A Feminist Man’s Ideal ‘Women’s Day’

“One is not born a Woman, But Becomes One” – Simone de Beauvoir

It was 8 March 2018. Just like last year, I went for lunch with my female colleagues to accompany them. I was just thinking what changed between these two lunch sessions? It didn’t take much time for me to answer- nothing! Everything was same, the discounts, the way places were decorated, the colours and the way we think! There is something fundamentally wrong with the way we celebrate such days. Ideas of celebrating women’s day by organizing some games, taking female employees out for a lunch are classic cases of mediocrity and shallow thinking.

To my surprise not a single colleague asked me (HR) how can we do better in terms of accessible childcare or how to improve our parental leave policy? How can we improve the sex ratio in the organization? Nobody from senior management, not even a single woman employee posed such questions. Maybe it is not fault of working women, the world has given them so less that their expectations about women’s day are also limited to a lunch. I believe that personal motivation is an incredibly complex thing, moulded by our personality but also strongly influenced by our upbringing, our peer group, the educational opportunities we get, the connections we make, as well as the stereotypes and prejudices of those around us.

I was standing in a queue to grab some plates at the buffet. I let all my women colleagues take their plates first. We were just two men in the group. When I was about to pick up the last plate in the stack, an unknown lady walked ahead of me and snatched that plate with a look stating plainly – ‘It’s Women’s Day today. I am the boss’. Moreover I had had to pay more because the ladies got a discount that day. My quick reaction was – ‘This is not fair!’ but it was worth thinking how many times a year do women experience what I experienced that day? Let it be their chance of selection despite being a good candidate, a salary hike or fast-track promotions. Unfortunately, we still have managers who think that if we employ a recently married women candidate then they are distracted from work and go on a maternity leave soon, who will take over their work then? Working mothers are in such a pathetic situation that they are ready to take a huge salary cut when they return after 1-2 years of maternity break. In addition to this, they have to face a lot of prejudice for leaving immediately after office hours because they have to go home, cook and take care of their children. As if not having a cooperative male partner is their fault!

It’s been my personal experience that female candidates are less aggressive about their salary demands compared to male candidates. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook mentions in her path-breaking book ‘Lean In’- In 2010, women earned just 77 cents for every dollar men made. Her solution: negotiate like a man. When she was talking to Mark Zuckerberg about joining Facebook, she says she was inclined to accept the first offer he made. But after her husband encouraged her to make a counter-offer, she did and Zuckerberg came back to her with a much more lucrative proposal.

A 2011 McKinsey study shows that while men are promoted based on potential, women get a leg up based on past accomplishments. The onus of changing such things is on managers like us. So next time your company offers you a free lunch or any restaurant offers you women’s day discount, I want you to ask them some thought-provoking questions. What is our company doing for diversity and inclusion? What is the sex ratio in the workforce at that restaurant? What is the sex-ratio at various levels of your organization? Most importantly when your male colleague/partner/friend/brother wishes you a happy women’s day, wish them the same. If you meet a man who is comfortable with it, give him a flower but if you meet one who says that women’s day is for women, tell him about your real problems and encourage him to take up parenting responsibilities and be fair to every woman they meet.

It’s time to do something which we should have done long back.

This article was first published on a blog HRsapiens – https://hrsapiens.wordpress.com/2018/03/10/womens-day-lunch/

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पुस्तकांचं गाव- भिलार

डोंगरदऱ्या पालथ्या घालून दमलो आणि पर्यटनस्थळ फिरून, तिथली गर्दी पाहून कंटाळा आला म्हणून यावेळी शांतपणे एखाद्या जागी छान वेळ घालवूया असं मी ठरवलं होतं. शांत पण छान जागेचा माझा शोध महाबळेश्वरजवळच्या भिलार या पुस्तकांच्या गावी येऊन थांबला. माझा प्रवास सुरु झाला पुणे (स्वारगेट) ते महाबळेश्वर लाल बसने (सातारा-वाई कडूनही जाता येत). पुढे बस एके जागी थांबली मग मी मस्त शेवभाजीवर ताव मारला. थोडं पुढे गेलो तर वाई-महाबळेश्वर रस्त्यावर पुस्तकांच्या गावाचे दिशादर्शक फलक दिसू लागले. पाचगणीहुन महाबळेश्वरला जाताना मधेच या गावाचा फाटा लागतो तिथे उतरावं लागतं. फाट्यावरनं डाव्या बाजूला आत वळलं की सुरू होते टुमदार बंगल्यांची रांग. २ किलोमीटर आत शिरलं की मूळ भिलार गाव दिसतं. कोकणी संस्कृतीशी साधर्म्य दर्शविणारी बुटकी आणि काही लाल चिऱ्याची घरं… ‘स्ट्रॉबेरी महोत्सवा’ मुळं जगाच्या कानाकोपऱ्यात पोहोचलेल्या या गावाचा मुख्य व्यवसाय एकच.. स्ट्रॉबेरी पिकवणं. वाहनानं देशभरात, तर विमानानं जगभरात पाठवणं. भिलारची आता अजून एक ओळख होऊ लागली आहे- पुस्तकांचं गाव म्हणून. महाराष्ट्र-शासनाच्या राज्य मराठी विकास संस्थेच्या वतीने पुस्तकांचे गाव हा प्रकल्प राबवण्यात येत आहे. ब्रिटनमधील ‘हे ऑन वे’च्या धर्तीवर हे पुस्तकांचं गाव साकारलं आहे. महाबळेश्वरजवळच्या डोंगरकुशीत स्ट्रॉबेरी पिकवणाऱ्या या गावात तब्बल पंधरा हजार पुस्तकं वस्तीला आहेत. भिंती चित्रांनी सजल्या आहेत, आणि घरीदारी वाचक-पर्यटकांसाठी स्वागताची तोरणं लावली आहेत.

Bhilar-Mukesh Bhavsarतब्बल ३ दिवस गावातच मुक्काम केल्याने छान वाटलं. महाबळेश्वरला जातांना धावती भेट देणाऱ्यांसोबत विविध लेखकांचा आणि सखोल वाचन करणाऱ्यांचा या गावाकडे ओढा दिसून आला. भिलार गावची लोकसंख्या तीन-साडेतीन हजारांची. पाच-साडेपाचशे उंबऱ्यांच्या या गावात पहिल्या टप्प्यात खूप विचार करून पंचवीस ठिकाणं निवडली गेली. केवळ एक सरकारी वाचनालय उभारण्यापेक्षा या प्रकल्पात स्थानिकांना जास्तीत जास्त सहभागी करण्यावर भर दिला आहे. पुस्तकं देतानाही त्या ठिकाणाची गरज ओळखून वर्गवारी करण्यात आली. हिलरेंज शाळेत बालसाहित्य, तर हनुमान मंदिरात नियतकालिकं ठेवण्यात आली. एका खासगी कार्यालयात वर्तमानपत्रं अन् साप्ताहिकं, तर एका रिसॉर्टमध्ये निसर्ग, पर्यटन अन् पर्यावरण साहित्य दिलं गेलं. किमान २०-२५ लोकप्रिय पुस्तके अशी आहेत की ती सर्वच घरांमध्ये ठेवण्यात आली आहेत. वाचनाचा कंटाळा येणाऱ्या पर्यटकांसाठी, बालकुमारांसाठी ‘बोलकी पुस्तके’ हा अभिनव प्रकल्पदेखील लवकरच सुरू होणार आहे. कुसुमाग्रज प्रतिष्ठानची २०० पुस्तकांची पेटी ‘पेन ड्राईव्ह’वर ‘कन्व्हर्ट’ करण्यात आली असून त्या माध्यमातून मुलांना संगणकावरही पुस्तकं उपलब्ध होणार आहेत.

Bhilar-Village of Books Map

Bhilar-Village of Books Map

गावातील खजिन्यामधे कथा, कादंबरी, कविता, ललित, बालसाहित्य, संतसाहित्य, चरित्र, आत्मचरित्र, विज्ञान, इतिहास, भूगोल आणि प्रवासवर्णने असे विविध साहित्यप्रकार आहेत. राज्य शासनाच्या या प्रकल्पासाठी स्वत्व या स्वयंसेवी संस्थेच्या सुमारे ७५ चित्रकारांनी गावातील निवडलेल्या २५ ठिकाणांची रंगरंगोटी करून सुशोभीकरण केलं आहे. या प्रकल्पासाठी एशियन पेंटस या कंपनीनेही मदत केली आहे. ‘सरस्वती’च्या रूपानं ‘लक्ष्मी’ही गावात येऊ शकते, हे गावाने अचूकपणे लक्षात घेतलं आहे. निवडलेल्या ठिकाणी स्वतंत्र बुकशेल्फची आणि बसण्याची व्यवस्था तर आहेच पण काही ठिकाणी माफक दरात छान राहण्याची आणि गरमागरम चहा-भजीचीही सोय आहे. गावात जाताना लागणाऱ्या किंगबेरीची वाइन आणि स्ट्रॉबेरीची बागदेखील छान आहे.

संत तुकारामांनी म्हटल्याप्रमाणे, ‘आम्हा घरी धन, शब्दाचीच रत्ने’ याचा प्रत्यय या गावातल्या लोकांनी आपल्या कृतीतून दाखविला आहे. या ठिकाणी येणाऱयांना यापुढे स्ट्रॉबेरीची चव व वाचनाची भूक भागविण्याची नामी संधी मिळत आहे. भिलारवासियांनी या निमित्ताने केवळ महाराष्ट्रातच नव्हे तर देशात आपली आगळी वेगळी ओळख प्रस्थापित केली आहे. फक्त काही तास येऊन फेसबुकवर स्टेटस उपडेट करून किंवा इंस्टागिरी करून परत जाण्याची हि नक्कीच जागा नाही. महाराष्ट्र सरकारच्या या उपक्रमाच आपण कौतुक करत आपण इथल्या पुस्तकांचा लाभ घेतलाच पाहिजे.

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Diary of a traveller

Today I missed a flight for the first time. I must take this moment to applaud my consistency because the last time I travelled I had missed my train.

With no audience to share this historic moment, I commemorared it by invoking my blessed sense of humour and pushing myself a stage upwards on the Maslow’s hierarchy of Modes of Transport.  I had upgraded from missing the train to missing a flight. As the helpful airline policies worked out well only for the airline, I was forced to book the next morning flight and started thinking about my traveling experiences. Here are some of my random thoughts between the two flights-

Airports are  not just places of transit where you see airplanes flown fly and kisses blown. Airports are places for time travel. Aeroplanes are like time machines which allow people to cross the imaginary boundaries  and reach the boundless sky. We depart from a desert and land in the snow. We leave summer behind only to be welcomed by Autumn somewhere else. We don’t just traverse countries and time zones but mountain ranges of emotions. We take off with hugs, kisses and tears just to land somewhere else with joy, excitement and intent of adventure.

Airports are like bookmarks where we pause for a moment to get memories stamped on the map in our mind. Airports are tiny little places where people with different nationalities live together as fellows – strangers in the same land. They are bound in the same place and are united by the estrangement. North and South Koreans breath the same air, Indians and Pakistanis taste the same biryani. This is where capitalism, socialism and communism cooperates with each other. You may be of any religion, nationality, race or gender but at the airport you just a stranger in transit.

But does this happen only at the airport? NO. A true traveller should not be obsessed with any such form. If you are a traveller this can happen with you anywhere. As a traveller you should just fly, float, walk and run…

“If we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots and not feet” (Rachel Wolchin)

I always wondered during international travel how immigration authorities put a stamp on the passport just by seeing our Visa, because traveling changes you inside out. You are no longer the same person. Different body cells replace themselves in a duration of one day to few years. This means we don’t just bring back transformed soul but a renewed body too! Places change too when you leave them. You take something with you only to make those foreign places belong a little to you…

Traveling is a phase in which trust, care and hope are rebuilt. Trust on a stranger who looks after our luggage. Care through sharing food and bonds built through those deep conversations. These conversations happen more with ourselves than with others.

“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly. Then I ask myself the same question” (Harun Yahya)

Traveling has the potential to literate us with experiences and handicap us through language barriers. But does the traveller stops communicating? NO. Many times I talk about a friend of mine who is a class 9 school dropout. He didn’t know how to communicate well in English but made highest number friends among our group in UK. He is a guitar player and knows ways of communicating without words. I travelled abroad to see different countries, I came back and saw my own country differently! Traveling is not just about different places and currencies. It is about people and their dreams, food, and culture, music and dance, rivers and trees. Last month I was exploring Uganda and some people told me that what is there to see in Uganda, go to France or Singapore. Maybe they don’t have the cognizance of the above things.

“Those who don’t jump, can never fly” (Leena Ahmad Almashat)

Traveling is brutal and affection is lethal. That’s why Brexit interests me and Mumbai blasts disturb my British traveller friend who loves to visit India. Maybe this is what they call as global citizenship. Maybe that’s why I felt sad while listening to the experiences of a refugee friend in Africa. His father was activist in a political party. One day his father disappeared and entire family ran away in different countries to save themselves from getting slaughtered. He wanted to travel too but wasn’t even allowed to cross the country! There are lakhs of such stories in different refugee camps worldwide. In the meantime we in India prefer to ignore Rohingyas… Despite all such sad stories, uncertainties and chaos I travel. I travel because the world I have experienced is far beautiful and better than that being projected by media. I travel because two things remain constant for any traveller- the air to breath and the sky to fly…

I still haven’t thought how big my house should be but I know for sure how ‘broad’ it should be. It will have photos of all those people who made me richer when I emptied my pockets traveling to their places. The walls in my house will have photos of the cute kids and ugly crunched slums, big towers and small gardens, dark forest and bright sky. It will have everything… Thin people, fat people. Small people and their big dreams!

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Strength Through Solidarity- Evaluation Training, Uganda

Strength Through Solidarity (2017) project was recently concluded at Uganda and I was fortunate to attend the evaluation training phase of the project. Project STS was born from a desire of grassroots change-makers living across distant places to connect with each other, in order to share their challenges and successes with like-minded people from around the world. These change-makers realized the difficulties in organization and capacity-building of organizations working for youth empowerment. Lack of opportunities to share knowledge and experience with organizations working in similar areas hinder the creation of synergies and hamper their recognition by companies or institutional partners.

As a solution to all of the above problems, project “Strength Through Solidarity” was conceived to develop a transnational capacity building training program and to present the best practices which traverse the European context. The objective was to build on tried and tested workable solutions in empowering youth with fewer opportunities (especially with a disability) by providing the tools (mobility initiatives and online platform) for youth workers to work collaboratively in a non-formal, peer-learning environment and disseminate their best practices. To achieve above-mentioned objectives, a series of activities were organised at national and international level throughout the year. A promising group of partner organizations from all over the world were working together to achieve these objectives, which included-

  1. Foundation for social economic balance (Poland)
  2. Solidarity film doc foundation (Poland)
  3. Views international (Belgium)
  4. The German federation for the blind and partially sighted (Germany)
  5. Bars in action (Brazil)
  6. Thumbs up Uganda (Uganda)
  7. Jyothirgamaya India (India)
  8. Always reading Caravan (Thailand)

Change-makers from these organisations met in Poland in September 2016 and shared their experiences, best practices and knowledge about working with youth with disabilities. They organised and attended workshops on topics like peer support, curriculum development in informal education, advocacy, empowerment, and sustainability. In next few months the Strength Through Solidarity web portal www.networkofchange.org was created which disseminates valuable experiences and information on the following topics-

  1. Disability Awareness
  2. Intercultural Communication
  3. Empowering yourself and community
  4. Developing content for e-learning
  5. Advocacy
  6. Volunteering
  7. How to raise funds
  8. Peer support for change makers

Based on these trainings, each partner organisation conducted workshops in their country, mainly dedicated to youth workers, local activists and volunteers from NGOs. 78% of the participants appreciated the knowledge they gained during the workshops and 79% of the participants said they would apply it in their further work. Seven youth workers also took part in four-week job shadowing program and practiced on the job learning.

Training Evaluation at SINA, Uganda


A still from panel discussion happened during Strength Through Solidarity Training Evaluation (Location- SINA)

In mid-August 2017, 52 change makers of 14 different nationalities came together in Uganda to evaluate these online training programs. The venue – Social Innovation Academy (SINA, Mpigi hills) was as fascinating and unique as the STS project. It made an impact which a hotel location or a conference hall would not have made. Along with formal training evaluation, engaging discussions over bonfire offered the participants a fascinating opportunity for experience sharing and understanding different perspectives on global issues. The greenery of Africa and the mountain air at the top of Mpigi hill set an ideal ambiance for introspection and retrospection.


Evaluation of the training through innovative products and performances

On the first day of our training, SINA volunteers took us around to show their projects. After the visit, we had an interesting discussion with founder Etienne Salborn about the vision and ideology of SINA. It was interesting to see how they practice holacracy, a system in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy.

During the evaluation of the program, intensive discussions happened among the participants of the Strength Through Solidarity project. We split ourselves into small groups and pondered upon the structural and functional aspects of the program –

  • Did STS achieve what it planned to achieve?
  • Was it structured/organised?
  • How it was to be part of the project?

All the groups evaluated STS through innovative ways by formulating some prototypes and interactive performances. Those who were part of STS from its inception shared their experiences and learnings from job shadowing phase. Course creators shared how it was little stressful to create the courses. It was quite challenging to discuss the progress of the project over Skype from different locations at the same time. Barrier of language was another difficulty during content creation. The attempt to translate the content in multiple languages is great but it needs some more improvement. Change makers also shared what they have done to increase community participation. Some of the suggestions were that the promotion of the network of change website needs improvement. The solution to address this was to identify volunteers from the 52 participants who can promote these courses in their own countries and network. Also, a digital certificate can be given to participants after completion of the training program to encourage people to take the trainings.

The challenge of making the courses accessible to physically disabled people was very difficult to crack. The evaluators appreciated the focus on making the content accessible to blinds, whereas it would have been better if the needs of other marginalised people were also addressed. The program motivated all the change makers to do more work in their community once they go back to home country. Apart from evaluation of the training, a huge amount of cultural exchange between change makers happened over this week. During lunch or tea breaks, at the same time, 4 to 5 different languages were being spoken in the hall. Blind participants left mark on the training evaluation with their high level of motivation and energy. Having a considerable amount of blind participants in the training evaluation was a different experience for some participants who never worked with blinds before. The exercise of walking blind folded in the deep Mpanga forest was an overwhelming experience for many. Ultimately, STS succeeded in creating good content which will be helpful for change makers from all over the world in future. Though there is some scope for improvement, at the end everyone agreed that the STS project has been a good source of capacity building.

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A factory with 1/4th of the workforce as mentally challenged people!

The Census 2001 has revealed that over 21 million people in India are suffering from one or the other kind of disability. Among the total disabled in the country, 2.2 million people are mentally challenged. In spite of a 3% reservation quota for people with disabilities (PWDs) in government jobs, the implementation has always remained a challenge. However, a few good samaritans have provided employment not only to the physically disabled but also to the mentally-challenged. Mr. Subhash Chuttar, managing partner of Sharayu Precision (Pune) is one such person.

Today, one-fourth (80) of their workforce comprises special persons (mentally challenged and some hearing impaired). This school dropout turned entrepreneur has taught many disabled people how to earn their bread and butter but has never accepted any charity. A generous lady once offered him a donation of Rs. 2 Crores for his work but he politely refused it.

“I knew mentally challenged people will be less efficient than the so-called normal people but I knew they are not lazy. They just don’t understand how to do the work. We need to tell them how to do the work hundred times, sometimes maybe five hundred times! I worked dedicatedly with such people and they started working effectively. Initially, we rotated such people in different departments and tried to identify what mentally challenged people like to (can) do. The biggest advantage of mentally challenged people is that they are extremely disciplined, focused and not easily distracted. They are so motivated that they want to work on holidays too”, Says Chuttar, who himself is the father of a special child.

“Every morning these individuals are engaged in a physical exercise program with the intention to coordinate the brain and body. They just require a little more patience. We have had zero accidents. If you walk onto our shop floors, you won’t be able to distinguish the work of a disabled employee from any other, ” Chuttar adds. He gives the credit of this marvel to his wife who taught him how to work patiently with mentally challenged people.

A UNDP report explains the concept of supplier diversity as an emerging trend where large corporations support smaller vendors from marginalised sections. It illustrates that Mumbai-based Mirakle Couriers (which only hires hearing impaired people) services mega groups like Aditya Birla and Godrej. Likewise, auto-components of AMC are purchased by Tata Motors and Ford. CCD, Lemon Tree Hotel and Aegis (BPO) have enabled a lot of PWDs. While technology company Mindtree creates an inclusive environment by hiring PWDs, Mindtree Foundation also develops assistive technologies for use, such as KAVI (K(C)ommunication Audio-Visual Interface Device, a picture-to-speech software application). Many companies and HR professionals can learn a lot from Mr. Chuttar and follow similar practices.

Many factory owners and HR professionals can learn a lot from Mr. Chuttar and follow similar practices. Every individual contributes to the organization in his own unique manner and that is the advantage of having a diverse employee set. Disabled employees are often found to stay longer in their companies due to a sense of loyalty and lack of similar opportunities. A successful integration of disabled people in the workforce helps the company to build a socially sensitive image in a true sense. It is rightly said that “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Reference- UNDP report, Interview of Mr. Subhash Chuttar and TOI Crest

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Cashless India- Solution to get rid of black money!

Mobile payments are a top investment priority for banks. In fact, the world’s biggest banks continue to focus most of their announced IT initiatives on mobile financial services (including payments) and online banking. Mobile wallet providers are emerging as mini banking institutions and it won’t be surprising if they start providing banking solutions in the near future. E-wallets or M-wallets have been around for some time and their popularity is rising exponentially. A decision to scrap Rs.500 & Rs.1000 denomination notes and a friend of mine who is living ‘cashless’ (in India!) from more than 200 days grabbed my attention towards this topic and I decided to dig more into this phenomenon.

Cost of Using Cash

The median life span of a note across all denominations is about 3.6 years. As a result, roughly one-third of the current currency stock of 83.6 billion pieces gets replaced every year at a huge national cost. In 2014-15, the Reserve Bank reportedly spent ₹38.6 billion to print 23 billion currency notes across all denominations, entailing an average cost of ₹ 1.7 per piece.

printing-costCurrent Situation in Metro Cities

The four metros—Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai—contribute about 60% of the total digital payment gateway market size, followed by Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune which together contributed 25% in 2013. Many companies have started offering their own wallet service, M-wallet companies are doing tie ups with different service providers. Paytm has already partnered with retail chain of Aditya Birla Group, MORE and is planning to partner organized retail chains, local kirana shops and create app-cash points. MobiKwik has also tied up with Big Bazaar and Sagar Ratna franchises enabling mobile payments. Freecharge and Oxigen are also aggressively trying to attract more customers

Types of Wallets

As per the RBI, there are three kinds of e-wallets—closed, semi-closed and open.

  1. Closed wallet-

A closed wallet is one that a company issues to its consumers for in-house goods and services only. Several portals such as Flipkart, Jabong and MakeMyTrip offer such closed wallets. It is basically an account where money gets credited in case of a refund due to cancellation or return.

  1. Semi-closed-

Firms such as MobiKwik, PayU and Paytm offer semi-closed wallets. As per the RBI, a semi-closed wallet can be used for goods and services, including financial services, at select merchant locations or establishments that have a contract with the issuing company to accept these payment instruments. Semi-closed wallets do not permit cash withdrawal or redemption by the holder as well.

  1. Open wallet-

Open wallets can be used for purchase of goods and services, including financial services such as funds transfer at merchant locations or point of sale terminals that accept cards, and also cash withdrawals at automated teller machines or business correspondents. These kinds of wallets can only be issued by banks.

Utility of Cashless Services in Mass Transit

We can realise the potential of cashless transactions even if we just think about commuters using local trains in Mumbai. Mumbai Suburban Railway carries 7.5 million commuters daily with an approximate annual ridership of 2.64 billion. It’s that anchor solution which can trigger (being an utility item that touches Mumbaikars’ life daily) a cashless wave in Mumbai. Currently, we can buy train tickets using UTS payment gateway but it is a very tedious process. It should be like IRCTC, which allows us to pay through Paytm. Just think of how transformative it will be if the UI-UX is aligned with the current best-in-class apps. It will not just do away with the queue at ticket counter but also save approximately 300 million sheets of paper, leading to a cleaner railway station and contributing a bit to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission).

We can learn from some global success stories of Mass Transit Solutions-

  1. Octopus card system: More than 20 million cards in circulation, nearly three times the population of Hong Kong. The cards are used by 95% of the population of Hong Kong aged 16 to 65, generating over 12 million daily transactions worth a total over HK $ 130 million.
  2. Oyster (London): Latest figures (2015) 56.5 million cards issued till date.

Impact on Underground/Black Economy

Digitising payments and moving to a ‘less-cash’ society will bring a lot of benefits to the economy. Estimates of the size of black economy range from 30 % to 75 % of GDP. Just imagine the tax revenue and productive usage this money generated can be submitted. If even 25% ($550 B) of this is brought into the tax net, it has a potential (purely on account of blended tax income of $ 75-80 B) to bring millions above the poverty line. The flagship government schemes like NREGA, NRHM can be funded for over next 10 years by just 1 year of tax revenue generated from this initiative. Getting rid of the black economy will be one of the true manifestations of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

6 Thinking Hats

White Hat


-Out of a world population of 7 billion, over 5 billion or 70% have a mobile phone, whereas only 2 billion or 30% have a bank account

-90 Cr people in India are yet to shift from cash to digital

– In India out of 1.2 billion over 800 million have a mobile phone and only 250 million have a bank account. Consumers are increasingly using their mobile phones to make payments

-Wallet payment will bring ease and transparency in transactions

– The market for payments made through digital media has grown at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% between 2010 and 2013

-As per World Bank estimates, only 35% of the Indian population has accounts with financial institutions.

Red Hat


-It will be interesting to observe how many of independent wallet companies survive when the day to reap benefits of this transition will come.

-Retail kirana merchants have multiple questions to solve before embarking on this journey- Will it increase footfall? Will it increase more consumption from same consumer? What is the tax implication? Are the above benefits good enough to overlook tax cost?

– None of the current digital cash options are cost effective (Cost of Transaction + Cost of Instrument) enough to work with street vendors.

Black Hat


– Not everything associated with a cashless environment is perfect. For e.g

  1. Oyster card system glitch in London at start of the year 2016. As per BBC, it resulted in 100,000 free rides and GBP 250K revenue loss in just a few hours
  2. EBT System failure in US 2013
  3. Belgium card payment network crash in 2013

-In India, debit and ATM cards are primarily used to withdraw money. RBI data for the year 2013 indicated that the use of debit cards at merchant outlets was less than 5% in terms of value transacted. Even to pay utility bills, the majority still withdraws cash rather than paying through net banking. People still want to hold and pay cash

Some obstacles in making the transactions cashless are-

-Adoption challenge

-Older generation is not quite tech savvy

-Regulatory challenge

-Interoperability challenge

-Poor connectivity

Yellow Hat


– The latest Moody’s Analytics Report estimates that increased usage of electronic payment methods have added $ 6.08 bn to India’s GDP between 2011-2015, adding 3.36 lakh jobs in the same period

– As per Economic Survey released in Feb 2016, govt. provides approx. ₹ 3.7 lakh cr in subsidy via various programs like fertilizer, food, kerosene, diesel etc. And the survey further builds that a large percentage of this does not go to the beneficiary. This can be arrested if such wallets are linke with Aadhar card.

Cost of Cash: With 76.5 B (2012-13 RBI data) pieces of currency in circulation, the operational cost of managing currency operations (to RBI and banks) is $ 3.5 B. Think of the need to re-issue currency due to wear and tear. However, even bigger is the loss on account of dead cash lying in wallets rather than in an income generating instruments. There is an additional cost in terms of time and effort submitted to withdraw cash. It further places the disproportionate burden on poor due to lack of places to keep and save it securely for future.

Green Hat


-Linking Aadhar card to bank accounts with such wallets will make things easier

– Strong IT system and support from government to M-wallet startups will help India become cashless economy (or ‘less-cash’ economy)

– Investment in infrastructure and willingness of corporate is required for speedy and uninterrupted internet connection

Blue Hat


-Government can offer some tax incentive for consumers to pay digitally and outlets to accept digitally

– Mandating all government departments retail consumer payments using cashless means

-There is need to build segment specific use cases like transit, small business payments, P2P payments and then over the period of time making it Omnibus


India will require a significant amount of patience, investment and resource commitment to build digital payment use case, in collaboration with the private sector to support initiatives towards development of acceptance network. The belief is that the system will evolve in such a manner that it will have a robust business continuity and consumer grievance redressal plans to ensure that the benefits outweigh the not-so-gilded impacts. The government is already encouraging electronic payments acceptance both at consumer and merchant level as cited in recent white papers on the subject. Considering the pace of technology adoption, I hope that the goal is attained soon.

(Sources– TEDx, The Financial Express, The Hindu Business line, The Hindu, LinkedIn articles, Wikipedia)

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Game theory and Human Resource Management

“When thinking strategically, you have to work extra hard to understand the perspective and interactions of all the other players in the game, including ones who may be silent. That brings us to the last point. You may be thinking you are playing one game, but it is only a part of a larger game. There is always a larger game.” – Dixit & Nalebuff in The Art of Strategy

Companies have gone through a very difficult period that could arguably be likened to a ‘perfect storm’ as many industries struggled to create sustainable growth because of, say, increasing and aggressive labour unrest as well as fractures between unions and labour. HR professionals will need to to sort these issues in unconventional ways and become key players in delivering on primary business objectives. Game theory is an approach which, if used correctly, will lead to better problem-solving approaches and significantly increase the likelihood of success.

Game theory delineates how individual players make decisions when they are aware that their actions affect each other and when each individual has the same realization. Game theory has been applied extensively in the field of economics and many other areas of social sciences, but has made few contributions to the area of human resource management. The games this theory potentially applies to are vast and range from chess to child rearing, from leadership to managing takeovers, developing turnaround strategies or implementing change interventions, and from advertising to politics.

Strategic thinking using game theory in a business or leadership sense starts with an ability to understand the basic principles behind “human nature and behaviour”, and then know how to utilize this knowledge in a manner that influences positive win-win outcomes. Game theory will enable organizations and managers to better comprehend and hence, effectively manage their team members during difficult times. John Nash, who made fundamental contributions to game theory, believed that the best solution is when we consider what is best for the individual (zero-sum), and the group.

How is game theory useful in HR?

Game theory is incredibly effective in analyzing problems, defining the ‘right’ solutions for different contexts (both strategically and tactically), expediting effective decision-making and, importantly, getting things done and getting good ideas implemented.

Game theory is technically a branch of applied mathematics that has been adopted for use in economic analysis. In economics, the central feature of game theory is that it provides a formal modeling approach for decision-makers to explore a variety of interactions among economic agents and their potential outcomes. Such a modeling process can be important for decision makers in HRD for considering their investments and their potential returns.

Game theory is an approach that allows organizations to understand:

  • Causes of problems
  • Manifestation of problems(scenario planning)
  • Which 20% to focus on in order to get the 80% benefit
  • Decisions and solutions to adopt
  • How confident we can be that the reactions from our key stakeholders (employees, labour, shareholders, management, communities and government) will be positive because of our strategic or tactical actions/decisions?

Analysis and Examples:

Firm employee interaction as a dynamic game

Decision of the firm Employee’s Actions
Act Cooperatively Act Opportunistically
Adopt HRD Initiatives 7.5, 7.5 0, 15
Do not adopt HRD Initiatives 5, 0 NA

As an illustration, suppose the firm must invest $5 on an HRD initiative that has the potential of providing $15 in enhanced productivity of the employee. In a cooperative environment, both the employee and the firm may decide to share the excess productivity of $15 evenly making it worthwhile for both. However, with opportunistic behavior, the employee may decide to switch jobs with the potential of appropriating the entire $15 in economic rent for himself or herself, leaving the employer with an expenditure of $5 which brought no returns. Faced with this prospect, the firm may decide to not invest in the HRD initiative and save the $5.

A firm expends resources in HRD initiatives in the hopes of creating a more valuable (productive) work force. Once an employee has decided to participate in an HRD initiative, he or she has the opportunity to behave cooperatively or opportunistically. Cooperative behaviour will manifest in higher productivity from the employee where the economic rents from the HRD investment are shared by the employee and the firm. However, opportunistic behaviour by the employee may result in the employee marketing his or her newly enhanced expertise to other firms who did not make any investment in the HRD initiative. As such, the employee could extol the entire economic rent generated by the firm’s HRD initiative. Of course, the hiring firm may negotiate some of the extra rents away from the employee in the hiring process. In any event, if the employee sees an opportunity to obtain a greater portion of the extra rent generated, he or she may still have an incentive to switch jobs. Such opportunism may reduce the incentive for firms to invest in HRD initiatives in a static environment.

As an employee’s opportunistic behaviour becomes known among potential employers, he or she may be unable to repeat such opportunistic behavior over future iterations. Future employers may insist on safeguards such as bonding agreements before investing in HRD initiatives for such employees. As such, the value of future HRD initiatives may be limited for an employee with questionable reputation, and the added value from switching jobs may eventually disappear. Applying these notions, one may develop a dynamic strategy where in an infinitely repeated game; the dominant strategy may well be co-operation.

Wage bargaining (Collective bargaining):

Say, a labour union declares a strike demanding higher wages. The labour union is unaware of the exact profit made by the company. Hence it is a case of imperfect information. (Even if the firm divulges its profit, there is no reason why the union would believe because the firm has an incentive to understate its profit thereby requesting a lower wage.) In such a situation there are many things that come into play.

1. The firm may not know how long the union can hold its stand. The firm however, knows the cost of replacing the experienced labour force.
2. The union may not know how long the firm can hold its stand before giving into the union’s demand.
3. Is the firm holding out and not settling to pay higher wages an indicator of the fact that the firm cannot afford to pay higher wages (it will result in huge losses for the firm and hence it has nothing to lose in its current stand) or is the firm trying to bluff the union into believing the same? In other words, is the signal valid?
4. Say if there is a condition that when a strike goes unresolved for more than ‘x’ weeks, an arbitrator gets involved. Now, there is at least one more uncertainty – what would the arbitrator do. If the arbitrator’s decision would be favorable to either of the parties, there is an incentive for that party to wait out.

Using all the information that each party believes to be true, it can come up with an acceptable range of wages. If the ranges overlap, a strike can be avoided! Else the game will be a protracted one with more signals and ultimatums.

What underlies game theory principles?

It is important to understand that because the dynamics of human behaviour are relatively well understood, it is possible – with enough information – to predict or anticipate individual responses to interactions or decisions. Some decisions or interactions are clear cut and solutions are relatively easy to identify and implement, but increasingly managers are faced with challenges that are potentially open-ended and not responsive to generic interventions. However, managers are very responsive to interventions that target and positively impact their specific problems. Game theory enables us to identify these in a scientific way.

Game theory principles are also based on the realities of human behaviour, which people won’t express externally, but these do drive decisions and strategies, for example:

  • People aren’t always selfless in their actions and decisions and so will not always do things that are in the best interests of their employees or the organization. It is human nature to act in ways that protect their best interests and drive their own agendas.
  • Over time, any individual typically demonstrates consistent behaviour patterns in response to problems or making decisions. Finding patterns in behaviour, understanding internal political dynamics, and knowing the motivations of an individual/key decision maker will enable you to use foresight in developing responses to scenarios, which scientifically increases the potential for effective collaboration and buy-in to ideas and solutions.

Finally, some of these change management questions with reference to GROW model will be useful in digging deeper-



These methodologies are not without their shortcomings which need to be considered during the strategy development process.  Firstly, game theory assumes the players act rationally and in their self-interest.  We know that as humans, this is not always the case.  Secondly, Game Theory assumes that players act strategically and consider the competitive responses of their actions.  Again, our experience tells us that not every manager thinks within a strategic context.  In reality, most companies often do not have enough knowledge of their own payoffs let alone those of their competition. Finally, Game Theory is most effective when managers understand the expected positive and negatives payoffs of each of their actions.

(Sources- Quora, Blogs, HR Pulse, research papers and summary of the book- The art of strategy )

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