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India

Some “subtle” things many people forget

Few housekeeping things that many people get confused with…But it pays to have some clarity

You have Freedom of speech , NOT the Right to be taken seriously

 

You have Freedom of having an opinion , NOT the Freedom from criticism that comes with holding it, and saying it out loud

 

I may respect your Right to have and practice your Religion, NOT your Religion

 

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Humor

What’s in a Name — Nothing, but a LOT can be done to it

Let’s first get something very Clear: My Official Name : It is MADHUR CHADHA and there is no spelling mistake here.

I never really knew that my name could be tough to pronounce or spell for anyone, but boy, have I been wrong?.

Here are some of my favorites things that have been done to my name

The Chadda Complex

A lot of people have had the tenacity to tell me that I was “accidentally” spelling my last name wrong. It is supposed to be “Chadda” not “Chadha” or even “Chada”

Yeah, probably one of my ancestors was bad at spelling and I have to live with that

At least half of my college certificates have Chadda in them. This is something I kind of lived with since childhood

Maaadhur

I joined Infosys Hyderabad in 2006, it was the “Communications” teacher who was taking the attendance.

I marveled at her ability to pronounce those complicated names(To my “never stepped out of faridabad” ears) . She was the type of person who knew it is Telugu, not Telegu …until she met her nemesis. My name.

After about 30 seconds of trying to arch her lips in the perfect fashion to make the sound that represented that supremely complicated name—She muttered Moaaaadhor, I still do not know what exactly she said, but it was me. Everyone else had “easy” names. I was already famous.

PS: The next name was Madhulaletty –And she did not even have to read it. It was like Neha for her

When the communication instructor cannot pronounce your name…you do start questioning your whole life

The Moon

Overconfidence kills and can sometimes lead to hilarious results.

In 2009, I was starting a project with a company in the US . Before traveling, we had to send our details so that they can get our email , access cards etc ready. The guy handling that on the client side was an Indian, and being an Indian, he thought he knew all Indians.

He read it once and entered my details as “Madhur Chandra”.

Now the way they made email ids was <last name><first 2 letters of first name> @<domain.com>

So I landed in US and emailed my colleagues back in India with my shiny new email ID

chandrama@<client.com> (Chandrama means the moon in Hindi)

I just got 1-word reply for multiple senior people “Lol”

PS: NO American has EVER misspelled my name. They copy paste from my signature. It is always my fellow countrymen

Mr Mathur

I have no clue why, but a LOT of Hyderabadi’s think my name is Mathur . They not only pronounce it like that (which is Ok) but spell it too. I have been corrected on this (can you imagine?)

One of my Microsoft colleagues used to ALWAYS refer to me as Mathur in Emails. I do not like to correct people on email , I sound like an obnoxious jerk correcting minor errors.

I decided to tacitly bring it to his attention.

  • I started putting my first name as a  signature in my emails(even replies). ~Thanks, Madhur.That did not work
  • I Started putting my FULL name in email, to draw his attention
  • I bolded my Name, First name….put colors …highlighters

There still is a Microsoft employee who thinks that he had a colleague called “Mathur Chadha”

How do you correct someone after they have spelled your name wrong for 1 year and you never corrected him ?

He won, I lost. In honor of this name, I  keep my screenname as “Mathur” in a lot of online games.Remember that if you are playing someone called “Mathur”

NSFW 

Now that does not mean, my name is awesome and cannot lead to unfortunate but hilarious situations.

When I joined Microsoft, and had had my fanboy moments, I  was finally presented with my email ID. I had looked forward to that shiny new @microsoft.com email address that I could flaunt

But Microsoft used the following formulae for creating you email ID that time. <2 letters of Firstname><last name>@<domain>

yes: My email ID was machadha@microsoft.com

Don’t get it? Say it out loud in one go…over and over again and see the people around you react.

No surprises, I did not message people my ID, but went to their desk and told them machadha.

Yes, I got it changed soon. A joke has a limited shelf life and mine was also NSFW

Yeah…so what’s in a name.

Now when someone talks about their name being tough.I chuckle…

Son, you have no idea…and my name was supposed to be simple

Or perhaps people are inspired by this Ron Swanson Mantra of Life

~Mathur

 

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philosophy Reflections

On Sonu Nigam, Azaan , and Kabir

As as kid, one of my favourite subjects was Hindi.One of the things I enjoyed was writing an essay(yes sounds boring but I was really good at it)
Most essay questions in schools revolved around some finite set of themes, and one theme was religion, superstition etc ..or something like that. My Memory fails me here
I no longer remember the exact title of the essay , but I do remember that I used to always quote two dohas by Kabir for good marks

Kankar pathar jod ke, Masjid laye banay
Taa chadh mulla baang de, kya behra hua khudaey
Loose translation: You collected pebbles and stones and made a masjid out of it.
Then you got your priest to go on top of it and shout. Has God gone deaf?

Patthar puje hari mile, to main poojun pahad.
Ghar ki chakki koi na puje, joko pees khaye sansar.
Loose translation: If praying to a stone gets you God, then I will pray to a Mountain
Instead, why doesn’t anyone pray to their flour mill at home, it gives people food

 

Now I am pretty sure, I am not the only one who used these dohas for those “extra marks”. Many must have remembered it years afterwards like me.Many who came before me and many who came after.

 

Both the dohas question and satirise one of the most dearly help aspects in both religions. Azaan and Idol worship.
But it was ok to write about this in examinations.It was all ok, at least that is what we felt, to question these things without getting an exaggerated reaction from anyone.

 

What worries me now is, that the generation that I studied with, the generation that remembered these dohas and probably  wrote them down multiple times, is also among the generations that are getting so offended over someone questioning the use of loudspeakers for azaan , aartis etc

The same generation, as kids, thought that it was OK to question the whole concept of azaan and idol worship, now has people who think its blasphemous to question the use of loudspeakers?

Yes, there are people across all age groups who fall into this category, but it makes me much sadder when I see people who I presume are from “my generation” discussing this.

Yes education is not same across, people change and blah blah blah

It is the same feeling you get when you see one of your old classmate who has ruined his life. You had nothing to do with it, but you feel so sorry and somewhat guilty. He is a part of your childhood and you cannot fathom it taking such a turn.

 

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Product Management

Here is the problem with defining what a Minimal Viable Product is

Minimal Viable Product: One of the most used and abused buzzwords of the startup ecosystem.

Ability to define an MVP also happens to be one of the key criteria for hiring Product Managers.

One of the most common follies that many potential product manager hopefuls make is, focusing only on the “Minimal” aspect and forgetting “Viable”  and “Product”

Minimal: What is the least thing you can do in the fastest amount of time to get the product out and test the market.

Viable: What is the least you NEED to do to make sure it works. This implies it would include the key differentiator that you have from your competitors.

Product: It HAS to be a finished product in itself. There HAS to be a market for that product. It may be your MVP but customers do not buy your MVP. They buy products.It can do only 1 tiny thing, but it should do it well.

To give an oversimplified example: If you were to build a WhatsApp rival that will differentiate itself by giving users an ability to hide messages in a group from certain group members, Your MVP has to be a messaging App with an ability to hide messages from group members.

You can cut corners on speed, multi-browser support, group sizes, encryption, starring, tagging, blocking, spam fighting, heck even real-time updates, or don’t even  give users an ability to invite anyone(Do it via email, manually for each user ), but not on the very core feature

Sounds like such a simple thing to do…

And since I am fond of haikus on Product Management–Here is one on Minimal Viable Product

Minimal Viable Product
was minimal as a blank slate
forgot Viable Product

 

 

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philosophy Reflections

YOLO – Ok , so what?

YOLO :(You only Live once) a common phrase that precedes most stupid, idiotic and sometimes fun plans people have.

People use it to justify doing anything that does not fit the traditional way of the world, for doing things that are unexpected of them, for breaking the “rule”, for nor having any “regrets”.

But what regrets?

Isn’t YOLO also symbolic of – No matter how much “fun” you have, and how many “rules” you break, it still does not matter?

It still is what you intend it not to be.

Is it really about having fun or, dealing with the inevitable oblivion?

In the end, how does it matter one way or the other?

And what is this fascination of not following the “traditional” path?

This is like saying you would not like the Taj Mahal because millions of others have been

So what if your life follows the same path as many others before you?. You are still doing it for the first time

So should you not have fun?

No idea—Let me think about it while I eat some Dark chocolate, sip some great coffee in my comfy recliner chair.

 

 

 

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Haiku Poetry

Demonetisation Deaths Demon -Haiku poem

Wait and watch they said,
Hunger helplessness and death,
Demonetisation is

How many deaths ,
How many ruins is ok,
In Demonetisation

They don’t cry for none,
Cause it’s not their kin that’s dead,
the “Indians” here

How many deaths ,
How many ruins is ok,
In Demonetisation

 

Read: Demonetization was planned

 

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India

Who Said demonetisation was not planned ? An alternative viewpoint

Who said demonetisation was not planned?..all the people losing jobs, people dying in queues, elderly and sick waiting in lines for days without money, existential crisis for daily wagerers ,was all planned….
  • They knew how much money could be printed
  • They knew the ATM density
  • They knew how many people do not have access to “digital payments”
  • They knew how many daily wagerers are there
  • They knew that ATMs will need reconfiguration
  • They could easily calculate how long the ATMS queues would be and how many days an average person will have to wait in ATM line
  • They knew even the sick and elderly would need to stand in these lines
  • They knew it would put a lot of people with upcoming marriages at home in extreme stress
  • They knew some people would break
  • They knew some people would not be able to access medical facilities despite having money
  • They knew people would die
  • They knew some industries would collapse
  • They knew farmers would not be able to buy seeds
  • They knew the poorest would suffer the most
Do you think they did not know all this? If you insist that demonetisation was not planned or all these things were pure surprises , then you insist that the government is run by  idiots who do not even do basic homework…I won’t say that.
So stop saying demonetisation was not planned , give the government credit for all this.Give credit where it’s due.
It was all planned, just that we cannot fathom that the government could be this insensitive and this brutal on it’s own people.
Welcome to the new reality
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Product Management

Boring Chat Bots are Coming – #ChatBots #Future

Disclaimer: Before you ask…as always all opinions are mine/personal. This article is my take on how Chat Bots would evolve in the near future

Dear Product  Managers,

Heard this? “bots are the next big thing” and “Chat bots will solve your communication needs” and especially “your apps will become redundant”  and let me not forget “your business is dead if you do not have a Chat bot”

Yes bots are great and you will probably see more of them around and we need to prepare , especially you ..the  next gen Product Manager trying to build the best awesome personalized human like bot .

So here is a list of my complaints/rants  against bots and how many Bot scenarios are sometimes potrayed

 

Chat Bots to replace everything

God knows what all can Chat bots replace or even God does not know what Chat bots cannot replace.

One of the most common examples I have heard is “Pizza ordering bot” , Like a full scale pizza ordering chat bot

Heaven’s it is a bad idea to even think of.

This is how many scenarios play out in our heads(Would seem normal to some and unnecessarily drawn out to many..to the latter, I am sorry)

 

Me: Hey I need Pizza

Bot: Awesome, what type? Your regular?

Me: Naah, want to experiment. Suggest me some veg options

Bot : We just launched Awesome Veggie supreme  pizza. It has pineapple, mushrooms and tomatoes

Me: Anything with broccoli

Bot : Sure , How about Broccoli surprise ?

Me: Swell . Broccoli surprise would do

Bot: What size

Me: Medium , oh and please add extra cheese

Bot : Cool! Anything to drink? We have coke, pepsi and Mirinda

Me: Coke 1 ltr please

Bot : Great . Total is 1 gazzilion Rs.

Me: ok

Bot: Your address is same as before

Me : yes

Bot: Great , order received. Will keep you posted !

Me: Thanks

 

Sounds decent enough, like talking to a normal person at the counter, doesn’t it?

Boring Chat bot

NO! THIS IS A BOT.

Typing  Typing Typing and Typing

You basically ordered Broccoli pizza and a coke and had to do a long drawn conversation. What if you wanted to replace pineapple in one pizza with broccoli ?

What if you got in a mood for No extra cheese?  And god forbid if you were ordering for a group.

It takes me 30 minutes trying to get a group to agree to a pizza order, I don’t want to have that same conversation with the Bot. This negotiation does not work.

It’s a BOT

What’s all this crap about having a conversation …”Natural language” . Yes giving a personality to a Chat Bot works, but why exactly are people trying to impress a Bot?

What is this need for ” Hey ” “Can you please” .

Not people’s fault, it seems that is how many advertisements around bots expect us to behave.

These are dumb machines, can’t even pass a Turing test (1 did I guess) and we are trying to be Nice to them?

Think about all the human potential wasted trying to be Nice to Bots

Do you go to google and type , “please tell me the nearest pizza places since I am hungry”

Someday, bots will feel bad but that day is not today. Last time I checked, my car does not give better mileage if I talk nicely to it.

You could argue that this can be further simplified , heck you could, and that is exactly the points.

 

Many Chat Bots will and should become dumb and stop hiding that they are bots. You would either see many new bots that do just 1 job (while the app can do 1000–Eg  Dominos bot–you say Pizza and you are done) or drop the pretense and talk to you like they should…Like an IVRS system. Yes the ones that everyone hates , but are still very prevalent

Eg–something like this

Me: Pizza

Bot: Please select which one

  1. Your previous order (Broccoli blast)
  2. Veggi paneer
  3. Spices Maximus
  4. See Non veg also

Me: 2

Bot: Please select

  1. Complete order
  2. Order more
  3. Edit order

Me: 1

Bot: Great ! The total is 1 gazzilion dollars

 

This Bot is BORING , this bot is efficient.

It is like an IVRS. Whenever you think about bot scenario, think about how an IVRS system  works, would you do that on an IVRS?

IVRS: Please speak your name after the beep

Me: Hello IVRS, My Name is Madhur

IVRS: You are stupid Madhur

 

But there is ray of hope.

Bots platforms have started and soon will go gung-ho on giving a rich interface to bots within chat .

So in the pizza example, you could open the entire menu inside the chat and just Tap on the one you want

You would make a selection on the first chat message and add cheese on the next, again by a simple click/tap

This sounds very familiar. Where have I seen it? THIS IS AN APP

Now you see? Bots are just screens of your App, starting with few functionalities and possibly finally your entire app,just another UI surface .

Do not force fit your entire app into  a chat interface, it will just give you PR, not happy customers.

Would you browse amazon using an amazon chat bot ?

 

Do Bots fit nowhere:

They do, they are awesome, especially when you do not initiate the conversations, but an external event does. These are the best use cases IMO

Eg:

Finance Bot : Pssst: ICICI just crossed 1200 Rs. Wanna sell? I recommend sell , all of it. Press Y

Me: Y100

Finance Bot : Kewl! Sold for 1210, you made 10,000 rs profit…you rich spoiled brat.

 

Your apps are not dying, you can survive without BOTS,it is OK.

There are a LOT of advances made using AI and computers can figure out your stated needs : Eg:”Veggi delight pizza enough for 4 people” can directly order aVeggiei pizza large size.

But you need to know what you really want

So yes, dear product managers and users: your next wave of bots will be boring , they will be as close to chatting with a person as IVRS is to talking to a human. Even Siri and Cortana wear off the novelty in a day(OMG, it can tell me a joke)

Things will improve,but you need to go past boring bots first( we are still dealing with IVRS, remember)

 

A new ERA begins…The Boring Bot Era

 

Sincerely Yours

Broccoli pizza fan #LeaveMyPizzaAlone

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India

A planned Marathon #Demonetization

Suppose I organize a 10hr marathon for charity and name it ‘demonetization’ , in which everyone in my org has to run irrespective of age, gender , health else they lose their jobs. 
 
  • 1 hour after the start, a few people start fainting and I realize , I did not account for water. I then call for water but I have a special request, all water should be served in special glasses printed for my marathon. I also forgot to order the glasses
  • 2 hours after the start I realize that though water is there , a lot of people are a lot thirsty and I did not order enough,so I ration it-only 1 glass per KM
  • 3hrs: Well, some people really need more water than others ,they are still fainting.I implement a rule:you can have 1 more glass if you already have a doctor’s note.if not , your problem ,not mine
  • 4hrs: Well while I was looking at the fast runners who were drinking more water, I forgot that there were heart patients who were running very slow,they never got any water because it finished before they reached any stop point. I make everyone else to freeze in their spot for 30 minutes so that heart patients can cover up a little and maybe have 1 glass of water, once.
  • 5hrs. Some people die of dehydration and I realize, I never really accounted for a doctor or a nurse or even basic first aid,so I do the next best thing-i let people have as much water as they want
  • 6hrs: I realize that people are drinking way more water than I accounted for,so I ration it back – only 0.5 glass per km. I shout at the water supplier who claims he has a limit to his supply, he cannot supply infinite amounts instantaneously.My request for specially printed glasses also adds to the delay
  • 7hrs: people are still dying and I am not sure so I call it “Sacrifice for the greater good”. I also realize, people are hungry and I never ordered food
  • 8hrs: I figure, the water supply is not that great so I ration..you can drink 0.5 glass only ONCE in the entire race. After you drink, I would mark your forehead with the company symbol so that you cannot drink again
..
.
.
.
.
  • 10th hour: In a press Conference I declare: “It could not have been planned better” .I was nimble and agile , I took feedback and quickly rose to the occasion and made changes with authority.Demonetization was a success
  • The deaths I  blame on the water supplier for not being able to supply instantaneously at the speed of thought

/*********Update*************/

  • Now I claim that the real motive of Demonetization was to boost water sales  and help the struggling packaged water industry , which it did…hence Demonetization was a resounding success

/******End Update************/

/******Another Update******/

  • I saw employees helping each other get on their feet when they fell down, I saw a manager give a CPR to the peon who had a heart attack while running and a coder offering a tester some water after he just recovered from an asthma attack.
  • I put some glycerine in my eye and claim that the real reason for demonetization was to promote team spirit and the team(which survived) has never been closer. Hence Demonetisation was a success

/*******End Another Update****/

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Book Reviews Reviews

Black white and the grays in between- Book Review

**********A little  Disclaimer *********

Gosh! it is tough to review a book written by a friend. There are two reasons why it’s tougher for me: The author Abhishek Hemrajani is not only my friend from ISB(batchmate)  but was also my colleague in Microsoft. I consider him an extremely smart dude, so the moment I knew he published a book, I knew I was picking it up.

The issue with reviewing a book written by someone you know is ,that it is hard to be completely unbiased. You either are too forgiving or too merciless because you go overboard with trying to be “unbiased”. It is like being a teacher’s Son…Teachers are either too caring or too strict so that other kids do not feel a bias .
I will try my best to not fall for both the pitfalls.

***Disclaimer Ends**

TLDR Version : Black white and the grays in between is a great book especially considering this is Abhishek’s first book. An easy read .

Should you buy the book?: Yes

PS: Review coming from someone who is not a fan of this genre of books

Longer version :

Overall I really liked the book. The plot is pacy  and there were not many instances where there were unnecessary explanations or forced words

The story line is tight with no loose ends or over the top melodrama. Many sensitive situations have been handled beautifully . I wanted to talk about some of the situations but it may give away the plot :). What I liked most about the characters was that they were very relatable, they were just like you and me.They mostly behaved the way they were expected to behave. You could see why they made the choices they made.

I was able to imagine every character and every scene vividly in my head and can happily say that the author did a great job here .

Another thing that struck me was the amount of research the author seemed to have done about the doctor’s profession . Dude, you know a lot 🙂

What I would have loved to see though is more stuff about Kanak’s father Keshav. I felt that his character needed to be developed further , I just expected a bit more . Same is the case with Ashar .Would have to loved to read a bit more about his and Rukhsar’s story .

Another  interesting part of the book were couplets at a couple of places. It is fairly tough to pull this off . Couplets are very difficult beasts to tame and can break the flow of the story or just add another beautiful dimension altogether  . The author chose to use them very judiciously  :+1 to that.

Overall it is a very well balanced book. Considering that it is Abhishek’s first book only , I can only imagine what the expectations from his next books would be. He has set high benchmarks for himself :).

Read my other book review 

Click here to see more must-read books

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