Mahesh Baxi is CEO of Compassites Software and earlier, Managing Director of ThoughtWorks, a company I have huge respect for. I have known Mahesh for a while now, mainly through online interactions and I like his attitude to life.
When I was approached to write the foreword for his new book titled ‘New Age Leadership’, I felt honored.
Knowing that forewords are usually not read ( I know. I skip that part always!!), I made sure that the one I write is brief and to the point. Here it is.
I have been a regular reader of Mahesh’s blog and I have both enjoyed and benefited from his perspectives as a business leader.
Mahesh is one of the very few CEOs in India who blogs often. I have always admired top management people who can write because I know there are lots of things that fight for their time. That’s why I appreciate them when they can devote their time to write and share ideas with others. Sharing one’s knowledge is a great way to build a brand. I like it that through this book, Mahesh has been able to walk the leadership talk.
As you read this book, you will notice that its written in first person. It’s as if Mahesh is having a conversation with you over a cup of coffee.
A good author is one who has the ability to deliver his message in all forms of media. In addition to his blog, Mahesh has made the right decision to morph it into a physical book and an ebook.
This is an easy book to read. You can flip to any page and land on an interesting leadership lesson. It’s a short book and I love it when I can actually finish the book on a short plane ride.
However, I suggest you don’t. Read a short chapter. Close the book. Mull over the leadership advice. Let it marinate. Put it to practice. Then move on to savor another one. And watch the impact it’s beginning to have in your life. You will thank yourself for picking this book.
I had invited a job candidate home for lunch. I prefer doing some of the interviews over lunch because it helps break ice faster. I get to read the person much better when the conversation is casual.
During the conversation, the candidate asked me about our competitors in business. She specifically wanted to know about our USP and how we differentiate ourselves from the competition.
Typically, my answer would have been the 17 years I have spent in the digital space and how it continues to hold my fancy. But there’s something else that I value even more. Its Building Relationships. Its the trait I have learned from people who I respect.
Almost 100% of my business have come from people that I have known earlier. Some for many years and some for few months. But one thing that’s commons is that when we started knowing each other, business was never part of the discussion. When you remove any motive or business intention, its amazing how trust and comfort sets in. Ironically enough, these two are the most important factors for a business relationship!
I remember when I stayed at Rajesh’s home in Sunnyvale, he gifted me his Snowball Professional Microphone. I initially refused but he insisted. He said he rarely uses it and that it will be put to better use because I do podcasting. Now every time, I record a podcast I think of Rajesh’s gesture and invariably talk about him with the achiever that I interview. In my opinion, Rajesh dug his well one shovel deeper.
The reason why I found the article interesting is because it has an insightful real life incident by Mukund Mohan, a passionate and successful serial entrepreneur. It tells the story of how a simple gesture of his started a relationship that resulted in his first ever business deal 3 years later. Recommended read.
I walk up to the KingFisher Airlines counter at Chennai Airport in order to check-in for my flight to Coimbatore. I hand over the printed sheet with the booking details. The lady at the counter takes one quick look at it and says, “Sorry sir, the flight has been cancelled”.
Cancelled, huh? I wasn’t surprised. Knowing the situation that Kingfisher Airlines is in, I was half expecting it. But I felt bad for the organizers of the ‘India Leadership Summit’ who booked the tickets 3 months in advance for me to come and speak at their event. Its highly unfair to them.
Me and my friend Vijay Anand, who is flying along with me, tell the lady in no uncertain terms that its important that we be there. The lady asks us to wait while she promises to find a solution. Half hour passes. We approach her again. She has no good answer. I begin to get annoyed and the annoyance was clearly written on my face.
I know its not her fault but too bad she’s in the firing line. She pleads for more time. I start to suspect that this is all just a time-wasting game. Just as we had given up hope and mentally thinking of taking an over-night bus to Coimbatore, the lady calls us and hands over two tickets to Coimbatore via Bangalore. Its a longer route but at least we get to fly.
The next day we return back to Chennai after the event. It was late at night and while waiting in line at the Taxi booking counter inside the Chennai airport, we see the same Kingfisher lady.
I felt a bit guilty for showing my annoyance to the lady who in the end was genuinely trying to find a solution. The least I could do is thank her. As I walk up to her, I couldn’t help notice how tired her face was. Obviously a long day of facing the ire of passengers like me. I thank her for yesterday’s tickets. She recognized us quickly. And you should have seen her smile. It wasn’t the plastic smile that airline staff usually give. I can read that from a mile. This was a genuine one.
I can tell that it certainly lifted her spirits. Strangely, do did mine. I’ll never forget her smile. It warmed my heart. I felt good.
3 seconds. That’s all it took to say thanks. And then I wondered if I did that to other people who helped me. People who do little things in our daily lives. I don’t mean a cursory thanks but a genuine, heart-felt one. The answer. Not always.
That’s exactly what Drew Dudley says we should do more of in this wonderful TEDx talk. We have all changed someone’s life — usually without even realizing it. Drew Dudley believes leadership is not a characteristic reserved for the extraordinary. In this funny talk from TEDxToronto, Drew Dudley calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each others’ lives.
Watch this video.
I’m not a fan of the Kindle. I have a 2nd generation Kindle lying somewhere in my home for over two years and I have barely used it. However, I’m a huge fan of Jeff Bezos. I have admired his ability to envision long term success while braving a short term hit.
The Kindle is an outstanding example of just that. Amazon doesn’t want to make money off the devices but on the e-commerce that it enables. After all, that’s their core business.
Anyways, this post isn’t about the Kindle. It isn’t even about Jeff Bezos. It’s about the presentation lessons I learned from his Kindle launch.
I started watching the full video recording of Jeff Bezos a couple of days after the actual launch. I was hoping to catch a few minutes of the video but ended up sitting through the entire 51 minutes of the complete talk. I found the talk to be brilliant. Some say, he is no Steve Jobs. I disagree. He was just as good.
Following are the key take always.
Include Criticism: Jeff begins his talk by showing three quotes from people who all predicted absolute doom and failure of the Kindle four years ago. He then proceeds to show the graph where the Kindle books have overtaken the real books in sales. An unusual but effective way to drive home a strong point.
Minimal Text on Screen: The emphasis is on highlighting the most important words or numbers. For example, while announcing the cost of Kindle fire, the screen only had the number $199 in big bold font right next to the picture of Kindle Fire. This helps the viewer to quickly shift their focus back on the speaker instead of spending time reading the screen.
Professional Assistance: There is no doubt that Amazon hired a professional trainer to train Jeff Bezos. Getting a Pro makes perfect sense. This is a big stage and the world is watching. The difference between a mediocre performance and an outstanding one can mean billion dollars worth of sales. Spending a tiny fraction in hiring a professional trainer greatly helps.
Thorough Rehearsals: As the country ambassador for TEDx, I have learned that the greatest of speeches have hours of rigorous, repeated rehearsals hidden behind them. I can see the same in this presentation too. You can see the confidence as he moves from one slide to the next. Its perfectly rehearsed. When you know what’s on the slides, you tend to relax and that greatly helps you deliver a better talk.
Intersperse with Video and Audio: Throughout the 51 minute presentation, you will notice Jeff pepper his talk with video demonstrations and TV advertisements. It helps break the monotony of continuous speech while driving home the point.
Share Limelight With Team: Sharing the spotlight is greatly appreciated. In this presentation, Jeff introduces its new web browser, Amazon Silk. He then quickly gives way to a video which has the actual developers of the browser explain its features and how it is going to improve our browsing experience. Am sure that those developers and their team appreciate that.
Don’t Hide the Screen: Its a subtle but important point that most of us ignore. Jeff is on stage which has a monstrously huge screen. When he is presenting, you will notice that he always is either on the left or right side of the screen making sure not to obstruct the view. You will notice that its almost a conscious decision. Often, as speakers we get so much absorbed in our talk that we naturally gravitate towards the center of the stage. Its only out of practice we can correct this.
Recap Important Points: Jeff does this brilliantly. He introduces almost half a dozen new products in his talks. At the end of each segment where he talks about the product, he has one slide that re-emphasizes the key points before moving to the next product. This is brilliant. He followed an important diktat in presentation: “Say what you are going to say. Say it. Say what you just said”. Brilliant.
Overall, I would give it a double thumbs up. But hey, I’m a Jeff Bezos fan. So, take it with a pinch of salt.
AS I conclude, I noticed one huge difference between a Jeff Bezos product announcement and a Steve Jobs Product announcement. Its the sheer lack of applause.
At an Apple announcement, you will notice this almost cult-like atmosphere. Every announcement is greeted with applause along with a blitz of camera flashes. In this Amazon talk, as Jeff Bezos proudly raises his Amazon Kindle Fire and shows it to the World for the first time, all you hear is radio silence!!
I’ve taken charge of the course ‘Entrepreneurship and Media Management’ at Anna University’s Dept of Media Studies. As part of the course, I rope in experienced professionals to give guest lectures to the final year students.
For this week, I’m roping in Geoffrey G Thomas, a veteran in the Radio business and a guy who defies his age with his enthusiasm and youthfulness.
Geoff has been in the radio industry for over 15 years. He started off as an on air presenter in 1995 on Times FM ( Now Radio Mirchi). In 1999, he was unanimously voted as the best on air presenter by a leading english newspaper.
From year 2000 to 2009, he was with Radio Indigo in Bangalore, where he set up the country’s first all English private FM radio station. Responsible for both Bangalore and Goa, he was the National Programming Director during that period.
Later, he moved backed to Chennai and took charge as the Chief Programming Officer at Chennai Live 104.8 FM. He was here for two years from April 2009 to April 2011.
Geoff is now an entrepreneur and is in the process of setting up his own venture called Amaranta Entertainment.
There are a couple of reasons why I’m very excited to participate in today’s panel discussion. The first is the topic, ‘Past, Present and Future of Books‘ . It really caught my imagination.
The second are my co-panelists who have been stalwarts in their field. Sivasankari has been a household name and have heard her name ever since I was a kid. Reading her bio below made me realize her prowess in writing.
V.Sriram is a passionate historian and entrepreneur and his versatility amazes me. I have heard of V.Sriram many times but never had the opportunity to meet up with him. But I do know that he is a very close friend of Mr.S.Muthiah, who I proudly call as an inspiration and a mentor to me. Infact, it was Mr.Muthiah who recommended that I be invited to be a panelist.
The organizers have chosen the three of us to represent the three parts of the discussion. Sivasankari to talk on the past, Sriram to talk about the present and me to talk on the future. Guess our age must have something to do with it!
This panel discussion is conducted by the founders of BookandBorrow.com, to mark their 2nd anniversary in association with the Madras Book Club.
Here are the details:
Date : 15th July, 2011
Time: 6:30 pm
Venue: C.P.Ramaswamy Covention Centre, 1, Eldams Road, Alwarpet, Chennai – 18
Sivasankari, Noted Tamil Author
Having carved a niche for herself in the Tamil literary world during the last four decades, Sivasankari’s works include more than 36 novels, 48 short novels, 150 short stories, 15 travelogues, 7 collections of articles, one talking book, 4 volumes of literary research book, 2 volumes of anthologies, and 2 biographies – of Smt. Indira Gandhi, the late Prime Minister, and of Sri. G.D. Naidu, a pioneer in many fields.
Six of her novels have been filmed in Tamil receiving popular public acclaim for their integrity and social commitment. One story has been filmed in Kannada and Telugu each.
Her novels on Drug Abuse, Alcoholism and Old Age Problem, written after many years of research and authentic spadework, have been serialised in National and Regional television networks with tremendous public response, and SUBAH – the serial on drug menace – was adjudged as one of the mega hits of 1987
She has also anchored the most popular Talk Show NETRU, INDRU, NAALAI on varied topics of social relevance in SUN TV.
She was instrumental in setting up the RAJAJI CENTRE FOR DE-ADDICTION at the VHS Hospital, Taramani, Chennai.
V.Sriram, Noted Historian
Since 1999, Sriram has been doing considerable work on the history of Chennai and the history of Carnatic Music. He writes frequently on these subjects for The Hindu, Madras Musings and Sruti, the classical arts magazine. Sriram has authored five books so far :
• Carnatic Summer, the lives of twenty two exponents (2004) which was described as unputdownable by APJ Abdul Kalam who claimed to have read it in one night.
• The Devadasi and The Saint, the life and times of Bangalore Nagarathnamma (2007)- this won the United Nations Female Population Award for Gender Sensitivity in writing
• Semmangudi, Life and Music (2008)
• Fifty Historic Residences of Chennai (2008)
• Four Score and More, the History of the Music Academy, Madras (2009)
Sriram has just finished writing the history of the Rane Group of Companies and is now working on the 175 year history of the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Sriram is a much sought after speaker on History and Fine Arts and has spoken at locations such as the India International Centre, Delhi, the Tag Centre and the Music Academy in Chennai and the Gayana Samaja in Bangalore. His talk on Chennai begins the academic year at the National Institute of Fashion Technology and the Asian College of Journalism each year. His end-of-the-year talks at the Tag Centre, on the last two Sundays of December witness record attendance.
Sriram pioneered the concept of heritage walks in the city in 1999. Since then his thematic tours of the city, conducted in August and December each year are famous and much sought after. He has so far done 25 different tours of the city and his aim is to complete a 100 different heritage routes in the city.
He is now the Managing Director of HVK Systems, controlled by his family and which is the largest distributor in India for Eaton Fluid Power, a Fortune 100 Company. He is also the Chief Operations Officer and Director of Broadgate Technical Services (India) Pvt. Ltd., the group’s software company which has clients in the India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.