Playing Toady to Modi!

India May Be Watching the Modi-Trump Meeting, Not The World

The Obamas are on a holiday in Indonesia, a visit that figures in The Straits Times today. Pakistan issuing its first transgender passport found coverage in it, too.

The newspaper, however, has no mention of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington.

I checked out the TV channels of BBC, CNN, Fox News, Sky News, CNBC and Bloomberg. Mr Modi’s visit did not even find mention in the news ticker. The landslide in China was on most of them.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to Hong Kong appears in CNN.

For India’s Times Now, which revels in playing toady to Modi, the world is watching the meeting between the Prime Minister and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The world is interested in India for its billion-plus market. And for its cheap IT labour which is, nonetheless, in decline.

Getting carried away by events that are routine, such as a PM’s overseas jaunts, is nothing more than an exercise in jingoism.

G Joslin Vethakumar 

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Lee Family Dispute: Legalese and Venom Show there is Little to Do with Matters of the Heart

PM’s Statement Brings Up Serious Questions on Will!

“It is with a heavy heart that I will leave Singapore in the foreseeable future.” This note is from the statement released by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, but by bringing matters of the heart into the public domain they laid bare their intent which may not necessarily mean bringing down late Lee Kuan Yew’s Oxley Road house in line with his will in probate.

With legalese and venom against their elder brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the statement does not leave me convinced that what they want is nothing other than honouring of their late father’s wish.

In contrast, PM Lee’s first statement in Facebook appeared to have come from the heart, an expression of disappointment at the decision of his siblings to go public with what was essentially a family dispute. He followed it up with a detailed rebuttal, through a statutory declaration issued through his lawyers.

Bringing Disrepute to First Family

A naïve question from the brother-sister combine is why PM Lee did not take the issue to court. It beats me how it did not occur to people of their stature that it was simply to stay clear of anything that could bring disrepute to the family.

PM Lee has raised doubts about how the demolition clause that was not in wills 5 and 6 made it to will number 7, the final one. He also brought up a conflict of interest since the final will appeared to have been prepared or supervised by Lee Hsien Yang’s wife, Lee Suet Fern. So, the matter may end up with a legal resolution.

Criticism from China: “Lackeys of America”

By making the family feud public, the siblings have brought international embarrassment for Singapore. Even China and its netizens have heavily criticised Singapore with comments such as: “Lee Hsien Loong did not go against the wishes of Lee Kuan Yew because both father and son chose to be lackeys of America”.

The siblings are to be blamed for not only causing harm to the legacy of late Lee Kuan Yew but also to Singapore’s reputation.

There is no question that the house must go if it is established the will was valid and reflected the late leader’s final wish.

If, however, it emerges that the father of the nation was only tentative about having the house demolished and if the issues the Prime Minister has raised are confirmed in a court of law, then the Lee Hsien Yang family may not be able to leave Singapore as they now wish. 

If that happens, it will prevent heritage getting reduced to rubble.

My Earlier Post:

G Joslin Vethakumar

1 Comment

Filed under Lee Kuan Yew

What a Tame Draw!

Carlsen, Anand Dish Out Mediocre Chess in World’s Strongest Tournament

It was a waste of time watching two world champions, current and past, play out a draw by repetition of moves in the ninth and final round of the Norway Chess 2017 that ended that minutes ago.

V Anand appeared to hold the edge after the first 10 moves, but then he started to cower and got into defensive mode. Magnus Carlsen was no better as both were perhaps too keen to avoid finishing at the bottom of the world’s strongest Super GM tournament.

Carlsen’s dismal performance all through the event will have been a huge disappointment for his home fans in Norway.

G Joslin Vethakumar

Leave a comment

Filed under Anand and Carlsen, Chess

Carlsen Faces Anand in Norway Today

But the Super GM Tournament has been a Forgettable One for Both

Altibox Norway Chess, the strongest Super GM tournament, has so far been a forgettable one for both World Champion Magnus Carlson and the player he dethroned Viswanathan Anand.

Anand vs Carlsen 2The two face each other today in the final round with leader Aronian having a comfortable two-point lead over both.

It was only in Round 7 that Anand had his first win, with Fabiano Caruana being his victim. Still, that was one up on Carlsen who had his first win only yesterday, in Round 8 over Karjakin.

I intend to watch the live streaming, as I did last night when Anand drew with Aronian. Carlsen holds the psychological edge while Anand will hope to salvage some lost pride.

G Joslin Vethakumar

Leave a comment

Filed under Anand and Carlsen, Chess

Singapore in Good Hands, the Lee Family Feud Notwithstanding

It is easy for the public to wade into polemics and politics even when something is essentially a family spat. When what is at stake is an attack on the system, it goes beyond a family affair.

Voicing an opinion in this era of social engagement is unstoppable. Let me start, with a comment rooted in frivolity, by dipping myself into the unexpected burst of sensitive charges in Singapore that has set international tongues wagging.

China may have abandoned its one-child policy, but I think families in Singapore, and elsewhere, must consider giving it weightage. It may sound feather-brained, yet, at least it will save families from having to lock horns in public over trivialities that destroy unity, harmony and peace.

The family spat that has put Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in an unenviable spot goes to show that without brothers and sisters to contend with, issues will find easy resolution. No egos to get bruised or animosities to become toxic!

No to Monuments

Late Lee had willed that the house he lived in must be demolished after his death, firmly opposed as he was to monuments and memorials. His place will be firmly etched in the annals of history as a powerful, scholarly and visionary leader who was instrumental in the phenomenal economic success of Singapore.

The incident only goes to show that no matter how educated, affluent and civilised you are, family tussles can come to a boil, with sophistication and maturity in reactions seriously compromised.


Preparing to Leave Singapore

Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the Prime Minister’s younger brother, has generally been soft and gentle, keeping a low profile despite the powerful positions he has held and seldom seeking attention, going by what I have read about him in the past.

I find it shocking that he was preparing to leave Singapore over his differences with the Prime Minister and over fears that state organs may be used against him and his family. That appears to be too far-fetched an apprehension.

Notwithstanding the family feud that has spilled into the open, my faith in the Singapore leadership remains firm. The country has been and is in good hands. No crystal ball gazing can help one determine how it will be in the future.

Singapore’s Best Bet

There have been many governmental policies that have not resonated well with me. I have consistently blogged against the relentless focus on boosting the country’s population and globalisation at the expense of locals in terms of education and employment. There is no wavering on that even now.

Mr Lee and his ministerial team, however, are Singapore’s best bet amid the challenges all around – the most significant one being the terror threat within and outside the country which is at the highest ever with the recent arrest of an ISIS sympathiser.

Shelley, Ozymandias and LKY

An avid reader, the late leader himself, though, may have viewed history as ephemeral. The statement from Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling (brother and neurosurgeon sister of PM Lee respectively) referred to the late leader as having pointed to PB Shelley’s memorable sonnet, Ozymandias, to explain his desire to have the Oxley Road house demolished.

Oh, what a masterly piece of poetic genius Ozymandias is! I am reproducing the last few lines of the poem here.

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The scuffle within Singapore’s preeminent family has indeed taken me back to my days as a student of Literature

Although not all has been well among the siblings, with tension simmering since the March 2015 death of Lee Kuan Yew, I did not think it will come to this pass. The Western media are certain to play up the feud, flashing their favourite themes of a lack of free speech in Singapore.

Revulsion for Abuse of History

I have a personal revulsion for any use of the past to float a stream of thought in defence or derision of the present. History, to me, is not a lesson for us to learn from. History is for knowledge acquisition, not a weapon for the world to use against a transformative way of life.

A past that has been full of evil cannot be taken to mean it will fester and manifest itself in the present. Just as any goodness and virtues of the past need not necessarily be carried over to the present. Today’s Greece is a far cry from ancient Greece.

However, heritage getting reduced to rubble will not find favour with me.

As for the dispute around the Oxley Road house of Late Lee, I may like to see it preserved but it is for the family to address.

G Joslin Vethakumar


Filed under Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore

Nadal, Easy Winner at Roland Garros

There were some flashes of sparkling tennis from Wawrinka. And some frustrations too that saw him break his racquet once.

When it became clear there was no way he could upstage Nadal, he became a little relaxed flashing a smile here and there and even encouraging spectators to clap.

Nadal simply reasserted his supremacy as the clay court monarch with a straight-set Grand Slam win at Roland Garros today.

On a jarring note, I saw Wawrinka spit on the court. This is something footballers do but I do not remember having seen it on a tennis court.

For his part, Nadal poured orange drink from a bottle onto the ground while seated during a break.

It was not a pleasant sight, but what the heck, winning the French Open title for the 10th time is a remarkable feat.

Congratulations, Nadal!

G Joslin Vethakumar 

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Will Sales Survive AI Threat?

Artificial Intelligence is top of mind for influencers and those with a stake in reshaping the world and defining the future –not for the rudderless and the clueless who it may displace.

The world is coming out of its ivory tower and beginning to acknowledge that Artificial Intelligence will impact even white-collar jobs, not stopping at automating mundane tasks such as dish washing, tray return or floor cleaning.

Importantly, machines that could understand human emotions are in advanced stages of development with researchers in China contributing in a big way to the robotic revolution.

Welcome to my World

It’s a no-brainer that automation lowers costs while enhancing operational efficiencies. At risk are those excelling in dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s despite the meticulous attention they pay to detail. If strategic thinking and proficiency in value selling are anathema to you, with a steadfast faith in tactical extraneous elements, then you can count yourself also among the vanishing breed.

For Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, efficiency does not lie in just automating the old way of doing things. Relaying this message in an interview to Australian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday, he was clear that technology can make a big difference

Three Game-Changing Areas

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates asserts AI will be one of three areas he will consider honing his skills on if he were to start life afresh today and get his learning momentum going. The other two areas he will have been drawn to are energy and biosciences. That’s saying it with conviction and clairvoyance while hitting the bulls-eye, capturing the essence of the future.

Did Energy figure in his list of priorities because of the Smart Grid evolution that unfolded more than a decade ago and the accompanying IoT innovations? Hardly! Rather it is because “making it clean, affordable and reliable will be essential for fighting poverty and climate change.” That is fully aligned with his personality, focused as he is on philanthropy, poverty alleviation and making a positive impact on society.

Brain AI

Super-Intelligent Robots

The humanist he is, Mr Gates has also advocated taxing robots who replace real people. I do not, however, see any divergence in his thought stream. Learning is not to be confused with articulation of an opinion based on principles and impact of a development on society.

Always forthright, he had once even said that the world must fear the robot uprising, a sentiment also articulated by the likes of physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Tesla /SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

In the words of Mr Gates, “First, the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.’

B2B, H2H, E-Commerce and a Human Touch

Super-intelligent robots are certain to leave real people scrambling for jobs while bracing up for what could lead to a disaster for humanity, per Prof. Hawking’s warning.

The grim prognostications aside, one group of employees an AI sweep may leave untouched will be those in customer-facing B2B sales roles, unless prospects and customers are ready to talk to robots! Even here, Forrester has a dismal prediction – that one million B2B sales jobs will disappear by 2020.

The Costs Involved in Field-Based Selling

That’s a gloomy portrait, with other reports holding the Forrester figure as a drop in the ocean. This is not removed from reality, with cost-cutting being the mantra dear to businesses for profitability.

There can be no denying that field-based sales and presales personnel involve hefty expenditure for companies – with the biggest damage coming from failed prospecting. The cost of winning deals will raise no eyebrows. It is only when deals are lost the costs get noticed.

On the positive side, though, the significance of Human-to-Human (H2H) interactions will continue to sustain sales manager jobs in businesses delivering large infrastructural solutions.

That can be a possibility if sales personnel embrace a consultative culture, inspiring confidence and trust among prospects by demonstrating thought leadership and presenting them with a vision for their future in a true spirit of collaboration.


Armchair Soothsayer, Research Analysts and Chatbots

Whether the same can be said of smaller solution providers who may shift their focus to online sales amid the continuing surge in e-commerce is a moot point.

Without being an armchair soothsayer, I may have to rely on data from market research analysts. The only hitch is that research indicates the latter themselves are at risk of falling prey to AI, no thanks to chatbots for sales and marketing that deliver swift information by connecting to a wide range of tools for analysis.

Some tapering can be expected to happen, thanks to the power of human innovation through R&D resulting in AI sophistication.

Last year Mastercard ® launched a pilot for tapping the potential inherent in AI-based virtual sales assistant technology for advice on putting together and closing deals.

That may well become the norm soon!

G Joslin Vethakumar


Leave a comment

Filed under Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Assistants