38 Ceos? The Interesting case of our very own Alternate Facts

For the last three days roughly, there has been a positive sentiment around a lot of foreign Ceo interest in Pakistan. I for one actually missed the news item initially but later saw variants on official FB Pages, Media outlet sites, TV and last but not lease a frenzy of “fwds, via  Whatsapp”. Most interestingly there was a list of 38 CEOs floating all over the Pakistani Internet ecosystem.

Whilst there is, will be and continues to be long and short term FDI into Pakistan the way this story was laid out or en cashed by the powers be, did not make sense.  For one, there weren’t 38 CEOs. There were 13 Chief Executives/MD/Heads representing 12 Different organizations.

Further there were 19 Additional people from one organization only, so unless they operate in 19 countries and each had an independent CEO & P&L, just a cursory glance shows that the optics of the media releases did not align with the data on the ground. No body is taking away the fact that whom ever brought these various leaders and senior executives is truly doing us a service. No less had any one only, more than glossed over, it would be evidently clear, that in affect 38 companies were not represented, they are not coming to open shop here, at least not all of them. We continue to mis guide our selves by presenting our “alternate facts”. There were and are 38 people who came..

One of them already has large scale operations in Pakistan in the tech space. Further, excluding Pakistan these 38 people were from 15 countries or markets.

Had the news focused around the fact that we had arguably 2 billionaires + a few Multi 100m$ folks in town along with an even more interesting mix of individuals, minus the fact that not all were CEOs. There were guests of the visitors + embassy staff + other friends of friends in the list. Goes to show proof reading is a dying art form.

I took some time to put a list together of all the Public Domain data available on the foreign non Pakistani origin visitors. You can get a snap shot here Who was A Ceo?? . Some of the highlights were Mr Alessandro Benetton of  Bn$ Fame most easily recognizable because of the Benetton Group . When you look beneath the surface you quickly figure out where their business interests lie beyond private  equity. On closer inspection “The family’s other interests run from Atlantia, the company which operates the majority of Italy’s motorway toll roads, to airports in Rome, Florence and Turin and a share in 13 of the country’s main railway stations. They also control Autogrill, the roads and airports caterer”. So its befitting that they met the Pakistani motorway moguls too. (https://goo.gl/2TPHPh)

Sadly we were busy talking about quantity over quality. There was some interesting visitors, like the son of the EX Prime Minister of Spain, whose father is on the Board of a Pakistani origin company along with being on the board of News Corp that owns 21st Century FOX and other news and programming assets. He is listed in the documents as a “Silent Programme Manager, Spain” . Ive frankly never heard of a silent program manager before and couldn’t lookup a reference from google or the Project Management Institute , I suspect when your dad is an ex PM , his  connections came in handy  to craft such a curated title. No less 10 points for trekking it across even if it was for the ride or the adventure trip on the side as per the press releases earlier. The best part of all this, is that we had 38 people show up, who will take some thing positive back with them. If we only had an equally sensible government apparatus to capitalize on this visit as was needed vs for their own data trolling before election year.

We have the ex Banker turned Chairperson of the Aussie Billionaires  Gaming and Entertainment holding company. Rob Rankin, who works for the Billionaire James Packer. Packer, who has a net worth of about $5.2 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He was born into an Australian media dynasty started by his grandfather Frank Packer and expanded by his father Kerry Packer.

Since inheriting the family business at 38, James Packer has quit most of the media investments inherited from his father and expanded into casinos in an attempt to capitalize on Asian consumer spending. So a Casino bosses point man in Pakistan? Now that makes for an interesting cover story. Perhaps he came to meet his usual high rollers in Pakistan:) I guess our tax payer money will be adequately  utilized for more roulette.

Then we have the CEO of Huawei, not a surprise because of our CPEC items, but clearly big news. Global head of Huawei making the time to come across clearly means business engagement at some level + his family to come along, I guess to meet with our first family. Almost looks like a family outing to scope out the sites for what ever future industrial complex/housing etc is to come. There is a fairly dynastic feel to what they might be out to accomplish here.

On the subject of housing we the Sinolink World Wide developers son in the mix. With almost billionaire genes he also makes for a perfect candidate for the trip. Ceo of Snam from Italy from the energy sector also a hard hitter and heavy roller. So the focus is fairly evident, transport, construction, energy, high tech and if we include Kolon group of Korea we bring in heavy manufacturing too (Plus they will fit right in , they settled with Dupont over industrial espionage of the Kevlar technology and paid over $250m+ in a $900m+ award ( https://goo.gl/GbWicT ). Minus a few under whelming investor types, like the adventure tour operator from UK Mr Cookson or the Ninja Van Ceo from Singapore who I think came along for the sight seeing trip which the larger group went on earlier. There was a banker from Italy too. Who at a closer look is fairly connected to all the Italians on the list so seems like “friend of a friend” who came for the ride. No less in his own right comes from money/wealth and a fair bit of board positions back home.

All in all the 13 key folks are on the money, what their motivation is or could be, is up for debate, the way this circus was orchestrated for optics, could have been done better. Here is to hoping that these alternate facts turn to real factual execution on the ground and these folks just didn’t come for a short R&R break to Pakistan. I, like many others, will be heart broken if this does not translate to some real deals resulting in some real economic benefit. Here is to hoping that the alternate fact machinery takes a hiatus and to thanking the people who continue to do good work for building Pakistans image across the world.




Stop Playing Startup and Start Growing Up: Its not you, its your Incubator

The real cost of Incubators and Accelerators and the boogymen who promise capital

I love startups. I hate the startups that don’t do any thing and cant stop playing pretend. They are wasting every ones time, most importantly their own. But at no fault of their own, they don’t know any better.

Day in and day out, I see founders that are more interested in playing startup than actually being one because of the guidance they are receiving from their “mentors” and “Incubator Owners/Hosts”.

Startups are a beautiful thing; they create value where nothing existed before, and the best of them succeed despite the unimaginably high likelihood of failure. Yet some how we are going down a misguided path of what a startup is, should be, who should run it, what it should do and how it should scale. Let alone how it should make money, create employment and empowerment.

This path is misguided because most startups are coming out of incubators that are run by people with money (or access to money, or who like to play rich) or those appointed by institutions who have zero background in doing any thing enterprising or even working some where that has done any thing remotely in line with being entrepreneurial. We are misinterpreting money and retired corporate types + academics as those who can help any of these startups. They can barely help them selves. Generalizations aren’t great, but this one is fairly on the money.

Incubators are good for the ecosystem, but when the entire ecosystem is mostly incubators, with no real VCs along with a sprinkling of angel investors that typically want a photo op rather than a patent ap and incubators that have 20 some things using downloaded guides to building a startup or Guy Kawasaki’s models and PowerPoint’s. My response is, you are already late to the game and completely lost, we have “Google” for all that. I should be the last one advocating age as a pre curser for success, all my life I’ve bet against the status quo, skill rather than age is what matters, unfortunately its linked in our ecosystem, the folks handing out the advice them selves are completely lost and the irony is, they are not volunteering at the incubators after a successful or failed startup journey, they are entry level upstarts trying to navigate their own careers and futures. The flip side is not any rosier, our system is set to respect Grey hair vs Grey Matter.

What a travesty that your first/entry level gig is that at an incubator. Wherein you will be responsible for helping and advising others on how to lead their startup journey. You cant make this stuff up, this bizzaro level crazy.

It had to start some where(Some incubators in Karachi and Lahore for the risk of Bias, are doing a service to the underserved masses) and I am glad it did, but it has to quickly evolve beyond what it is today. There are also incubators who are working on the look good methodology, to look good they bring in companies, not startups and do a fantastic PR job around them whilst they are incubated, sprinkle some institutional/govt capital, sign a few MOUs, cross promote within their fraternity and 6 months later we see this cycle being repeated and no trace of the last ones. Its self promotion at best.

In the last 6 months I’ve seen any one with some money + recent retirement + Doctorate + Bureaucrats all enter this space by the boat full. For some its post mid life crisis, unfortunately due to the hero worship mentality and the lack of career counseling in general at our academic institutions, our kids/youth will get in line and gobble up the garbage advice coming from these types and abandon their real dreams for getting a seat at the table with these self professed success stories and play pretend. There is no real money coming; there is no real growth. In 2 years I want to revisit this post and see how many startups got 50m$ in scaling capital post their incubation, let alone be commercially successful.

Most of the people running or deploying the incubators have been corporate types, who are now pretending to be Titans of industry. Their hired help, on the other hand comes from a varied mix, some have never had a real job, but a crisp white shits and a suit with spit polished shoes are essentially all that is required for the photo op and misleading every one around them. They by disposition of their last name, or their pedigree were in the right jobs, or by virtue of their political or family affiliation at the right place. These kids are far too naive to really understand the Sind Club / Punjab Club /Islamabad Club undertones and pick them up, there are just pawns in this game of pretend. Incubators that have spawned as of late, their promoters to me look like “frat brothers”. It’s a nexus of the small and interconnected and borderline incestual. I wouldn’t have a problem if they’d invested real money, beyond self promoting their own agendas and doing launch parties and lunches and posting pics with other “self professed” starsJ.

What’s lost on the startups is that these guys are hawks, they are fishing for ideas under the guise of “investing” “growing” “helping”, they are running industry events, collecting insights, finding cheap labor, handing out 8-20% equity and deploying their capital to fund their companies that will be run by fairly smart kids at what any where else in the startup world would be considered minimum wage. I.e a lock in at 8-20%. Incubators are what discotheque were to party goers in the late 70s and early 80s, a way to stay relevant, it’s the LSD of the Baby boomers Generation of Pakistan. They are doing a real dis service.

So here’s what you must ask the “owner, host, patron” of your incubator/accelerator/VC promise seller to really see if they can help you before you eagerly hand over your sanity and future to a lock in:

  1. Have you ever built a company or a product? Being a politically or family nominated CEO doesn’t count.
  2. Have you ever worked at a successful or failed startup?
  3. What makes you qualified to evaluate technical ideas?
  4. Who are the mentors in your network?
  5. Have you ever funded a successful or failed enterprise?
  6. Does your money come with strings?
  7. How much available capital does your network pledge to invest post incubation? Do you have a credible network of investors? What is their track record?
  8. Do you have a financial or technical background?
  9. When did you last file your personal taxes? Can we get our accountant to look at your incubators corporate structure?
  10. Do you have any patents? Have they been commercialized?
  11. Can you provide 2 references that will vouch for your past investments and business dealings?
  12. In you last job what did you do?
  13. Is your capital, family money, a retirement fund, or does it come from an institution or govt of politically backed entity ?
  14. You have shared that you are prolific venture capitalist? Do you have a Venture company license to operate in Pakistan?
  15. Who will own the IP we create in the business and how will we protect it?
  16. How much time will you spend with each startup? How many startups in each cohort, and besides introducing to your corporate friends, can you share a list of mentors and their background?
  17. How many times a year will you introduce us to funding cycle programs/demo days?
  18. We need to go from 1m$ in sales to 5m$ in sales, what would recommend as the best way to raise the money? Venture Debt? Dilution? PE?
  19. Since there are no bankruptcy protection laws in Pakistan how do you propose to deal with a failed startup?
  20. How do you select ideas and people to invest in, host, or accelerate, what is your growth and investment philosophy?


There is still time, look at the data and facts and select wisely.

Why Should I have to go to Dubai or Doha or Colombo or Bangkok?

(A follow up post to my earlier post on Pan AM 73)

29 Years and 10 months or 10896 Days after Pan AM 73 (Sept 5th 1986) was high jacked in Pakistan, roughly 3 decades later we still haven’t been able to recover from our loss. We can sum it all up in with these letters: AP-BCD. That is the registration number of a Boeing 737, which PIA leased to Emirates in 1985 a year prior to this highjacking, to start its operations.

Sadly, 3 decades on, PIA was till recently still flying it, struggling to fund a replacement, while the Dubai-based carrier has built one of the most modern fleets in the world. We must not blame them for their success but must retrospectively look at our over all ineptitude and failing political and economic position

This post has little to do with PIA but a lot to do with how others have capitalized from our initial victories and the early achievements our forefathers who had fought hard to put structure, growth, ambition and results in place.

Clearly due to their foresight and due to a sense of nation building they did what they had to do. Where as today every facet of society is impacted by the general apathy that is prevailing every where we look. Its easy to blame politicians its easier to blame men in uniform, but the real culprits are the average people who let the ruling elite get away with putting us in this hole.

If I want to go anywhere or do any kind of trade or be even marginally competitive I’m stumped at the beginning of that conversation because my initial cost of doing business or travel is higher than most if not every one else in the region. Plus the exchequer is loosing direct and indirect revenue and taxes, had most airlines stayed in Pakistan or had PIA not discontinued its services to majority of the destinations it flew directly to in the past.

Here’s a glimpse at the sad truth,  we have lost Cathay, Malaysian, Singapore, Swiss, Al-Italia, Japan Airline, Air France, Lufthansa , KLM and British Airways, I am sure there were others that I don’t know about missing from this list.

International Travel has gone up by 11% roughly by CAA estimates(2013/14), but the serviceability from PIA and global players is on the decline.

The domestic situation isn’t any prettier: whilst the  IATA (International Air Transport Association) forecasts Pakistan domestic air travel will grow at least 9.5% per year, more than 2X faster than the world average annual growth rate of 4.1% over the next 20 years. Keeping that in mind domestic travel options are equally non-existent but the needs continues to grow.

However despite growth in traffic domestically and internationally, the number of international airlines has drastically been reduced and the direct services of PIA have also been clipped. So its about time the powers be fixed PIA or sold it or at least made it more competitive?

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pakistan_International_Airlines_destinations to get an idea of the terminated air routes)

As a consumer why should I have to travel in an opposing direction first to the GCC and then onwards or add hours to my travel time, if I actually want to fly to say Nepal or Tokyo.

Similarly why should I have to go to Colombo if I want to go China or India. Direct flights options being next to non existent we are forced to fly to the global hub of our limited partners. They are definitely exploiting this, if we had more carriers, this would benefit the end consumer and would allow for more trade and cross cultural exchanges. (Given our current geo political and socio religious stances perhaps the question is, if any one would really come to Pakistan for tourism? Perhaps that is an other post all together)

Similarly in the past We, the consumer had the option to break journey in Europe with either a large buffet of PIA services or other European carriers. Today both on pricing and level of treatment Emirates and Etihad do not consider the PK-GCC-PK route as tier one, we are forced to pay non competitive rates due to a near monopolistic control, yet tier one service is only reserved for “Caucasians” “Westerners” as determined by visual queues gathered by all the GCC players and their staff. Saudi Airlines being the exception as they are “douches” to pretty much every one regardless of creed. They should be given a history lesson on the help received from the SSG Commandoes in 1979. Perhaps their long term memory loss will be jogged then.

Simple example of what happens on this route, Airlines serve doggy bags instead of real in-flight meals citing not adequate travel time, further the planes on both Emirates and Etihad from Karachi at least, more times than none don’t dock with the terminal they are parked away from the terminal and we are treated to stairs and a bus ride once in the GCC. At the very least services should be reciprocated as both airlines dock at KHI.

On other similar time frame flights originating from Dubai or Abu Dhabi the doggy bag argument doesn’t hold, nor does the less than decent treatment. We are special like that, we teach people how to fish and they take the pole from us and use us as bait.

We are becoming more and more inaccessible as a country and as a people, as our religious right drives us to further isolation our political and state machinery and their ineptitude will drive us to economic isolation.

The question is, why hasn’t any one given 2 cents about this phenomenon? Clearly its been 30 years in the making. The issue really is that the 1% who continue to influence these decisions are the same 1% who travel First and Business class, so they aren’t impacted by the common man or the average Pakistani laborers plight when he gets treated inappropriately because they will get off in Dubai and make their connection to their next vacation stop, using Marhaba services. There is Zero impact to their lives. Actually they prefer not being associated with the “other class” of Pakistanis onboard.

So its not just only about air lines and flight options its about how we are widening the divide by not caring. Its about time some one cared enough and figured out a way by bringing back some of the international airlines and worked on a strategy to fix our own broken down infrastructure. We must demand that, of our government at the very least. That a good idea, but we will have to take a flight to have that demand heard.

Clearly since more than half the political machinery is in England for Eid, it may be a good option to perhaps to utilize PIAs still functioning flight and shed light on this cause, before PIA stops flying to London too.

If Tendulkar ran CNN : The State of Media in Pakistan (Cliff notes version)

I profess, I know nothing about Cricket and I am sure Tendulkar will say the same about running an enterprise, for arguments sake CNN. There is a crisis of professional leadership within the realms of Media enterprises in Pakistan. It is any thing but professional and not aligned with strategic growth objectives of the people employed within.

When Genworth Financial broke off from GE, their Ad Campaigns spoke about heritage and legacy. Its worth a watch.

Where is the heritage in our media industries lineage; where the entry point and dominant factor in starting up, is not really being a startup it is actually the anti thesis of a startup. The lineage is that of running mills, being in the tobacco and ghee trade along with being gold smiths (not to be confused with Imran Khans, children’s Gold Smith lineage). Nowhere else in the world can I draw parallels to this sort of lineage in this sector. Alas I digress.

Lineage does matter, because if you come from the “trades” you treat your people like you would treat blue collared individuals. It is a departure from how you would treat white collar and professional managers. The death of this industry will be due to the slow paced nature of the people at the helm and the unrelenting desire to not change and professionalize the culture and the setup of the industry. With the reach that Media now has in Pakistan, if some one tactfully connected the dots, between digital, social , print and electronic- clearly their dominance would be felt further than the shores of Pakistan alone.

This industry is not concerned with building talent, where the old guard is dominant (refer to earlier article on the Old Guard) and where the pursuit of profits comes before the pursuit of professionalism and in many ways ethics, accountability and commitment to the work force employed within.

Nothing has changed since these Media groups propped up and nothing is destined to change unless the people who work here demand their rights and the audiences they cater to also hold the enterprises accountable.

It’s a classic problem “don’t fix what is not broken”, from the Media enterprise owners perspective, their “boss” is the “audience” the audience has an unrelenting thirst for consuming “marginal” to “sub-par” content.

You guessed it, these Media outfits specialize in churning that stuff out, hence when their ad-revenues don’t take a hit, they continue with the way they build their organizations and how they scale, with 0 regard for professionalism and sustained growth for the pillars who run the business. The 100s, if not thousands of people employed in the profession are marginalized every day. They fear that today they are employed and thanks to the post Musharraf era where these Media enterprises grew out off , they are happy to be employed. Given the balance of power being in-equal, these employees are left with no option but to work in a grossly non professional, dis organized environment.

The opportunity is ripe for the taking, for a singular or multiple individuals who can change this balance of power, who focus on building consummate business professionals and re distribute the wealth generated from the media ecosystem. All we need is a true, disruptive startup with access to capital that by virtue of its treatment of its employees and holistic content can capture the hearts and minds of the audiences.

The barriers to cost based entry may be high, but barrier to distribution and access is minimal if done right. Hopefully some true, smart entrepreneur sees the opportunity and sizes it. It would impact the lives of thousands of people who for once are in dire need of that change. Perhaps some one from within the industry also sees the need of the hour and takes a leap of faith and starts to believe in Karma.

Has Business really recovered from Pan AM 73?

It was 1986 and it was commonplace that nationals from Algeria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, UK and the US would use Pakistan as a transnational gateway into Europe and USA. On one fateful day they became victims of a hijacking on our soil and Pakistanis became victims of allowing others to conduct what ever business they deem fit on our soil.

The perpetrators supposedly came in via Bahrain, were of Palestinian origin and caused havoc that ended in tragedy. We haven’t recovered since.

The 1986 5th September Guardian ran a piece that had the following “the initial negotiation was started by the Pan Am manager at Karachi airport, Mr Viraf Daroga, using a megaphone. Later, radio communication was established with the hijackers and a command centre was set up in the Pan Am office at the airport. The negotiations were taken over by the governor of Sind province, Lieutenant-general Jehandad Khan”

What does any of this have to do with business? Every thing, the hallmark of where we were headed as a nation and what was to come of our business sector was pretty evident from one class act in 1986. It still remains the same, in some way or an other, we are still run, managed, maneuvered or told what to do by some one in Uniform. From taking over as the negotiator in 1986 to what has happened post 9/11 every thing can almost materially be linked to the decisions of men in uniform, but not the common man. Yet our fate, economic fate is baked in by the actions of those who continue to lead us even though a democratic setup ensues.

Pakistan is a stage, it has puppeteers who manage the stage, set the scene, then sit back and watch their own theatrical performances. We have been every body else’s stooge, and our geo political and tactical foreign policies have essentially ruined our ability to compete globally.

We were more focused as a nation to get to the streets for Palestinian brethren, we allowed the Wahabi Saudis to come in and open madrasas far and wide in our country(yet there are none in their own), we stood for the cause of Iraq and we broke our own national infrastructure protesting for items and supposedly religiously linked events of magnitude that should have mattered to us. The common un educated man was more focused and more obsessed by the optimal thread count of his imams turban as opposed to the message being preached. Some how no one focused on getting our selves educated and setup to take on global challenges and build universities, (whilst we stood in line to protest westernization of universities of the middle east). Sadly, as we didn’t have many universities left any way.

As a country, three businesses have survived the test of time in Pakistan. Politics, Military and Religion. If you happen to be tied to either three you are prosperous. From that ill fated day in 1986, 1$ allocated to either of these professions would have resulted in many fold return. The people who saw that are titans of industry in our country today. Most if not all. Saw the opportunity, created the alignment and have been cashing in. For the rest of us, the best hope is to focus on what we have, optimize it and try to make it competitive.

The other thing we must do is, take charge, call a spade a spade and call out our leaders and so called political apparatus plus the Military. This is our country and we must show all, we mean business. I have never seen a protest in Palestine to show solidarity with Pakistan, neither have I seen one in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia , you get the point. Yet our masses will take to the streets given the opportunity. That is exactly the point, we waste our opportunities and we don’t create new ones, we are so lost and mis-guided that besides a few nothing new and Innovative is happening. We are so invested in the business of PMR(Politics, Military, Religion) that we have lost sight on how to be globally competitive. We have a Martial law imposed on our intellect and our ability to act. We have to rise above and reclaim what is ours, rightfully. The only way to do it is to focus on building jobs, creating opportunities and getting away from the age old business of PMR. We need to get back to the era of the 80s where Pakistan was open for business with any one who was ready to be fair. Lets not be open for business for any thing else. Lets only export the best products and leave the rest behind.

“Cheap Labor” Inefficiency – The Short Cut Society

In a society where the only cut is a short cut, be it on the road to work or driving in the opposing direction to oncoming traffic to shave a few mins or seconds in reaching the destination, it is incomprehensible how we continue to survive.

In developing economies much like ours, with a large working class population, labor(economics tells us) is abundant, opportunities to deploy that labor are scarce. Hence every outcome should be maximized by the labor as the cost and price of substitution is marginal at best. Yet the exact opposite happens every day.

Lets take a basic example, scenario one, you have a simple task, you have a water pipe that has a leak, you reach into your pocket book and call the “plumber” you have on retainer. He comes in, potentially without his “real tools” and sees the issue, whilst chewing tobacco of some kind he mumbles some thing and says “not to worry”….

What you don’t know, is that because labor is so cheap and he knows he can get a quick “fix” of payment from you by temporarily fixing the leak, he applies some basic remedies to get you going. Two days later, due to the non-compatible adhesive he used the lines are clogged, the pipe burst in two places and the motor took a reverse allocation of water. You are really worried now, you call him again, he once again pacifies you and says not a big deal, this time around his last short cut that cost you more than you bargained for is fixed , full and final as best as he knows. Had he replaced the dysfunctional piece of pipe or applied appropriate treatment on the pipe in question. You wouldn’t have had to shell out the extra you just did.

So, wherein lies the problem? The problem starts with you, you want a short cut, the most valuable asset in your go to retainer black book of contacts is the guy who responds on the first call and get on site the fastest. In the long term by not measuring twice and cutting once, you have actually caused more harm. The second issues lies with the entire labor pool, there is no such thing as a days honest wages in the environment we operate in. Every one wants to amass more for doing the minimal viable output. Over time just pushing the minimal viable output, you are destroying value as opposed to creating value.

This is what happens when labor is cheap, we become cheap, in our intellectual ability to think straight and in rationally trying to solve problems. What we are creating or enabling is an entire work force of shoddy, below par, marginally qualified individuals who will spend a life time thinking and believing the tools and methods they use are by far the right ones. This happens because of acceptability by us the end user/consumer. In our plight to just solve stuff and not be dragged in to the mechanics of things happen, we have just given up, given up on demanding fair service for fair wages paid. Sooner rather than later we will drown under the weight of this short cut work force. As a starting point we are already disadvantaged by our economic disposition, over time we will be a society of large labor pool of untrained, un reliable individuals who would at best be utilized for repetitive tasks.

Lets shift gears and look at scenario two, the white collar labor pool. What’s shocking is, the “its not my problem attitude” that is far more prevalent , doing the right thing isn’t any ones prerogative any more. Across industries, clients, national , regional and multinational companies where I’ve had the opportunity to interact with folks from various age groups, its been a rude awakening. The amount of time spent on office politics and Facebook redirected to attitudinal change would result in a 10 basis point change in output for most organizations.

At the offices of a large conglomerate that fancies it self as a top employer, a brand of the year(what ever that means) and draws lineage from the best of breed corporations I witnessed the following. I walked in, at the reception, the receptionist looked at me, whilst continuing to take a personal call on their mobile phone. I stood by the reception, a few minutes later they waved me to sign the guest book and asked me, albeit not so politely to put my ID Card next to the register. I continued to follow the instruction. A good 8-9 mins in, she saw that id come to see the CEO of the company, by this time I was waiting in the adjacent area.

She came up to me and apologized, then called some one “upstairs”. “Upstairs” sent an equally dis-interested person, also chatting on a mobile phone who asked me to follow them. I was asked to be seated in a well appointed neo colonial waiting area. A third person, the CEOs executive secretary came to greet me. We walked passed a hallway, purportedly of this Billion $ enterprise where a row of laptop wielding corporate types were sitting, mostly atop desks, chit chatting, the common theme was that every single laptop had finger stains across the farm of laptops. That’s the first thing I saw, its left a mark on me as the first thing I recall about this organization. Its this lack of this ownership where no one cares. Yet in my mind this leaves a lasting impression. I shared this with the CEO, their response was “oh, the cleaning staff comes in again at 3pm”.

My simplistic view was, If you cant really take care of a company asset provided to you, as a shareholder can I trust my money in your hands? Should I? But millions of us do every day no less. Look at the stock exchange, where else would one invest? The question of intelligence and growth becomes secondary in my opinion. I cant look past the fact that supposedly rational people engage in irrational behavior. We have become so reliant on some one else to do the job for us, that we even refuse to under take the basic corporate hygiene items into consideration. Some one who is so disenfranchised from the get go, can they really ever become any thing but a short cut worker?

Given the scenario of a labor surplus pool, even for white collar jobs, we rarely care about the outlook we have or present. Some how I’d expect the opposite, where people would try harder to excel and project a far more professional outlook than that is prevalent today. When I walk in to an enterprise I want to see positive energy at the reception, that vibe should carry across. You should be treating your employees the way they want them to treat your best customer, slowly its becoming evident that this problem is systemic. It starts at the top. Its more about attitude than any thing else.

Just because we have a lot of people and we can put a lot of people to solve a task, it doesn’t really mean that we need to, or that they will produce a positive outcome. We need to be matching problems with right solutions as opposed to using the labor arbitrage we have and hoping some thing eventually sticks. We need to get efficient in identifying which short cuts make sense and do away with the rest. If we don’t we will be far worse economically than wed like to explain to our kids one day. Not like its not evident why, but some day our kids will ask us. Lets make sure we do a course correction today than wait to be a completely dysfunctional society and before its too late.

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little

                                                                                                        Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797)