3 Questions on Exploitation in Relationships


The purpose of life is happiness.

If we are not happy, we cannot think of making others happy. A win-win situation is when we are happy and others are happy. If we are unhappy while making other happy, it is a lose-win situation. Being unhappy and making others unhappy is totally a lose-lose scenario.

Happiness is a result of satisfying our needs.

Selfish Needs

We begin our quest for happiness by satisfying self-centric needs. We focus on our personal needs – food, clothing, shelter, security. These needs do not need interaction with other human beings.

The next level of self-centric needs requires interacting with a select group of people. These are the need for love, affection and membership of a group. The need to belong to a group also helps satisfy security needs. When these needs are satisfied, we feel happy.

All the above are self-oriented, and we keep moving from one to the other, since these keep changing.

This is also a win-lose relationship, as our need fulfilment MAY be contingent on others’ unhappiness.

Symbiotic Needs

We realise that to satisfy some needs, we also have to give something in return. The relationship moves from ‘taking’ to ‘give-and-take’, and a negotiation happens whether both parties in a relationship are giving equally. This is a matter of perception, and if one party feels he is not getting enough, then there are issues.  We are buying the satisfaction of our needs by giving something of worth to the other person. This may seem like a barter, as there is no common currency and the valuation of the relationship is subjective.

By the way, ‘relationships’ do not just mean emotional couples, but include other one-to-one (boss – subordinate) and one-to-many relationships (member’s relationship with the group). If the relationship is based on symbiotic needs, then the perception of what one gets from this relationship determines the quality of the relationship.

This agreement is still selfish, and such a relationship and resulting happiness is short-lived, if one person feels he is being short-changed or his needs will be better satisfied elsewhere. We start looking for happiness with another person, another boss, another job and another group.

The need of one person in the relationship can become so selfish, that he/she holds on to the relationship with both hands, suffocating the relationship and the other person. This creates unhappiness and results in alienation. Again, this can happen in couples, in jobs and in families. There is no free will and can become exploitative, if  one person depends on the other.

Unselfish needs

If I loved a  bird, my first instinct is to keep it in a cage. I am happy, the bird may not be. We may rationalise this situation by saying that the bird’s needs for food and shelter are being satisfied. We assume that these are the only needs.

If I release the bird, two things can happen.

  • The bird flies away, never to return or
  • the bird returns and stays with me out of free will.

Either way, the bird is happy.

To really give someone happiness and therefore achieve true happiness, we need to free the bird.

Fear of exploitation

While discussing this philosophy with friends, one friend said,

“I am sure even Mother Teresa would have felt bad when she would have seen someone buying liquor with the money given to him for Food !!”

Yes, it is true that we feel disappointed when people exploit us. I have a few thoughts on that.

  1. A drunkard is a victim, not a villain. He did not willingly become a drunkard, in order to face social stigma. He now has needs, psychological and physiological, and he believes these can be satisfied by liquor. We are judging from our frame of reference, which says that food is more important, and our money should be used as WE deem fit.
    This is conditional giving, not free giving. Once we give the alcoholic the money, we have relinquished our hold on the act of giving. If we were so convinced that food was more relevant, we could have offered food instead of money.
    Such people are entitled to compassion, not judgement
  2. How many friends do we have, and how many have exploited us? If the number is low, should we change our attitude and become cynical, to the detriment of our positivity and therefore impacting our other relationships?
  3. Does this cynicism mean that we are still in symbiotic need fulfilment stage? Does it mean that we are disappointed that we are not getting enough in return – our need to feel wanted, of gratitude, or expiation of some guilt?

I know that is is difficult in this materialistic world to be truly altruistic, and we will succumb to selfish and symbiotic need fulfilment. I just wish that we do this knowingly, with the understanding that this happiness is short-lived.

Another friend questioned if I was doing the right thing by offering coaching sessions for free.

I have moved to that stage of life when selfishness has no value. Yes, I will always need money for sustenance, but not by exploiting someone who has an immediate need and who is asking for help. The business of coaching requires a client to engage in a long term relationship, to develop skills that are helpful in preventing the recurrence of a current problem. Refusing to give first-aid without payment is inhuman.

Please do comment on this article. You comments help me in improving my blog posts and make them more relevant.

10 Occasions When You should Quit


Having said earlier why you should not quit, there are certain times when you need to change your job.

They are as follows:

  1. You cannot adjust with your boss and vice versa. Both of you have tried and failed
  2. You are suffering from stress – headaches, sleeplessness, anger, anxiety and depression. You have undergone counselling and realised that this problem is not about you
  3. The culture is chaotic, verbally abusive, hostile, disrespectful and demeaning and you cannot handle it
  4. Your work is constantly criticised or ignored and no one is willing to give feedback or mentor you
  5. You have been layered – some one else has been brought in between you and your boss
  6. You have been overlooked for important meetings, task forces and initiatives
  7. Your company is about to be acquired or merged or your company is in trouble
  8. Your boss has been fired and you are known to be closed associated with your boss
  9. A new CEO has been hired and he has started bringing his own team and the effect is percolating downwards
  10. You do not feel like coming to office on Monday AND you look forward to the weekend

It is very important that you seek counselling before you act precipitately. Sometimes, the problem is you, but your defence mechanisms do not allow you to accept it. If the problem is you, then you will face the same problems elsewhere. If you have been changing jobs too often, you may want to examine your own beliefs and whether you blame others – boss, family, organisation, society, even God for your problems.

Remember that your CV does not invoke trust if you have not stayed in any organisation for more than 3 years.

Artisan Bread


Artisan bread - Chandra Kant

  1. Take 3 cups normal atta (wheat flour), half tsp salt and half tsp yeast (fresh is best). Mix together and add around 1.5 to 2 cups barely warm water to make a sticky chapati dough. Leave overnight or 12 hours. This will more than double so use a container big enough.
  2. Grease a baking tin / glassware with oil and sprinkle flour. Knead the dough for 2-3 mins (all air will be released) and put in baking tin. Cover with cloth and leave for an hour till it doubles.
  3. Preheat oven to 225 Deg C. Cover the dough with foil and bake for 30 mins. remove foil and bake for additional 10 mins. Cool in tin for 10 mins, separate from sides, remove and cut.
  4. Best used for making Crostini (see photo below).

Crostini - Chandra Kant

“Plan your MBA right to make it work for you” – A Workshop


Folks, I am part of the IIT Mentors group where I mentor a team of professionals during their career. We are organising a panel discussion for corporate executives who wish to do an MBA. If you have friends interested in doing an MBA, please pass this message to them. And, if you wish, please post this on your corporate bulletin board.  My book will also be available there at a discounted price.

Thank you for reading this.


Business school is for the informed and the driven. It is a planned intervention in your career to lift you from where you are to the next higher level. B-School education, across the globe, comes with a heavy price tag (typically above Rs. 30 Lakhs) and just having any B-School degree is not good enough to change your fortune. In fact our experience shows most successful MBA grads did very diligent homework of fact finding around B-school education before plunging into it.

IIT Mentors (http://www.iitmentors.org) is proud to bring an extraordinary session for those who want to undertake MBA education to leapfrog their career. So, register now – to get answer to all your queries – whether it be do’s and don’ts of an application letter or how does a USA or an International B-school fares against its Indian counterparts – from noted experts in the field of MBA across the prominent geographies. Seats are limited to ensure the quality and depth of interactions, so register now to secure your opportunity to attend one of the most sought-after pre-MBA workshops.

The pre MBA workshop would mainly cover three areas: Selection of B schools and managing your profile, Leveraging maximum out of an MBA degree and Career progression post MBA.

Panel of experts

1. Chirantan Chatterjee – Assistant Professor IIM Bangalore, IIT Roorkee alumnus

2. Pamli Deka – Alumnus INSEAD 2010, IIT Roorkee alumnus

3. Dinesh Nilkanth – Principal, Jain University Bangalore

Registration fee: Rs. 200/- only

Find out more and Register here: http://iitmentors-event-workshop-23june2012.doattend.com/

About IIT Mentors:

IIT Mentors is a unique PanIIT ‘nation building’ program that aims to unlock the powerful network of the IIT alumni across the globe. With the vision of ‘Touching the lives’, this program offers global mentorship opportunities in an informal, supportive and resourceful manner through the multi-domain pool of the alumni mentors, knowledge resources and local networks. With the core belief that true mentoring can only be gifted, IIT Mentors are aspiring to touch the life of every young professional.

The Benefits of using Business Processes


Chandra Kant

Where is the value-add in the Indian IT Industry

Much has been touted about the success of the Indian IT industry, especially for establishing itself as an IT and BPO outsourcing hub. The mantra for success has been  ‘cost and quality’. However, as customers get used to outsourcing to India and as competition increases within India and from countries like Canada, Philippines and China, a question arises:

“Quality and cost are given. All Indian companies provide identical services, with the same quality and comparable cost. What is the value-add that an outsourcing company provides to the customer, specially after so many years of existence?”

The Current situation

A typical investment bank would have the same functionality duplicated across multiple systems, primarily due to mergers or acquisitions of business and resultant technology or due to consolidation across geographies.

An outsourcing vendor would happily service all these applications because it is paid to do so, and the customer-side Chief Information Officer (CIO) would allow it because he would get commensurate budgets.

However, in the present times, a CIO is under pressure to reduce costs. He would, typically, renegotiate rates and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to get a better deal. The CIO might compare the vendor with other similar vendors who are eager to get a marquee account, even at cost.

If the hapless vendor gets sucked into a price negotiation, he would be at the mercy of the CIO each year, when the same exercise is repeated. He may have to compromise on quality (and quantity) in order to retain his margins. This compromise would cause a downward spiral next year in terms of negative customer perception, reduced prices as well as penalties for not meeting SLAs.

A win-win situation

If however, the vendor is able to provide value-add which provides a bigger bang for the same buck, and is able to demonstrate the same pro-actively, the CIO would be able to prove to his board the justification of budgets and retention of the existing vendors. A win-win situation.

Here is how does the vendor does it.

An IT organisation has insight into the business processes of its customer because it is supporting the existing technical applications and it has direct or indirect access to the business users.

If an outsourcing vendor controls of all business applications of the customer, and sometimes, applications of multiple customers of the same vertical industry,  then the vendor can compare and analyse systems to find commonality in processes in order to reduce the total cost of ownership of these applications without sacrificing the customer’s competitive advantage.

An example of Value-Add: Application Rationalisation

An analysis of Back Office Systems in an Investment Bank would reveal that Trade Capture is done by multiple systems in multiple geographies, exchanges and financial products. These represent the same business process in different systems and therefore add to the cost of the business process.

This situation is ideal for performing an application rationalisation that will:

  • Reduce the cost of maintenance and therefore cost of ownership of the application
  • Create positive feedback within the client organisation that would improve marketing exposure and generate additional business
  • Provide application development revenue to the IT organisation
  • Improve morale in the IT organisation because of new systems development instead of monotonous maintenance

A reasonable negotiation, augmented with this goodwill, can lead to business compensating for the loss of revenue due to decrease in applications to be maintained.

Business Processes is a common thread across IT, BPO and Business

Although Business Process Outsourcing is looked down upon by project managers as being non-IT focused and having a low-end repetitive job profile, there is a common thread that runs between Application Outsourcing, Business Process Outsourcing and the Business Value add that the customer demands. That thread is business process.

What is required is an ability to link IT processes and business processes in such a way that IT processes can be modified based on changes in business processes. Further, it would be beneficial if the business users can control and redesign the business processes without IT processes hampering either the redesign or the implementation of the processes.

Benefits of Being Business Process Centric

The focus on business processes also creates a link between IT application maintenance as well as Business Process Outsourcing. In case an IT organisation is doing Application Maintenance, it can now:

  • Present a case why it is the ideal candidate for BP outsourcing
  • Use business process modelling to help create a common business-oriented help desk
  • Help in business process rationalisation
  • Help in the creation of SLAs that are related to business, not just IT
  • Focus on highlighting value-add that is more apparent to the business users, who ultimately control the purse strings.

Future Trend

It is therefore important for the IT industry to create a formal representation of business processes and its link to IT processes. A new model of business process modelling needs to emerge that would combine the traditional methodologies of process representation in the IT world with

  • Operations Research techniques,
  • Cost-accounting concepts of value chains and
  • AI techniques for rationalising business rules.

This needs to be represented in a formal mathematical notation similar to pi-calculus so that in future, computer-aided tools would be available to optimise the processes, identify bottlenecks in terms of time, throughput and costs.

This article was originally posted in The Tribune on August 23, 2003 and has been updated for this blog post.

Planning a Start-up? Read the free e-book “Go It Alone”


Josh Kaufman says:

“Year after year, surveys show that “owning my own business” is a goal for over half of the working adult population. Despite that, very few people actually muster the courage to actually start a business. That’s a shame: starting and running a business can be much easier than you think.

The premise of Go It Alone is simple: you can create a profitable business all by yourself, without employees, loans, or venture capital funding. Even better, your new business doesn’t have to be “small”: with some smart thinking and advance planning, there’s no limit to your potential profitability.

The major trend shift that makes this possible is technology: it’s now possible to make use of business services that used to cost tens of thousands of dollars for a few dollars a month. Combined with the ability to hire outsourced help from all over the world in lieu of hiring employees, smart entrepreneurs can make more money, set their own schedule, and choose their own projects. Comparative advantage works.

Go It Alone changed the way I run my business, and I refer to it constantly. If you’ve been wondering whether or not entrepreneurship is for you, read this book.”

Here is the link to the book.

7 Things Shy People Can Do to Network


Few of us are natural networkers. We all know the important of networking, but invariably, we postpone it for tomorrow, because shy folks like us do not like to meet with people and make inane conversation.

It is easy to believe that social networking or internet based networking (read Facebook) is a better option. However, Facebook based networking focuses on broad-based and shallow relationships, whereas true networking requires deeper relationships.

People do things for others if they believe in the relationship. No amount of ‘likes’ and status updates (which I believe borders on voyeurism) substitute for face-to-face or at least voice-based and meaningful communication.

Meaningful communication requires

  • one-to-one interaction
  • where both parties are speaking (bidirectional)

and which leaves both parties happy and satisfied.

Status updates do not satisfy either of the above criteria and therefore does not help in networking.

This article from inc.com talks about networking for introverts. Lisa Petrilli, author of “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership tells you how to:

  1. Network on your own terms
  2. Be comfortable
  3. Leverage your skills as an introvert

Adding to the tips in the article, you need to do the following:

  1. Create a 30 second brief about yourself, describing yourself, your background and your future direction (where / what do you want to go / do and why). This helps a person remember you and also how he can help you
  2. Find out what the other person wants to do in life. Get into specifics. This shows interest and it will help you look for real options to help the other person. If you can’t think of anything, offer to connect him to others who can help him
  3. Networking is not about selfishness. People sense selfishness and avoid creating a relationship. Give first before taking, or at least prove that you understand that you have to settle your debts of favours done
  4. Do not badger people unnecessarily, chasing after them. Your introvertism is an advantage here.

5 Ways to Act like a CEO, today!


In my coaching sessions, I ask executives to behave as if they are the CEO of their lives. As a CEO you need to:

1.     Develop yourself as a product or service that people desire

You are multiple products to multiple markets depending on the role you play. When you act as a subordinate, you need to convince your boss that you are an ideal product and he should keep you. When you act as a boss, you need to convince your subordinates that you are the best boss. Being the best means being the best product or delivering the best service.

2.     Market yourself to all customers, internal and external to the organisation

You have to find the right segment of the market where there is a demand for you and for which they will pay a premium. You also need to promote yourself in that market. The currency of payment could be salary, or time or a great relationship.

3.     Run your finances i.e. reduce costs and increase revenue to more than costs

It costs to build a product and advertise yourself. Some costs are investments, and some are expenses. The benefits that you get from the buyer should be more than what you have invested.

4.     Create your own motivation and recruit people to help you (network)

You need people to help you in your various roles. You have to find the right persons. They need to be motivated or paid to help you. You need to motivate yourself.

5.     Use technology to make their processes more efficient

You need to improve all the above processes by using the right technology – be it blogs, a rudimentary CRM system, a list of birthdays in your calendar and your to-do list.

I typically do not differentiate between personal and professional life.

This article by Gibson talks about the same thing with reference to empowering employees to act as CEOs.

To quote Gibson, “Giving everyone the responsibility to set their own agenda, prioritize resources, and pull in the right people has also made our office more efficient.”

8 Reasons to Make a Career in Sales!


I had mentioned some time ago about the distaste with which people regard sales.
I wish to reiterate the reasons why Sales is necessary in a career

  1. During the placement process, I have observed a direct correlation between the ability to sell and the impress to impress the recruiters.
  2. These are uncertain times. All companies are looking to retain market share and revenues. Sales is king.
  3. We need to face our fears. Else, the fear remains in our mind and we somehow create the very situation we wish to avoid. It would, therefore, make sense to not to fear sales.
  4. You’ll learn to negotiate.
  5. You’ll learn to close.
  6. You’ll learn persistence.
  7. You’ll learn self-discipline.
  8. You’ll gain self-confidence.

The last five has been mentioned in the following article by Jeff Haden.

5 Reasons for the Great Indian Crab Syndrome


The story of the Great Indian Crab Syndrome is well known. In essence, Indian Crabs do not need to be locked up as one crab will prevent others from escaping.

But let us be fair. This happens everywhere. I have worked in the far East and the Far West, fairly North (but not south of the equator). Trust me, at least in the northern hemisphere, it exists everywhere.

I consider it a natural process. Consider this.

  1. Commoditisation
    This is a process of making one product indistinguishable from another product. In other words, the opposite of product differentiation. So where a crab pulls another crab down, it is not trying to make the other crab indistinguishable, so that it does not become a ‘run-away’ success?
  2. A Survival tactic?
    After all, differentiation prevents unity. Commoditised products create cartels so that they can collectively bargain. When one product thinks it is different and can command a different market share, the unity is broken.
  3. Conformity
    This is important for the sanctity of a group or an organisation. When we join the corporate world, we go through the induction programme, where we are taught conformity (read culture). We are given a conflicting message – employees are our greatest assets, we value innovation and creativity, but when we try to exercise this value, we are asked to conform.
  4. Low self-esteem?
    If I am jealous of someone who is better than me, I would bring him down to my level. Any person who I perceive to be better than me can differentiate and command a better price!
  5. Stop striving for excellence
    Differentiating  is taught as a lesson in marketing, and all the books about corporate heroes tom-tom doing something different (even illegal), treading the road less travelled, ignoring the barbs and the taunts of the other crabs.
    We all start off by with stars in our eyes, working hard. We gradually succumb to bare minimum work and rationalisation.Why do we look at each other, and if we see others not working, we too stop working?
    We do not let others work, and we ourselves do not work.

So, who is the Indian Crab? Not the other people – but our own mind.