Chidambaram’s fly in the Budget ointment

Our beloved Finance Minister, Mr. P Chidambaram, has a habit of generally presenting sensible budgets for the country, but always introducing some small measure which acts like a bad itch after a mosquito bite. While not that harmful, it tends to irritate the hell out of you anyway – the SAD (Special Additional Duty), the transaction tax on trades in equities, and yesterday, his imposition of a withdrawal tax of 0.1% on cash withdrawals of more than Rs. 10000 in a day.
This is a silly idea for so many reasons. PC, as he’s called, actually believes that his proposal will prevent tax evasion by leaving a “tax trail” on cash transactions. He wants to move towards a “cheque economy”.
PC, under which rock have you been living? You think this will flush the “black” money out of the system? All it does is piss off the regular middle class and salaried tax payers. Rs. 10000 is hardly a large sum of money to be withdrawn at one shot. Many people withdraw around that much for their monthly expenses.

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How Indya.com blew $50 million

I told ’em it had to happen sooner or later, and as it turned out, it was sooner. The portal Indya.com, which seemingly had money coming out of all its orifices, has lost 80% of their staff, including the CEO, CFO, chief of content, technology chief, etc. and is now down to just 25 people. From “the ultimate home for Indians” down to a portal for Star TV’s TV shows is indeed a big fall.

Last year in April, Indya.com did something nobody had ever done before. They paid an insane amount of money (estimates vary but most people think it was around Rs. 2 Crores, about $400,000) to The Times of India (print edition) to buy out their entire front page and turn it into an ad for their portal. They also hired Sunil Lulla, the former General Manager of MTV, as the high-profile CEO.

Some people called it excellent branding. I just called it a foolish way to blow lots of money.

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Junk your mission statements

“If you do things the way they’ve always been done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”

– Jack Welch

Conventional wisdom is not necessarily right all the time. It’s an unwritten rule of nature that for a few to succeed, many must fail. Call it an offshoot of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory. This applies to the stock markets, career growth (that’s why there’s only one CEO), and companies as well. If the way to succeed were well known and universally followed, it follows that most people and companies would be successful. But it isn’t so. Sometimes, to get ahead, you have to toss conventional wisdom aside and have the courage to do things differently.

As I look at most companies, I see several management practices that seem “logical” and “common sense”, but are outright wrong. I may not be offered a contract to write a management book for a long while, so I’ll use this wonderful medium called the Internet to put my thoughts on management down and dispel a few of the myths about management. Some of these topics include core competence v/s diversification, leadership and vision, recruitment, company meetings, performance appraisals, incentives, motivation, exit interviews, marketing strategies, project management, quality assurance, etc. (I know thats a lot of stuff, not to mention a very unorganised list :)

I hope to dwell on at least one topic every week. Let’s hope I find the time to write all this. I have been inspired to do this by Joel Spolsky, who writes an absolutely fantastic column on software management on his site, Joel on Software. I highly recommend that you read ALL the articles in his archives. Most of them are top notch. I can empathise with him in several instances, since I’m in the software business myself.

My focus this week is on that most useless of management concepts, the “mission statement”.

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