18
Nov

Subroto Bagchi’s Sell: Rich Insights For Technology Sales

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Selling is a challenging profession and a very demanding one as well! Selling today is a different ball game with the buyer being more knowledgeable and smart. A buyer would have done a thorough research on us before actually interacting with us. A lot of activities in the sales process are getting digital and a smart sales person needs to understand this shift. Even Artificial Intelligence will invade sales area. So how does one deal with these changes? What are the best practices in technology sales? Unfortunately, there are few sources and books on technology selling that can provide insights and shared experiences. Mindtree Co-founder Subroto Bagchi tries to address this gap and provide his rich insights on selling.

Many of Subroto’s fans and friends like me were awaiting his new book – since a lot of water had flown in Ganges since the release of his previous book. And ever since he told me that his upcoming book was on sales, the salesman in me was eager to lay his hands on the book.

‘Sell: The Art, Science, the Witchcraft’ is the title of SubrotoDa’s book and it brings together the experience and advice of various sales leaders. Subroto has known these sales leaders and drawn on their unique sales philosophy and wisdom. There are nice anecdotes, unique insights and practical tips.

SubrotoDa defines sales as part science, part art and part wizardry. It is not a profession in itself but a very critical skill in every field and an essential skill for people across all levels within the organization. Selling is not something to be apologetic about. It is not a pushy, winner-take-all masculine act. It is an empathy-led, process-driven and knowledge-intensive discipline.

A lot of things in Sell impressed me – visual design of technological solution, collaboration between sales and marketing for larger deals, response to a major RFP loss, Google Quotient, The Naked Burger, Do It Like Swedes etc. I definitely intend to influence my sales practices with some of these thoughts.

He uses the analogy of life-cycle of Coho salmon to drive home the importance of right prospecting by segmenting the customers and figuring out the right hook. Right qualification is importance to save the most precious resource of salesperson: time. And also ensure optimization of organizational energy, effort, intellect and other resources. I smiled at the different stereotypes presented: Great giver of homework, patron saint of thought leadership etc.

He has some stellar lines for us:
– Authenticity is in short; hence in demand
– The prospecting process has changed. Your future customers are already doing prospecting about you and your company

Honesty, transparency, customer relationship, negotiation, etc. are important traits for an effective seller and Subroto delves into each of these topics. Customer relationship is a competitive advantage and one has to developer chemistry with the customer. He emphasizes one thing that has not changed in sales – people buy from people. A best sales person is a consultant who advises client and brings teams together to create the right solution and sell in a consultative approach.

Subroto also delves into areas of deal-making, legal support, paperwork etc. He ends the book with detailing of what a makes a true sales champion.

Subroto delivers his rich intellect and wisdom in easy to understand nuggets. He has strong rationale for his views. I had whole-heartedly followed his advice of uprooting ourselves and exploring new geographies to break our comfort zone and rewire our thinking.

Could this have been even a greater book? Would have I liked anything more in this book? Yes – Some more depth on some topics (I understand the overall writing style of Subroto). I would have liked to see the comparative analysis of selling practices of Indian IT and true blue Western IT companies. Maybe some detailed case studies of winning a large and complex enterprise deal – without divulging confidentiality of any entities. Maybe some biggest sales follies of the sales leaders. I would also have loved to see his views on how the new and mid-sized Indian companies can win deals in the new emerging global landscape. This would have been a great service to many emerging sales leaders.

Sell is a great resource for technology sales professionals. It is a great addition to the dearth of Indian voice on this topic. It has nice insights for sales professional. Read it!

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13
Nov

Artificial Intelligence: The Future Is Here!

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Artificial Intelligence is the hot topic of the season! Networking events, conferences, business magazine cover stories, newspaper special reports, LinkedIn posts – you name it and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is there! I have even started receiving ‘Hire AI Expert @ $15’ emails from Indian companies!

Forget the hype. AI is real. AI is the new mobile. AI is the new IOT. AI is the new digital.

AI is the disruption with capability to redefine the world around us! Businesses and organizations will need to understand AI and its application in their business. If you do not adopt AI, you may be missing on opportunities.

The increasing availability of data, cheaper storage costs, fast processing power and rise of talent have acted as a catalyst for the growth of AI. AI is making its presence felt around us – Self-driving cars, robots, Siri-Alexa (speech recognition), Automatic translation, Facebook photo tagging (image recognition), Spam detection, Netflix recommendations, MRI analysis etc. are all examples of AI applications. Organizations across the world have started making investments to leverage AI.

AI is not sci-fi as we see in Hollywood blockbusters. AI is smart computing (algorithms) to gather insights from data and monetize it. The AI as a technology is maturing and so are its related technologies of Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Neural Networks etc.

AI is going to impact different sectors in different ways. Retail and Finance have been the early adopters of AI. Shopping assistance, better banking, customer engagement etc. are key objectives for the initial AI implementations. Companies like North Face, Macy’s, Uniqlo and Shop Direct have virtual shopping assistants and store companion apps. Olay’s skin adviser help to identify best personal skincare products while GSK uses AI to dispense advice. Just Eat provides customized recommendations. Legal firms are leveraging core AI techniques and machine learning algorithms.

Oil companies like Shell and BP have embraced AI to improve oil exploration, well development and other processes. Shell has installed sensors in wells and analyses them via AI. BP collects information on oil rigs to enhance and optimize its analysis and related processes. One of the strongest potential of AI is in healthcare. The potential for using AI powered advancements are immense – drug discovery, research, medical imaging, diagnostics, surgical robotics, health Chatbot etc. AI will help us to predict disease and take preventive steps. The future is not distant when human beings will have to learn to deal with devices and machines that are powered by AI. The world around us will be driven by AI powered Bots.

Digital is creating new businesses and new victors. AI will also create a paradigm shift and create new opportunities. Businesses need to develop a business centric understanding of AI and its impact on them. It needs to be followed by a roadmap and creation of initial pilot projects to demonstrate the power of AI. Once successful, AI thinking can be industrialized in the organization to give it a great competitive advantage.

However, it is a fact that AI is creating economical, ethical, social and political questions. The most common fear is AI will create job losses. Indeed, AI may affect mundane tasks and repetitive jobs forcing employees to learn new skills. The question is can we help people migrate to new jobs? Can we create new jobs? Is Universal Basic Income the answer? Privacy? Risks? Are large corporations owning huge data becoming monopolies? The best way out is to involve different voices and different stakeholders in AI discussions. These discussions should be transparent, understandable and explainable to all – as stakes are high and trust cannot be discounted.

AI will ultimately augment human beings. It will change the world as internet and electricity.

Image Credit: Alex Knight

27
Sep

If

English poets have produced some remarkable work and “If” is one of the great gems. British Nobel laureate Rudyar Kipling’s poem was written in 1895 and published in “Rewards & Fairies” in 1910.

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“If” remains one of the most beautiful advice and inspirational gem. One can find glimpses of Bhagwad Gita, Vedic & Natural wisdom in this poem.

Though the whole work is awesome, some of my favorites lines are:

1. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

2. If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

3. If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
(Like Sthitaprajna in Bhagwad Gita)

4. If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

“If”

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

29
Aug

Kshamapan – Michammi Dukkadam – The Festival Of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the supreme act of courage !

It is an act of faith and humility. It releases both the parties to move on and build a new tomorrow.However, it is very difficult to execute. Equally difficult is forgiving oneself !

However, we need to start somewhere !

And nothing better than the holy day of Samvastari – the last day of Paryushan – the biggest Jain Festival. On this day, all Jains ask for forgiveness by saying – Michammi Dukkadam.

Dear Friend

I ask for forgiveness, if I may have hurt you, intentionally or unintentionally, by Thoughts, Words or Action.

Micchami Dukkadam !

Micchami Dukkadam Greetings Paryushan 2017

29
Aug

Oxford – Gujaratilexicon Collaborate For Digital Experience In Local Language

Gujaratilexicon is pleased to announce the launch of the Gujarati Living Dictionary as part of the Oxford Global Languages (OGL) initiative.

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The OGL programme is building dictionaries and lexical resources for around 100 of the world’s languages and making them available online. The Gujarati Living Dictionary is launched as a part of a special focus on Indian languages.

Explore the Gujarati Living Dictionary at: https://gu.oxforddictionaries.com/

Judy Pearsall, Director for Oxford Dictionaries put forward the motivating philosophy in her own words: “Digital communication across the globe is dominated by English and other major global languages. We are at a critical time in the nexus of the internet and its impact on language diversity and viability, and the time to act is now. OGL is a mission to help digital communication through building resources for the world’s languages. India has a remarkable linguistic landscape with a richness and history that is found in few other places on the planet. But only 35 percent of the Indian population use the internet. Hence we are putting a special focus on Indian languages and aim to work for more initiatives in this space.”

Gujaratlexicon is the thought leader in Gujarati language space and aims to preserve, popularize and develop Gujarati language through the power of information technology.

Dr. Ashok Karania, Mentor of Gujaratilexicon is enthused about the collaboration between Oxford and Gujaratilexicon. He says: “We are humbled to be a part of the global initiative of Oxford to transform digital experience for the non-English world by providing content and tools in local languages. Gujarati is the language of the enterprising people across the world and this initiative will inspire further technology, research and education programs for diasporic and local Indians. As digital era and AI transform the technology world, the personal human experience will be more important than ever and technologies in local language will ensure those expressions”

About OGL:

Oxford Global Languages (OGL) is a major initiative from Oxford Dictionaries, part of Oxford Univeristy Press, which launched in 2014. OGL aims to transform the experience of millions of people worldwide by making their language available in digital form – on websites, in apps, and via other tools.

OGL records how living languages, including their variants and dialects, are used today. The result is a vast data store of language data that is accessible, linked, and reusable. https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/ogl/

About GL:

Gujaratilexicon is a landmark work in the history of Gujarati language containing resources of more than 45 lakh words. It aims to contemporize Gujarati language and develop rich and relevant Gujarati language resources.

The mission is the result of undying passion and relentless vision of Amar Shri Ratilal P. Chandaria, who spent more than 25 years on this project. The leading Gujaratilexicon projects include Digital Bhagwadgomandal, Digital Sarth Kosh, LokKosh, Lets Learn

Gujarati, Crossword, Gujaratilexicon Mobile Application, Global Gujaratilexicon, Gujarati Games, eBooks etc. It is supported by Chandaria Foundation & Arnion Technologies. https://www.gujaratilexicon.com

7
Aug

The Golden Age of Technology

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Elon Musk is a genius. Recently, he asked American Governors to regulate Artificial Intelligence (AI) before it’s too late. Musk’s position on AI is known but his recent comments again brought the debate of intrusion of technology in our lives? Is the golden age of technology over? No. Musk’s concerns withstanding, we are embarking on a golden age of technology globally. 

Technology excites us. Technology frightens us. Technology amazes us. Technology arouses us. Technology challenges us. Technology is all around us. Technology is a part of our daily lives. The continuous improvement and rise of technology has created new possibilities. 

We are embarking on a golden age of technology thanks to the combined forces of Smart Devices, Global Connectivity, Cloud Power, Machine Learning & Data Analytics. I called it the DNA of new age of technology – Devices & Data, Networks & Connectivity, Analytics. The DNA is connecting different technology dots and creating disruptive ideas. The disruptive ideas are scaling fast to change business models and influence our digital lives. The impact of technology is real when politicians smart promising faster internet, digital government and smart IOT cities to win votes!

1. Devices & Data 

Devices are smarter, faster, cheaper and loaded with sensors. The devices include micro-buttons and chips. Human body and car can be a device itself. The skin stickers can capture vital body stats. Ingestible sensors can give the real view of what is happening inside your body. Beacons in airports, retails stores, hospitals, warehouses, museums are a reality now. 

Data is the new oil. Huge amount of data is being captured on an ongoing basis. Mobile phones, apps, browsers, sensors, fitness devices etc. are some of the avenues through which data is regularly captured. We have collected more data in last two years than in last 20 years. 

2. Networks & Connectivity

The proliferation of connectivity across the world is a big booster to the technology aspirations of mankind. As countries get faster and reliable internet connectivity, it will open traditional vestiges to innovation. The connectivity will boost existing and new businesses and empower citizens. As countries realize that their GDP and connectivity are positively co-related, the investments in connectivity will continue. And it will boost new technologies like drones, robots and autonomous cars. 

The widespread availability of internet and internet access has opened the quick collection, transmission and analysis of data. We also have the capability to store huge amount of data in large data warehouses or leverage cloud options like AWS, Azure etc.

3. Analytics & Predictive Intelligence

The huge collection of data opens the possibility for rich analysis. The huge processing power is available at cheap rates and new software frameworks help to analyse the huge amount of data being collected. Not only are we now capable of analysing the past data, but we can predict the future. We can determine ongoing patterns to make important predictions relevant recommendations. We are all used to Amazon recommendations, but we also have recommendations for clothing, food to eat, restaurants to visit. As the data gets enlarged and enriched, we will get more intelligent recommendations. 

The machine learning and analytics are powering connected intelligence. The mundane and hazardous tasks can be taken over by technology leaving the humans to focus on more value-enriching tasks. The technology intelligence and algorithms can make better decisions than human beings. Finance, healthcare, governance, transport, educations are being disrupted. 

Is the golden age of technology real?

The paradigm shifts are causing changes in business, economic models, governance and our daily lives. The combined forces of DNA are solving biggest problems of the world. The world is moving towards better health systems, predictive diagnostics, safe driving, removing language barriers, greener technologies, digital governance etc. The possibilities are immense. 

Technology giants, governments and innovators must address concerns of privacy, security and economic costs. The systems should be properly tested and compliances must be adhered to. Digital lives need digital assurance. But technology is an irreversible ride. A gun in the hand of a soldier protects the citizens and a gun in the hand of a terrorist harms the citizens. Technology is powered by human minds and it also powers the human mind. We must make the choices. No human being should work in dangerous mines or do scavenging jobs. At the same time, no machine can create magic of Picasso, J K Rowling or Roger Federer!

Image: MIT Technology Review

24
Jul

Agile – Shift Left Is The Right Shift!

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Summary of Test Focus Roundtable Discussion on Agile Approaches @ London

Digital is the new reality of life. Digital transformation has necessitated the rise of new methodologies and practices to deliver faster, better and scalable products. Agile Methodology is at the epicenter of the new technology philosophies and tactics.

Recently, Qmetry Team with Test Magazine hosted a roundtable discussion on the Agile & Shift Left approaches at the Test Focus event. Agile is a very hot topic was evident from the sheer number of attendees and the vocal debates at the session. We had three power packed roundtable sessions with expert practitioners, scrum masters, new agile converts and fence sitters. They represented large enterprises, mid-size companies and startups. Experts from testing organizations also joined the deliberations. All of this contributed to very insightful and interesting interactions.

Agile, like love, it is a used, over-used and abused term. To me, agile is essentially a mindset. A mindset of breaking up tasks into smaller pieces of work, quick and frequent feedback and adapting to changes. From this perspective, agile way of doing things is as old as the mountains. In fact, the agile principles have been seen in extreme programming and other practices.

Agile is not just scrums and sprints. These represent only the tools and methods. Apart from the mindset, core agile practices include the adoption of following concepts from a testing perspective:

1. Unit Testing
2. Distributed Teams
3. Refactoring
4. Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery & DevOps
5. Automated Acceptance Testing
6. Test Driven Development
7. Behavior Driven Development
8. Pair Programming

Organizations should implement the agile methodologies that work of them rather than blindly following the manifesto. They can have Agile, Wagile etc.. At the end of the day, going agile is a decision linked to the organizational need and business case. It is not necessary to adopt all of the above ideas if it does not work for the team.

One interesting point that emerged in the discussion was about automation. The importance of automation is increasing in the agile world. In-sprint automation is a key goal for most of the practitioners and scrum QA teams can work on the same. Some have a separate automation team if their project demands the same. It all boils down to the sprint planning. Many teams are already at Sprint minus 1 automation. Automation of acceptance test is a key success for many organizations.

How to go agile? The fundamental point is to identify the reason to go agile. What is the business case? What is the technology case? Be clear about the expectations and goals. The next stage is to identify agile champions and enthusiastic team members and get a strong cross-functional team of product owners, business users, developers and QA team members. The team with the right attitude is going to make or break the agile projects. It is always important to identify failure or success as a common event rather than finger-pointing at others. The role of the product owner cannot be over-emphasized in setting the right environment and empowerment. The reporting structure of the team needs to be understood and appreciated.

Agile means different things to different people. Hence the most important task is to get the team or organization’s definition of agile right. Let there be a common definition and it should be consistent across the organization. Definition of ‘done’ is so important in determining the success and failure. Developers want to ship products quickly and QA wants to ensure the right assurance – but both should agree on the definition of done.

The final step is to have the selection of right tools. Agile has distributed teams and proper test management tool is required for creating a common view. Agile is about transparency, flexibility, collaboration and joint success. A good test management tool will provide the required transparency and provide a single honest view to all the stakeholders. Rich reports and metrics will help for continuous improvement. One of the important aspects is using the information from the past runs and improve – that is where analytics and actionable intelligence comes into the picture.

So, what did I learn? What do we believe as the key success factors for agile implementation?

1. Clarity of goals
2. Transparency
3. Collaboration
4. Right Tools, Processes & Metrics
5. Flexibility

Image Credit: Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games

25
Feb

The Eklavya Experience

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As you progress in life, one of the important anxieties of life is about your child’s education. Are you preparing them for the future? Will they be ready to be a global citizen? Will they learn how to learn? Will they know how to deal with the challenges? What is the right mix between academic rigour and extra-curricular activities? 

So many questions…The funny thing is that none of these questions may have mattered when we had gone to school. Yet we have so many questions. Are we doing analysis paralysis? Are we overdoing this?

School is one part of the equation but a very important part. Because school is the child’s first external environment after the home unit. School environment can determine and influence our children beyond our imagination. 

As parents of two children, me and my wife were clear about a few things while we are selecting our school. Education is important but we did not want to rob the childhood of our kids. Academic rigour and discipline are pre-requisite for a good citizen and strong civic sense is the first religion. But we want our kids to also have time for life activities and no-activity times. We have seen many kids having a schedule that can put a leading consultant to shame – whole life is going to be driven by Outlook Calendars – so why create stress from early days? Knowing Mozart is fine but let our kids also enjoy the music of Mozart of Madras. Knowing Picasso is fine but let them also create doodles on home walls! The only important things are quality of education, discipline, extra-curricular and co-curricular balance, ethics and values driven learning. 

Sometimes life rewards you more than you wish for. Our joy knew no bounds when we discovered Eklavya. It checked all our boxes and it went beyond. We got the admission after waiting for some time and we were very happy. You can read our Eklavya Experience at my earlier blog: The Eklavya Evangelist.

Life was good and my child was enjoying the school life. But life surprises you. At a very short notice, we had to move to a European country and we had to uproot our lives here. It was one of the best education exercise of life. We were taken out of our comfort zones and our autopilot lives were re-programmed. This is the benefit of moving to new place as Subroto Bagchi explained to me during our EDI interactions.

My child was admitted to one of the most wonderful schools – which had children from more than 50 countries and different backgrounds. His best friends were from different continents and it truly broadened his outlook. The teachers were very good and some of the pedagogic approaches were impressive indeed. But somehow all of us missed Eklavya. He would tell his teachers and principal stories of his school (Eklavya) – forgetting that Eklavya was his ex-school. 

Time passed and I was at nearing the end of our stint and we had to decide on the next steps. My son was very clear about what was to be done. He wanted to go back to Eklavya. Not that we needed any strong convincing! My family decided to move earlier than me. This decision would have manifold implications and we would need to plan for it. We would need additional support from our families, employer organization and Eklavya as well. And all these people helped me immensely and I am grateful to them. 

Eklavya Team was very supportive. Principal Madam gave us helpful inputs and Administrative Team was super-efficient. Even in our absence, they made sure that we got the personal touch and advice. Once we landed, teachers took personal interest to ensure my son could catch-up with his peers in certain subjects. It is so special to see class teacher taking more efforts than you to ensure that your child is getting ahead and giving his best – It speaks highly of the individual teacher and her values and greatness – but it is an example of the great organization and ethos created by the founder. Once our son was struggling to get certain act right and the pain of that was on class teacher’s face. That moment is strongly sketched in our minds as a rare example of care and genuine interest in the student’s progress. Right from Principal to support staff, everyone says – My children. Contrast this to a philosophy were students are customers and parents are financiers! During regular school interactions, every teacher has inputs which are specific to your child and they you the same with anecdotes and action steps – this is very high level of engagement and involvement. 

We recently had an interaction with the founder Shri Sunil Handa. He explained that the philosophy was to prepare the children for the future – where they can excel and achieve their true potential. How they can confidently say – I do not know but I am willing to learn and succeed. How they can fail and learn to get up and give another shot till they succeed. The emphasis at Eklavya is to understand the basics and concepts and apply it in own way to real life. The emphasis is also on being an individual with strong civic sense. 

He advised parents to give as much exposure as possible to the children. Watch movies, play sports, meet people from all backgrounds, do all crazy things – but spend time together. He warned parents from giving a sheltered and protected environment – it harms the child. The analogy was – Do not a Dettol mother – sanitizing everything around. Eklavya philosophy would say – Do not stay away from cow-dung. Smell it. Check dry cow-dung. See how it burns. Etc Etc. 

The Eklavya School is following principles similar to the Growth Mindset. In her book ‘Mindset’ author Carol Dweck suggests that our mindset makes a great impact on how we live our life. It determines what kind of a person we become. Many people believe they are super talented and talent alone creates success. There is not much effort required and their intelligence and talent is fixed. This is fixed mindset and it is not a great model. In contrast, people with growth mindset believe that most of their abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication. Talent is a good addition but learning and resilience are key ingredients of success. A growth mindset person thrives on challenges and sees failure as an inspiration for growth and developing existing abilities. All great achievers have had growth mindset.

The practices and principles followed at Eklavya are very similar to the leading Finnish schools and outstanding schools in Britain. However, I would say that Eklavya is in a class of its own. It has its unique values, character and academic approach. The most important part is that everyone at Eklavya lives and executes this uniqueness every day thereby creating a great model of excellence and culture. And the credit goes to the entire Eklavya team from founder Shri Sunil Handa, Principal, Teachers, Administrative Teams, Support Staff and everyone. And as a student of management, it is a very fascinating case study for me. Because Drucker had said – Culture eats strategy for breakfast everyday!

Image Credit: Diana Robinson

Related Reading: The Eklavya Evangelist

18
Feb

Auschwitz – A Mirror Of Our Failure

Auschwitz

Summary:

1. Auschwitz is the global name of genocide. 
2. What have we learnt from Auschwitz? Nothing! 
3. Auschwitz is a moving experience if you can visualise and understand the pain. Else it is another tick in our bucket list. 
4. Auschwitz had more tourists than learners. Unesco site has led to a huge influx of Instagram generation tourists. 
5. Human beings are capable of the most inhuman crimes to their brethren. 
6. Popular and majority view do not mean correct view – Hitler was popular and he led this genocide. 
7. Why was the world silent when this was happening? Where was the greatest nation on the earth?  Why did Allied forces not act earlier – Auschwitz continued for several years!
8. What would be the mental make-up of soldiers? You question how can one set of human being butcher another set of human beings which include children, women and senior citizens? Amy in war and Police in combat situations can kill but how can you kill innocent people – often fooling them? And that also millions of people. 
8. The allowance for Jews for the life-move to the so called better place (Auschwitz) was 20kgs. Our cabin luggage is between 7kg to 10 kg – so imagine how can you carry your life in 20kgs?
9. More than 1 million people were killed. The youngest person was 2 year old. 90% were killed in gas chambers on arrival. 10% were kept as inmates. 
10. Birkenau was 20 times bigger than Auschwitz and was designed to exterminate people quickly. More than 10,000 people were killed in a day. 4 crematoria were not sufficient and people were burnt in open. 
11. Auschwitz is a shame on humanity. It is our failure. But it has happened several times after that as well. 

Additional Points:
12. McDonalds and KFC – Globalization icons welcome you as you enter Auschwitz. A brand is a living thing – then context specificity and sensitivity are important. 
13. Movies to watch: The Pianist, Schindler’s List, The Boy With Striped Pajamas, Life Is Beautiful. 
14. Vegetarian and Indian restaurants were very popular in Krakow. Glonojad is a clear hit with huge queues and Hindu ran out of food. I had one of the best samosas of life at Glonojad.

Auschwitz Diary 

Auschwitz – the global name of genocide and human hatred. It is the place associated with the darkest chapter of modern human civilization. 

Auschwitz was one of the places that was on my mind for a long time. Since my arrival in London, I had regained interest in this chapter of history. After Nordic Noir, Holocaust movies were a topic of my personal research. I had watched all the important movies and documentaries around this dark chapter – The Pianist, Schindler’s List, Life Is Beautiful, The Boy With Striped Pajamas etc. It was natural that the trip to this important historical centre was in the making. It was my desire to visit this place with Vipoobhai and I was very happy that he agreed to visit with me during the month of November. Travel is about destination, journey and the company as well – So I was lucky on that front.

Auschwitz was a one hour drive from Krakow. It was a small town that was physically 60 kms away from city but philosophically in a completely different world. Even today, people live in the town of Oswiecim (The Polish name is Oswiecim but Germans had renamed this as Auschwitz). Actually, there are three concentration and extermination camps in the region – Auschwitz, Birkenau (Auschwitz II) and Monowitz (Auschwitz III). However, Auschwitz is the most famous one though Birkenau saw the maximum deaths and murders in a very industrial and scalable way. 

We were speaking to John, our companion cum driver, about the Auschwitz. He said that he has visited it only twice – once a student and once as an adult few years back. He found the place very difficult and depressing. He informed us that for inhabitants of Oswiecim town, Auschwitz and its memories are a part of their daily lives. As we entered the town, we saw KFC and McDonalds – the global symbols. I thought it as a case of confused branding. Brand is a living being – that is what we marketers believe. It lives in the hearts and mind of the audience. But here these ads seems out of context and out of sync with the audience’s sensitivity.

We reached the Auschwitz camp (now converted into a museum) and we had to stand in the queue till 10:45 am. There were huge crowds and it took us one hour to clear the security checks and meet our guide for the tour. The guide mentioned said that these crowds were negligible. Auschwitz had been getting popular and last three years had been phenomenal. 2014 saw 1 million plus visitors and it rose to 1.5 million visitors in 2015. During 2016, the visitor count has already crossed 2 million. And we were visiting in cold November and yet the crowds were enormous. 

I was aware of the basic history thanks to my reading, movies and discussions. The Jewish and anti-Nazi regime protestors from across the Europe were brought to the concentration camps in Auschwitz. As soon as the trains arrived, the people were segregated. Healthy men were directed to work while old people, women and children were led to the gas chambers. Often, these people were dead within few hours and their death was never recorded – creating a case of missing and forgotten people. People were led to believe that they were going for bath for disinfection and the poisonous gas was leaked onto the naked people. Often all the trains were directed straight to the gas chamber without carrying any selection. The dead bodies were stripped of hair, gold teeth, watches etc. were removed and sold to finance the war economy – often with army personnel pocketing multiple things. The bodies were burnt in the crematorium and the personl documents of dead were destroyed. The conditions in the camp were pathetic and people were shot for minor offences. 

Our tour started with the guide explaining us the history of the place. Auschwitz was originally built as a prison for Polish political prisoners. The first batch of Poles reached in 1940 from Tarnow prison. It was an army garrison at that point of time. But with passage of time, it became the prime centre for extermination of anti-Nazi protestors and Jewish people. It also had people from Roma, Soviet Union and other places. Auschwitz soon ran out of place and Birkenau (Auschwitz II) and Monowitz (Auschwitz III) were built. Birkenau was 20 times bigger than Auschwitz. All the camps were isolated from the world and thick barbed wire fencing surrounded the camps. The camps were run by the dreaded Secret Service (SS) and German state financed it.  

Why was Auschwitz chosen as the location for these concentration camps? Three reasons:
1. It was one of the well-connected junctions. People from all over the Europe could be brought here. People were brought here from even Oslo. 
2. It was easy for Nazis to hide their crime in this remote place. 
3. Poland and Krakow had a sizeable Jewish population. About 30% of European Jewish population was in Poland. So, it had the right population to start with. 

More than 1 million people lost their lives in Auschwitz – though the unofficial figure could be even higher. Many more people were killed and these statistics were not even recorded. The youngest person to be killed was a 2 year old child. Out of the million plus people who were killed, 90% were killed on arrival. Rest were kept as inmates and killed later – by shooting, hunger, bad weather etc. 

As we entered Auschwitz, I saw those famous words on the gate – ‘ Arbeit Macht Frei’ – ‘Work brings freedom’. People had to work and work hard to avoid death. They were lonely and alone and without family. They had poor food and nutrition and had to toil hard. These words were a slogan and a motivator. 

Auschwitz camp was a huge place. We saw the different blocks. Originally, it had 21 blocks and inmates built more blocks during their stay. One block could hold more than 1000 people. It was a rainy winter day that day and I could imagine what it would be without my warm clothes and shoes – most prisoners had to live in pyjamas and they were given only one set of uniform. They had to wear it everyday. Often people died of harsh and cold winters. We later saw photographs of people who survived only one day in the camp – either they were shot for minor offence or they must have died due to harsh situation. 

The blocks had very tiny rooms and hundreds of people had to live in them. There were barracks and three level of bunks. Often they had to fight between them to ensure that they got good place to sleep. The floor was not heated and in winter it was a big problem. The floor was damp and lices and rats were there as well. There were limited toilet blocks and it could not be used in night. They were given a single bucket in the single for usage. The toilets had no water or tissue papers. Hundreds of people lined up for toilet every morning. People were given limited time for their daily needs and hundreds of people had to queue for toilet etc. outside the block in cold or rainy weather. It was sheer humiliation. Some sanitation condition improved after 1943. 

We visited Block 11 where many prisoners were kept in a very small cell and they could only stand. Nothing else. It had a tiny hole for air. They had to crawl to get in and get out. Often prisoners were kept hungry after a hard day’s work – they had to work more than 12 hours a day. They were given tea or coffee in the morning, soup in the day and bread/burger/sausage in the evening. The quality of food was pathetic – soup was often of rotten vegetables. Inadequate food led to malnutrition and many died because of hunger. 

Nazis had to save money as the war was a costly affair. They used the work of prisoners for industrial work. Women worked for bullet making factories. Inmates were slaves for SS. Long working hours and fatigue also led to deterioration of health. Nazis also sold the hair and belongings of killed prisoners for financing the war expenses.

SS officers regularly gave punishment for simple things like trying to get more food or not obeying them. They were flogged in the public. And killed by shooting many times. 

In one of the blocks, the belongings of the Jewish inmates were kept. The inmates were told that they were taken to a better place to work for. They were given hope of a better life. Hence many came with their belongings like utensils, personal grooming products etc. In fact, the irony was that many actually paid to come to Auschwitz as it promised a better life and they could escape the atrocities back home. But here they were cheated. As soon as people landed, there was a selection process. The camp doctor would classify people into strong and weak. One sign of hand of the camp doctor and the fate was sealed. The camp doctor would immediately send the weaker people and children and old people to gas chambers. Or phenol was inserted into their hearts. Hence their belongings remained at Auschwitz – we could see many kitchen utensils, shaving brushes, shoe shine, shoes, luggage bags, bags of kids etc. Each item had a life story. It was sad. 

Going back to the above topic, the Jews in the cities had to first move to the Jewish ghettos. They had to give up their property etc. They had to work hard in only licensed work. They were given ID card and had to wear Jewish star. There were restrictions on what they could read, write and watch. People were killed under slightest pretext. Later they were moved to Auschwitz. But they were given a false impression of the Auschwitz. For the trip to Auschwitz, they had to carry entire life’s belongings. They were only allowed 20 kgs. So most of the people took chair – the chair was versatile and could help them for various purposes. And of course at Auschwitz, they had to undergo a selection process at the unloading area. Families met for the last time at the unloading area. After that families were separated. 

For the people arriving to Auschwitz from other parts of Europe, often the journey was for 4-5 days or more. The journey was in rail bogies and the bogies were cramped with hundreds of people. There was no window or toilet inside the bogey. Many people died in the journey itself. Often the bogies would be full of dead bodies only – when opened at Auschwitz. 

Many healthy women and men were also selected as guinea pigs and the camp doctors did various experiments on them. Women were experimented for various sterilisation methods and many died in the process. Block 10 was the place where camp doctors conducted several experiments. Prof. Dr Carl Clauberg, a German gynaecologist, conducted several sterilisation experiements and many died from the treatment they received. Many were murdered so that the autopsies could be performed on them. Few people survived and they continued to have permanent injuries.

The area between Block 10 and Block 11 was the shooting wall. People were shot dead. The windows next to the wall were covered with wood – so that inmates could not see what was happening. They could hear but not see. In one of the blocks, we saw an entire floor full of hair of dead women. These hairs were collected to sell in the market for textiles and other purposes. The 1 kg of hair was sold for a price that was equal to one quarter price paid for cigarettes. 

In Block 11, more than 250 prisoners were killed by Zyklon B in one of the first case of mass extermination and it was then repeated often. But soon they realised the need for a dedicated crematorium. 

We finally came to the gas chambers. Nazis were finding it difficult to kill so many people everyday by shooting. It was also affecting morale of some soldiers. So they wanted to find new means to exterminate the Jews. They were given the solution to kill people by gas.

The people arriving at the railway station were directed straight to the crematorium. The people were tricked and they entered the gas chambers assuming that they were going for a shower bath. They were asked to get naked and their belongings were taken away. They were told that after the bath and cleaning wash and disinfection, they would be given appropriate jobs in the labour camps. Even the existing inmates left their uniforms outside. Once the Jews entered the chambers, the doors were closed. An SS officer in a gas mask would take off the chimney lids of the crematorium, open the Zyklon B cans and release the contents onto the heads of the victims. The inmates cried and died within minutes – their cries were shut by engine of nearby lorries. Then their bodies were burnt continuously. The smell conveyed it all to the other inmates. The output of the furnaces was low as compared to the death and corpses were also being transported to Birkenau and buried in mass graves. 

After Auschwitz, we went to Birkenau- it was 20-24 times bigger than Auschwitz. Wherever your eyes could see, you could see the camp. It was much bigger and designed to exterminate more people. 10,000 people could be killed in one day. It was the extermination factory. It had 4 crematoria but they were not sufficient and people were burnt in open as well. There were several prisoner volunteers and SS officers who worked hard for extra cigarettes and liquor. 

We saw the huge gas chambers and the crematoria. We saw the block for women. The block had minimal room and 600 women were cramped into it. The irony was that there was only one bucket for toilet and 600 women had to share that for their needs. Women were suffering from diseases and diarrhea. Women had three level bunk bed and top was the best place – because on ground or mid floor – people could get wet due to stool from above. Many times women were left out in the open courtyard – and they died in winter in 2-3 hours. 

Only about 200,000 people survived the concentration camps. Last year, during the celebrations of 70 years, about 2000 people were present. Many people do not talk about this dark chapter of their lives. 

Nazis later destroyed the records and exterminated the witnesses. The mass murder apparatus was terminated. These buildings in Birkenau were destroyed by the Nazis themselves as they feared as their crimes would be exposed. 

We asked: what did we learn as humanity from this? Nothing!

Auschwitz is a shame on humanity. It is our failure. But it continues….

18
Feb

Blockchain – The Trusted Ledger Of Everything

Blockchain - The Trusted Ledger of Everything - Image2

Digital is redefining everyday lives. Our life experiences are shaped by digital forces. The artificial intelligence and internet of everything are on the cusp of becoming a daily reality. However, the financial and economic transactions in our digital lives are still ruled by old paradigms. The need for a third-party intermediary to verify our identity and intent still exists. It creates a slow, old, vulnerable and expensive system which has been the basis of our financial world. Blockchain aims to redefine this antiquated system.

Blockchain is the breakthrough technology that is revolutionizing the world economy. It is essentially an open-source distributed database. The digital database uses state-of-the-art cryptography and mass collaboration to authenticate and settle transactions. The ever-expanding chain of computers form the network and everyone on the networks approves an exchange before it is verified and recorded. It is truly open source, peer-to-peer and highly secure – thus becoming the platform of trust.

Bitcoin was the first use case of Blockchain. The power and potential of Blockchain lies in its ability to represent anything digital – rights, goods and property. The emerging use cases of Blockchain include:

1. Property Rights / Land Records – Governments can avoid fraudulent deeds, manipulation of records and conflict of ownership by leveraging Blockchain

2. Electronic Medical Records – Healthcare industry has multiple stakeholders accessing patient information. Hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, governments etc. can be confident that they are working on secure, encrypted and genuine records using Blockchain

3. Certificate of Authentication – Fraudulent transactions will be avoided as every transaction is recorded and distributed on public ledger.

4. Certification of Compliances – Everledger has authenticated more than 1000,000 diamonds using Blockchain. It has developed a system of warranties that enable mining companies to verify that their rough-cut diamonds are not being used by militias to fund conflicts. Thus, it ensures compliance with Kimberley Process. Bye Bye Blood Diamonds.

5. Share Ownership Registry – US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has approved the use of the Blockchain as a share ownership register for online retailer Overstock.com.

6. Micropayments: People wanting to read just one article or subscribe to 2 channels on Cable TV can use the Blockchain Infrastructure. ChangeCoin allows instant transfer of value irrespective of size. Similarly, Chain allows to give tip to a blogger or car share driver – very useful in a sharing economy.

7. Data Privacy – Estonia, the leading European country in digital services uses a Blockchain implementation to manage and protect its citizens’ data across about 1,000 online services.

8. Patents & Innovation – Authentication and verification

9. ESOPs for Employees

10. Wills

11. Tax Collection

12. Remittance of Funds to Unbanked

It is not surprising that all the leading companies in the world are working on Blockchain in some form or the other. Microsoft has built multiple offerings on Blockchain by leveraging its Azure platform. IBM, PWC, UBS, Bank of Canada are other organizations working on Blockchain. Who’s Who have joined Hyperledger – including Amex, Wells Fargo, J P Morgan, Intel, IBM, BNP Paribas, Samsung, Intuit etc. R3 is leading a consortium of 75 world’s leading financial institutions including Wells Fargo, Barclays, UBS to design and deliver advanced distributed ledger technologies. Billions of dollars are being invested in Silicon Valley startups working on Blockchain.

Several institutions including financial organizations will be severely impacted by Blockchain as it bypasses the traditional channels. Governments, legal agencies, enforcement organizations will need to understand and embrace this technology. Often the ignorance of the potential of Blockchain and understanding of its working causes skepticism about the technology. Blockchain enthusiasts need to educate, inform and demonstrate the benefits in action.

The rise of Blockchain is imminent. The speed of the rise will be determined by social, legal, political and human acceptance.

Image Credit: Blockchaintechnologies.com