Monday, February 27, 2012

The Idea of Democracy

We're proud to be a democratic republic. Despite all the follies of our country, still somewhere there's always a hope, always something to be proud of.
Let me share an interesting trivia I came across.

There's no unanimously accepted logic why India has been known as the land of the King Bharat (Bharata varsha) since antiquity. What's special about this mythical King Bharata? How did his name stick to the identity of so big a country. There's actually a lesser known fact about this King. He was no doubt a great emperor, but when he didn't find any of his sons to be fit for running the country he adopted a commoner (in fact an illegitimate son shunned by his own parents) on the recommendation of people he trusted and made him his successor, conferring on him the royal lineage. Perhaps this is the earliest instance of democratically electing the head of a country. (And this makes the Pandavas not the biological descendant of Bharata, but that of a commoner with no royal connections)

The Oscars: 2012

While watching the Oscars in the morning and seeing an Iranian movie (Separation) again in the limelight (it got the award for the best film in foreign language category), it amazed me. Despite serious restrictions in making a movie in Iran, extremely constrainted budget, and finally the recent prejudice with which the west has started seeing Iran, it's really a worthy thing to see their films coming to this stage - much ahead of any Indian film in the recent and not so recent past. I believe they have proved that publicity, PR and size don't come in the way when the quality is really high - that's a lesson for all of us.

BTW, a passing comment - Oscars (and any big award in the world) is also a chronicle of patience. This year the award for the best supporting actor in male category went to Christopher Plummer, who is best known for the role of the head of the Von Trapp family in the 60's block buster "Sound of Music" - and this is his first Oscar, after 6 decades of hard work. Another lesson.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Multi ethnicity and excellence

I'd like to talk about our industry, the semiconductor industry in Bangalore, and especially our company, Mirafra Technologies, providing design services to our industry. When it comes to the overall multi-ethnicity and cosmopolitanism nature of the entire IT industry, of which we're a part, there's nothing astounding about our particular industry, nevertheless, it does represent the very essence of what a hi-tech industry should be. I personally feel that one of the reasons why our industry, no doubt one of the most hi-tech ones in the world - we design the electronic chips that go into the latest phones, tablets and other sophisticated electronic gadgets -, has attained its present stature is its perfectly cosmopolitan nature.

Digressing a bit, I'd like to quote historian Ramachandra Guha from his magnum opus 'India after Gandhi'. While talking about the connection between cosmopolitanism and excellence in films, he has given the example of Sholay, perhaps the most successful movie made in India. He writes, 'Its director (Ramesh Sippy) was Sindhi, while its lyricist (Anand Bakshi) and one male lead (Dharmendra) were Punjabi. Other male leads were from Uttar Pradesh (Amitabh Bachchan), Gujarat (Sanjeev Kumar) and North West Frontier Province (Amjad Khan) respectively. Another (Danny) who was dropped at the last moment, was from Sikkim. Of the two female leads, one (Hema Malini) was a Tamil, the other (Jaya Bhaduri) a Bengali domiciled in Madhya Pradesh. The music director (RD Burman) was a Bengali - from Tripura.'

I feel Ramachandra Guha used this as a representation to make a point that excellence is directly linked to multi ethnicity and cosmopolitanism. Bombay became Bombay because people from all over the country settled there. It couldn't have been what it's now had it been just a native hole of Mumbaikars. The same is applicable to our hi-tech industry, which has attained its stature only because people from all over India have come and joined it. No other city attracted so many people from all over India and that's why Bangalore has become the Silicon Valley of India.

To take the example of our company, it was founded by Alok Kuchlous, a Haryanvi, and Shyam Sundar Padala, a Telugu from Andhra Pradesh. I, a Bengali domiciled in Bangalore for the past fifteen years, am a VP Engineering. The other VP, Bimal Bhattacharya, is an Assamese of Bengali origin from Guwahati. The Directors of HR and Sales, Snehdeep Ambarkar and Sandip Kadtane, are Marathi. Pratish Behra, one of our oldest employees, is an Oriya. Among our 200+ people we've representation from almost all the states, except for some of the North Eastern states. We've people from almost all the IITs and NITs across the country - even one from NIT Srinagar.

Our MD and co-founder Shyam is very particular about maintaining the cosmopolitanism and multi-ethnic nature of our company. And the interesting thing is that we don't have to put any extra effort to do it. We just hire the best people from the best of the colleges and we never go by any prejudice.

There's a reason why the IITs are among the best colleges in India. It's perhaps because no other college attracts so many people from across the country. No other college can claim to be so much cosmopolitan. The reason why Stanford or MIT are even better places is perhaps they attract people from round the world, which no Indian college can do. So the bottom line is that if we want to excel in any area we have to look out beyond the local region and attract people from every where. A multi ethnic and cosmopolitan atmosphere opens up the minds of people, broadens the thoughts and intellect and help create a climate conducive of growth and excellence.

The day someone says Bangalore is only for Kannadigas, that would be the beginning of the end of Bangalore.