Sunday, December 26, 2010

Can we remove Corruption from India?

“Yeh Hindustan Hai, Yaha Sab Chalta Hai”…A common statement in India!

Don’t you feel happy if you do a good bargain with a cop while you break any traffic rule? If you do a rafa-dafa right away in one fourth money of what the cop has asked for?

What will you prefer if some work could be done quickly without any visit or taking any tension by giving a bribe instead of going to a Government office for weeks and months for doing the same work in legal and clear way? Won’t you go to a deal maker if you can get a Car license, Passport or Pan Card in an hour by paying few hundreds or thousands rupee without making many to and fro visits to the respective offices? This happens even after government has taken steps to ease the application process for most of these.

We are proud of the diversity of culture, language and ethnicity of our country. But do not we still prefer the person from the same caste or same place in case of giving a job or doing a favor?

We all want to stop corruption from our country, but will we really be able to?
So, though I think and firmly believe that India never can come out of the corruption, I would say, instead of pointing our finger to others, we should do self- introspection first.

We all are corrupted in a way or the other. Corruption is infused in our Blood. The embryo of this corruption lies deep inside every Indian, regardless of any age-bar.

Even after 63 years of India's independence, whenever, a common man raises his voice for justice, he is silenced in various ways by the criminal nexus, including attempts to murder.

The last few months have been witnessing allegations of corruption amounting to over 3 lakh crores in 2G spectrum allotments, the Common Wealth Games (CWG) scam, the Adarsh Building Society scam, allotment of land and mines in Bangalore etc. We do wish but do we expect anyone to be convicted out of this?

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has the power, but is entirely dependent on the government for permissions for investigations and prosecutions. CBI’s lawyers are appointed by the Law ministry and report to it as well, for which reason why everyone demands a Supreme Court monitored CBI investigation (as is the case in 2G spectrum).

In our political system, maximum of our top leaders are over 60 - 70 of their age. What we can expect actually from a politician whose one leg is already in cemetery?

Moreover, in the current time, technology is far-advanced. But, how many of the politicians know how to use a computer? What kind of strategy, a below-graduate or illiterate politician will make?

We can be hopeful that India can turn around a bit if she gets a total revamping of the political and anti-corruption delivery system. The country immediately needs a legal, efficient and independent investigating and prosecuting multidisciplinary agency led by independent professionals, to ward off political perplexity. And in political system too, there must be 60-70 % youths of below age 40, who can understand the demand of current century or the new generation. Apart from that, there should be a minimum education background for the politicians.

Whatever pledges we make or revamping we do, corruption will stay like this forever till the time we are ready to pay full money to a traffic police by taking the proper receipt, or getting a Car License or Passport by going through proper process without giving any bribe to the dalal. So, let’s optimism rule the thoughts..............


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sibsagar Calling...

A place with unparalleled splendour

Sibsagar, with its numerous rivulets, a place with its history of folklore, the inherent craftsmanship of its people, simplicity of the dwellers, ground for many battles fought over the centuries, such is the soul of the place, I was born into. Now, I stay far away from this place, but when I close my eyes, I can still hear the distant beats of the dhol (drum), nagara, beating in the rhythm of bihu geet, biya naam, naamgharar naam.

Yes, Sibsagar is the place I was born in and someday many years later, when I am old and dying, Sibsagar is the land where I would love to sleep forever on.

Now, when I think of Sibsagar, images rush to my mind...........the green paddy fields on the bank of Dikhou and Dishang rivers; memories of that splendid display of muga-eri (traditional silk dresses) worn by beautiful Assamese ladies on the eve of Bihu (the agricultural festival of Assam), a world within a world and acres upon acres of its green land, deep forest with its cascading rapids, tripping rivers, carpet of flowers, exotic blooms and lazy lakes.

Nestling within a lush green eastern part of North East India, Sibsagar stands high and tall with its rich aesthetic appeal. It is a jewelled land with its bountiful vistas of unparalleled beauty, spell bound flora and fauna and affluent culture. The lush green tea gardens tend to mesmerize the onlooker and the strong aroma of the tea leaves radiate an addictive spell. This contributes not only to the overall splendour but also to the state economy. Adding yet another feather to its cap, Sibsagar has the highest number of oil fields in Assam. The oil and the tea industries are undoubtedly the economic growth propellers in the region.

369 kms from Guwahati - Sibsagar is a historical city. It was the capital of the Ahom rulers for six centuries, which ended with the arrival of British in the 19th century. The place, which literally means 'the ocean of Lord Shiva', is strewn with the tell-tale ruins of a powerful empire.

Places to visit:

Sibsagar Lake:

The most remarkable landscape of the town is the 250 year old Sibsagar tank, situated right in the middle of the town. On its banks, there are three temples - the Shivadol, the Vishnudol and the Devidol. These were built by Queen Madambika, wife of the Ahom king Siva Singha, in the year 1734. The Shivadol is believed to be the highest Siva Temple in India, having a height of 104 feet and the perimeter 195 feet.

It’s water level is above the level of the town and migratory ducks and varieties of birds come from various part of the world to spend the winter months and to flutter in this stretch of water.


Charaideo was the first permanent capital of the Ahom kingdom established by the first Ahom king Chao Lung Siu-Ka-Pha in 1253. It is situated twenty-eight kilometers east of the present Sibsagar. It is famous for the 'Maidams' or burial vaults of the members of the royalty.

The tombs (Maidams) of Ahom kings and queens at Charaideo hillocks are comparable to the Pyramids of Egypt and are objects of wonder revealing the excellent architecture and skill of the sculptors and mansions of Assam of the medieval days.

The actual number of Maidam has exceeded 150, but only 30 Maidams are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India and Assam State Archaeology Department, and the remaining Maidams are unprotected.

It was customary for the successor of an Ahom King to bury all articles like clothing, furniture and other necessary things that the deceased king used. The servants, attendants and sometimes the elephants, horses used by the king were also buried. Besides, gold ornaments, royal sword, silver boxes, king’s hooka pipe etc. were among other articles, which were buried with the king.

Kareng Ghar:

Gargaon, the one-time capital of the Ahoms, is located in 13 km east of Sibsagar. The old palace built in 1540 was destroyed, and the present seven-storeyed palace, known as Kareng Ghar, was rebuilt around 1762, by king Rajeshwar Singha, which has now become one of the main tourist attractions of the region.

Talatal Ghar:

About 6 km from Sibsagar is an immense seven storeyed palace, three of which are below the ground level - known as Talatal Ghar - and the rest of the storeys above. There are two secret tunnels here which connect to the bank of the river Dikhou.


Close by is Rang Ghar, an oval shaped amphitheatre, two-storied pavilion from which the Ahom kings used to watch elephant, buffalo and chicken fights and other events. The base of the monument has a series of arched entrances and atop the roof is a decorative pair of carved stone crocodiles.

The Ahoms, who used special thin baked bricks, did not use cement and but used a paste of Bora rice and eggs as mortar for their construction.

Joysagar Lake:

At Rangpur (which was the name of the old Ahom capital), five km from Sibsagar, there is another large man-made lake known as the Joysagar built by king Rudra Singha in 1697. It is the largest man-made lake in India, sprawls over 318 acres on the edge of Sibsagar town.

The lake and the temple Joidol (erected a year later, in 1698) commemorate the memory of his mother, Queen Joymati, who was tortured to death. Just as Sibsagar tank had three temples constructed on its shores, Joysagar too has a set of three temples of which Joydol is one; the other two are the Shivadol and Devidol, dedicated to Shiva and Devi, respectively. From what remains of the sculpture decorating these temple walls, one can see carving of elephants and other animals in panels and rows. There is a depiction of Brahma astride a peacock and hunting scenes on the outer panels along with a rare 16-armed Durga and Narashimha.

Gauri-Sagar Lake:

Another man-made tank with its own set of three temples - Vishnudol, Shivadol and Devidol is Gaurisagar Lake, 12 km away from Sibsagar town. Built by Queen Phuleswari Devi who lived in the middle of the 18th century, the Gaurisagar tank is spread over 150 acres and is dedicated to Gauri or Goddess Durga.

Namdang Stone Bridge

King Rudra Singha constructed the Namdang stone bridge cut from a monolithic rock over the Namdang River, 12 km from Sibsagar. Today, the National Highway 37 passes over this historic bridge.

Tea Garden

How to get there ?

Air - The nearest airport, Jorhat, is only 55 km away.
Rail - The nearest railhead, Simaluguri, is 16 km away.
Road - Bus services are available from Guwahati and other important towns.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

PR Mantra

Low-cost Keys that open Media Doors

Public relations (PR), perhaps the most misunderstood part of marketing communications, can be the most effective marketing and promotional tool.

Earlier, in common, two different departments within an organization used to handle marketing and PR function separately. But today, these two functions are increasingly integrated for several reasons. Companies are now calling for more market-oriented PR. They want their PR departments to manage PR activities which contribute towards marketing their products and services. They are establishing marketing PR groups to support corporate and product promotion and brand building directly.

Now, PR is moving into an explosive growth stage. Companies are realizing that mass marketing is no longer the answer to some of their communication needs. Sales and Advertising costs continue to rise. In this environment, PR holds the promise of a cost-effective promotional tool. The creative use of news events, publications, social events, community relations, and other PR techniques offers companies a way to distinguish themselves and their products from their competitors.

Organizations have budgets for marketing and advertising their product or service. Every Rupee must count.

Here are few low-cost PR tips:

Create a Website

The first thing, generally a journalist does, when he receives a Press Release and if it catches his interest, is to look at the website.

Follow your Competition

Look what differentiate you from your competitions. Notice what they are doing that you are neglecting.

Track Clients

Keep a track where your clients have been profiled or mentioned and also keep a check who are their target media.

Decide on Your Target Market whether it is local, national or international and look for the PR Opportunities for that market

Define target Audience

Make your Target Media list

This could mean newspapers, magazines, newsletters, websites, TV, radio stations, bloggers, Twitter, Facebook - what do you target clients and customers read, watch and use.

Power up your press releases

Develop a compelling story. Your news releases should be newsworthy, targeted to the appropriate contact and, above all, engaging and open for constructive critique.

It should look professional, be crisp, clean and free of errors and contain something unique or creative related to your business.

Cultivate relationships with the media and stay in touch.

Build PR around the Spokesperson

Arrange exclusive trade interviews and features for the Spokesperson

Send Corporate Newsletter to the Media regularly to keep them updated about your business.

Become a reliable and trusted source from your industry to the media. Join your industry association and do some real work for it.

Start blogging in Social Media

Writing a company blog is low-cost way to position your business as a leader and it can help in establishing yourself as a thought leader in your arena. You can then direct the media to your blog and include the links in your press releases and emails etc.

Search for the ‘hungry for news’ journalist

Some journalists are writers who are in search of specific case studies or experts for an article they are writing.

Look for Free lancer

Build up a strong list of freelancers

Maximize email marketing

Make the media's job easier

Mould your pitch to the appropriate editor or reporter. Respect their time and deadlines. Have a press kit ready if the media ask for more info. Give them what they need, when they need it, and you'll increase your chances for positive press coverage.

Develop relationships with press contacts

Network with the media at various industry events. Make an effort to get to know local reporters and leverage those relationships. Establish yourself as a resource to reporters and editors.

So, sharpen your skills, and employ these techniques and check the ROI!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Public Relation is better Weapon than Advertising

Public Relation (PR) is not about partying, gossiping, exchanging cards, or schmoozing with a glass of champagne in hand. PR can be a powerful way to generate awareness and name recognition for any business.

The media is always in hunt of interesting news stories. Publicity in the media is more credible than advertising. Many big players are relatively light purchasers of advertising but heavy proponents of PR. There are many organizations that do very minimal of advertising, but are frequently featured in business magazines and the general press, which carries tremendous credibility.

Noticeably, public relations can make a long-lasting impact on public awareness at a small part of the cost of advertising. Getting publicity through PR is low cost and sometimes even free, and is considered to be a low-cost alternative and more effective to other marketing tactics such as traditional advertising and media buying.

In case of PR, the organization does not pay for the space or time, it gets in the media, but only pays for the PR person to develop and circulate stories and manage certain events. If the company develops an attention-grabbing story, it could be picked up by all the news media and be worth millions of Rupees in equivalent advertising. Besides, it would have more credibility than advertising as it is the process by which one can create a positive image and customer preference through third-party endorsement. Some experts say that consumers are five times more likely influenced by editorial copy than by advertising.

Advertising, no matter how intelligent, witty, dramatic or aesthetically pleasing, is self-promotion. People are very skeptical of ads. Furthermore, advertising is very expensive, especially if you have a big market to cover. On the other hand, PR goes through a filtering process. The editor or reporter scrutinizes the information before publishing, and picks the matter which is newsworthy and thus has more credibility. What PR lacks is its no control over how the media presents your information. But, the crisis management can rectify the negative coverage. Besides, media is not compelled to cover your event or publish your press release just because you sent something to them.

Advertising claims, uses refinement, comparisons, and borrows from the arts and psychology to try to influence decisions. But, PR is based in information, not seduction.

So, PR is better than any marketing tool including advertising. The creative use of news events, publications, social events, community relations, and other PR techniques offers companies a way to distinguish themselves and their products from their competitors and build their brand.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Assamese Kitchen

I am not an excellent cook, but like to explore exotic dishes, and hey…..I enjoy the MasterChef and the cooking programs too….!!!

Cuisine of a land reflects the culture, tradition and practices of a specific society. A cuisine is primarily influenced by the climate and the ingredients that are easily available in the area. As I originally belong to Assam…just wanting to write few words on its cuisine.

Mother Nature has given Assam bountiful greenery. The biodiversity of Assam makes her biologically rich with many rare and common plants and herbs. There are more than 3000 species of medicinal plants and herbs. Infact, Hsüan-tsang, the famous Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar and traveler said that every plant in this region has medicinal value.

Assam is a multiethnic society with diversified culture. Forty five different languages are spoken by different communities in Assam.

In this state, eating means much more than just indulging the stomach. Cooking process is in sync with nature, and reflects the simple lifestyle of the populace.

We, Assamese cannot live without rice. Rice is our staple food which is cooked in numerous ways. In rural areas and to honor guests in traditional way, Assamese people serve meal on Ban Kaahis (heavy bell metal plates) and give them to sit on bamboo mats (Dhora) or low stool (pira). Sometimes, meal is enjoyed in plantain or banana leaves also.

A traditional meal in Assam begins with a khar, a class of alkaline dishes named after the main ingredient, and ends with a tenga, a sour curry, made mostly with fish. These two dishes characterize a traditional meal in Assam. In between the khar and tenga fish, meat, vegetables are served and chutneys and ambals provide the refreshing touch of tartness to make the tongue anticipate the sweet dishes. Raw Betel nut generally concludes the meal.

Our Non Assamese friends lovingly call us Khar Khoa Asomiya as khar is served as a first course of a meal.

We are fresh fish lovers. It is enjoyed eating with hands as many fishes, specially the small ones are full of sharp bones. More the bones tastier the fish is. Baked fish in plantain leaf is a delicacy. Fried small fish is a favourite side dish. Meat is also a delicacy. Dal is also served along with one or two Bhajis. We also have our very own chutneys like Kharoli, Pani- Tenga etc.

Assamese cooking is a mixture of different indigenous style with regional variation. It is basically low cal and low fat cuisine. But, off lately, the Assamese cuisine has the influence of Bengal, Orissa and Bihar.

The Assamese unique food preparation is distinguished by its distinct flavour of exotic herbs, the smell of lemon (gol nemu or kaji nemu) and the sweet smell of Joha and Bohra rice. We also have our own share of exotic delicacies like fermented bamboo shoot, herb chutneys and khar.

The people of this land of blue hill and river take full advantage of Mother Nature’s bounty. Locally available green leafy vegetables known as ‘Xaak’ are: Spinach, "Lai" (a family of mustard greens), Mustard greens, fenugreek greens. "Khutora". "Moricha", "Mati Kaduri". "Mani Moni", Mint, Cabbage. Green vegetables are often boiled with water to form a gravy or fried in oil with onions. Other locally available vegetables are: cauliflower, beetroot, kolhrabi, curry bananas, banana flower, banana stem, bell pepper, "potol". jeeka". "bhool", snake gourd, bottle gourd, "ronga lao".

It is a common practice for a typical Assamese kitchen to have fermented and dried bamboo shoot, dried cocum (thekera), rice powder, powered lentils (mahor guri), Kharoli, Khahodi and chilly pickle (bhut jalakia, kon jalakia).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Corporate Social Responsibility: A new trend in SMEs?

With increasing awareness about social and environmental issues, stringent regulations, and increasing direct costs of natural resources, the social responsibility among the corporate sector is stronger than ever before. The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is wide encompassing and takes care of social as well as environmental responsiveness of enterprises to attain sustainable development. Companies have realized that contributing to betterment in these areas helps establish the credibility of the industry as a part of the solution rather than the problem.

SMEs are the engine of the India’s economic growth. SMEs constitute more than 90% of the total economy and are in a phase of evolution. The SME segment encourages the innovative spirit and entrepreneurship in the economy that helps in rapid industrial development in the country. Touching our grassroots level directly, it is helping in employment generation and balanced regional development.

Now, the concept of CSR has gone beyond the traditional philanthropic approach and looks into strategic cooperation. However, the SME sector is yet to use CSR as a tool for business fortification. This is mainly because they are forced to prioritize short-term survival over longer-term strategic measures, and they often do not have enough managerial and financial resources to invest in such measures.

Takings from CSR:

- CSR activities helps in bonding employees as a team and binding them better with the SMEs emotionally, which in turn helps reduce attrition and create a dedicated workforce proud of its employer despite its smaller size

- Helps the SMEs build a positive image and encourage the social involvement of employees, which in turn could help develop a sense of loyalty for the organization and thus helps in improving employee efficiency too

- Enhances the functions performed by the human resources team in the SMEs and boosts the morale of employees by involving the humble shop floor staff into the high profile CSR exercise as an equal with many other stakeholders

- It gives employees at all ranks recognition for services, built closer links with customers and in specific cases, helps customers understand issues in association with the SME management team

- In the longer term, SMEs can benefit from CSR-related gains in health management and sanitation, technical innovations, waste management and ongoing education.

- The specific impact, however, often cannot be expressed in hard facts and figures and it can take some time until they become manifested.

- It also is a strategic tool to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs. Generally, CSR may positively influence SMEs' competitiveness in the following ways:

• Higher motivation and loyalty of employees, resulting in a higher creativity and innovativeness
• Better publicity due to the award of prizes and or enhanced word-of-the-mouth
• Better position at the labor market and better networking with business partners and authorities including better access to public funds due to a better company image
• Cost savings and increased profitability due to a more efficient deployment of human and production resources
• Increased turnover/sales due to a competitive advantage derived from the above

What kind of expectation society has from SMEs :

The SME sector is the backbone of any economy, particularly in terms of its contributions towards employment generation and is reliable partners of large organizations to whom they provide products and services.

What kind of partnership SMEs should have outside the organization :

- Organizations like TERI which is developing innovative solutions to energy, environment and social issues for energy-intensive small scale industrial sectors, whereby touching the lives of at least 25,000 workers in about 500 locations across the country

- With organizations which support the Green revolution

- With NGOs which work towards the benefits of the society

- Technological innovation companies which help the SME sector to not only control environmental hazards, but also boost their production

However, there are many SMEs who are adapting CSR activities as a tool to win an award or get publicity. Also, given the lack of time and resources available to small SMEs, it is doubtful how much engagement there is actually at the community level.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Employee Engagement – Why we need it?

People often ask me why I organize internal events, competitions/promote intranet/ do CSR activities or invite various consumer-durable organizations to put their stalls at the office premises. Many of them comment that these are wastage of time and money….instead of these, ‘give money and take work'.

So, we can’t satisfy or keep everybody happy. Just, we can ask three questions to ourselves -

“How much self-esteemed do I feel by being associated with my company?”

“Don’t I feel proud when an outsider recognizes me by my organization or say good things about my organization?”

“Isn’t it a feel-good factor while my organization wins a national or international award?”

Employee engagement is an advanced step to employee satisfaction. It involves commitment, loyalty, faith and pride in the organization, a willingness to advocate for the organization, and a sense of personal responsibility. It is about creating gusto in the employees for their roles, their work and the organization, and ensuring they are aligned with the values of the organization, well informed and well integrated with their colleagues and culture of the organization.

To create greater motivation within employees for the work they do and increase their commitment towards the organization, corporates are now a day’s paying extra attention to this practice. Companies are now introducing inspiring and flexible work culture, employee friendly policies and practices and a variety of employee benefit schemes.

Few diagnostic tools for employee engagement includes: facility to work from home, flexible time, cab facility, crèche facility, training, career and personality development, performance appraisals, performance management, communication, equal opportunity, fair treatment, pay –benefits, health and safety, cooperation and family orientation, friendliness, open door policy, job satisfaction etc. These help the organization to create strong emotional bonding with the employees.

Few valuable company engagement programs include:

Many companies have introduced many exciting and refreshing practices to liven up their workplace, creating an environment conducive for explosive ideation and experience sharing, where the management could connect with the employees both formally and informally. These policies encourage two way interactions and helps achieve the objectives like fill in the Management communication gap, provide a formal platform for employees where they could express their ideas, suggestions, which are for larger interest of the organization and requires organization attention and action, address personal grievances and counseling etc.

Listening to employee ideas, acting on employee contributions and actively involving employees in decision making are essential to employee engagement. What they want from their managers: Focus me, Know me, Care about me, Hear me, Help me, feel proud, Help me review my contributions, Equip me, Help me see my value, Help me grow, Help me see my importance, Help me build mutual trust, Challenge me.

Many organizations have social networking and micro-blogging services on intranet that enable employees to send, discuss and read messages, internal portal for podcasting, social networking within the organization by using blogs, forums etc. People can raise various issues, offer feedback and also communicate with the senior management through this portal.

A Few Activities to be done towards employee engagement:

Treating employees as a member of the company by giving a day off on their birthdays and anniversaries, provide play and meditation courts for the employees or organizing self-management workshop – like Yoga, Art of Living to combat the work stress, employees’ kids participating in painting competition, festival celebration etc. can make work life balance. Besides, some other activities can be organizing training sessions, promote and recognize team performance, system adherence, evolve an employee friendly and business focused policies, processes and systems with high degree of automation, giving a chance to showcase their extra-curricular activities on the occasions like annual day celebration etc.

Regularly organizing various internal events on various occasions like Holi, Diwali, Dussehra, World Health Day, Children’s Day, Independence Day, Republic Day etc., organize various inter-company competitions among employees Quizzes, Sports Tournaments, Music and Dance Competitions, Cubicle decorations etc. can create a culture of fun and spark at work. External initiatives like off-site meetings, team parties, and team-bonding games to promote camaraderie among employees and also encouraging to participate in various corporate events can make working much more fun too.

A weekly or monthly column should be written by CEO on the intranet with company announcements, programs etc.

Companies need to organize Communication Meeting, every quarter where employees can directly interact with the senior management, periodically can share the future plans of the organization, define goals and expectations.

Employees should be rewarded and recognised for the good performance with awards like employee of the month or annual awards, competitive compensation etc.

Internal Newsletters, Magazines, Notice boards and regular mailers play vital role in employee engagement.

So, we can say - employee engagement is directly proportionate to organizational growth or organization's success.
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