Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MY LIFE- MY CHOICE- Mid life career choices

My life-My Choice”- A book on Mid life career choices By Rajeshwari

( published by Macmillan)


Ten real stories about real people...

What is my ‘ideal’ job? Which career would suit me perfectly ?

Around our mid-lives, many of us are faced with the question- is this the career that I would like to pursue for the rest of my life? Or are there alternatives that I would like to experiment with ?

The experiment itself maybe an expensive proposition- if you are the only bread-winner in your family- but that still does not deter some to take the plunge in an area that feels close to their hearts. This book deals with ten such people who have moved out of the cocoon of stable, lucrative first careers and tried something completely new and different around their mid-lives. It outlines the triggers , barriers and implementation mechanics involved in arriving at such a decision .

The alternative career choices discussed here range from joining politics to taking up teaching or joining a NGO or starting an entrepreneurship venture or even getting back to one’s own childhood interest..These are full time career choices and not part-time pursuits. And these are actively considered after one has met one’s initial set of professional goals. The shift may be done for various reasons ranging from- stagnant learning in the first career ( boredom at work is yet another reality that the current working class has to deal with) or having a “larger than life social calling” or “ wanting to impact young minds” or even wanting to pursue one’s childhood passion. In some cases it is also because of family circumstances that one has to re-look at one’s career. And by giving a flavour of the different options that people take up, I hope readers will get a perspective of what these entail both in terms of the new career understanding and that of self- understanding ( this is more critical- so you get a feel of whether you are suited for those options). The book is not comprehensive on the range of issues covered – in fact every chapter has the potential to become a separate book. But I have touched upon aspects that I believe maybe some of the most important ones- thereby leaving the readers to ponder upon the rest.

Middle age is the time when we re-set the agenda for the rest of our lives; and work defines a large part of our agenda in terms of who we are . So we cannot have a fulfilling life if we feel we do not have a fulfilling career- hope this book inspires you to take that first step..

FOREWORD ( in part..)
By Captain Gopinath
Founder Air Deccan

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." Goethe

Rajeshwari’s book on “Mid life career choices” has brought together a group of people who dared to dream and followed through on their dreams. And as I read the book, it brought back all those memories of moments of inner strife, the struggles, and the jubilant moments of the changes that I made in my life in terms of various careers. Amongst the many career choices that I made, I started India’s largest Low cost airline, Air Deccan, but before that I also successfully ran my farm, which I had converted from a barren piece of land that the government had given us. I also ran a Udupi restaurant, was a motorcycle dealer and joined politics!! Some I was successful at and some I wasn’t…but the journey was exhilarating. I believe that the ingredients that go into achieving what we want in our lives are hard work, courage and determination-much more than just talent. With the window of opportunities being plenty, there is a set of Sabeer Bhatias, Narayan Murthys, Ambanis to draw inspiration from. My advice to my daughters or to my friends has always been to find their true calling. It is a long drawn process but is completely worth going through. In the final analysis, I believe it is not about the money or the privileges that a well settled job can get you. It is actually about finding where your heart belongs. And that makes work a pleasure, brings out the best in you and makes your life worth living.
Rajeshwari’s book talks directly to those who are sitting on the fence, evaluating career change, but are not taking the plunge because of various reasons. The insights from the book are very real and I was able to see myself in many of those situations. Each story is a reminder of the fact that ultimately we alone are responsible for what we wish to do with our lives and that we need to make our work/life choices with great care.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

LUXURY WATCHES - My articles in the Hindu Business Line


The Hindu Business Line
Mar 29th 2010

It's time for Tissot's first billion
Positioned as a leader in affordable luxury, this Swiss brand has managed to buck the worldwide slowdown in watch sales..
Pradipta K. Mohapatra
K. Rajeshwari
(The writer, a horologist, represented The Hindu Business Line at Baselworld. Prof. K. Rajeshwari is from the Chennai Business School.)
Like other illustrious watch brands from the Swiss and Japanese stables, Tissot is readying for the big league of being a billion-dollar watch brand
Creating a billion-dollar watch brand is not easy. That is why there are so few, four to be precise: Rolex, Swatch, Omega and Seiko. One can say with reasonable certainty that the next billion-dollar brand will be Tissot and that it will happen in 2010.
The year 2009 was brutal for the Swiss watch industry. Revenues dropped 21.3 per cent. The fall was sharpest in the $435–$2,600 category where turnover dropped by 30 per cent. It is believed that the world's largest selling brand Rolex, with revenues of over $3 billion, fell by 35 per cent. Omega, Longines, Rado, Seiko, Citizen and every other prominent brand lost revenue in 2009.
In a commendable feat, the only large watch company in the world that increased both volume sales and revenue was Tissot. Tissot's volume sales grew by 2 per cent to 2.21 million watches and its revenue by 4 per cent. What makes Tissot the growth engine that it is? At Baselworld last week, Francois Thiebaud, President of Tissot, and member of the Swatch group management board, spoke to Pradipta Mohapatra.
Steady growth
Tissot's growth to become the largest selling Swiss brand in the affordable luxury category is not a flash in the pan. The year 2009 was its 14 {+t} {+h} consecutive year of growth! In some ways, its growth philosophy seems to represent what Abraham Lincoln said, “I walk slowly but I walk forward – I can't remember even when I walked backward.”
Last year, Tissot emerged as the largest selling brand in its home market (2009 sales 1,52,000 numbers). It is also the largest selling Swiss watch brand in both China (2009 sales 2,00,000 pieces) and India (2009 estimated 30,000 pieces). In 2009, the average selling price of a Tissot watch was 430 Swiss francs (around Rs 18,300). At a volume of 2.21 million the revenue is pretty close to $1 billion, inches away from becoming a billion-dollar brand.
Throughout its long history of 157 years, Tissot has been known to be a great innovator. The first pocket watch with two time zones was introduced by Tissot in 1853. The first Formula One watch in 1916, first anti-magnetic watch in 1930, the first world time navigator watch in 1953 were all innovations from Tissot. Its line of T-Touch watches, introduced 11 years ago, has been seen as a technology marvel all these years.
Tissot also was a great innovator in materials of construction. It experimented with the first plastic case (which was later popularised by Swatch), rock, wood and pearl. Tissot also uses titanium extensively in its T-Touch range of watches.
Available at 16,000 retail distribution points in the world, Tissot's distribution spread is unmatched by any other Swiss watch company. The widest distribution for its position as a leader in affordable luxury is the hallmark of Tissot in every market that it enters. It has the largest number of retail outlets in China and has now penetrated beyond the Swiss boutiques in India. Tissot is the only brand that competes head-to-head with high-end Titan watches in India.
Product Positioning
Tissot has immense clarity in positioning of all its products. In a recent interview to Financial Times, London, Thiebaud described Seiko and Citizen as the two worldwide competing brands with Tissot. It is, therefore, not surprising that to remain competitive with the Japanese brands, 80 per cent of Tissot's products are quartz. Only 20 per cent form mechanical or automatic watches at the higher end of the market.
Low Cost
Tissot's worldwide motto is “best value for money”. It implies adherence to low costs. Tissot's statistics in some of the markets is remarkable.
In 2009, Tissot's sales in China was 500 million RMB. Its cost of promotion was a mere 10 million RMB. With advertising costs at 2 per cent, Tissot probably spends the least amount in promotion costs compared to industry peers.
However, Tissot operates through many low-cost promotion vehicles by supporting lesser known sports events such as the world championship of fencing, cycling, hockey and Moto GP. Tissot also uses local brand ambassadors. Its Chinese brand ambassador Barbie Xu has made a huge impact in the Asian region.
Finally, Tissot operates in 150 countries. Therefore, its dependence on markets such as the US was only 8 per cent in 2009. Therefore, while the US market went through a bloodbath in 2009, it barely had any impact on Tissot.
It is said that barely five years after incorporation, the Tissot founder's son, Charles Emile Tissot, left Switzerland for Russia and successfully sold Tissot ‘Savonnette' pocket watches across this huge and influential empire. Fiesty Frenchman Francois Thiebaud, sitting at the helm of affairs at Tissot for the last decade-and-a-half, is following Tissot's spirit.
It has taken planning, positioning, technology and distribution for Tissot to reach where it is today.
Only a billion-dollar revenue will be a fitting reward for Thiebaud.


The Hindu Business Line
Thursday March 25th 2010

Despite the times, Baselworld retains its shine

Luxury watchmakers, jewellers turn out in force at the annual event..

Pradipta K. Mohapatra
(The writer, a horologist, represented The Hindu Business Line at Baselworld. This article has been written with research support by Prof. K. Rajeswari of the Chennai Business School.)

Baselworld, the world's largest exhibition and trade fair devoted to watches and jewellery, opened last week in the backdrop of a tough year for the watch industry in Switzerland and across the globe.
In 2009 the Swiss watch industry witnessed a 22.3 per cent fall in revenue. Many global brands were brought to their knees with sales down about 35 per cent. Notwithstanding the sombre mood, the general attitude at the fair was that “the show must go on”.
The Basel fair's history goes back to 1917 when it was started by a Swiss exhibition authority called MUBA. It was in 1925 that watches were included in the fair and in 1931 that it became an exclusively Swiss watch show.
It was only in 1972 that France, Italy, Germany and the UK were roped in as exhibitors alongside Swiss watchmakers. In 1999, the exhibition was re-branded Baselworld and became a worldwide event for watches and jewellery.
Baselworld 2010, spread over six exhibition halls occupying some 1.6 lakh sq. mt of space, has over 2,100 exhibitors from 45 countries and was expected to draw over one lakh visitors.
Big and small Swiss watch brands have a presence at the show. Two iconic brands — Rolex and Patek Philippe — dominate the entrance to Hall 1 (called the Hall of Dreams). The largest portion of this hall is occupied by Swatch Group brands such as Omega, Longines, Tissot, Rado, Breguet, Blancpain, Certina, CK and Tiffany & Co.
Tiffany & Co is the latest acquisition of the Swatch Group and is overseen by Nyla Hayek. And what is the Swatch Founder and CEO, Nicolas Hayek, doing? Well, he has decided to personally oversee Jaquet Droz in addition to Breguet!
Only two non-Swiss companies have been given the privilege of exhibiting in Hall 1 — Seiko and Citizen. Quite an honour!
Shinji Hattori, CEO, Seiko, and great grandson of the Seiko founder, was personally present to speak to guests. He also released the Astron 40, a limited edition replica of Astron — the world's first quartz watch launched in 1969 — to commemorate 40 years of quartz technology.
Indian presence
India is a strong participant at Baselworld 2010 with 34 jewellery manufacturers exhibiting their products under the aegis of the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council. Also visible are Indian retailers of Swiss watches, journalists and the media. For the first time, Indian television is represented by a three-member team from NDTV Good Times.
While India is still seen as a small market for Swiss watches, in 2009 sales grew at an annualised rate of 25 per cent valued at around $250 million.
Many analysts expect the Indian market to grow into a $1-billion market over the next 10 years.
Not surprisingly, Indian visitors are being given an effusive welcome at the show!
One also caught a glimpse of the Swiss caste system at play at the fair — the Indian, Chinese and Thai jewellery and watches manufacturers were dispatched to Hall 6, which is two tram stops away from the scene of action.
Hall 6 can be viewed as the Poor Man's Baselworld. None of the glitz of Hall 1 here, nor the customers! On the second day of the fair, the Indian exhibitors were still awaiting their first customer!
Banking on Asia
The Swiss watch industry suffered a major blow in 2009 with sales dropping by 22.3 per cent to 13.2 billion Swiss Francs (SFR). With the global sales volume dropping below the 2006 figures, Asia has emerged as the new saviour.
Clocking 6.3 billion SFR in 2009, the Asian market accounted for 48 per cent of the world market. The US, representing 11.1 per cent of the market, declined by 37.9 per cent.
Despite the fall, the Swiss watch industry valued at $12 billion remained at the number one position, followed by Hong Kong ($5.6 billion) and China ($2.5 billion), ahead of Japan. It may be noted that while the average price of watches exported from China is $2, the average price for a Swiss watch is a whopping $528. There was, of course, a silver lining for some individual Swiss manufacturers. Swatch group, the number one watch manufacturing group in the world, witnessed a revenue fall of only 6.1 per cent.
The recession has opened up opportunities for two other Swiss brands. Rolex, which has recorded a significant revenue drop because of its dependence on the American market, may find a new contender for the number one brand position in Omega. Tissot, another Swatch group brand, has emerged as the number one watchmaker in volume terms. It also posted a miraculous growth in revenue of 4 per cent — probably the only large watch brand that has shown a growth in revenue.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

who is the loser?

Who is the loser?
“ Love Thy Neighbour”- says the Bible. The central message across most religions is the same. But do the so-called expert practitioners of religion stick to it?
A few months back, I had attended a lecture series by Swami Parthasarthy at the Kamaraj Memorial Hall in Chennai. I have been a recent ( last three years) but a keen follower of his teachings and have read his books Vedanta Treatise and The Fall of Human Intellect. His clarity of thought on important issues of life coupled with his simplicity of communication is addictive.
Inspired by the lecture, I decided to follow it up with a home study group near my residence. I found out the venue and the timing and reached there well before schedule. As I entered the house, I noticed a deep silence; nobody was even exchanging pleasantaries. There was not a courteous hello mentioned to a stranger who had stepped into the house for the first time( I still do not know who the host was!). As the bhajans began, some of the group members had a hymn book but there was no attempt to share it with a newcomer.. We then completed the songs and proceeded to read the chapters…
There were discussions on various parts of the chapter and I must say that there was a concerted effort to dwell deep into the words and into their meanings.. Being an avid follower of the Hindu scripture ( especially the Gita), I found the discussions quite enlightening. This being my first attendance, I shared some of my doubts—some of which were clarified .
As the session concluded, I went and introduced myself to two ladies in the group. I was taken aback at the questions that were thrown at me- “ Is this your first time”/ “ have you attended the Gita lecture( at a particular place where this group normally goes)/ Else we will not like to “lower” our discussion standards here/ We cannot entertain “impulsive” questions/ People can make out if you are a novice etc etc”)!! I was flabbergasted.. and then let out a meaningful smile..
I am a Tamil Brahmin married to a Christian for the last twelve years. Both of us were batch mates at IIMA where we met. During my initial advent into a Church in Chennai, I remember a very cordial welcome by the Pastor of the Church- even though both of were newcomers there ( and they had no way of knowing whether we were Christians or not). And I have been an active participant of their forums and workshops. I have never been made to feel like a stranger- and this attitude is one of the strong reasons that our Church is growing rapidly. While some may argue that since Christianity is relatively a “new” religion in India and hence displays more “inclusiveness” in handling people, I believe that an older religion like the Hinduism, through its practitioners, should do this more is almost like the older member of the family extending a warm welcome to his descendants/ children..
But this was not to be. And this particular problem continues to plague Hinduism as a religion. It is getting more and more elusive and is being considered “irrelevant” by the youth simply because not enough care and effort has gone in to disseminate it among the larger sections of society. The teachings in the Gita or Vedanta are absolutely inspiring and extremely useful . But does anyone know? Or does anyone care? The upper class Hindus have displayed a “Holier than Thou” behavior in preserving the scriptural knowledge so elusively that it has the danger of becoming “ obsolete” to the modern generation.
The objective of the Home Group that I talked about earlier, I am sure was to share Vedanta teachings . But by making the new comers feel “alienated”, they are doing quite the contrary. What is the use of studying Vedanta if you are not able to share it with humanity at large? Sharing knowledge is one the greatest services to man-kind.. and to do it with love is the only way Hinduism will be taken forward..
Religion should be made available to people when they are young . When they need directional clarity and mental strength to go about the purpose of their life. Not when they have become old as just and “life processing mechanism”. And modifying traditional heirarchical mindsets will go a long way towards ensuring this. So who is the loser in all this? We- the people. Both the practitioners and the students. The former will have to find ways to “include” more into the student fold, and the latter will have to actively seek and demand the same. After all , “ a man who does not read is as good as the one who

back to school


Find the “adjunct” in the sentence that you are currently reading; or identify the “indirect object” in this sentence.

What you just read is a small part of the ordeal that the students in the eighth grade of a Tamil Medium Corporation school in Chennai, go through, as a part of their English grammar syllabus.

I call it ordeal because it is one! For the students especially who are experiencing it.

Let me elaborate. I have recently volunteered to teach at the local Government school . During my first interaction with the Head Master of the school, it was decided that I could teach English grammar, as that is a subject that lacked adequate faculty at the school. I accepted readily and looked forward to the experience. I picked up the English text book from the school along with my class schedule ; I was assigned 8th class, B Section.

On the first day at school, I was greeted with great enthusiasm by the children. After a brief introduction by their current teacher, I took over.

I started by asking in English, what the children thought of English grammar as a subject. The question was understood by less than 50% of the class. And among those who comprehended, there was a clear expression of dislike. I prodded further-as to what was in their minds. The most popular response was “ we do not see the use for it”. The reply hit me hard.

Of course as I tried to reason with them why grammar in any language is required , I could sense that their feelings were more to do with their inability to understand the basic language itself! That was the real issue.

I started looking at the facts. The English literacy in this particular class was less than 40% i.e less than 40 out of 100 could read three words in English consecutively without any help. The rest needed support in both alphabet identification and in pronunciation.
Secondly, apart from the regular class hour, there was no other avenue or forum that encouraged English reading for the children. There is a semblance of a library- but due to lack of space, the books are piled up in one corner ( the range of books is utterly poor in collection). And there is no space in the library for students to sit and read . Finally, there is absolutely no effort to converse in English even during the English classes.

Of course, I did not expect these to be present in a Government school. But I did expect that the English language syllabus in a Tamil Medium school is designed keeping in mind all of these.

This is not to suggest that English grammar is not needed for the children of 8th grade. But the pressing need of the hour is making students reasonably fluent in English- reading and writing. And a grammar that goes with that level. By incorporating a fairly evolved grammar curriculum, , the students have begun to feel “fearful” of the language itself. And are avoiding it. In fact when I distributed free books that had English alphabet based words to help the beginners, there were hardly any takers.

A chat with the Head Master revealed that he is constrained by the syllabus thrust on the school by the Government. He agreed that there is a major mismatch between the current English level of students and what is required by the curriculum. But bridging the gap seems an arduous task. While, the idea of introducing English grammar needs to be lauded, over ambition in that effort does not help the cause. It may result in alienating the language further among a set of students for whom the environment is anyway not conducive to learn or practise English. ( no conversation at home happens in English, possibly no English book reading, English TV channel watching or English movie seeing).

Any language is best learnt by usage i.e talking. Not by rote of some theoretical concepts. We all learnt our mother tongue that way. Grammar in that context is understood more as you practise the language and not as a set of rules to be followed. In real life, we never end up needing this level of grammar knowledge- unless you take up literature as a profession- in which case it could be taught at that point in time.( in fact even I had to learn the concepts before I could take classes for these kids!)

So, who needs high flung English grammar? Not the “below poverty line” children of Government schools anyway!.

why i like to write

Why do I like to write?

Why do I like to write? Or for that matter why does anybody like to write? What need does it satisfy?

At a basic level, writing is a form of telling. When you meet interesting people or visit interesting places, you like to share information about these to others. You can add your bit of flavour in the commentary or in the narration, but it is essentially “telling” others what you have seen. “Peopleogues” and “Travelogues” fall under this. Sometimes, even sports writing or pieces about events can be classified under this.

At another level, writing is about creating an imaginary world that satisfies enormous number of fantasies. This is especially true of fiction writing. It allows you to dream, invent characters and objects that will do things that are not possible in real life. It could be an escape route from the everyday drudgery for many.

At yet another level, writing is about sharing your opinion on something. It could be in any subject that is of interest to you. You get into the issue, analyse it and acquire a different perspective. And this stimulates you enough to want to share it with the rest of the world. It is a deeper and a more involved pursuit than the first two. While the former require width and exposure, this one requires a more thorough and a studied approach. A well-researched piece of article or book on any subject has the potential to change people’s thinking. At its peak, it is a powerful influence on humanity. This form of writing comes under non-fiction.

This last one interests me the most. Especially the ability to “influence”. While getting into an area and studying it thoroughly, one’s own perspective on it may undergo a sea- change. And that excites me no end. What can be more rewarding than picking up a problem, tossing it around amongst a group of “relevant experts”, and coming to well thought out conclusions on the issue?

The whole process forces you to change from within. To start with , just the act of meeting many people exposes you to the world at large- that you begin to feel connected. Secondly, establishing trust with the respondents in order to get a genuine set of answers expands you as a person. It does not come in the first one or two meetings, It requires discussions, contradictions and further discussions. It has to become clear to them that you are really interested in understanding the issue at hand. And that, while doing so, you will in no way demean their reputation or short circuit their opinion. It is a much bigger task than it appears to be. Thirdly, you also learn to ask the “right” questions. This makes your own thinking process more clear. You end up crystalising the “big picture” in any problem and weaving a framework around it for a methodical study. And finally, as you reflect on the answers given by them, you cannot but partake in the “emotional journey” of others. You may agree or disagree but you end up processing the issue in a deep manner. And as you share your views with them, they also feel joyous that someone else is actually “taking” the pain of “thinking” through issues for them. For both parties, it is a very enriching experience.

And it is this experience is what translates into well researched and analysed “writing”. Reading a piece such as this can open up many minds in a way that could not have been imagined before. In fact over a period of time, one begins to utilize the same analytical skills that have been used in the writing, to analyse real-life issues. And a certain objectivity and rigour set into one’s own thinking. Done more and more, it becomes a habit; and you begin to relish life experiences because you look forward to acquiring “new perspectives” on old issues.

So why do I like to write? Because perspective building- both at an individual level and at an audience level energises me. And I am able to use that energy to propel myself forward in other areas of my life.

So that’s what writing means to me- perspectives. Through this article, I hope I have been able to get across a fresh perspective on “writing” to you!

Thank you for your patient reading.