Category Archives: General

How the Mediocre Survive!

The corporate world is full of mediocre people who survive by cosying up to the establishment and by doing what they are good at – spreading tales and venom! Put simply, beyond espionage at the workplace!

Why should that culture not be relevant in team sport, too?

Whether these traits cement the place of some known for their consistency in failing is not for me to say.

During my chess-playing days, as Madras Division champion and captain, I had seen the depths to which players will fall to have their way and then plot the downfall of some just so they can establish their own cliques.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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No Room for Fiction in Proposals!

Pursuit Strategy, Business and Politics – The Art of Storytelling

A bit of drama sells in every sphere of activity. In business as in politics – and cinema! In some countries, marketing and operations, nothing else matters!

Not always, though! Most winning proposals, for instance, are ones that tell a business story persuasively – without any histrionics. In fact, every RFP of every hue carries an unambiguous message: “no marketing information.” Akin to the stark warning on cigarette packs that “smoking kills.”

Fiction and histrionics are only transient forces deployed for a telling effect in politics and, to some extent, in business.

StorytellingEffective storytelling, nonetheless, will go a long way in enabling the success of a pursuit strategy. Except that the themes we weave around a story will have to stand strong reviewer scrutiny. Intense fact-checking is an essential part of proposal evaluation that businesses cannot ignore.

Hardly Relevant Fluff

Where the narrative goes out of hand is when proposal writers leverage marketing content and play up information that will not rank high among evaluators. If one bidder claims 80% of Fortune 500 customers, another puts the figure at 90%. If 8 out of the top 10 banks make up the customer tally of a vendor another goes with 10/10. Such fluff, whether it is fact or fiction, may not even be fact-checked or counted as a strength by the evaluation team.

In politics and cinema, the protagonists may have an audience predisposed to them – just as U.S. President Donald Trump is seen winning the storytelling game in this side-splitting CNN piece today.

The thundering message from the writer is that “Trump’s stories are often more fiction than fact. But the thing about a story, like a novel or a drama, is that it’s not really meant to be fact-checked.”

The comic relief the President’s stories provide to his fans sustain the momentum he builds – and his popularity.

Some charms do sell when the going is good. Fake, evil fortunes do not, however, last long. Just as Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s world came crumbling down as the #Me Too movement gathered steam.

Business is the opposite of politics, even if there is collusion often between the two – it has to be built on fact – its marketing messages can be hyperbolic but if they are founded on fiction they will not have an outcome that is different from “smoking kills.”

G Joslin Vethakumar

Personal Jottings Aug 2018

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SingHealth Breach: How Vulnerable is NGNBN, Powered by Huawei?

In 2013, when I was working for BT, I had written an article for a medical journal about the fascinating developments transforming healthcare — from stem cell breakthroughs to tapping artificial intelligence for diagnosis and therapeutic treatments.

I also talked about the Next-Generation National Broadband Network in Singapore (Next Gen NBN), the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) and the need to implement a secure database infrastructure with the highest level of encryption and authentication to deal with any possible breaches in patient confidentiality and data protection.

Now, with the SingHealth data breach, I have not been seeing any talk about the NGNBN and its vulnerabilities, if any, and their relevance to the compromise of 1.5 million records. After all, the NGNBN was designed to provide ultra-high-speed broadband access to all physical addresses, including hospitals.

Privacy Watchdog

Perhaps that is within the ambit of the privacy watchdog set up to investigate the cyberbreach.

For the record, though, Singapore had chosen Huawei’s end-to-end solution to power the NGNBN. Huawei, a company founded by a Chinese Army officer, has triggered fears of cyber espionage globally and is facing intense scrutiny in most countries it operates in.

Amid the boom in medical tourism in APAC, with Singapore also among popular healthcare destinations despite the high cost of treatment, the implications of the breach can be far-reaching. It is not just patients who have a need to curb mounting medical expenses, hospitals too are faced with the challenge of dealing with escalating costs.

Care and Cure in Connected World

Digitisation, Best Bet

Digitisation of their environment is thus their best bet to improve operational efficiency as well as staff productivity and thereby realise patient satisfaction.

The positive side of the SingHealth breach is that while the records of 1.5 million people were hacked they were not amended or tampered with (changing the health profile of patients, for instance) which will have had disastrous consequences.

Hospitals must continue to harness ICT for health while ensuring robust security with help from the Government.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Bigg Boss Message from Kamal, Vijay TV

Messages are aplenty from Kamal and Vijay TV through Bigg Boss.

— That Tamilians are born to be slaves to Non-Tamilians

— That they are a bunch of uncouth idiots who will sit tight even if garbage bins are emptied over their heads

— That they will sell their souls for crumbs

— That they love the mediocre so much they will vote out the smart ones and give the thumbs-up to the undeserving – even the Super Singer show presents how merit hardly mattered for Tamilians who will consistently make the weakest candidates win. After all, they are used to the culture of reservations.

— That Indians nurture all kinds of prejudices, including ageism

— That those from outside of Tamil Nadu are undesirable elements who believe in minimalism and in the dictum that less is more. Of course, Tamilians are a virtuous lot!

With this week’s Bigg Boss episodes, Kamal and Vijay TV have shown their true colours — their contempt for Tamilians.

Trying to use the programme to market himself as the future Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Kamal has scored several self-goals. Who knows he may become one. If Dhinakaran, nephew of corruption convict Sasikala, can win from RK Nagar any scum can fool the Tamil electorate!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Apple Makes History

While this is no surprise, Apple having become the first trillion-dollar company is remarkable. Particularly because it has largely been a one-product wonder – first with Mac and, as the Windows PC boom left Apple fading, iPhone took over.

Phenomenal indeed! During the Dotcom era, Cisco was marching steadily towards the trillion-dollar mark, with its IP vision and execution taking it far.

The millennium year saw it surpass Microsoft to become the world’s most valuable company (Apple was hardly close then). Its valuation then was around $600 billion. Market talk then was that Cisco was poised to breach the trillion-dollar barrier.

Then the bubble burst, its technologies were infringed upon by Chinese firms and its fortunes took a hit.

Cisco, however, remains a networking giant and market leader, reinventing itself with new focus areas – servers, cloud and software, enabling a connected world!

The day, though, belongs to Apple even if by the time markets close it loses the mark.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Anti-Trump Drumbeat and Escalating Trade War

Tariffs on Imports from China Not Mere Populist Politics

The continuing trade tensions among the U.S., China and Europe have put the spotlight on some truths that liberals tend to brush under the rug. According to a Bloomberg report today, the U.S. was set to raise tariffs on Chinese goods worth $200 billion to 25% from 10%.

It is not without reason that U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening tariffs on all imports from China. I don’t want to talk about any possible capitulation by Mr Trump.

It is naive to deliberately gloss over the reality that China’s imports are four times lower than its exports, leading to a wide trade imbalance.

Anti-Trump Drumbeat

No obtuse anti-Trump drumbeat is sustainable in the light of lingering suspicions, with substance, that China could imperil national security if its tech companies such as ZTE and Huawei are given a free rein. Huawei is incidentally the world’s second largest smartphone maker after Samsung, leaving Apple in third place.

Smartphones from China are the ones leading to security concerns voiced by the U.S., Australia, Canada and the U.K. Consumers appear to be least perturbed by it as just last quarter Huawei sold more than 54 million smartphones.

State Links of ZTE, Huawei

ZTE is a state-owned company having been founded by China’s Ministry of Aerospace. Huawei is a private firm founded by a China Army officer.

China had a few years ago ordered its tech firms to hand over encryption keys and install backdoors ostensibly for anti-terrorism activities. Any fears of cyber espionage cannot, therefore, be unfounded.

Trade War

MNCs Get Only 50% of Revenues from Outside the U.S.

During the last 20 years I have been with Information Technology multinationals, driving and winning even billion-dollar bids, the pace of change has been the defining constant.

Where I saw no change is in the clichéd refrain that “around 50% of the company’s annual revenues come from outside the U.S.” Name any American technology firm, the message will largely be the same.

This despite all hype that emerging markets in China, India and Latin America offered succour to firms grappling with cyclical economic slowdowns in the U.S. and Europe. It is only tobacco companies that garner greater revenues from outside the U.S.

I am not implying any numerical manipulation. Yet, one country (the U.S.) giving its companies 50% of their revenues and the rest of the world accounting for the other 50 only shows how lopsided business has been for the cradle of innovation.

There is no denying that two decades ago revenues will have been marginally higher – possibly 60% from within the U.S. The ugly side of globalisation is often ignored – stolen technology patents.

Theft killed the off-the-shelf software market with innovations taking the mode of delivery to the cloud, which is offering a safe abode for the rest of the technology world, too.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Media Trial for Tharoor, Silence over Murder of Major’s Wife

When it comes to armed forces, a veil of secrecy pervades over its operations, justifiably so, for reasons of national security. No arguments there!

However, I don’t think excesses and crimes by Army personnel must be brushed under the carpet. Perhaps justice is served well through the court martial process. May be not, too!

While the media have conveniently buried the murder of an Army major’s wife by another Major smitten by her, they relentlessly pursue Congress leader Shashi Tharoor over the death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar.

I am surprised why the killing of a young woman by a Major does not get coverage. It is just as scandalous as other passion crimes, with the killer having made 3300 calls to victim over six months.

The question I have is how can the Army be trusted amid all reports of excesses against Kashmiri women and youth?

Finally, Mr Tharoor has been provided with some relief with the Delhi High Court granting him permission today to travel abroad.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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