FL!P : Book Review: V2 Issue 2

Title: FL!P

Author: Peter Sheahan

Publication details: HarperCollins Publishers, India, April 2008

Number of pages:326 pages

Wondering why your current business idea or career move is not working as well as it used to. Maybe it’s time to flip your thinking on it. Peter Sheahan is the author of the groundbreaking book ‘Generation Y: Thriving (and Surviving) with Generation Y at Work’. And in his new book ‘Flip’ he gives a formula for succeeding in today’s business context by turning everything you know on its head.

The book begins by describing the four forces of change today viz., increasing compression of time and space; increasing complexity; increasing transparency and accountability; and increasing expectation on the part of everyone for everything. These changes require you to reexamine every aspect of running a company to continue being successful.  

The book highlights what today’s successful businesses and ‘flipstars’ such as Richard Branson, Google, Toyota, Rupert Murdoch and Apple have in common. It is an ability to 'flip' conventional thinking about business and then act boldly.  A limit was put by the government on premiums that could be charged. So, Progressive car insurance from offering insurance only to high risk drivers at high premiums started offering insurance to all drivers at widely varying premiums. Most players were talking about work-life balance. But Macquarie Bank during recruitment said, “Say goodbye to your friends...family. You are not going to see them for ten years. But when you do, you will be rich!” Both companies are highly successful today.

Scattered across the book is counterintuitive wisdom on doing business. To meet expectations about our products or services, just picking being two of the three ie., fast, cheap or good,  is not enough. The book says “Think And, Not Or.” We must pick all three and something more. The more could come from being green, easy, healthy etc. Luxury car Lexus makes things easy for its user by arranging to pick up the car for service, leaving a replacement to use, returning the car clean with chocolates on the front seat and getting free parking. While talking about “To Get Control, Give It Up” the book says “You should tap into the brilliance that individuals don’t work for you have, whether they be customers, bored scientists in academia or teenage kids with an idea about how to advertise your product better”.  Another flip mentioned is “Action Precedes Clarity” ie., acting in spite of ambiguity.

The book also contains valuable conventional wisdom. Design the total ownership experience for customers by incorporating service, form, functionality and story. It talks about how Apple iPod‘s marketing slogan “A thousand songs in your pocket” told the story of what it would do for customers in daily life. What I liked best about the book are the numerous such industry examples ranging from Microsoft to the company dealing with Lonely Planet Travel guide books. It also gives a glimpse of the current business and workplace trends like the use of social networking tools, competing companies working with each other, Gen Y employees seeking more empowerment etc.

The book is full of interesting tips and suggestions. For example the suggestion made in the book for finding new ideas for your product or service ---“…contact with fringe areas of society where new ideas percolate…This is why Nike assiduously tracks trends within minority urban communities, striving to identify what suburban consumers will later buy in even greater quantities.” Each chapter ends with 'to do' lists for readers.

While this book is a must read for business owners, decision makers and marketing professionals, it is also a book for people looking for inspiration to do something different in their lives. I think it is apt to end this review with the words used by the author at the end of the book “Get up off your butt and do something!!!”

Understanding & Managing Generation Y: Feature Article; V2 Issue 2

Understanding and Managing Generation Y

Shubham listens to his ipod and leaves messages for his friends in orkut… all this while he is working at home on his office project. Jagjith who says exactly what he feels about making improvements in the workplace also likes to collaborate with his peers online to find solutions to the technical problems in his project.  Raina attends yoga classes in the mornings. After work in the evenings she volunteers for an NGO. During weekends she treks extensively. Meet the Generation Y! Who are they? Let’s find out!

Who is Generation Y and why should you want to manage them?

Generation Y are those born between 1980 and 2000. They are even called the Millennial Generation, the Internet Generation, the Nintendo Generation, the Digital Generation and the Sunshine Generation. They are the children of active, involved parents and the younger siblings of Gen Xers ie., a generation born from the mid1960s to the late 1970s. With penpals across the world, the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital media, they see things as global, connected, and of course open for business 24/7.  And what is important for you is that today they are the fastest-growing segment of the workforce. You would be recruiting them from campus. You would be finding replacements for them when they leave your company to join another one. You would be working with them. You need to manage them. And so, you need to know more about them!

Characteristics of Generations Y

Even if you don’t identify them by their age, Generation Y is not very difficult to spot because of the following characteristics which define them:-
1. Confidence: Having been raised by parents believing in the importance of self-esteem, they ooze confidence. Confidence in the way they speak out about issues that bother them, confidence in the way they carry themselves and confidence to tackle any challenge!

2. High expectations from self: They expect to achieve great things and solve problems nobody has solved and do more work, better and faster than anybody else. Sounds familiar?

3. High expectations from others: They also have high expectations from you - their employers and managers. Expectation that you will know their needs, help them succeed and reward them accordingly. They expect you to be honest and direct and fair and highly engaged in every step of their professional development.

4. Optimism: They believe in a bright future which has a special place for them as well. They expect a workplace with all the good things - challenge, collaboration, creativity, fun, and financial rewards. Why do you think they came to work for you?

5. Goal and achievement orientation: They like setting goals, striving for them and achieving them. So don’t be surprised if they arrive first day of work armed with personal goals already defined.

6. Inclusiveness: They are used to being organized in teams and don’t like leaving behind anybody. Workplace diversity is expected by them. They will not hesitate to use their collective power if they feel someone is treated unfairly. 

7. Love for change: Generation Yers don't expect to be doing the same thing tomorrow and day after. Multitasking comes naturally to them. They can juggle between checking e-mail on their Blackberries, talking on cell phones and surfing on the net.

8. Financial smartness: After witnessing the financial insecurity of earlier generations faced by layoffs and the dot-com bust, today's youngest workers are generally quite savvy about money and savings.

9. Need for work life balance: Unlike the earlier generation for whom career tends to come first, generation Yers are more interested in making their jobs accommodate their family and personal lives. They want jobs with flexibility - telecommuting options, part time or long leaves when children or elders need be taken care etc.

10. Sense of civic duty: They believe in doing things for the greater good. They often volunteer for community services. Naturally they expect companies also to contribute to their communities and have environment friendly operations.

11. Total comfort with technology: Having grown up with online social lives, classrooms and entertainment, the virtual world feels to them like a natural extension of their personal experiences. For them, meeting and interacting online is just as comfortable as face-to-face meetings.


By now can you see the behavior patterns among your team members who belong to the generation Y? Now given this unique pattern of behavior would you say the current ways of managing people would work with this generation? Perhaps not!

Managing Generation Y

Here are some of the things which will work with them.

1. As a boss I’ll be pleasant and easy to get along with: The number one rule for managing this highly sociable generation is for you to be sociable with them. Plain business talk with no chitchats will not do.

2. I’ll be your role model:  Having grown up with structure and supervision, with parents who were role models they are looking for role models at work too. This generation is looking for leaders with honesty and integrity. So 'parent' them in ways that will inspire them to utilise their strengths but also manage their weaknesses and set boundaries.

3. You can work with your friends: Generation Y want to work with people they connect with. They like being friends with their colleagues. Did you know some companies are even interviewing and hiring groups of friends because of this? Review them as a group; they enjoy collaborating and being rewarded for the same.

4. I’ll give you challenges: For a breed looking for challenges and lots of learning opportunities this is a statement they would welcome! Give them problems to solve and obstacles to overcome.

5. Here is what you need to do, I am flexible on how you want to do it: With their varied activities, Generation Y expects work to fit into the rest of their life. They don’t believe in face time. Once they are done with their work they will leave office (wow the focus is on output rather than just input!) In order to get the best out of the busiest generation ever it is essential you don’t bind them to a rigid 9 am to 6 pm schedule. Let them work anytime and anywhere while meeting their goals. Also get creative in providing the work/life balance that they crave by offering perks, such as a month sabbatical after some years of service. This offers them time to volunteer for NGOs or pursue a hobby.

6. I’ll be direct with you: Adapt your communication style for them. Gen Y employees speak a different language. They typically respond to humor, passion and the truth. Don’t beat around the bush with this set.

And here are some of the things that won’t work with them.

1. There is nothing much happening now, so chill: Just say this the day they join and they’ll walk out on you right then. Remember they want to start achieving from day 1. Be ready with a task or responsibility no matter how small that you can give the new joinee almost immediately.

2. You are too young to have ideas: Just because they have not been around a long time does not mean you don’t treat their ideas with respect. Don’t be surprised and overwhelmed with the articulate Generation Y’s forthrightness. Don’t try to discount their ideas for lack of experience (they do think outside the box) or throw a wet blanket on their enthusiasm. While an open door policy works well with them, to ensure your work does not get derailed often, tell them to bring you well researched ideas and specific questions.

3. Finish developing this product in 6 months time: This is as good as saying I want to lose your commitment. Gen Yers thrive on small goals with short deadlines so they can build up ownership of tasks. So you better break that project down into smaller pieces. Give them one new task at a time. And please change the type of projects they do every now and then.

4. I’ll give you feedback once in two years: Oh oh this is a sure way to lose them. Gen Y employees want frequent, direct and specific feedback and encouragement. They want their bosses to talk to them regularly just the way their parents did. Even if this means changing your performance appraisal system it is worth it. They become more confident, productive, and willing to use their creative talents when they see that their work is appreciated and receive feedback on how to achieve more.

5. I’ll reward you with just higher compensation: Compensating Gen Y cannot be solely about money. They are seeking training, new challenges, expansion of their capabilities and as a result, advancement to new, more highly compensated roles.


Pampered? Over indulged? Call the Generation Y what you want but you can’t do without this talented generation who are not only your colleagues but are also increasingly your customers and key influencers. Don’t feel threatened by their technical know how. Learn from them instead. Don’t treat them as your enemies but your allies in getting ahead in this increasingly competitive word. For instance considering that they are a generation comfortable with working remotely, leveraging technology and virtual relationships, Gen Y can help you meet your need for global teamwork and flexible work hours.

Come to think of it, creating a better workplace for the generation Y can mean a better workplace for all generations. The earlier generations had just not demanded and expected it like this recent generation does. And the result can be highly desirable - a set of engaged and motivated employees!


  1. Raines,C, “Managing Millennials”, 2002, http://www.generationsatwork.com/articles/millenials.htm.
  2. “Managing Generation Y as They Change the Workforce”, Business Wire, Jan 8, 2008 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2008_Jan_8/ai_n24224688.
  3. Tulgan ,B,“'tis the Season... to hire Generation Y.”, http://www.jobdig.com/articles/980/'tis_the_Season..._to_hire_Generation_Y._.html.
  4. Sue M.P, “Managing Gen Y effectively: the six keys to lead, and motivate Millennial´s to peak performance”, June 05, 2008, http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/64052.
  5. Armour, S, “Generation Y: They've arrived at work with a new attitude”, USA TODAY http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2005-11-06-gen-y_x.htm.
  6. Malini Goyal and Jacob Cherian , “Is Gen-Y taking over the boardroom?”, 11 Aug, 2006,TNN, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1882803.cms.

Ask the Expert : V2 Issue 1

1. Two of my senior team members refuse to work together on projects owing to certain personal conflict. I am deeply concerned about this since this not only affects productivity but also results in undue hostility between junior team members. I need both of them to start working together and showing results! Please suggest a few effective conflict resolution tips.  

Yes, not dealing with workplace conflicts can be detrimental to the organization, both in terms of loss of productivity as well as loss of a positive work environment. To effectively resolve the conflict intervene immediately with the following steps:-

  • Understand the problem:  A conflict cannot be resolved unless one determines the root cause for it. So gather as much information as possible for the underlying reasons for the conflict. Call a meeting of the two team members. Communicate to them that the objective of the meeting is to sort out their individual differences in a calm and positive manner and not to criticize or point fingers. Allow each of them to speak about the issues pertaining to the conflict without being interrupted by the other. Make sure both of them clearly understand each other’s viewpoint. If any of them tries to derail the resolution process, deal with them firmly. Exercise your authority if required to convey that resolution of conflict is essential.

  • Brainstorm on possible solutions: Once the conflict situation has been understood, build a positive discussion to determine different solutions. Seek clarifications, ask open ended questions, and suggest possible solutions. But, do not enforce your ideas or take sides. If you play favorites it can defeat the purpose of the meeting.

  • Choose the best solution: Listen carefully. To reach a consensus, it is very important to explore the real needs, expectations, concerns and fears. Involve both of them in the decision making process. Impress upon them that you are looking for a solution that makes both of them happy. Select the solution that is mutually acceptable, even if it is not perfect for either of them. As long as it seems fair and there is a mutual commitment to implement the solution, the conflict has a chance for resolution.

  • Implement solution. Now, implementation is the toughest challenge of all! Work out the details-what each person will do, what to do in case the agreement starts to break down etc.

  • Do not stop evaluating the solution: Once the solution has been arrived at, figure out a way to consistently follow up with your two team members to ensure efficacy of the solution. If the conflict still persists, one is back to square one and you need to begin with step one.

There is no doubt that resolving interpersonal conflicts at the work place is one of the toughest challenges faced by managers. If they are handled well, however, interpersonal conflicts can actually be productive leading to deeper understanding, mutual respect and closeness between the conflicting parties.


2. I have been made in charge of a big project. The cross functional team that I will have to manage historically has been unable to deliver as per the project deadlines. How do I ensure the cross functional team delivers as per project timelines?

If it is hard to get traditional teams within departments to be effective, it is exponentially more difficult to get cross functional teams to deliver. But with detailed and rigorous planning it can be done. Some suggestions for improving effectiveness of your cross functional team are provided below.

  • Ensure that your cross functional team is structured it into smaller workgroups.  When a team is large, communications and productivity suffer since members feel less accountable and their participation decreases. Establish proper handoffs from one part of the team to another.

  • Arrange for your team members to meet outside office for sometime to allow them to get to know each other especially since they are from different departments and may not know each other well. This is a good time to determine how the team will work together…. How will it make decisions? How will it assess progress? How will it work on team issues? Identify potential barriers to effective work and ways to address them. 

  • Keep things simple. Deploy a basic project management methodology. Use terminology commonly understood by all during all team communications. For the team to be effective team members will need to be able to meet and communicate easily. They will need to have direct access to those who provide valuable input to them and to the recipients of their work. Confirm if this is so. If not talk to the respective department heads to facilitate the same.

  • Plan for adequate dedicated time for each of the team member for this project. Speak to the department heads if necessary. This way this responsibility of theirs will also be reviewed during their appraisal and hence they will feel more accountable for it.

  • Before your project team commences work ensure the team objectives are realistic, clear and specific. Define them in writing by creating a mission statement and distributing it to all involved. This will get your team motivated and unified. Determine individual responsibilities and project milestones based on your team’s ability. Encourage the team members to suggest timeframes for their deliverables. That way they will be more committed to meeting them.

  • Circulate a summary as well as detailed plan to the project team so that they get the big picture and are aware of the milestones. Regularly follow up on the status of the milestones to determine whether the project is on track. Keep everyone informed on the progress of the project so they are engaged in the whole process.


3. We, recently, hired a person for my team from one of the leading companies who have implemented some of the best practices in the industry. Towards the end of his department orientation, he confronted me, his manager, about the lack of proper planning in the orientation program. What would be your suggestions for a Manager to ensure that his/her new team members go through a proper orientation process?

All new employees should complete an orientation program designed to assist them in adjusting to their jobs and work environment and to instill a positive work attitude and motivation. Normally at the time of joining, the HR department will put the new joinee through an induction process. Let the new joinee complete that fully before joining your team. Do not insist on him/her joining soon. Understand what that induction process includes. In the department’s orientation process plan for activities which are essential but not covered in that induction process.

The Manager is ultimately responsible for retention of an employee and a smooth induction into the department is the first step towards this goal. So plan carefully. Some of the things you can include in the orientation are:-

  • Provide an agenda to the new joinee to let him/her know what to expect from the orientation and assuring him/her that his/her orientation is a planned affair. Most importantly stick to the agenda.

  • Brief the new joinee about the company and his/her job. Discuss any concerns or queries they may have. Provide a list of FAQs.

  • Also find out about the new member's interests, strengths, skills and what they hope to gain from their new experience.

  • Assign a mentor or a buddy to show the new person around, make introductions, and help him/her in the initial months to settle down. The mentor also needs to be provided with sufficient time to prepare prior to the new joinee coming on board.

  • Begin with the basic knowledge and skills required to do the job. Individuals become productive sooner if they have a strong foundation in them. So ensure this is so. If not plan for it to be provided. Convey commitment to continuous improvement and continual learning. That way, new employees become comfortable with asking questions to obtain the information they need to learn. Avoid any overload of information. Include practical exercises along with theory. Include some fun activities.

  • Involve them in various company social events. Allowing them the chance to get to know their colleagues in a more informal setting can lay the foundation for an amiable and productive relationship. Plan to take them out for lunch. Include other co-workers, making sure the employee is at ease. 

  • Keep the new person's family in mind.  A new job means adjustment for the entire family, especially if they have relocated. Do what you can to ease the transition and help them feel comfortable in the community. 

  • Lastly don’t forget to ask for constructive feedback from the new joinees on the orientation process. Incorporate changes based on this feedback.

Six Thinking Hats: Management Funda; V2 Issue 1

When you are making an important decision at work, don’t you want your colleague or manager to provide their views on it?  You want their views because you want a different perspective on it. Imagine if can get not two but six different perspectives on it. This is exactly what the technique ‘Six thinking Hats’ gives you. This is achieved by encouraging you to recognize your habitual thinking and by helping you apply different types of thinking.

What is this technique?
The Six Hats represent six approaches to thinking. Each is symbolized by the act of putting on a coloured hat imaginatively. Most people use only one or two of the approaches. This limits their thinking. By deliberately adopting all six approaches to a problem people can be more productive. You can use ‘Six Thinking Hats’ in meetings or on your own. When done in group, everybody wears the same hat at the same time. The kind of thinking involved in each hat is explained below:-

White Hat: Focus on the facts and data available and gaps in your knowledge. Then either try to fill them or take account of them.

Red Hat: Look at the decision using intuition, gut reaction, and emotion. Think how other people will react emotionally.

Black Hat: Think negatively. See why ideas might not work. This is important because it highlights the weak points in a plan of action. It allows you to eliminate them, alter your approach, or prepare contingency plans to counter problems that arise.

Yellow Hat: Think positively. See the decision’s benefits and spot opportunities that arise from it. Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.

Green Hat: Develop creative solutions. It is a freewheeling way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas.

Blue Hat: Control the thinking process. This is the hat worn by people chairing meetings. When ideas are running dry, they may direct activity into Green Hat thinking and so on.

How did it originate?
It was first propounded by Dr. Edward de Bono in the book ‘Six Thinking Hats’ in the early 1980s. The concept was actually conceived in just one afternoon by him while writing an article. He imagined a situation for creative thinking and thought of the negative criticism that people usual encounter while ideating. Wanting to counter this, he thought what if there is a time and place where that sort of critical thinking is perfectly correct, but other times where it’s not. So it started out as a reaction to the negativity. The article was then expanded into the book.

An Example
Lets look at how an issue can be viewed 'wearing' each of the thinking hats in turn.

Situation:  The directors of a property company are looking at whether they should construct a new office building. The economy is doing well, and the amount of vacant office space is reducing sharply.

While the obvious benefit is that it helps you make sound decisions, the other benefits are:-

  • It helps you conduct more productive meetings. Since everyone focuses on a particular approach at any one time, the group tends to be more collaborative than say if one person is reacting emotionally (Red hat) while another person is trying to be objective (White hat).

  • It allows necessary emotion and skepticism to be brought into what would otherwise be purely rational decisions.

  • Black Hat thinking makes your plans more resilient by helping you spot fatal flaws and risks before you embark on a course of action.

  • The technique can help, for example, persistently pessimistic people to be positive.

  • This allows an issue to be addressed from a variety of angles, thus servicing the needs of all individuals concerned.

  • It encourages creative, parallel and lateral thinking along with rational thinking.


To use “Six thinking hats” effectively it is important to put on and take off a hat metaphorically speaking. I mean using all of the hats at the same time is not a good idea. Also, do not use the hats to categorize individuals, even though most people automatically use one kind of hat more often than the others. Hats symbolize types of thinking and not types of people. So, which hat did you have on while reading this write-up?



  • ‘Six Thinking Hats’, http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_07.htm.
  • Vas, L S. R, ‘Six Thinking Hats of creativity’, http://www.lifepositive.com/Mind/Creativity/Six_Thinking_Hats_of_creativity52004.asp.
  • Labelle,S, ‘Six Thinking Hats’, http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/charles57/Creative/Techniques/sixhats.htm .
  • ‘de Bono Hats’,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats.

Employee Speak: M C Muthanna, Chief Operating Officer, Firepro; V2 Issue 1


1. Firepro has experienced exponential growth in the last couple of years. Can you share some of the factors for this growth?

I attribute Firepro’s phenomenal growth to strategic initiatives we invested in.  Our geographical expansion within India and overseas has powered us immensely. As has our decision to evolve our service offerings by acquiring more capabilities, and offering wider, more technological solutions to our customers. Our focus on building capabilities grew from our intent to meet customer needs by paying attention to detailed design and engineering methodologies, procurement efficiencies and implementation mechanisms. Today, we are able to offer quality solutions to our targeted customers, across locations, in spite of fierce competition.

Our offerings today, include not just safety and security solutions but also include network infrastructure - the backbone of any Building Management System (BMS). We have made immense progress in developing home automation solutions as well. Diversification for us was the most natural route to consider being a solutions provider! Most importantly, the contributions of our highly committed and motivated team have powered us to be one of the most sought after companies in the industry.


2. What were the key growth drivers for business – both internal and external?

Vast development and growth in the infrastructure market has invariably accelerated the business. The knowledge and awareness of potential safety and security solutions in the market have also broadened Firepro’s horizons. Our focus on quality, our scale of operations and our ability to envision and implement newer initiatives in the infrastructure space are among the internal growth drivers. The formation ?? and the research done by our internal focus groups have helped us to further enhance our expertise. I would consider our ability to attract talent across various levels as one of our biggest internal growth drivers.


3. What were the kind of responses that you got from different stakeholders in this journey ?

Our reliability and commitment towards customer needs has helped us retain customers. They know we have the ability to understand their business environment – this has enabled us to offer better and effective solutions to them. Our clients have a great deal of confidence and faith in the way we operate!

Our biggest asset has been our employee strength – strength is the word to be used to describe the mighty workforce that we have! They are a committed team, always willing to take up challenges and ensure successful completion of projects before moving on to the next one. They are happy and excited to be part of this high-growth environment though have to constantly deal with change. We instill an understanding in the new joinees that it’s a tough place to work, and they have to deal with high pressure situations frequently! I remember sometime back meeting two promising boys from Hubli who came looking for a job with us. They were among the first entrants in the instrumentation department, and I’ve seen them toil and burn the midnight oil time and again to ensure that everything went right at the client location. They have worked diligently and today have a fulfilling career, with a potential to move up the ladder!

We have been able to attract industry’s best and highly experienced senior and middle management talent who want to be a part of our ambitious and high-growth environment! Apart from this, our association with business partners dates back from the time of inception. Firepro’s stability and the platform that we provide for their growth has resulted in long-term and viable relationships!


4. Firepro recently won the Best Company of the Year 2007 - Fire Systems Integration at the Frost and Sullivan Building Technology Excellence Awards? What were the main criteria that led to Firepro winning?

This award recognized the company’s effort and commitment to continuously evolve and remain a leading participant in our industry segment. The award acknowledges the leadership position Firepro retains and its ability to:

  • Proactively cater to changing customer needs
  • Adopt latest technology
  • Continuously deliver exceptional customer service and
  • To take advantage of market opportunities through the execution of innovative strategies


5. You are operating across international locations. Can you share your experience of setting up the infrastructure business in these locations?

It’s been an eventful journey expanding our operations. In Australia, we were fortunate to hire the right leadership team and they provided a great deal of support from the day we began operations. The Victorian TC government was very helpful and we were able to set up operations in Melbourne within 3 days. The Information and Broadcasting Minister of the state launched the company which further enhanced our credibility in the market. We were able to meet our all our targets, owing to the team’s efficiency. We plan to expand further to Sydney and Brisbane soon. Middle East was all about speed and scale of operations! Although it took us longer to establish operations there, we have successfully entered the market and are providing solutions to many large-scale projects. Within a year of establishing operations, we have today 135 committed team members. In Singapore we started operations in a day’s time - the Government was very supportive again.

We intend to leverage the learning from our overseas experiences into the Indian business, further strengthen our process efficiencies, enhance our ability to tackle contingencies, and also increase our speed and scale of operations!


6. Firepro is highly customer focused. What would “Customer focus” mean in the context of Firepro’s business?

We believe that one of our biggest strengths against any other competition is our ability to be committed to our clients from day one of our association with them. The solutions offered are customized to meet their needs and are of world-class quality. We are in a position today to complete the entire project as per the specified deadline. This ensures that the customer’s plans are completed well within their project timelines as well. We center our service offerings and operations on customers’ evolving needs which further enrich the “customer experience”.


7. How have you instilled customer orientation among all employees?

We believe that communication is the backbone of any project association. We ensure that the team understands the customer requirements and that from the start it is focused on delivering what was promised to the customer. There is constant reinforcement from management on the customer orientation. We, as a senior management team ensure that our commitment levels are visible to the team. This further guarantees a positive response from the project teams as they are aware that their management team is just as much accountable and focused on delivering customer value. .


8. Firepro has been growing at a scorching pace. What may slow the pace of growth in the short term?

The infrastructure market may undergo rapid variations. I wouldn’t necessarily say that this change would slow down Firepro’s pace of growth. Our focus on consistent evolution into different service offerings would enable us to sustain the growth. Economic conditions may not adversely affect business growth, but a certain element of precaution would be taken to face the inevitable.


9. Can you share some of the interesting experiences that you’ve had during this successful journey at Firepro?

Yes, there are many such experiences that have changed our business outlook and had an impact on the Firepro’s management team. One such exulting experience was when we received the 2004 ICICI-CNBC Crisil Award in Delhi. We were among 25 companies short-listed. In the management team, we did not pay too much attention to the award among pressing client demands and operations. We were not even remotely aware of the impact the award would have on the entire team. When we (Naren and I) returned from Delhi, the sight was exhilarating! We were completely overwhelmed by the warmth, excitement and celebration at the Bangalore office. We then understood that this award would trigger a greater sense of commitment and passion within the Firepro team. They were proud of the achievement and were proud to be part of this venture!!
Another one is how the Firepro team came together to deal with a very tight schedule for a client. The base for us to set up operations was Uttaranchal. Tough terrain conditions required us to focus on details and take into consideration many other complexities. We only had a weekend to work on the requirements-too short a timeframe for us to complete it! Within no time, the word spread. Many volunteers came forth to help, although they did not have the required skills or the background. They rapidly put together the necessary documentation to kick start the assignment. 13 other team members flew to Delhi and worked the whole weekend, hour on hour, to complete the project. To this day, I admire the courage, passion and pride that drove my team to finish an unfeasible assignment on time!


10. Is there anything you would have done differently looking back?

I personally feel focusing on building efficient people processes and holding a number of employee engagement activities, which we began only in 2005, would have added value and accelerated Firepro’s growth.

Identify the Industry: Activity Corner; V2 Issue 1

Can you identify these industries?

Some of them are booming, some are struggling and others are yet to take off. See if you can identify these industries in India based on the clues provided below.

    1. In terms of numbers this industry in India is the biggest in the world. Until the late 1990s, it was not even recognised as an industry. Even though it has since been recognised as an industry, banks and other financial institutions continue to avoid the industry due to the enormous risks involved in the business.

    2. Leading companies in this industry spend approximately 10% of its revenue on research and development. India’s share in the global market is less than 2% in value terms as the product prices in India are one of the lowest in the world.

    3. In Indian company took over an Anglo Dutch company to become the 5th largest group company in this industry. Incidentally this is the largest Indian takeover of a foreign company.

    4. Being in its nascent stage, this highly labour intensive industry in India has not been very stable. While the primary work coming to India is through outsourcing work related to films, ads and gaming, the industry is now slowly moving up to the next level of maturity.

    5. India has the fastest growing market in this industry. A global player viz., a British company bought stake in India's fourth largest firm in this industry. Regulatory changes and reforms in the last 10 years have tremendously helped this industry. The rapid strides made by India in harnessing the off shoring opportunity would not have been possible without developments in this industry.

    6. This industry has grown at breakneck speed due to entry of low cost players. But almost all players are making losses. Due to intense competition and declining margins, a process of consolidation has commenced through mergers and acquisitions. This will bring about synergies in operations and optimal utilization of resources in this capital intensive sector.


    1. Film - Though India’s overall entertainment industry is becoming professional with the rise of TV production companies, India's movie industry per se remains highly informal, personality oriented and family dominated.

    2. Pharma - Overall drugs manufacturing in India is up to 50% cheaper than in western industrial countries.

    3. Steel - Corus was taken over by Tata Steel. Before the takeover Tata Steel was only the world's 56th biggest steel producer and its takeover of Corus represented its first expansion outside Asia.

    4. Animation - India has the potential to be recognized as an animation hub, if education facilities, availability of funds and infrastructure improve. Developing original content that appeal to audiences in America, UK, and Europe will also contribute to its growth.

    5. Telecom - British mobile telecom major Vodafone bought stake in India's fourth largest mobile firm Hutch-Essar.

    6. Airline - Mergers include that of Kingfisher and Air Deccan, Jet Airways and Air Sahara, Air India and Indian Airlines. India has the fastest growing number of passengers in the world. Industry optimists feel that this growth will take care of its current problems.

The Secret: Book Review; V2 Issue 1

Title: The Secret

Author: Rhonda Byrne

Publication details: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, Great Britain, 2006

Number of pages: 198 pages

If a book starts with an alluring promise of its contents giving you anything you want: happiness, health, and wealth, it is difficult to resist reading further right?  So not surprisingly I could not stop reading the book ’The Secret’. Rhonda Byrne when faced with a very difficult time in her life learned about ‘The Secret’ and overcame every single one of her difficulties using its principles. In gratitude she created a DVD to share this knowledge. When this DVD became hugely successful she created a book by the same name.

“The Secret is the law of attraction." According to this everything in the Universe vibrates on a particular frequency. When you think in harmony with the frequency of something, you attract it to you. If you think about health, you become healthy. If you think instead about your illness, you become more ill. You attract what you think about. It says “It is impossible to bring more money into your life when you are noticing you do not have enough, because that means you are thinking thoughts that you do not have enough….and you will create untold more circumstances of not having enough money. You must focus on abundance of money to bring that to you.”

And the book tells you how you can find out what you are thinking … “To know what you are thinking, ask yourself how you are feeling…. It is impossible to feel bad and at the same time have good thoughts.”  The steps to utilizing this law in life are simple. Know what you want and ask the universe for it. Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way. Be open to receiving it.

A child cured of Hepatitis, Jack Canfield the author of ‘Chicken soup for the soul’ attaining a hundred thousand dollar a year lifestyle from a eight thousand one, a woman attracting the perfect partner by acting as if she already had one… are all inspiring personal examples cited in the book of the power of positive thinking in the areas of health, money, relationships respectively. It provides various tips for practicing ‘The Secret’. Some of them are using secret shifters like pleasant memories to shift your frequency from negative to positive, being thankful and grateful to all that you have, expecting the things you want, creating your day in advance the way you want it to go. For instance for relationships to improve it talks about not complaining about other people but focusing on what we appreciate about others to get more of that from them.

No doubt it is essentially a beautifully packaged and marketed book with ideas on positive thinking that are centuries old. But then there are some things that we know and still need constant reminding. The principles detailed in it are summarized at the end of each of the chapter for ease of reference. The book has pertinent quotes from many sources and contributors -scientists, doctors, life and business coaches and metaphysicians from both past and present.

One flaw I see in the book is that it does not talk about taking action to improve a negative situation. If I am overweight and I keep overeating instead of moderating my food intake and exercising, I doubt whether I will lose weight. Also it does not make sense that innocent people who are victims of tragedies attracted the same. However, you can neither prove nor disprove the law of attraction. It is something akin to faith. If you do not receive what you asked, you know you did not have enough faith. And only you can know it. No one else can.

There it’s not a secret any longer. But to practice this you need to know its nuances which only the book will give you. From getting a cup of coffee to being cured of cancer, the book claims ‘The Secret’ can work for anything. I am beginning to believe in its power. I tried the book’s principles on a few small things and guess what it worked! So it makes me wonder why it should not work on bigger things. All I need to do is tune my frequency to what I want in life. That’s what I am going to do. What about you?

Are You “Really” Planning Your Career? : Feature Article; V2 Issue1

By Vasanthi Srinivasan

Professor Vasanthi Srinivasan is an Associate Professor in the area of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. She is an Executive Committee Member of the International Society of Business, Economics and Ethics (ISBEE) and is on the Board of Directors of a few international not-for profit social and non-governmental organizations. Her areas of interest are Career Management, leadership development and HR Management in the International Context. Her consulting work has been in the areas of building capability of HR professionals, performance management and leadership development.She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from XLRI Jamshedpur, and a Fellow in Management from IIM Bangalore.

Many young people acquire degrees because they are expected to. However, very few are clear as to how those degrees tie in to their careers and how their careers enmesh with their lives. This is an insight I gained in the last academic year, while teaching the course titled “Managing your careers and growth” for the MBA students at IIM Bangalore. It was further substantiated by my interactions with participants of Leadership Development Programs for organizations. During the coaching discussions centered on their Individual Development Plans (IDP), participants reflect on their life and career journey, their dreams, aspirations, capabilities, expectations and definitions of success.  I find that many of the young high potential managers have strong achievement motivation ensuring their success in whatever they do. Most of the time, their roles in organizations are determined only by organizational needs and their high achievement orientation ensures they achieve success in their assigned roles. It is only when they have spent about 18 years at work do they ask “Is this what I want to do?” By then, given their life stage, with EMI payments on homes, children going to expensive schools and a certain life style, it becomes difficult to make significant career decisions. Many find it difficult to visualize their career growth beyond wanting to become a CEO before they turn 40. When I ask them “After that what?” most of them flounder. It suddenly hits them that they have another 25 years of healthy working life ahead of them.


What does career management mean for individuals today?
Over the last few years, I have been studying career transitions – of my students, of women IT professionals and technology professionals.  Based on my understanding of what is emerging, I’ll attempt to explore the changing definitions of career through four real life stories of individuals that are representative of a large number of individuals that we would have met in our lives. But they are special to me because I have known each one of them for at least a decade.

Story 1: Aakash passed out of a premier management institute in India in 1986 with specialization in HR and Systems. Prior to joining MBA, he did his bachelors degree in philosophy and music. Having had an offer from a blue chip company in the IT sector, he joined them in the systems function and spent the next 19 years in the same company. In 2005, he was promoted as the Head of a business. In 2006, he went part time for a year to give attention to his son who was finishing his school. His wife was a media professional. During this period, he enrolled in an interior decoration course and began to pursue music in earnest. Since 2007, he has quit work and continues to devote full time to music. He often wonders why he took so long to make this decision. 

Story 2: Kalyan, an engineering graduate from a premier institute decided to join the precision engineering industry in 1982. In his career spanning 26 years, he has moved three organizations, each of them with increased responsibility and commensurate compensation. He is highly respected in the organization. But he now feels that after a 25 year career, he would like to give back to society. With both his children well settled, he is exploring the idea of a career in a ‘Not for profit’ organization or in academics. His questions today are: How does one become aware of these opportunities? What is the bridge available for those who want to make significant career transitions?

Story 3: Meghnath, passed out with a Bachelor’s degree in commerce in 2000. He joined a large multinational. In his first year, he was awarded the best performer. In 2002, another MNC starting operations in India offered him an 80% salary increase. He joined them. After spending 18 months with them, he realized that his former employer was a more progressive and a highly empowering company. Wanting to work in a company like that he joined a large Indian company with a formidable reputation.  With an excellent performance track record, he was promoted twice in 20 months. In 2007, another large MNC offered him the role of a Manager with significantly higher responsibility and salary. Though he chose to move to this new organization he is now is unclear as to where he is headed. His family would like him to settle down, but he believes that since he has changed his job recently, he cannot afford the “distraction”. One of his goals is to be the CEO of a company by the time he turns 35.

Story 4: Anita is a project manager in a large IT firm. She has been with the organization for years. She has been assigned good projects, has done two stints overseas, and is growing within the organization. She has bought a flat in Hyderabad. Overall she is happy with her job and the organization. However, her friends tell her that spending 8 years in one organization is not positive for her career. It signifies a lack of initiative and achievement. Having sent out her resume to some recruiters, she has been getting some calls. She is now confused.

With the four stories, above as the context I would like to introduce three interesting streams of thought.

1. What is a career?
Till a decade ago in India, the definition of career was a series of upward moves, with steadily increasing, income, status and power. Individuals also believed that there was only one occupation for which they were best suited. They made career choices when they were young, mostly irreversible.  Increasingly, these assumptions are being challenged.

D T Hall, a career expert, provides a more contemporary definition of career. “The sequence of a person’s work related activities and behaviours and associated attitudes, values and aspirations over the span of one’s life”. This definition is highly individual centered, considers work and non work as critical realms of life, does not imply success or failure and does not have organization as its focus. All the four stories narrated above fit into this definition.

2. What constitutes success or failure in a career?
Career theories define careers from two perspectives:-

  • External or objective: This examines and interprets the same career situation from the institutional or organisational point of view. The objective career is described in terms of designation, position, status, promotion, salary and perquisites.

  • Internal or subjective: This refers to the individual's own interpretation of his or her career situation. The subjective career is linked to internal matters, such as personal meanings and identity. Often people use adjectives such as satisfaction, accomplishment, contribution, achievement and growth to describe subjective careers.

Thus objective careers are tangible, visible to others and comparable. In contrast, subjective career success is in the eye of the beholder; it creates value to self and the individual and is highly perceptual. Therefore, comparability is almost impossible. The critical question each one of us has to ask is “What would career success look like to me?”

3. How do individuals identify their careers?
Career choices are a function of individual interests, capabilities, aptitudes, skills and values. Unless individuals explore these personality elements it is unlikely that they would be able to work towards their potential. It is possible to identify the career/s best suited for oneself through deep career exploration. The definition of subjective career success is one element of career exploration. However, the definition of subjective career success would occur for individuals at different stages in their life. For some it could come as early as the first job. For others, it would evolve over time as they explore multiple careers and know what they don’t want. Interestingly while a large number of people maybe at an identical stage on objective career success; it is the subjective career success which is the differentiator.

With this understanding if we now examine the four stories, we can clearly see that all the individuals were highly successful from an objective career perspective. But it was the subjective career success that Aakash found, Kalyan is in the process of finding and both Meghnath and Anita are searching for.  Is subjective career success a function of life stage? Did Aakash and Kalyan find it because they were chronologically older? Not really. There are a lot of older people in the workforce who may not have sought subjective career success, because it is impossible for them to think of doing so. Similarly, there are a lot of younger individuals who have found subjective career success, even though they may not have attained objective career success. A number of young start up entrepreneurs fall in this category.  


Managing subjective career success
India has witnessed an economic boom in the last two decades. This has meant that some sections of the society, especially people like you and me are in an era of abundance. There are plenty of jobs if you are competent. Therefore, many of us can exercise choices. Similarly, with loans becoming affordable, most of us are likely to own properties at a much earlier age compared to our parents. With fairly high salaries, our financial planning is quite robust. In such a context, more professionals are likely to and can financially afford to seek subjective career success. The subjective career success could emerge from any sphere – creating something new, making music, teaching at a primary school, volunteering at an NGO, building a new marketing program or selling a new design. Are we looking for meaning? Many people talk about their “calling” often referring to fundamental, profound, radical or transformational career changes that they have made. They are referring to the subjective career success which gives them meaning.

As a starting point to managing a career you can explore and examine five points:-

  • Are you happy and excited about what you do at work at least 300 days a year?
  • Does an inner voice keep telling you that may be you could do better at work/career?
  • If you were not doing your current job, what would you be doing?
  • Do the power, position, status and salary that you currently earn reflect who and what you are?
  • What is it that you will do when you are fifty or sixty years old that you are not doing today?

The above questions force us to reflect. Reflection is the starting point in the career journey. Reflection often results in insights. Deep insights lead to career exploration which in turn leads to subjective career success. I am not for a moment suggesting that you look at subjective career immediately. But do start exploring. And when you begin to think on these lines, there is increased scope to engage with your potential. After all, isn’t exploring the human potential the purpose of a human life!!!