Thursday, June 28, 2007

Books of Account
Globalisation of Accounting Standards
Jayne M. Godfrey and Keryn Chalmers
Edward Elgar Publishing ( )

Healthy trends in standards globalisation

With the footprints of major business players spread the world over, it has become increasingly necessary that accounting, the language of business, is intelligible to a wider audience. Apt read in such a context is Globalisation of Accounting Standards , edited by Jayne M. Godfrey and Keryn Chalmers from Edward Elgar Publishing ( ).

First, the good news is that countries are working towards common standards governing disclosure of financial information. “The year 2005 heralded a new era in financial reporting as many countries adopted IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) for the first time.”


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Measuring the World
Daniel Kehlmann

Here is a book that knocked J. K. Rowling and Dan Brown off the bestseller lists, selling more than 6 lakh copies in Germany: Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann (, translated from German by Carol Brown Janeway. The book is about `two eccentric geniuses' Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss, who set out to measure the world, towards the end of the eighteenth century.

Humboldt was a `meter' man who liked to measure everything. He had bought `the most expensive arsenal of measuring instruments' from a trip to Salzburg. What were these gadgets? "Two barometers for air pressure, a hypsometer to measure the boiling point of water, a theodolite for measuring land, a sextant with an artificial horizon, a foldable pocket sextant, a dipping magnetic needle to establish the force of earth's magnetism, a hydrometer for the relative dampness in the air, a eudiometer for measuring the oxygen levels in the air, a Leydan jar to capture electrical charges, a cyanometer to measure the blue of the sky." Also, two `pricelessly costly clocks' that marked seconds not with pendulum but with `invisibly with regularly moving springs inside'.

After Tamerlane
John Darwin

Timur or Tamerlane is often remembered as "a bloodthirsty tyrant," whose conquests were "an echo of the great Mongol empire forged by Genghis Khan and his sons," but John Darwin's After Tamerlane ( looks at how the terrifying ruler's era was "a long phase in global history".

The end of Timur in 1405 coincided with the first signs of a change in the existing pattern of long-distance trade, the East-West route that he had fought to control, narrates Darwin. "Within a few decades of his death, the idea of a world empire ruled from Samarkand had become fantastic. The discovery of the sea as a global commons offering maritime access to every part of the world transformed the economics and geopolitics of empire. It was to take three centuries before that new world order became plainly visible... "

Flat World, Big Gaps
Jomo K. S. and Jacques Baudot

Income distribution at the world level may be ambiguously increasing but income inequality has worsened in most countries, rues Flat World, Big Gaps edited by Jomo K. S. and Jacques Baudot ( The book brings together about a dozen essays on "how economic liberalisation has actually affected inequality, poverty and development in recent decades."

Growth is failing the poor, declare David Woodward and Andrew Simms, in a chapter on the unbalanced distribution of the benefits and costs of global economic growth. The authors decry the economic growth fixation, and "a growing obsession with quantifiable indicators of policy performance and a failure to make what is important measurable, rather than making what is measurable important."

The World is Flat?
Ronald Aronica and Mtetwa Ramdoo in
Meghan-Kiffer Press (

Globalisation is the greatest reorganisation of the world since the Industrial Revolution, but you need to "go beyond the media hype and the metaphors to fully understand the global forces shaping the twenty-first century." Thus write Ronald Aronica and Mtetwa Ramdoo in The World is Flat? from Meghan-Kiffer Press ( The book is `a critical analysis' of Thomas L. Friedman's bestseller by the same name without the question mark.

"The notion of globalisation has been around for centuries, and has taken many forms: Political, economic, cultural, and technological, to name a few. But the 21st century-style globalisation that Friedman writes about is unique. It has a name: `Corporate' globalisation," begin the authors.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Say Cheek
La Bella Figura
Beppe Severgnini

Being Italian is a full-time job, begins Beppe Severgnini in La Bella Figura ( . The book, `an insider's guide to the Italian mind', is a 10-day tour of 30 places, including Malpensa, Milan, Rome, Naples and Sardinia. "Don't trust the quick smiles, bright eyes and elegance of many Italians. Be wary of everyone's poise," cautions the author, a columnist for Italy's daily Corriere della Sera.

He describes his country as "an offbeat purgatory, full of proud, tormented souls each of whom is convinced he or she has a hotline to the boss." Italians are prepared to give up a lot for the sake of beauty, even when it doesn't come in a mini-skirt, frets Severgnini.

Reading Room
The Witch of Portobello
Paulo Coelho

In The Witch of Portobello Paulo Coelho explains the real `Tradition' thus: "The teacher never tells the disciple what he or she should do." Teachers, according to him, are merely travelling companions, "sharing the same uncomfortable feeling of `estrangement' when confronted by ever-changing perceptions, broadening horizons, closing doors, rivers that sometimes seem to block their path and which, in fact, should never be crossed, but followed."

There is only one difference between teacher and disciple, says Coelho. "The former is slightly less afraid than the latter." What does the true teacher do? He "gives the disciple the courage to throw his or her world off balance, even though the disciple is afraid of things already encountered and more afraid still of what might be around the next corner."

Reading Room
The Obvious
James Dale

Tell the truth. Share the credit. Listen more than you talk. Open your mind... These statements, which sound as crisp as Athichoodi of Avvaiyar, the grand old lady poet that Tamil Nadu produced centuries ago, are from James Dale's The Obvious (

"The secrets to success in business aren't secrets at all. They're beliefs, ideas, values, and strategies most of us already know, but ignore," he writes. The book sources time-tested ideas "from historians, story-tellers, moralists," and so on. "Their efficacy has been proven; their potency has rarely been realised; they are effective immediately," declares Dale. The first `obvious' fact is, "Work is a verb." Work is an action, not an observation, explains the author.

Manage Mentor
Apples are Square
Susan and Thomas D. Kuczmarski

Contrary to common thinking, it is not power, wealth accumulation, and hierarchical control that make for success, say Susan and Thomas D. Kuczmarski in Apples are Square ( . Success is about two things, they add. One, how you feel about yourself, meaning self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-perception. And two, the impact you have `at home, at work, and in the community'.

The book, written in a simple style, presents a model of leadership that is based on leaders serving their constituents rather than vice-versa. "The model cultivates multiple leaders, empowers individuals, enables them to be recognised and valued, and connects employees and managers by building strong relationships." To know how the new model works, you need to read about the inspiration behind the book's title: an anecdote that Christopher Zorich, a former defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins, loves to narrate.

Books 2 Byte
The Fourth Order
Stephen Frey

CIS is not Commonwealth of Independent States, but a multibillion-dollar global information technology company, in The Fourth Order by Stephen Frey ( CIS is suddenly the target of a hostile takeover.

Moving like ‘a pit bull on steroids’ is Michael Rose, the dynamic CFO of Trafalgar Industries. “If Trafalgar buys us, the entire operation is at risk. Rose will figure out what we’re up to,” fears Peter Beck, executive director of The Fourth Order of Immunity (I-4). He alerts Bill Granger, the CEO of CIS: “And the money trails? They lead straight to you, straight to whatever the hell you do with all that information Spyder gins up. Might take Rose a few months to sniff it out, but he’ll get to the bottom of it.”

Books 2 Byte
The Man Who Knew Too Much
David Leavitt

Alan Turing, the father of modern computer science, was born on June 23, 1912. “He was a child of empire, and of the English middle class,” writes David Leavitt in The Man Who Knew Too Much ( Alan’s father, Julius, was in the Indian civil service, and it was in Chatrapur, near Madras, that the child was conceived. Little Alan was interested in numbers (as on lamp posts), and new words (like ‘quockling’ for the noise made by seagulls fighting over food, and ‘squaddy’ for squat and square).

To the young Alan, technology meant factories teeming with human labour. In April 1936, he wrote a paper titled ‘On computable numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungsproblem.’ For starters, the tongue twister is German for ‘decision problem’, a math challenge posed by David Hilbert in 1928, as informs. “The Entscheidungsproblem asks for a computer program that will take as input a description of a formal language and a mathematical statement in the language and return as output either ‘True’ or ‘False’ according to whether the statement is true or false.”
Book Value
Life's Golden Ticket
Brendon Burchard

What if you were given a ticket that could magically start your life anew? Would you redeem it? With these enticing questions begins Life's Golden Ticket, an inspirational tale by Brendon Burchard (
The prologue cites Richard Bach's simple test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: "If you're alive, it isn't." Burchard finds himself alive after a ghastly car accident, and realises how the crash was "a perfect metaphor" for his life at that point: "A journey down a dark road, a sharp turn, utter loss of control."

Book Value
Streetsmart Guide to Timing the Stock Market
Colin Alexander

A crow will conquer owl in broad daylight, so too a king who wants to crush his foes needs fitting time to fight. More than two millennia old counsel, this is, from one of the 1,330 Kurals of Tiruvalluvar. Can any work be hard in very fact, if men use fitting means in timely act, asks the poet-saint in a different couplet included in a chapter titled `Knowing the fitting time'?
There are many such nuggets of wisdom in the ancient Tamil work for aspiring investors who
want to profit from the market. It is not unusual to find contemporary instructions echoing ageless guidance. Take for instance, Colin Alexander's Streetsmart Guide to Timing the Stock Market ( "Technical analysis tells you when to buy or sell a stock on the basis of what its price action says about it," he writes.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Books of Account
Playing the REITs Game
Dominic Whiting

You don't have to be a multi-millionaire to own "a piece of property in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, or even Seoul or Kuala Lumpur," assures Dominic Whiting in Playing the REITs Game (

Yes, the secret `real' key is REIT or real estate investment trust. "The right pronunciation of REIT in English rhymes with `sweet'." Sweeter should be the returns from the winning REITs, but first what is REIT? In its simplest form, REIT is a way of securitising property; it breaks down the ownership of one or more buildings into units that are sold to investors and usually listed on the stock market, explains the author.
While stock markets have given investors access to a myriad of companies, and bond markets let investors lend to governments and companies around the world, "new and fast growing REIT markets allow property to be traded from minute to minute in the US, Australia, and now several countries in Asia and Europe." In terms of risk and return, REITs are generally regarded as a halfway house between stocks and bonds, says Whiting.

Book Mark
Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough
Jonathan M. Tisch Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough

Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough
A given in today’s marketing is that the good old days are not going to return. The tried-and-true business tools and advertising techniques that worked for generations are losing their potency, writes Jonathan M. Tisch in Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough (

With the world getting increasingly hurried and insecure, exhausting and fragmented, millions of people are desperately in need of opportunities to feel free from time pressure, says the author. They also look for safety and security in their surroundings, and would like to be “pleasantly stimulated, physically and mentally; at peace with themselves and others; and ready to be open-minded, creative, and productive.” Organisations – be they businesses, nonprofits or government agencies – can provide these opportunities “by reimagining the customer experience,” says Tisch. The crucial organisational skill is “the ability to create comfortable, intimate, exciting, and rewarding life experiences for customers.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New Ideas from Dead CEOs
Todd G. Buchholz

Todd G. Buchholz, who earlier brought us insights from `dead economists', is back with New Ideas from Dead CEOs ( "There are no stupid people in this book — though if I someday decide to write New Ideas from Dead Politicians, there may be room," he writes in the intro.

Focussing on CEOs whose lessons continue to be valid today, Buchholz begins with A. P. Giannini of Bank of America, `the gladiator of banking' who realised that small business owners, family men, and housewives could be entrusted with money. "Before A.P. came to San Francisco, banks were only for rich people."
In a chapter on the Watsons of IBM, the author pictures Tom's business model as a two-looped symbol for infinity. "On the one loop ride the customers; on the other loop rides the sales force. The intersection is IBM." Thomas Watson could `inextricably, seamlessly, and smoothly' tie the customers to the sales team. He invested in his people. "By the 1930s, half of IBM's factory workers were taking at least one of the 24 courses offered in the Education Department... "

Next Now
Marian Salzman and Ira Matathia

Trend spotters Marian Salzman and Ira Matathia open with `the age of anxiety' in Next Now ( Their audit of the now recounts how we are continuing to lose faith in institutions, be they the governments, corporations, media or the United Nations, and how "it feels like nothing is sacred anymore."

The authors cite a survey by the World Economic Forum, which found "that trust in both large national companies and global companies recovered to pre-Enron levels in 2004, but again declined; trust in global companies specifically is now at its lowest level since tracking began five years ago."

Everything is Miscellaneous
David Weinberger

You thought information is most valuable when it is kept in neat order. If so, be ready for the jolt that David Weinberger provides in Everything is Miscellaneous (

Throw the information `into a big digital pile,' and your users will filter and organise it themselves, he advises. Information does not just want to be free; it wants to be miscellaneous, so as to lead you to `a world of knowledge freed from physical constraints'.

Welcome, therefore, the new order: Digital disorder.

The world started out miscellaneous, Weinberger says. "But it didn't stay that way, because we work so damn hard at straightening it up." Allotting everything a place, we establish order "by putting a descriptive sign on the shelf beneath a product, sticking a label on a folder, or using a highlighting pen to mark the passages that we think will be on the test."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cool Down
Steve Prentice

New mails keep sprouting in your inbox, the mobile phone chirps on your hip, and the boss is barking through the intercom, `Just get it done!'

In such a scenario that is business-as-usual for most of us, Steve Prentice's message of `getting further by going slower' may seem out of sync. Yet, it may be profitable to spare a few minutes to thumb through `Cool Down' ( . Because Prentice's argument - that "a conscious approach to stepping away from reactionism, pressure, and overload is not only essential but actually achievable" - has the potential to change your lives.

He sees us all driving Porsches, mentally, for 13 to 20 hours every day, between wake-up and sleep. Sadly, though, unlike professional racers, a lot of us succumb to the pressure to drive in the fast lane all the time. Reason: "Urged on by the persistent prodding of our wireless technologies, we feel a palpable need to extend our accessibility and responsibility well beyond reasonable limits."

Say Cheek
Mark Joyner

Reaching what you want is easier than you think, promises Mark Joyner in `simple.ology' ( . Only, you need to see the world differently.

The first law he prescribes is that of straight lines: "The shortest path between any two points is a straight line." Hey, we all know this, don't we! May be, yes; yet "our actions are usually radically curvy lines, or straight lines in the wrong direction," he frets. "Anything that we allow to pull us off the path to getting what we want is a type of insanity," defines Joyner, in a fresh light.

The opposite of insanity is science, he adds. Science, according to Joyner, is not so much about lab coats and beakers, as about "a useful way of looking at the world." He explains science, in brief, thus: "Try it. Pay attention. If it works - great! Now you know a little something. If not, you can try something else. Take notes." It's not that insanity doesn't try; but it doesn't pay attention, nor keep any notes. Worse, when things don't work, it continues doing over and over again anyway.

Manage Mentor
Innovative India
Parmit and Radhika Chadha

Strategy, culture, and processes/ competencies: These are `the three gears' of innovation, say Parmit and Radhika Chadha in Innovative India ( .

Innovation, defined as `the achievement of goals through the successful execution of creative ideas,' is not possible by focussing only on processes and competencies, which are not the main drivers, but merely enablers. You need to crank up strategy and culture to get the growth engine start, urge the Chadhas.

To them, innovation is not a functional activity, but `a system affecting the entire organisation.' The CEO is the creator of the vision, as also its guardian and evangelist. An example of positive morale is L'Oreal, where every business manager is guided by a `cow-and-calves' policy. "You are responsible not only for managing profitably today's business, but also for preparing what will be profitable many years after you have left that particular country or assignment."

Books 2 Byte
A Brief History of the Future
Oona Strathern

Futurism is often called the second oldest profession, writes Oona Strathern in A Brief History of the Future ( The early astronomers were the first to think scientifically about the future, and over the millennia the field of futurism has attracted a range of personalities. “The methods of looking at the future have ranged from the use of drugged virgins to more conventional, systematic employment of computers and simple common sense.”

Credit for the word ‘futurology’ goes to Ossip Flechtheim, who used to argue in the early 1940s that the universities should teach a real science of the future. There used to be many ‘pearls of prediction’ in the 1950s, one learns.

Books 2 Byte
The Archimedes Codex
Reviel Netz and William Noel

Carving information from data-cubes of parchments

The Archimedes Codex by Reviel Netz and William Noel (, is a real-life tale of how modern imaging techniques could bring to light the contents of the palimpsest, w hich had survived almost a millennium.

For starters, palimpsest is from the Greek palimpsestos, meaning ‘scraped again,’ explains ODLIS (Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science). Palimpsest is “a manuscript written on papyrus, parchment, or vellum on which earlier writings, only partially or imperfectly erased, are still faintly visible.” The parchments were typically reused because writing material was ‘expensive to produce and usually in short supply.’

Book Value
Hard Optimism
Price Pritchett

The all-important productivity tool you have is not the mobile or the computer, but `the three pounds of grey-coloured electronic equipment that sits inside your skull' - the brain. Thus writes Price Pritchett in `Hard Optimism' (

The book is about how to manage the mind, which in today's knowledge economy is the main gizmo; `thinking' is the key competency, and `thought processes', `the most important performance factor.'

Performance is shaped by our thought patterns, mindset, and mood, explains the author.

Book Value
Rule #1
Phil Town

How to get high returns with low risk? Phil Town offers an answer in `Rule #1' (, a book that guides you to `returns of 15 per cent or more in the stock market, with almost no risk.'

There are only two rules of investing, Warren Buffett would say. "Rule #1: Don't lose money... and Rule #2: Don't forget Rule #1." The first rule can work for the majority, assures Town. It is easy to learn, and you don't even have to be that smart, either, he says.
How not to lose money? Invest with certainty, says Town. "Certainty comes from this: buying a wonderful business at an attractive price." Wonderful implies three Ms, viz. the business should have meaning, moat, and good management.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Books of Account
A View from the Outside
P. Chidambaram

With Sinha outside the Finance Ministry, now, you may like to read the current incumbent P. Chidambaram's memoir, A View from the Outside. The worst period, `in purely economic terms,' was the second half of 2000-01, he writes. "Every indicator was headed south, and the year recorded a gross domestic product growth rate of 4 per cent." As if by miracle, the following year saw all three sectors registering growth rates in the four quarters, he continues.

Yet there was `callous misgovernance', Chidambaram wrote in one of his columns in December 2002: "Yashwant Sinha presented a disastrous budget. His proposals hit savings, hit investments and hit the hard-working (and tax-paying) salaried middle class. On the same day, a horrendous crime was committed at Godhra in Gujarat... "

Books of Account
Confessions of a Swadeshi Reformer
Yashwant Sihna

Yashwant Sihna begins his Confessions of a Swadeshi Reformer (

with a narration of `the dreaded moment' that left him with no option but to sign a proposal to mortgage gold to save the country's honour and prestige.

"The RBI (Reserve Bank of India) had to keep a tab on all foreign exchange transactions, almost on a 24/7 basis, to ensure avoidance of any mishap," he writes, recounting those crisis days.

One of the sources for emergency aid then was Japan; $500 million was, however, released only after Sinha's meeting with Japan's Finance Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. "I remember the Tokyo trip for the back-breaking schedule that the embassy had prepared for me, the feeling that I had gone there literally with a begging bowl and my very brief meeting with Hashimoto. The cherry trees were in full bloom, especially in front of the Indian embassy. Alas, one did not have the leisure or the mood to enjoy the splendid sight... "

Book Mark
Private Label Strategy
Nirmalya Kumar and Jan-Benedict E.M. Steenkamp

There is bad news for brands: They are under attack. Their potential nemesis is not so much the competing brand from across the borders, but the horde of private labels stacking up on supermarket shelves.

Retailer private labels, aka own labels, store brands, or distributor-owned brands, have been growing rapidly, write Nirmalya Kumar and Jan-Benedict E.M. Steenkamp in ‘Private Label Strategy’ (
They add grimly that “the future looks bleak for manufacturer brands.” The share of private label sales has been soaring ‘at the twelve largest retailers in the world’ such as Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Metro, and Tesco. Brands have almost got pushed over the precipice at Aldi, a retailer with $43-billion sales, and ranking tenth in the top dozen tally; private labels there account for a whopping 95 per cent.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Soft Skills
Up Your Service
Ron Kaufman
EastWest Books

What should you do when things go wrong and customers are complaining? First, realise that those who complain are not troublemakers and the difficult customers.

"Research shows that complaining customers are overwhelmingly loyal and sincere. They are complaining to you because they care about your business and about the service they receive," writes Ron Kaufman in Up Your Service from EastWest Books. "They intend doing business with you again in the future, and they want you to set things right."

When things go wrong, use SERVICE, advises Kaufman. The acronym stands for the following:
Say Cheek
Snakes in Suits
Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare

You may be working with a psychopath

Lying, manipulation, deceit, egocentricity, callousness and other destructive traits: these are some of the giveaway symptoms of psychopaths. Their behaviours can be at odds with the generally accepted norms of society. Dangerously, many psychopaths have entered the corporate environment, caution Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare in Snakes in Suits ( .

The authors trace the hazardous infiltration to four possible reasons. One, the psychopath can get through the recruitment filter, charming his/her way in. "When it is to their advantage, they can display a charisma that can disarm and beguile even the most wary individuals."

Reading Room
Frontiers of Justice
Martha C. Nussbaum

All modern societies have seen gross inequities in their treatment of children with unusual mental impairments, laments Martha C. Nussbaum in Frontiers of Justice (

Sadly, children with mental impairments have been more shunned and stigmatised than people with many physical impairments. "Many of them have been relegated to institutions that make no effort to develop their potential. And they are persistently treated as if they have no right to occupy public space. In the congressional hearings prior to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), many examples of this shunning were cited... ."

Reading Room
Forgive Me Amma: The Life and Times of Dhanraj Pillay
Sundeep Misra

If a batsman scores a 100 and the team loses, the batsman still is the star, but not so in hockey; you might end up scoring three goals in a match but if your team loses, no one remembers you.

That is one of the laments of Dhan you'd read in Forgive Me Amma: The Life and Times of Dhanraj Pillay by Sundeep Misra ( "One doesn't know if he is the greatest Indian hockey player," writes Misra in conclusion. "One thing is for sure — he is a legend."

Reading Room
The Accidental Leader
Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley

Learning is almost the opposite of training, say Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley in The Accidental Leader ( Learning is not a `business,' yet it is everyone's business, right from the CEO. Learning allows people in an organisation to draw nearer to objectives, explain the authors. "It happens entirely in the learner's head, and requires no technology whatsoever. It is by its very nature unmeasurable and undefinable. Learning is an end in itself, not a means to an end."

In contrast, training tries to cover the greatest amount of ground in the shortest time, with the fewest interruptions and the highest degree of learner homogeneity. "It wants above all to be finished and get paid. Learning, by contrast, knows no clock, respects no formal structure, and occurs in as many ways and at as many places as there are learners."

Manage Mentor
Lessons on Leadership from
Jack Stahl
Kaplan Publishing

The key driver of the long-term health of organisations is the strength of leadership, says Jack Stahl in Lessons on Leadership from Kaplan Publishing. "You are a leader. Lead by creating an exciting picture of a successful future for your organisation and your people," he begins, with a forceful exhortation.

But why is it important to set a compelling destination? Because "people without a clear sense of where they are supposed to go will be unproductive or under-productive, wasting the organisation's time and money."

To FedEx, for example, the destination was evident from a goal-defining slogan: `absolutely, positively has to be there overnight'. Vision is fine, but results come from the overall capabilities of your organisation, or framework two, as Stahl puts it. The most critical step to creating organisational capability is "attracting and retaining people who have the skills and commitment to ensure the organisation's success."

Learn From Them: A Compilation of Best Practices
Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances

Piecing together wisdom from diverse places is Learn From Them: A Compilation of Best Practices brought out by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (

Included in the book are essays on Bhoomi, the land record management system in Karnataka; the Gujarat earthquake reconstruction project; ITC's e-choupal; city-wide sanitation in Pune; e-registration in Tamil Nadu and Punjab; IT for Braille education in Indian languages; Attappady wasteland conservation project; telemedicine in West Bengal; and more.
Best practices can never be fully replicated even in similarly placed situations, concedes the Department.

William H. Marquard

Welcome to the Wal-Mart economy, in which you may need survival tips from William H. Marquard's Walsmart ( For, in the new `W' economy, there are new challenges. To competitors of today, low prices are a given, competitive advantages have a waning half-life, customers often know more than the manufacturers, and industry boundaries no longer provide any shelter. Suppliers have to reduce total delivered costs, and create a flexible network for global supply, while employers face tough human resource challenges.

`What do we do now?' As answer, the author offers `twelve smart choices', presented in groups of three: differentiate, emulate, dominate; leverage, invest, diversify; reward, impassion, grow; and belong, align, engage.

More Sex is Safer Sex
Steven E. Landsburg

Common sense generally comes in for praise. We have been taught to think, for instance, that philanthropy is better than stinginess, that authors of computer viruses are not as bad as murderers, and that chastity is the right thing. Steven E. Landsburg has contrary views, though. He questions conventional wisdom and common sense beliefs, and offers outrageously surprising answers in More Sex is Safer Sex (

"My weapons are evidence and logic, especially the logic of economics," he writes in the preface. "Logic is most enlightening — and surely most fun — when it challenges us to see the world in a whole new way."

To clear the vast litter of conventional thinking, the author begins with a simple and obvious general principle of economics: "That things tend to work out best when people have to live with the consequences of their own behaviour." Call it the communal-stream principle, he suggests. "Feel free to pollute your own swimming pool, but if your sludge spills over into the stream we all share, you should pay for the damage. Conversely, if you volunteer for cleanup duty, you should get a reward. Otherwise we end up with too much pollution and too few volunteers."

Daniel Altman

The global economy is like an enormous machine crammed with six billion interlocking cogs and wheels, one for every person, describes Daniel Altman in Connected (

"Not everyone's wheel is the same size, but everyone's wheel matters."
The world's economy is much like our atmosphere, a closed system, he says. "Everything's connected, and every action by an individual instantly affects everyone else." The connections come alive in the 14 snapshots that Altman keenly watches for the big picture, from around a globe frozen for 24 hours, on June 15, 2005.
That day saw Napster's stock open 7 per cent higher and close with a gain of 2 per cent on the Nasdaq market, reacting to the company's joint venture with Ericsson, whose share too rose a wee bit. "A better response than the one that greets many mergers and buyouts, where the market picks a winner and a loser — or worse, two losers," comments the author about the coming together of two companies `separated by nine time zones'.

Books 2 Byte
Hacking Matter
Wil McCarthy

Imagine this. At the flick of a switch, “a wall becomes a window becomes a hologram generator. Any chair becomes a hypercomputer, any rooftop a power or waste treatment plant.” Thus reads the year 2100 scenario that Wil McCarthy opens with in Hacking Matter (

In the twenty-second century, any competent designer will simply define the required shape and properties – “including ‘unnatural’ traits such as superreflectance, refraction matching (invisibility), and electromagnetically reinforced atomic bonds – and then distribute the configuration file to any interested users.”

Books 2 Byte
The Handbook of Management Fads
Steve Morris

Check if you can make sense of this: “The TEC/LEC NVQ is based on TQM, but the GCSE is more IIP with a bit of QFD OK? It’ll be a TPN on the QT!”

Do you feel at sea? “The best way of dealing with this is to wear one of those JVC headsets with built-in EQ FX. Tune into REM on FM PDQ,” suggests Steve Morris in The Handbook of Management Fads (

TLAs or three-letter-acronyms are endemic among managers and their gurus, he cautions. “It’s an unconscious fad, more like a nervous tic.” To identify TLA in action, all you have to do is “to eavesdrop on manager’s conversations. Listen out for sentences that have no intelligible nouns at all.”

Book Value
Jungle Capitalists
Peter Chapman

One company set `the precedent for the institutionalised greed of today's multinational companies', writes Peter Chapman in `Jungle Capitalists' (

He narrates the tale of how United Fruit Company began its banana business, in the jungles of Costa Rica, and then went on to build an empire! So much so, "the small states of Central America to the south of the US had come to be known as the `banana republics': Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama."

The company was more powerful than many nation states. The `corporate nasty' could change governments when it didn't like them, "like the one in Guatemala in 1954 that had wanted to donate some of United Fruit's unused land to landless peasants.

Book Value
Ready Reckoner of Leading Listed Companies
Global Data Services of India Ltd

Maximum analysis in a succinct manner is what `Ready Reckoner of Leading Listed Companies' from Global Data Services of India Ltd offers once again in the latest edition. "The book is targeted at investors, who can look at the numbers at leisure, away from computer screens," invites Madhu Dubhashi, GDSIL's CEO, in her foreword.

Designed as `a starting point for those who wish to research' any of the `225 actively traded companies,' each chapter begins with a financial snapshot, where the first data is operating income.
"Profit as a percentage of operating income is an indicator of the movement in margins over the years. Operating PBT (profit before tax) as a percentage of PBT gives a good indication of the level of contribution by the core activities of a company to its profitability and, thereby, its stability," explains the intro.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Book Mark
Hidden in Plain Sight
Erich Joachimsthaler
Harvard Business School Press (

Pursuit of profitable business growth is a legitimate goal. But should you be pressing `traditional hot buttons'? Such as: "refining market research, becoming customer-centric, guiding customers to plumb their psyches, co-creating value with customers, integrating customers into your value chain, positioning more distinctly, or sharpening your new product development process".

No, you can instead `re-see' your customers in entirely new ways and discover the biggest opportunities that are `right in front of you,' advises Erich Joachimsthaler in Hidden in Plain Sight, from Harvard Business School Press ( . He bemoans that the biggest, best, brightest, and most successful opportunities for innovation and growth are right here, in front of us; only, we often can't see them or don't act on them.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Books of Account
Government Accountability and Public Audit
B. P. Mathur

State audit in its present from was introduced for the first time in the UK in 1866, thanks to the missionary zeal of the then Finance Minister, writes B. P. Mathur in Government Accountability and Public Audit ( The champion of reform was William Ewart Gladstone, who later became the Prime Minister. "He introduced the Exchequer and Audit Department Act which required all departments to produce annual accounts known as Appropriation Accounts, for the first time."

The Act established the position of C&AG (Comptroller and Auditor General). The Indian Audit and Accounts Department (IAAD), patterned on the British model, dates back to 1858 "when the East India Company administration was taken over by the British Government and an Auditor General of India, who looked after both audit and accounts functions, was appointed," states a 2001 consultation paper on `Efficacy of public audit system in India' (

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Participatory Pathways
Rajiv Balakrishnan

Both India and China have pursued land development policies, with stark differences. In India, the focus has been on individual incentives through credit and market support, while China has been `promoting centrally controlled collective mechanisms.' Amita Shah discusses the practices in one of the essays included in Participatory Pathways edited by Rajiv Balakrishnan (

Shah lauds FLC (farmland capital construction) as the most outstanding feature of agrarian transformation in China. "This essentially involved development of land and water resources through a variety of measures such as clearing and shaping of land, including clear felling of forests, preparing drainage and waterways for controlling floods, rejuvenating irrigation systems, manuring and other measures for harvesting rain water."

The Concise Guide to Global Human Rights
Daniel Fischlin and Martha Nandorfy

Foreign investment and buzzing factories are what China is usually talked about in contemporary business literature. "This, despite the fact that China executes approximately 5,000 to 12,000 people annually (more than the rest of the world combined), many of them belonging to ethnic minorities, led out directly from their `trials' (often presided over not by a judge, but by a state official who has little or no legal training) to the execution grounds, making any appeal process impossible."

Thus write Daniel Fischlin and Martha Nandorfy in The Concise Guide to Global Human Rights ( "There are over 65 crimes punishable by death including tax fraud, bribery, and vandalism. There is mounting evidence that capital punishment in China is becoming a lucrative business in the trade of human organs, and that the victim is killed in a medically controlled way to cause the least impact on the targeted organ, usually sold to a wealthy foreign patient awaiting the transplant in a nearby hospital."

The Dragon and the Elephant
David Smith

The West worries continually, "What will we do when China and India do everything?" It also wonders whether China would be `a benign presence, as Japan was in the 1980s', and whether India would `turn the economic tables on its old imperial master, Britain, in the way America did'.

David Smith takes up these questions and more in The Dragon and the Elephant ( "The story of China (the dragon) and India (the elephant) did not suddenly emerge," he writes in the intro. "In the 1990s, when the dotcom boom competed for the headlines with the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, neither China nor India received as much attention as they should have done."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Manage Mentor
Where Have All The Leaders Gone?
Lee Iacocca

The legendary Lee Iacocca is outraged. "We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind," he fumes in `Where Have All The Leaders Gone?' (

At 82, Lee, the iconic auto boss, is fit and fighting; he is willing to "leave the rage to the young people," as soon as he can "pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention."

The book begins with a `C' list for the CEOs. The first C that a leader needs is curiosity. "He has to listen to people outside of the `Yes, sir' crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place."

Soft Skills
The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make
Hans Finzel

A core leadership principle is never to assume that anyone knows anything, says Hans Finzel in The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make from Jaico ( For, "We can never communicate enough in our organisations."

The author likens communication systems to `the pulsing red cells rushing through our veins keeping our bodies alive'. Unless `the folks at the far extremities' know what is going on in the minds of those at the leadership centre, they can't `feel comfortable, safe, and knowledgeable about their work'.

Say Cheek
I am a Strange Loop
Douglas Hofstadter

A one-letter word that fills our brains all the time is I. It is `the realest thing in the world' for each human being, and `the most complex symbol in the brain,' says Douglas Hofstadter in `I am a Strange Loop' (

The book is `a gigantic salad bowl full of metaphors and analogies,' he writes in the intro. The author, a specialist in `thinking about thinking', is a teacher who has spent nearly three decades with graduate students `exploring all sorts of aspects of words, idioms, languages and translation'.

Reading Room
The Trouble with Physics
Lee Smolin

To keep science healthy, young scientists should be hired and promoted based only on their ability, creativity, and independence, advises Lee Smolin in The Trouble with Physics ( "People who invent and develop their own research programs should even be given priority, so that they can have the intellectual freedom to work on the approach they judge the most promising."

On how to prevent over-investment in speculative directions that may turn out to be dead ends the author's suggestion is as follows: "Physics departments should ensure that rival research programs and different points of view towards unsolved problems are represented on their faculties — not only because most of the time we cannot predict which views will be right but because the friendly rivalry between smart people working in close proximity is often a source of new ideas and directions."