting their biggest investments behind the revolution – ideas, time and money. The revolution is working for providing world-class education to India’s children in rural areas. People across the board are working towards providing quality education for India’s poor and underprivileged children.

Anupama Nayar and Vineet Nayar created Sampark Foundation to provide innovation led large-scale changes in primary school education. The ex-CEO of HCL Technologies and his wife have impacted the lives of 3 million children in 50,000 schools in Indian states of Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Chattisgarh so far. They have committed to invest USD 100 million (INR 650 crores) and improve quality of education for 10 million children by 2020.

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After researching the key issues in primary education in India and studying Global Best Practices, they have initiated audio-visual driven learning methods. Sampark Didi helps to improve the English and Maths basic skills for students and teachers.

Children love smartphones and tablets. Digital learning technologies can be an interesting catalyst for improving education. One such example is EkStep

Nandan Nilekani – Time’s Global Influential Thinker, Architect of India’s National Identity Project Aadhar and ex-CEO of InfoSys has founded EkStep Foundation. It is a non-for-profit foundation that aims to extend learning opportunities to millions of Indian children through a collaborative, universal platform that facilitates creation and consumption of educational content. Nandan, Rohini Nilekani and Shankar Maruwada are co-founder and have the leadership team that was instrumental in developing the Aadhar Project.

The Nilekanis have started with an initial commitment of USD 10 million and gamified Apps. EkStep Genie is a meta-app for creation and dissemination of gamified content.

Azim Premji Foundation is working with 350,000 schools across 8 different states of India. Apart from research and development of content, it is working with Governments to improve the approach and outcomes of education. It is also establishing its own schools.

The above initiatives are about the primary and basic education. India’s stock market expert Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and other foundations are working towards building curiosity and scientific appreciation amongst India’s generation next. Agastya Foundation runs one of the largest hands-on science education programs for children and teachers in the world. Agastya’s mission is “to spark curiosity, nurture creativity and instill confidence” in economically disadvantaged children and government schoolteachers by bringing innovative hands-on science education and peer-to-peer learning to government schools and villages across India.

It has 175+ Mobile Science Vans which take science education to the village doorstep and 74+ Science Centers for disadvantaged children. It also has a 172-acre Creativity Lab campus in Andhra Pradesh and 313 Night Village Schools.

Apart from these, there are several other initiatives – Mittals’ Bharti Foundation, Education Alliance, Central Square (founded by ex-ChrysCapital’s Ashish Dhawan), Pratham etc.

Truly, the scale and execution of the above ideas is impressive. Even if a tiny percentage of the above efforts is successful, it will create a great impact.

Fruits of education will take a few years to bear fruit, but they yield results at the right time when India’s economic leadership will be significant. And these children bring a new perspective to India’s future and transform India.