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Archive for July, 2013

Our new ride

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 28, 2013


We have finally bought a piece of history. Yes, when Ratan Tata launched the $2000 car, he changed the game forever. Tata Nano will always find a special mention in the annals of automotive innovations. Since 2009, I have wanted to own one, a wish that came true last week. I am happy 🙂 and so is Appu!

Tata Nano45 miles to a gallon, 650 cc engine that  revs up a maximum speed of 65 mph and you have a car great for city driving in India.  It doesn’t cost $2000 anymore, yet the price tag of $4000 for a fully loaded version is still worth every drop of gas saved.

It does take sometime getting used to. Sitting in one feels like being inside a “pimped” egg shell. There is enough room for 4 decently sized human beings. You do have to compromise with a mere 80 L boot space.  But then again, at this price and mileage, it doesn’t hurt.

So, if any one of you wants a ride in this toy, do come over. We’d be glad to share our piece of joy 🙂

Posted in Travel | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Message of the day

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 14, 2013

“Dedicate everything to God”

Turned on the TV this morning and saw Joel Osteen preaching. Yes, televangelists have taken over the morning slot on Indian television. Some make sense while others make money. Since I regard Joel to be the former, I didn’t change the channel. Of the many things being talked about, the one that left an impression on me was his message to dedicate everything to God; every word, every action, every desire. How every obstacle would be removed if only we began our endeavors in the name of God. I lit an incense stick and began my day.

Later in the afternoon, while reading “Personal Panchanga and the Five Sources of Light” by Komilla Sutton, I came across the following lines

“Agni (the element Fire) was the primary principle through which the gods communicated with the earth and agni feeds from the offerings given to gods by humans. Agni wants the soul to act in the voice of God, to dedicate all its actions and karma to the gods….If all actions are thus dedicated there is no need to worry about getting any negative effects of karma.”

What I like about this message is the fact that mere dedication of something can work as an offering. Gods do not ask for donations, riches, grand sacrifices that have become the flavor of the day in temples across India. All one needs to do, to seek divine blessing is to dedicate every action to God. That in itself serves as an offering.

A beautiful message from a Christian and a Vedic Source, couldn’t have asked for a better Sunday.

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Altruism and Organizational Behavior

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 9, 2013

I enjoy exploring evolutionary explanations for our behaviors. One such fascinating characteristic displayed by human beings is altruism. On an individual level three explanations have been propounded. “The kind of process, where animals help promote the survival and reproductive success of their relatives, is known as kin selection.” Outside relationships reciprocal altruism exists. It thrives on hope for a return of the favor and trust in the sincerity of the receiver. A third explanation for altruism is mutualism where cooperation yields results that individual endeavors fail to achieve.

It is at group level that altruism becomes more intriguing and certain explanations present key lessons for organizations aiming to strengthen teamwork and solidarity among their employees. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson and philosopher Eliot Sober argue that, “..under certain conditions, it is possible for animal groups to function as the vehicles of selection, where the animals that make up those groups evolve traits that help increase the survival of the group at the expense of other groups or individuals. One of the most crucial conditions to be met is that there must both be competition between individuals in different groups and competition between individuals in the same group….it is crucially important that groups are in competition with each other and not isolated, each living on its own ecological island”.

Organizational-BehaviourIt is easy to see how such an argument can be used to foster constructive competitiveness among different departments/teams in an organization. I manage a manufacturing unit that houses four different production units, each employing around 35 workers. Until recently they worked as “isolated islands”. Each unit was accountable for production actualization with minimal wastage. Quarterly reviews were held with unit supervisors in “isolation”. To keep workers motivated, best performing workers from each unit were rewarded for their efforts.

A couple of months back, I decided to change things. We put the four units in competition with each other and removed the barriers that we had developed between them. The production teams now compete in monthly ‘5S” and Attendance competitions. We no longer reward individuals in the units, but the entire unit team. Quarterly reviews of the four units are held in the presence of representatives of all units. Analytic charts comparing performances of the four units are drawn and their contribution to the company’s top line and bottom line discussed.

While it is too early to judge the outcome of the change, positive signs are visible. Overall attendance of our organization has seen a 12% increase. Unit supervisors have observed stronger camaraderie among the workforce and wastage/defects levels have come down significantly.

While most organizations focus too heavily on dynamics within a team, better results can be generated by adding an external stimulus, an external threat or competition to the team. This will cause team members to evolve behaviors towards each other that will enhance the overall performance of the team.

Posted in Management Consulting | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Dust thou art…

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 7, 2013


Haridwar is one of the holiest places for Hindus. It is here that the river Ganges descends from the Himalayas and begins its journey along the great northern plains of India. Millions of pilgrims visit Haridwar every year to bathe in holy water of Ganges and wash away their sins. It is here, by the banks of the river, that thousands of Hindus immerse ashes of their loved ones into the Ganges and perform final rites of their relatives. And this is a scene that draws me to the river banks frequently.

Most people visit the holy banks to take a dip in the water or pray at the temples there. Not me. I climb onto an over-bridge and spend more than a few minutes looking down at the portion of the banks dedicated to immersing ashes into the gushing river and priests performing ritual prayers for the dead. I see mourning relatives fold their hands in prayer as they let the remains of their loved ones unite with the divine river. And I think to myself, someday, someone will do the same for me. I will be that ash that dissolves into insignificance in the mighty river. And just like that, I will be gone.

It is this humbling experience that draws me to the Ganges. It is therapy. It makes me realize how inconsequential the things that bother my mind are. And this realization is an awakening, a rejuvenating experience that lifts my spirits unlike anything else. Last rites have a mystic spiritualism attached to them. I just found it.

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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