Driving change: The municipality way!

Recently I had to forcefully undergo a small transformation in my routine. Pune municipality had banned parallel parking outside my workplace for reasons best known to its officials. Some guess they were doing this to make room for the metro project. But no one had any first-hand information as to why they were doing it. Anyway, there are limited parking lots for four-wheelers dedicated to my employer; 6 to be precise. I believe, at least 12-15 people owned cars at my workplace with employee strength of 60 people.

During the early days when this ban was imposed, everyone was pissed off for obvious reasons. It was a shock to their routines. Commuters now realized that they had limited flexibility when it came to office arrival timings. They continued to parallel park their vehicles only to attract fines. Much to their dismay, the street had become traffic police’s hot spot. It took some time for the dust to settle down. People slowly realized that the Pune Municipality had pulled up its socks for some serious business.

The following week, I began to use the dedicated parking lots. I had never used the parking lots before. It was a tricky place to park a car without electronic parking assistance or otherwise. During this week it was easy to find a parking space. I had to just be on time to find one, and I was mostly the first one to park; thanks to the proximity of my home from the workplace. The following week was a surprise. I arrived five minutes late only to see 3 parking slots left. The battle for parking space had begun.

In the meanwhile, people had almost stopped blaming the municipality, instead, they were rationalizing the move. Some were strategizing around how to be early and block a parking space. On ground zero, the battle for parking was getting heated-up. Some people had given up and resorted to bikes and Uber. Some scouted for small alleys and parking lots around the locality. I myself found enough parking spaces around my office; this was my contingency plan or plan B if for some reason I reach late and don’t find a parking space. Eventually, there were probably 8 or 9 contenders for 6 parking places. Outside, the parallel parking space was desolate. One could only see a couple of cars oddly parked by visitors unbeknownst of the rule and regulations.

The municipality had successfully conditioned drivers to adapt to the change by disrupting their routines. Some forceful measures were used here, but without this, it was impossible to mobilize and change the habits of hundreds of car owners. In retrospect, it was a smooth operation for the Pune municipality. It was wonderful to see a local government body devoid of all the arcane subspeciality (change) of management had successfully influenced so many people with authority in a matter of weeks.

Without going into the moral and ideal nuances, there are lessons we can take from the government, which has been spearheading and managing change for hundreds of years. Most of the efforts are lost in defining management jargony and complying with the rulebook around change initiatives. At times, organizations need to get assertive or mildly coercive around managing change.

Dal Chawal: The power of staple diets

Lately, I have been practicing running to improve my pace and time. Last year I was a complete novice at running, I just wanted to give it a try. There was no structured training involved, no plan and no diet. This year I am chasing all the metrics; cadence, SPM, HR, pronation, you name it. While I was busy chasing the metrics, I was completely oblivious or rather ignorant of one very important factor; diet. And thus I embarked on the pursuit to research and understand the diet of some of the successful athletes. I binged watched Youtube Videos and read blogs. Though I got some good content around diet, adopting the habits and diets of pro athletes remained a far cry for two reasons; cost and availability. I was not a pro-athlete, I was simply trying to complete my 10ks under 70 minutes.

Last week on a WhatsApp group of runners, I read the coach say: just have a high carb meal tonight, tomorrow we are going to run 10k at an easy pace. The keyword here was “High Carb”. And one of the first Google results for high carb was cereals and pulses. And Dal Chawal was one of the favorite meals that Indian runners preferred to have in their daily diet. As a matter of fact, Dal Chawal can qualify for all three meals as an Indian staple. And hence I decided to include more Dal Chawal in my weekly diet. It was a no brainer.

The catch here is that the word Diet is often misconstrued as the most complex, rich and expensive food that one has to eat to perform better or get better. The moment people hear “diet” they assume it to be either boring or too difficult to follow. When I incorporated the Dal Chawal routine, I understood the simple intrinsic meaning on diet: it is a staple and readily available food in your region that provides you adequate nutrients and energy while being easy on your tummy. While our digestive system is versatile to deal with a range of foods, it might be helpful if we build some routine for it. We are often bombarded with numerous propositions to try different delicacies and diets. And then we keep on surprising or tummy with various stuff. I believe that generates all in the inefficiency in the system and my belief is based on my experience.

I am not against having variety but it won’t hurt to build some predictability in our system. And stable diets are just meant for that, whole nations and communities rely on it and we tend to ignore it and take for granted.

We should appreciate and acknowledge the power of stable diets and Dal Chawal simply wins for me. 🙂






Limited by imagination

We as human beings offer limited imagination to our progeny. Look no further than kids drawing book. It is full of houses with triangular roofs and rectangular walls. A yellow sun in the sky which is always shinning. And a tree hanging in mid-air. Occasional father, mother, and siblings as stick figures: always smiling.

A few years down the line when these kids learn to observe and imagine better, they realize that no houses around them look the way they imagined them to be. Trees are grounded, their plush branches have their own details. Mother, Father, and Siblings are of different shapes and they seldom smile. There is also a night after a bright day. A celestial body called the moon revolves around the earth.

Now, they lose all hope when they think of replicating all the reality on a two-dimensional sheet. They quit drawing.

This is how idealism paralyzes us. Failure to imagine reality harms us. Theoretical concepts limit us. But we still fall in that trap. And we keep falling.

Managing Customer Expectations: Learning from a Tea Stall

There is a small tea stall near my workplace called Maharashtra Tea Stall. This stall is manned and managed by 25-year-old Ravi who also serves delicious Poha. The days on which I skip breakfast at home, I look forward to having Poha at Ravi’s stall. Ravi only makes 20-25 plates of Poha and starts serving it at 10 am sharp. If you are even 15 or 20 minutes late, you might be disappointed to hear that there is no Poha left for you.

One day I reached a little late only to find the Poha vessel empty. A bit disappointed, I asked Ravi, “Why don’t you cook more Poha? And sell it to more people? You are losing on a big opportunity here.”

And his prompt reply was that people like to have their Poha hot. I don’t want to serve lukewarm Poha to customers who might turn grumpy when they find the Poha is not up to their taste.

There was a small lesson here. Ravi consciously or subconsciously had learned the art of managing customer expectations. He was serving Poha at the right place, at the right time to a customer segment who demanded steamy hot Poha. Ravi had complete control over the quality and availability of those 25 plates. He was averse to create any excess inventory of Poha on which he might have to compromise on the quality parameter.

Ravi could handle disappointed latecomers like me but he did not intend the customers to be disappointed with the very taste of his Poha. The latter would lead to unhappy customers who might never look forward to having Poha at Ravi’s. For the latecomers, the only signal was “why don’t you try next time?”

Do we have a choice (2)

Sharing Old post from 2018

Have you noticed one peculiar thing around Thugs of Hindostan? The movie didn’t get the marketing it deserved given its perceived loftiness. The trailer has garnered around 80 million views. Just to create a contrast, the new version of “Dilbar Dilbar” on YouTube has 200 million+ views.

Don’t be amazed at my observation,but just saying, were the producers aware of the hard truth that the Movie is just going to fall flat on its face? why waste money on marketing.

Or was it an intelligent move considering that Indian’s would hardly have any choice at the theater this long Diwali weekend. Why market to people who don’t even have a choice. Guess what, Competition laws are not even applicable here.

This is the brute force of late capitalism where you are going to pay for not having a choice. Unlike the early nineties where you did not have to pay for not having a choice. The days of crony capitalism and redtapism: of Bajaj Chetak and Doordarshan. Oops this escalated unnecessarily.

Go enjoy your movie because you don’t have a choice.

Do we have a choice?

Yesterday I ported my number from Idea to Airtel. When I decided to port my number, I just had two sound choices; Jio and Airtel. I had to port because Idea simply sucked, at least in my locality.

10 years ago, I was spoilt for choice. Tata Docomo, Uninor, Aircel, Vodafone/Hutch, BSNL, Tata Indicom, Reliance CDMA, Idea, you name them. Numerous plans and schemes left us bewildered. There was a lot of product differentiation. Night calls, day calls, per second, per minute, SMS packs you name it.

20 years back, a fixed BSNL landline was a government monopoly. We did not have any choice. Either pay irrational prices or settle with no phone connection.

Yesterday, when I spotted an Airtel store, there was a Jio store right across the street. It was a busy street. I opted for Airtel to avoid the pain of crossing the street. Ok, I am kidding. But you get the point, it is clearly a duopoly now. Call it crony capitalism or mere incompetence of the likes of Idea and Vodafone to match the innovative prowess of Jio and Operational Excellence of Airtel.

Today there is no confusion because we don’t really have a choice. So how do we know we are paying less or more. We are back to the BSNL era. And the Telecom Industry is again ripe for disruption. Wondering who it will be this time.