Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reading Room
Energy: A Beginner's Guide
Vaclav Smil

When the demand for oil grew, one of the technical innovations was the introduction of horizontal drilling during the 1980s. "Horizontal wells can intersect and drain multiple fractures within, and penetrate larger volumes of, the oil-bearing rock: many can produce two to five times as much as vertical or slightly deviated wells drilled into the same reservoir," writes Vaclav Smil in Energy: A Beginner's Guide (www.vivagroupindia.com). "By the 1990s, the longest horizontal wells reached four kilometres, while vertical wells are now frequently drilled to depths below five kilometres."

A recent press release datelined `Calgary, Alberta' informs that GSPC has completed drilling the KG#16 (in Krishna Godavari basin) well "to a total depth (TD) of 5,372 metres measured depth (MD) (5,369 metres total vertical depth (TVD))."

Reading Room
CAPM/PMP Project Management Certification
Joseph Phillips

Ninety per cent of a project manager's time is spent in communicating, says Joseph Phillips in CAPM/PMP Project Management Certification (www.tatamcgrawhill.com). "In the movie Cool Hand Luke, the prison captain says, `What we got here is a failure to communicate.' It's a famous line that has been repeated by musicians, politicians, and even muttered by project managers."

The book, designed as `all-in-one exam guide', covers topics of Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and Project Management Professional (PMP). Managing project communication is all about `the creation, collection, distribution, storage, and handy retrieval of project information,' explains the author, in a chapter devoted to communications. "The project manager is at the hub of communications."

Manage Mentor
12: The Elements of Great Managing
Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter

`12: The Elements of Great Managing,' by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter (http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/) . The book describes the elements in detail and narrates stories of great managers who epitomise the same. "Managing is not some amorphous, `difficult to quantify' concept," the authors say. "One of the dumbest things companies do is try to make their `human resources' more productive while fighting what makes them human." Why is the first element, viz. job clarity, important? Because "so much of an enterprise's efficiency depends on the seamless combination of personal responsibilities." Groups that have high scores on this item are more productive, profitable and creative, the authors find. Yet, to many employees, it may be a mystery as to what they are supposed to be doing. Shockingly, this malaise is `amazingly common' among `individuals making large salaries'.

Between Two Stools
Jayavant Mallanah Shrinagesh

India's first public sector refinery

Do you how oil was first discovered in Assam? Legend has it that the discovery was by an elephant which, "on a timber haul in the jungle, stepped into an oil seep and returned with one leg covered in black oil," narrates Jayavant Mallanah Shrinagesh in Between Two Stools (www.rupapublications.com).

The biography, edited by Rudolf and Shakuntala Hartog, chronicles the life of Shrinagesh in the ICS (Indian Civil Service) before and after Independence'. In one of the chapters, he talks about how his efforts to start the country's `first public sector refinery' met with an objection from the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee: that he had borrowed money from a bank to set up the refinery. "No public sector organisation was permitted to borrow money from anywhere else than from the government, but the government could only approve the funds, not appropriate them."

The Three Tensions
Dominic Dodd and Ken Favaro

In The Three Tensions (www.josseybass.com), Dominic Dodd and Ken Favaro grapple with common dilemmas that baffle many a manager: "Profitability or growth? Results today or tomorrow? More synergy or better standalone performance?"

The authors don't advise tradeoffs and concessions. For, "Great performance rises above compromise." Rather than `arbitrate between competing objectives,' the manager has to `reconcile them into great performance on many fronts at the same time.' Companies that master the three tensions are the winners, declare Dodd and Favaro. `Growth with profitability, earnings today that endure tomorrow, and high-performing parts within a valuable whole' — all these are worth far more than `performance that is trapped in trade-offs'. Alas, companies often make progress on one objective, only to fail on the other. "As priority shifts to one place, performance elsewhere declines. As performance elsewhere declines, priority shifts once more."

Five Minds for the Future
Howard Gardner

When confronted with `accelerating globalisation, mounting quantities of information, the growing hegemony of science and technology, and the clash of civilisations,' what you need is not a hiding place but Howard Gardner's Five Minds for the Future (www.tatamcgrawhill.com).

The first mind is the disciplined one, which has mastered "at least one way of thinking — a distinctive mode of cognition that characterises a specific scholarly discipline, craft, or profession." It takes up to ten years to master a discipline, says Gardner, citing research. "Without at least one discipline under his belt, the individual is destined to march to someone else's tune."

Turnaround Excellence
Sunil Kumar Maheshwari

Success and growth are popular themes these days. However, it is a reality that many organisations slip and decline and, at times, fail to survive. Unless, of course, they did an about-turn to return to the black. Sunil Kumar Maheshwari studies six cases of corporate renewal in Turnaround Excellence (www.penguinbooksindia.com).

The first question he seeks to answer is the `why' of organisational decline. Important among external causes is price competition, while the main internal culprit can be organisational inertia, which in turn leads to `slow responsiveness to the changes in the environment'.

Book Value
Strategic Planning for the Family Business
Randel S. Carlock and John L. Ward

Family-owned firms have not only to manage business cycles but also life cycles of humans. "Because family members are intimately involved as employees and owners, their life cycles also have an impact on the business," write Randel S. Carlock and John L. Ward in Strategic Planning for the Family Business (www.bookland.co.in).

"Human life cycle events follow a life pattern that evolves over an average of 70-80 years. Industry and even organisational life cycles are much less predictable." Over the years, business families have become smarter; they create `an open culture that involves as many family and non-family members as possible in the shaping and focus of the business.' In the place of the single owner-manager, we now have `men and women from multiple generations of the extended family who benefit by working well as a team'.

Book Value
Mapping the Markets
Deborah Owen and Robin Griffiths

Technical analysts and the followers of the `fundamental' school rarely see eye to eye. Yet both the groups bank on the cycle theory, say Deborah Owen and Robin Griffiths in Mapping the Markets from Viva (www.vivagroupindia.com). The book explains how the cycle theory links the two disciplines — fundamental and technical analyses — and also `how cycle theory can be used to navigate successfully through the changing global economic landscape'.

The authors say that business cycle is "at the heart of analysing market trends." Because, economies do not grow in a steady, linear direction; "there are periods of expansion and contraction which tend to occur at regular intervals." To stock market investors, their advice is to focus on "readily identifiable long-term `themes' that are likely to affect economic growth and which are known as secular trends."

Book Mark
Punk Marketing
Richard Laermer and Mark Simmons

Seismic shifts are happening in the marketplace, and a revolution rages on in the streets. So, how do you get on `the right side of the barricade'? Punk Marketing by Richard Laermer and Mark Simmons from Collins (http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/) can help. The book presents a manifesto for businesspeopel who want to engage the consumer coherently "in an age of digital video recorders, `branded' entertainment, cell-phone TV, multiplayer online games, and never-ending social networking."

Woefully, much of the marketing industry hasn't caught up with "the changed relationship consumers have with brands." The authors find marketers and their advisers largely still thinking and working in their old ways: "Buying media and creating messages that interrupt, rather than connect with, consumers."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Political Process in Uttar Pradesh
Sudha Pai

The BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) has checked the dominance of the upper castes effectively in a number of ways, writes Vivek Kumar, in one of the essays included in Political Process in Uttar Pradesh, edited by Sudha Pai, from Pearson (http://www.pearsoned.co.in/) . An initial success strategy of the BSP was to start `a political party led and dominated by Dalits and other marginalised castes and communities.' The BSP established itself by sensitising and weaning away the Dalits first from the Congress in the 1980s and then from the BJP in the 1990s, chronicles Kumar.

"The BSP adopted a policy of democratic political representation of different communities to check the monopoly and political hegemony of the upper castes." The party had long back floated a slogan that stressed the representative aspect of democracy: `Jiski Jitni Sankhya Bhari, Uski Utni Bhagedari' (meaning, `each according to its numerical strength'). As one saw during the recent elections that yielded decisive dividends for the BSP, "the party did not keep this slogan only a slogan, but tried to implement it both in letter and spirit."

Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies
Harold A. Gould

Travelling back to the days before the partition, Harold A. Gould meets `Deep Throat' in the Graylin Hotel, London. They chat about `events which in 1943 led to a confidential memo prepared by ambassador William Phillips, the US special envoy to pre-independence India, addressed to his boss, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, falling into the hands of Drew Pearson who wrote regularly in the Washington Post.'

Apparently Phillips's memo was highly critical of British policy towards India; he believed `that the war effort in Asia had been placed in jeopardy by what he viewed as British arrogance and intransigence.' Pearson's disclosure of the ambassador's comments caused a sensation in Washington, and proved to be a PR windfall for the proponents of Indian freedom and South Asians' civil rights who were active in the US, writes Gould in Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies, from Sage (www.sagepublications.com).

The Second Partition
Patwant Singh
Hay House India (www.hayhouse.co.in)

Indian democracy has many a fault-line, says Patwant Singh in The Second Partition, from Hay House India (www.hayhouse.co.in). Sixty years ago, India was partitioned. "Somewhere along the way India got partitioned a second time without the world — or even Indians themselves — knowing it. So what we have now is two Indias," he says. The first is `the prosperous power with global aspirations', comprising `the country's top stratum and the middle classes'. And the second has the rest of the population — `starving, malnourished, subject to untreated disease, often unemployed and homeless, with infant and maternal mortality as daily realities'.

Singh finds that poverty's grip has not loosened despite all persuasive arguments advanced to prove it has. "The face India presents to the world is startlingly different from the faces of its people mirrored in the slums and shanties of urban and rural areas, or seen on the streets of its teeming cities — faces that India's politicians and wealthy prefer not to see."

Discordant Democrats
Arun Maira

Is India's democracy slowing down its growth, even as China gallops ahead? Perhaps, yes, but we can make democracy work more effectively, says Arun Maira, Chairman of the Boston Consulting Group, India. Politics is too important to be left in the hands of only politicians; people at all levels must take responsibility for shaping the nation, he argues in Discordant Democrats, from Penguin (www.penguinbooksindia.com).

India is the most diverse country, with "twenty-two official languages, all the world's major religions, and people of several races, all following one flag." And WMD is the solution, Maira prescribes. Not Weapons of Mass Destruction, but Ways for Mass Dialogue, to facilitate "consensus building and collaborative action amongst people with different perspectives."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Say Cheek
The Energy Bus
Jon Gordon

What is positive energy? It is all about optimism, trust, enthusiasm, love, purpose, joy, passion, spirit to perform at a higher level, effort to overcome adversity in life and at work, willingness to share contagious energy with employees and customers, bringing out the best in others and oneself, and courage to triumph over negative situations that threaten to sabotage your health, family, team and success.

Thus explains Jon Gordon in The Energy Bus (http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/) , a book that explains 10 rules for your life-ride through a business fable.

It is a Monday morning when you meet the protagonist, a distraught George who leaves his car, which is down with a flat tyre, and grudgingly takes a bus ride to work. The bus driver, Joy, finds him a `dimmer' - walking down the aisle with no kick in his step, `like a light had been turned off inside'.

Reading Room
Practical Guide on TDS and TCS
G. Sekar
Company Law Institute of India P Ltd (www.cliofindia.com)

Should advertising agencies deduct tax from payments made to the media? Is a contract for putting up a hoarding in the nature of advertising? Does TDS (tax deduction at source) arise when payment is made for serving food in a restaurant? Are warehousing charges treated as `rent'? What are the due dates for filing TDS returns? How much does it cost to get a tatkal TAN (tax deduction account number)? Can I quote my PAN (permanent account number) instead of TAN? How do I file TCS (tax collected at source) return online? Is the transmission of data secure in e-tax payment? Look for answers to these and more questions in the latest edition of Practical Guide on TDS and TCS by G. Sekar, from Company Law Institute of India P Ltd (www.cliofindia.com). Ready reference.
Reading Room
The Other Side of Justice
Justice S. S. Sodhi
Hay House India (www.hayhouse.co.in)

Delivery of justice

A strong weapon in the judiciary's armoury is `contempt of court'. The mere knowledge that the court possesses this weapon makes it effective, says Justice S. S. Sodhi in The Other Side of Justice, from Hay House India (www.hayhouse.co.in). Courts however are loath to resort to this weapon, especially with regard to lawyers, he adds. "Lawyers are officers of the court and have a significant role to play in the justice delivery system. Unfortunately, over the years, several unsavoury incidents occurred both in the Allahabad High Court as also in the subordinate courts. The outcome of such incidents was that lawyers, by their conduct and attitude, tended more to thwart the delivery of justice rather than advance it... "

Reading Room
The Indian CEO
Signe M. Spencer

SCRIBE or `socially responsible business excellence' is what our leaders should aim at, says The Indian CEO by Signe M. Spencer et al from Response (www.sagepublications.com). The authors describe SCRIBE as a cluster of three competencies — adaptive thinking, entrepreneurial drive, and excellence in execution. Adaptive thinking is about being open enough to go beyond the current state of business; "the leader does not believe that the company has the best ideas and is willing to find, adapt and utilise the best-of-the-breed practices, innovations and technologies from across the globe."

Entrepreneurial drive pushes leaders `to find newer vistas of growth and take the firm to uncharted areas, experiment with newer business models'. And the third competency, excellence in execution, bridges the gap between blueprints and results, budgets and outcomes, by providing "the sense of urgency and focus which ensures that goals are accomplished within a reasonable (or even a very challenging) time-frame."

Give Me Back My Guitar
Potharaju Ravindra

Potharaju Ravindra retells the tales in Give Me Back My Guitar from Macmillan (http://www.macmillanindia.com/) .

The author, a former head of learning services in IBM India, is currently focused on establishing the school of MINDS (Management for Infrastructure and Development Strategies). And in his book, "he unravels a brilliant perspective to the meaning of life, which is at once stunningly simple and intellectually profound," R. Seshasayee writes in his foreword. "Putting together a series of children's stories (with a twist to the tales) to illustrate the message makes the book charmingly readable."

Book Value
Credit Information Companies
K. Mohan Chandran
Snow white (www.swpindia.com)

There used to be a time when banks had only a handful of borrowers, and the managers knew all about the borrowers. "Bang came nationalisation in 1969, and the era of `class banking' descended to `mass banking'," chronicles K. Mohan Chandran in `Credit Information Companies' from Snow white (www.swpindia.com).

Between 1972 and 1995, advances increased nearly 40 times. Credit of all scheduled commercial banks rose from about Rs 5,000 crore in 1972 to more than Rs 11 lakh crore in 2005, `representing a growth of whopping 20,316 per cent'!
A major problem that came in the wake of fast credit growth was that of huge non-performing loans engendered by `adverse selection of borrowers'. Credit desk officers had to precariously balance between pressure to sanction, and following the norms. Credit information about borrowers and guarantors was absent or scant.

Book Value
Why we want You to be Rich
Donald J. Trump and Robert Kiyosaki

Donald J. Trump of `The Apprentice' fame, and Robert Kiyosaki, who had written `Rich Dad Poor Dad', join hands to give `one message' in `Why we want You to be Rich' (www.landmarkonthenet.com).

"The one problem money cannot solve is poverty," declares Sharon Lechter in the intro to the book. "The one true solution to worldwide poverty is financial education, not money... As your financial education increases, you will start to recognise financial opportunities everywhere."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Say Cheek
Michael Quinion

Scores of species are vanishing — of butterflies and corals, birds and big cats. Along with them, many words in our vocabulary too, are slowly disappearing. For instance, `off-the-peg' lost out to `ready-to-wear', and airport replaced aerodrome. "We now speak of the radio rather than the wireless; bosoms seem endangered through the bold emergence of... "

With great fondness, Michael Quinion tries to catalogue hodgepodge of such words in Gallimaufry (http://www.oxfordbookstore.com/) . He begins with `messes in pots', on a food-y note. "The names of most ancient pottages are now unfamiliar, such as porray." Possibly made from leeks, because the Latin origin purrum means vegetable; but the word is confused with the French purée and so became `a general word for all sorts of thick broths,' frets Quinion.

Book Mark
Mass Affluence
Paul Nunes and Brian Johnson

Luxury is usually defined as nonessential, with a "built-in attribute of being trivial, or having few or no functional benefits over lower-priced competitors." Waste is a core element of conspicuous consumption, Thorstein Veblen had argued in Theory of the Leisure Class. No, luxury isn't trivial, says Mass Affluence by Paul Nunes and Brian Johnson (http://www.crosswordbookstores.com/) .

"Waste is not only out of fashion; it is absolutely frowned upon. Gone are the potlatches that would bankrupt the chieftains of our day, and any trip to a Wal-Mart or an outlet mall would confirm that even among the rich, value is in."

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Chasing Cool
Noah Kerner and Gene Pressman

"Stay focused on a vision but remain open to inspiration from everywhere. Begin with one great idea that's better than the alternatives. Develop a total aesthetic but always leave room for surprises... Take big risks with a healthy dose of risk management. Become Goliath but always behave like David."

These are some of the ideas that Noah Kerner and Gene Pressman list in Chasing Cool (www.landmarkonthenet.com). The book, based on `interviews with more than seventy of today's most respected innovators, from Tom Ford and Russell Simmons to Ian Schrager and Christina Aguilera', is about `standing out in today's cluttered marketplace'.

Conflicts and Tensions
Helmut Anheier and Yudhishthir Raj Isar

Globalisation rolls through countries like a juggernaut, and impacts cultures in varied ways. Results can at once be `unifying and divisive, liberating and corrosive, homogenising and diversifying,' and the interplay between cultures and globalisation crystallises `both positive aspirations and negative anxieties', notes the intro to the first of a new series on the subject, Conflicts and Tensions, from Sage (www.sagepublications.com).

"Today we live in a particularly conflict-prone global environment," caution the editors Helmut Anheier and Yudhishthir Raj Isar. Well-researched essays fill the massive book. For instance, Beverly Crawford's article identifies two aspects of the globalisation process as significant triggers for cultural conflict: migration and trade. "Economic hardships can lead cultural groups to distrust each other and to no longer trust the state to protect all of its citizens."

How Countries Compete
Richard H. K. Vietor

Businesses generally dislike governments. Images, real and imagined, of control and inefficiency, animate the loathing in the typical commercial mind towards public administration. Not a helpful attitude, says Richard H. K. Vietor of Harvard Business School, in How Countries Compete (www.tatamcgrawhill.com). "Too many business executives know too little about the world economy — although they'd like to" They have no real context for appreciating macro facts, nor do they seem to understand the role of the government, deplores the author.

Economic growth is a function of government policy, he argues. "Firms obviously benefit from healthy economies with growing markets. They benefit from wage growth that is slower than productivity growth, from the availability of an educated workforce, and from relatively liberal work rules." Also helping firms are `low real interest rates that encourage investment', and fewer `regulatory barriers to investment'.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Say Cheek
The Children of Húrin
Christopher Tolkien

The Children of Húrin is one more output of an octogenarian son, Christopher, from the unpublished writings of his deceased dad, J.R.R. Tolkien.

"When my father was a young man, during the years of the First World War and long before there was any inkling of the tales that were to form the narrative of `The Hobbit' or `The Lord of the Rings', he began writing of a collection of stories that he called The Book of Lost Tales," notes the preface.

Say Cheek
The No Asshole Rule
Robert Sutton

Employee performance vs treatment of others

It happens almost everywhere: You talk to X and end up feeling `oppressed, humiliated, de-energised, or belittled', even as X goes about aiming `his or her venom at people who are less powerful'. How civilised workplaces would be if people like X were excised! Robert Sutton tells you `how' to press the `delete' button, in The No Asshole Rule (www.oxfordbookstore.com).

To those who squirm at the a*** word as being `too crude', the author explains that `the fear and loathing', which the `nasty people' generate, can't be captured with words such as `bullies, creeps, jerks, weasels, tormentors, tyrants, serial slammers, despots, or unconstrained egomaniacs'. The book is about surviving `destructive characters who damage their fellow human beings and undermine organisational performance'.

Say Cheek
Edward M. Hallowell

Gemmelsmerch, screensucking, gigaguilt... These are among the new words Edward M. Hallowell has coined `to describe some of the strangeness of modern life'. Screensucking is `wasting time engaging with any screen,' he defines in CrazyBusy (http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/) .

"Held by a mysterious force, a person can sit long after the work has been done or the show he wanted to watch is over, absently glommed on to the screen, not especially enjoying what he is doing but not able to disconnect and turn off the machine," reads a scary description of `a kind of modern addiction' to computer, video game, TV and BlackBerry screens!

Bill of Health
Why Do People Get Ill?
Darian Leader and David Corfield

A stomach ache before a job interview, a headache before a party, or a weak bladder before an exam. Add to these problems, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma, for all of which it is commonly believed that the cause may be `what's going on in our heads'.

It is not what we worry about that can make us ill, but the ways in which we worry, say Darian Leader and David Corfield in Why Do People Get Ill? (www.crosswordbookstores.com).

"Anxieties about health are fuelled by media stories that present readers with an increasing number of illnesses and conditions which they can suspect themselves of suffering from," frets the intro. It cites estimates that between 25 and 50 per cent of GP (general practitioner) visits are for `medically inexplicable complaints'; quite predictably, therefore, ``the most common diagnosis in general practice medicine today is non-illness''.

Reading Room
The Egg & Sperm Race
Matthew Cobb

For thousands of years, there were many superstitions about reproduction — `snakes and mice were thought to appear from dirt and it was widely assumed that women could give birth to cats or rabbits'. Then, in the seventeenth century, many of these myths were challenged by the findings of a few scientists who studied the mystery of life using `the newly discovered microscope'.

They proved the power of experimentation and provided the basic answers to the question that had preoccupied humanity since the dawn of time, writes Matthew Cobb in The Egg & Sperm Race. Science told like a story.

Reading Room
Penguins Stopped Play
Harry Thompson

Eleven village cricketers take on the world in Harry Thompson's Penguins Stopped Play. The book opens in Antarctica, with an oar as a bat and a rucksack as the wicket. All of a sudden, penguins storm in, `crowding across the outfield, mingling with the slips, poking around at silly mid-off, blocking the bowlers' run-up, and invading the wicket itself... ' The author takes you across the globe, to Buenos Aires, Australia, Singapore, Cape Town, Heathrow and so forth. In Barbados, he finds a surprise. The wicket was `far from the vicious, rock-hard launch pad' he had expected to see in the Caribbean. "This was a straw-coloured spinner's wicket, pure and simple, like something from rural Pakistan. Not only could Geoff Boycott have stuck his car key into the cracks, he could probably have inserted his whole car... " Cricketers are the rock stars of India, finds Thompson in a chapter titled `Delhi'. Here, you can also read about `the four stages' that cricketers' girlfriends go through! Entertaining read.

Reading Room
Success with Asian names
Fiona Swee-Lin Price

Why do English speakers often struggle to pronounce Asian names? Because the letters used in Asian names may not be pronounced or combined in the same way as in English, says Fiona Swee-Lin Price in Success with Asian names (www.landmarkonthenet.com). "For example, the q in `Qing' is pronounced ch in Mainland Chinese Mandarin names. Asian names may also contain combinations of sounds and letter which do not exist in English. For example, the letters uy are commonly found together in Vietnamese names."

Pronounce the names to the best of your ability, advises the author to those who struggle with Asian names. "If you have a good enough ear to pick and pronounce the tones in an Asian name when you hear it, so much the better. If you can't, don't worry about it too much — almost all of the Asian people you deal with will be bilingual (or trilingual, or more), and are, therefore, likely to understand the difficulty of pronouncing worlds in a foreign language." Reassuring guidance.

Reading Room
You Must Like Cricket?
Soumya Bhattacharya

Not everybody understands cricket. Why is the game so slow, why isn't anything happening, some may wonder? "The game of cricket lends itself to a protracted drawing out, a suspension of the spectator across a high-voltage wire of tension and anticipation," writes Soumya Bhattacharya in You Must Like Cricket? "Long periods when ostensibly nothing happens (a new-ball spell, say, when the bowler beats the outside edge four times in a row and still does not manage to get a nick — when, for the uninitiated, the game does not seem to be moving forward) can mean plenty is happening." Memoirs of an Indian cricket fan you may like to soak yourself in.

Reading Room
Matt Beaumont

With a mail dated January 3, 2000 begins Matt Beaumont's e, a book, ``consisting entirely of emails''. David Crutton is frantically trying to get the Coke account for his ad agency. He wants to send `an all-staff email' but every time he clicks `ok', a copy goes to Helsinki. A response does come in from the accidental mail spill-off: "Is there any help we can give you with the Coca-Cola pitch?" asks Pertti, as a fellow CEO... Entertaining.

The Business of Life
Jit Paul

Silence is better than hasty speech. During negotiations, look at things from the other person's point of view; that way, the chances of success are far greater. Try not to lose patience, because whoever loses it ends up as the loser. Love is more than mere sentiment; it consists of caring, and caring involves responsibility. Don't get flustered when criticised; for, just as coal and water can be changed into electricity, just as sand can be changed into silicon chips, criticism can be changed into something positive. Reliability of performance is the most secure capital. And, while taking decisions, try to keep a long-term view; goals, whether in business or in human relations, take time to mature.

These are some of the essential lessons that Jit Paul lists in The Business of Life (www.oxfordbookstore.com). A success story.

Reading Room
What They Didn't Say
Elizabeth Knowles

Are you aware that the popular saying, `A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,' is in fact a misquotation? It is an alteration of the `A little learning is a dangerous thing,' a line in `An Essay on Criticism' (1711) by Alexander Pope, informs What They Didn't Say, edited by Elizabeth Knowles. "The first use of `knowledge' rather than `learning' is found in the late 19th century, as in the following comment by the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley: `If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?'" Misquotations are much more than mistakes, says the intro.

"From deliberate reworkings to unconscious changes, they show quotations on the move in our language." Some verbal slips can have a lasting impact, notes the intro. "`Facts are stupid things' (for `Facts are stubborn things' by John Adams) was a momentary error of Ronald Reagan's, instantly corrected, but it is still widely quoted and remembered." Let not the book be what you didn't read!

Reading Room
Goalless: The story of a unique footballing nation
Boria Majumdar and Kausik Bandyopadhyay

Football started off in India `as a marker of unitary social identity and progressed as an emblem of nationalism', write Boria Majumdar and Kausik Bandyopadhyay in Goalless: The story of a unique footballing nation. India may rank 140 in the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) ratings, yet `Indian football ranks high in terms of its culture, tradition and mass following,' note the authors. "What it requires to `take off' is proper direction." Will football succeed in usurping the `mass obsession' repute from cricket?
Reading Room
Dava Sobel

After Columbus's return from his first Atlantic crossing, there was `a tremendous jurisdictional dispute over newly discovered lands' between Spain and Portugal, `the two most powerful maritime rivals in Europe'. Thus narrates Neil Armstrong in his foreword to Longitude by Dava Sobel (www.oxfordbookstore.com).

The dispute was settled when Pope Alexander VI `drew a meridian line from north to south on a chart of the great ocean, one hundred leagues west of the Azores'. All lands west of the line, discovered or undiscovered, were assigned to Spain, and all lands to the east, to Portugal. "It was masterful diplomacy, particularly when no one knew where the line fell." Longitude problem was the thorniest in the eighteenth century, writes Sobel. "Lacking the ability to measure longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea." A book that would introduce you to the hero, John Harrison, a self-taught clockmaker, who solved the problem.

The Art of War for Women
Chin-Ning Chu

Appear weak when you are strong. Turn your liabilities into assets. Win before you fight. Let your style support your career. Adopt the best of masculine and feminine energies. Get promoted without trying too hard...

On all these and more, Chin-Ning Chu offers tips in `The Art of War for Women' (http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/) . `Sun Tzu's ancient strategies and wisdom' are most apt for women, says the author, because `his advice is always designed to produce the best result with the least amount of conflict.'

Vedic Management
S. Kannan
Taxmann (www.taxmann.com)

From Taxmann (http://www.taxmann.com/) , a publisher generally known for books on tax and law, here is something different: `Vedic Management' by S. Kannan, a consultant with TCS.

The book, based on the author's PhD inter-disciplinary thesis spanning management and Sanskrit, has about 2,000 references drawn from `the Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads' of the four Vedas, viz. Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva, which constitute the ancient wisdom of India. "Vedic management principles and concepts have a holistic approach with a strong social orientation and human touch," writes Kannan. "Much emphasis is laid on harmony, collaboration and co-operation."

Firing Back
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Andrew Ward
Harvard Business School Press (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

Firing Back is a defiantly fiery book from Harvard Business School Press (http://www.tatamcgrawhill.com/) . "Some people get their kicks, stompin' on a dream but I don't let it, let it get me down, `cause this fine ol' world it keeps spinning around." Thus reads a snatch from `That's Life' recorded by Frank Sinatra, at the start of chapter 1, aptly titled `The disappointment of defeat or the defeat of disappointment'.

How do leaders rebound after catastrophic career setbacks? The authors, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Andrew Ward, travel the world of movie and media, politics and business, art and academia, to find the answers. Such as, these words of Rudyard Kipling, carved above the doorway leading to Centre Court, Wimbledon: `If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat these two impostors just the same... '

Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them
Philippe Legrain

Sadly, some getaways end in tragedy, as in the case of 58 Chinese people discovered dead by the UK Customs officers in the back of a container lorry in June 2000. "On one of Europe's hottest summer days, the truck's cooling system was turned off, leaving its human cargo to be slowly asphyxiated. According to the two survivors, the victims shouted and clawed at the sides of the containers as they suffocated on their macabre ferry journey from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge." Thus narrates Philippe Legrain in Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them.

"The ill-fated Chinese had travelled for four months from Fujian province, via Moscow and the Czech mountains. They were heading for restaurants in London's Chinatown, where there is a shortage of workers because the British-born children of Chinese immigrants prefer to go to university. But although those 58 died, many more keep coming."

The Writing on the Wall
Will Hutton

China, again, is the focus of Will Hutton's The Writing on the Wall. Behind the giddy growth of the economy, the author sees something complex in the Dragon Land. "The party-state is at the centre of a spider's web of control. Political direction is matched by direct control of those parts of the economy that the party considers strategic - telecommunications, energy, transport, iron, steel and metal production, automobiles, etc," writes Hutton.

He sees evidence of `the spider's web' all around. "This control is locking China into a low-productivity, low-innovation economy with a disproportionate number of small-scale enterprises." China's performance on the `Business Competitiveness Index' is worse than that of Brazil and India, the author highlights.

Fast Boat to China
Andrew Ross

To Thomas Friedman, as you know, The World is Flat. He warns that the exciting new world of `Globalisation 3.0' can leave you trampled if you don't keep up with it. Flattening such unfettered advocacy of free trade and cutthroat competition of Friedman, here is Andrew Ross's Fast Boat to China (www.oxfordbookstore.com). The price of accepting Friedman's thinly-veiled social Darwinism is far too high, says Ross. Almost everyone loses in the long run, he argues, because `job pressure offshore' is no less severe than `the anxiety experienced by those onshore'.

There are global alternatives to the game of free trade, insists Ross. The alternatives "come in the form of fair trade, sustainable development, and internationally recognised labour rights." However, for the alternatives to succeed, "trust, cooperation, and solidarity will have to replace zero-sum competition as the guiding spirit of our engagement with China."

Other People's Money
Neil Forsyth

Let's wrap with Other People's Money by Neil Forsyth (www.landmarkonthenet.com). A true story from the leaves of British financial crime, as Elliot Castro, `Britain's most audacious, and friendliest credit card fraudster,' narrates to the author.

Here is how Castro starts on the nebulous path, as a sixteen-year-old: "I accidentally stumbled into the host's bedroom. As I turned to leave I saw a credit card sitting on a table and I picked it up and put it in my pocket. I can't really say much more about it than that, there was no great ceremony or inward debate before I nicked my first card." Next morning, though, he wakes up in cold sweat. "What had I done?

Ecological Economics
Herman E. Daly and Joshua Farley

Can monetary policy help in distribution and macro-allocation? No, it is a blunt instrument directed only towards the production and consumption of market goods, say Herman E. Daly and Joshua Farley in Ecological Economics, from Pearson (www.pearsoned.co.in). "Economists typically have a poor understanding of what is happening in the economy at any given moment," chide the authors. Don't expect the economists, therefore, to give quick answers to questions like: `Is unemployment too high? Is the economy growing too fast, threatening inflation? Are we headed for recession?' Weathermen, perhaps, fare better; they can `look outside right now and tell you what the weather is,' even if they were wrong in their forecasts!

Elsewhere in the engagingly written book, the authors wonder why the IMF bets billions of other people's dollars, to stubbornly pursue policies that have been proved to be wrong. "IMF economists are almost all trained in neoclassical economics. They believe well-informed people make rational choices based on rational expectations... "

Global Social Policy & Governance
Bob Deacon

Contrary to the best of intentions, resources often flow from the poor countries to the rich, says Bob Deacon in Global Social Policy & Governance, from Sage (www.sagepublications.com). This adverse flow can be in many forms, including `debt payments that have not yet been written off' and `commodity prices.'

A distressing form of reverse flow that Deacon talks of is the poaching by the rich countries - of doctors, nurses and teachers trained at the cost of the South. Developing countries contribute to paying for global public goods by training physicians, health workers and medical scientists, but do not benefit from these professionals, he says, citing a 2003 study by Sanjoy Nayak. "He suggests that flows of health workers from the Indian subcontinent continue at the fast rates established in the 1970s. He estimates that recipient countries have gained $12 billion to $16 billion from India alone due to emigration of physicians. This is far greater than all the global health funds put together."

A Game As Old As Empire
Steven Hiatt

Now, he returns with a whole bunch of `economic hit men, journalists, and investigators' to reveal `many more deeply disturbing stories of greed and international corruption'. Because, "Today, the EHM game is more complex, its corruption more pervasive, and its operations more fundamental to the world economy and politics," as he rues in the intro to A Game As Old As Empire from (www.crosswordbookstores.com).

"Third World countries are caught in a web of control — financial, political, and military — that is extremely hard for them to escape," observes the book's editor Steven Hiatt. "Payments on Third World debt require more than $375 billion a year, twenty times the amount of foreign aid that Third World countries receive. This system has been called a `Marshall Plan in reverse', with the countries of the Global South subsidising the wealthy North."

Why Investment Matters
Kavaljit Singh
Forests and the European Union Resource Network (www.fern.org)

Many developing countries actively woo foreign investment into domestic enterprises. A serious risk, though, is that unfettered inflows can turn out to be outflows, as Kavaljit Singh cautions in Why Investment Matters, from the Forests and the European Union Resource Network (www.fern.org). "The foreign company can finance the equity buyout of a domestic company through domestic banks and lenders," explains the author, who is director of Public Interest Research Centre, New Delhi. He cites, as example, the Dabhol power plant, which got the bulk of its debt funds from Indian banks.

FDI (foreign direct investment) involves substantial foreign exchange costs, says Singh. "Capital can move out of a country through remittance of profits, dividends, royalty payments, and technical fees." In the case of Brazil, for instance, foreign exchange outflows `rose steeply from $37 million in 1993 to $7 billion in 1998'.

Technical Guide on Accounting and Auditing in Not-for-Profit Organisations (NPOs)/Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
Research Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (www.icai.org)

It is not unusual to find fixed assets recorded at a nominal amount of Re 1 in the balance-sheets of NPOs (not-for-profit organisations). The assets may have been received free of cost as donation or grant. From an accounting angle, there is no harm with such low nominal values, but it is necessary for the auditor to be extra careful with regard to these assets, because "there is a greater possibility of their misappropriation," cautions the Research Committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (www.icai.org) in a recent publication titled Technical Guide on Accounting and Auditing in Not-for-Profit Organisations (NPOs)/Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

The Institute advises auditors to review the assumptions and procedures in the computation of fair value of the assets. "The auditor should also verify quantitative details from the reconciliation statement between the assets existing at the beginning of the period and at the end of the period."

Monday, May 14, 2007

India Macroeconomics Annual 2006
Sugata Marjit

"After decades of slow growth since independence from the British Raj, Indian economy registered its own small miracle, when growth rate of GDP (gross domestic product) per capita surpassed the long-term growth rate of many advanced economies. What caused this miracle?"
Suparna Chakraborty of the City University of New York poses this question and searches for an answer in `Technology as a channel of economic growth in India' - an essay included in India Macroeconomics Annual 2006, edited by Sugata Marjit of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (http://www.sagepublications.com/) .