Let’s Have Fun: October 2014

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Jargon of the Day: Vendor’s Guilt

It’s been almost three years since I quit the folds of a job with a private limited company, with a regular monthly salary, and almost a year since Prasad and I started off our own firm.

It was the beginning of a new continuum of professionalism, applying whatever we know & understand, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying to turn those experiences into repeatable behaviour.

And amongst all this, we observe each other, learn from each other, and try to correct each other from time to time.

One trait I’ve observed in our behaviour at times is what I’ve started calling Vendor’s Guilt (and Prasad does refer to it in a post a couple of months back).
Here’s what it is.

One of the reasons we wanted us to start on our own was to become a rare type of IT vendor: the kind who gives full value of the client’s money, does not act hostile towards the client or their work, and always has the client’s best interests in mind.

While all this is fine and a noble, the fact of the big bad world out there is that any business would try to hold back in negotiations and payments, and try to extract the most bang for their buck. I’m not sitting in judgment on anyone here — it is because businesses are closest to what we learnt as the rational person during our microeconomics classes — they aim to maximize gain while minimizing expenditure. Of course as people many of us might think it’s a crummy thing to do, but as people managing a business we get rid of the guilt associated with such behaviour, and thus we get the every day client.

Often times a well-meaning vendor (the one who goes by the principles I listed two paragraphs ago) gets carried away with the well-meaningness, and goes into altruistic territory. The classic symptoms of this behaviour are:

  • Relenting during negotiation (they can’t pay more than this, how will they get it done at the prices we quoted?)
  • Starting work without receiving any payments (of course they intend to pay, they can’t NOT pay, right? They are good guys!)
  • Volunteering to give advice not asked for at times which would reduce the size of our engagements (as a partner, shouldn’t I be concerned about saving my clients’ costs?)
  • Getting anxious whenever the client would raise even a small concern (how could we let this happen? how would this affect our relationship, and reputation?)
  • Not chasing clients for pending payments often enough (how would it look? he’s the brand manager, the payments are processed by the accounts guy, they have run out of their monthly budgets already)
  • Continuing work and taking on more pressure despite payments being delayed inordinately (they can’t pay, they don’t have money, and unless we deliver this, how will they earn and pay us?)

Please don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have good intentions for clients and prospects as a service provider. And it’s a bit scary for us to imagine turning into the other vendors we all have burnt our fingers with.

But when these concerns overshadow our own survival, and especially when we are dealing with clients who are bigger in size and turnover than we are, yet somehow they don’t have enough to pay us for our services, out comes this term: Vendor’s Guilt.

How was this affecting us? At times we were feeling the pressure from both ends: work was piling up, but money wasn’t trickling in, often due to the same clients. We would keep debating hours about why we are letting this happen to us. And in those hours of debate, it became clear that we were letting this all happen, and maybe were driving ourselves towards this, because we were striving to set ourselves apart from the run-of-the-mill vendor we hear stories of who shut down servers, or put up a nasty message on the homepage, or overcharges for superfluous services.

How did we manage our way out of it? It was a three-point realisation:

  1. That we really aren’t ‘that’ vendor. When we stepped back and assessed our work and engagements, we realised we were a high-performing considerate vendor, and most of our engagements are really healthy. Most of our clients respect us and our work, pay up on time, and barely haggle. And we have always strived to deliver the full value of what we’re paid. Plus, we have not abandoned on bad terms a single project because of payment or personality issues (touchwood), a problem that I increasingly see is quite common at least in the Indian market.
  2. ‘That’ kind of vendors still exist, and we still keep hearing about them. But there’s another realisation we’ve had: that the vendors aren’t always at fault. There are clients who give vendors a hard time, hold back payments, and misbehave with vendors. And there’s just so much that a business owner can take from a client before protecting their own business interests. I’m not condoning that behaviour, but if we haven’t stepped into their shoes, how can we judge them so harshly?
  3. We are a business, being managed and powered by people, who have bills to pay and dreams to fulfill. And at the end of the day, if we can’t pay the wages all these people are here for, and are struggling with working capital and profitability after working so hard, is it really worth it?

From the point that we’ve had this discussion, we’ve decided to keep a tight check on all engagements, raise flags whenever we realise it’s veering towards exploitation, and take appropriate measures. These measures are nothing more than getting clarity amongst ourselves, meeting with the appropriate people at the client’s end and apprising them of our situation. In all the cases, the other party does appreciate our concerns and our sharing with them.

Meanwhile, we continue to deliver value for all our clients, strive hard to get the best done for the best costs, because that’s what we set out to do and not out of any guilt, but we don’t make ourselves bleed to fill anyone else’s cups.

It’s not that difficult, really.

9 things that happen to you when you join a “shareable” content website; and You can’t imagine what the end of the list looks like!

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  1. You start thinking in lists.
  2. You are obsessed with SEO-friendly titles.
  3. You insist that you have collected all possible wisdom related to any topic in 15-20 points.
  4. You insist that this wisdom is not peculiar to your personal experience, but universal for everyone who has been bombarded with the link to your list on Facebook.
  5. You get bored with photographs that aren’t looped animations.
  6. Every thing from the 90s becomes a subject of a potential article.
  7. You spend days on YouTube looking for videos you can pass on in an article to be shared. Who cares about original content?
  8. When you come across animal pictures, you start counting if you’ve collected 10 of them already.
  9. One web page doesn’t seem large enough to contain 10 points at once.

Lakdi Ki Kathi: Cover & Chords

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Long before I got around to recognising R. D. Burman, or Gulzar, let alone becoming a rabid fan of both, long before I could tell someone what music was, long before I knew what movies were, or what role songs played in movies, little me used to love this song.

Lakdi ki Kathi (लकड़ी की काठी) from Masoom (1983) is officially the first ever song that I was crazy about. Every weekend, I’d force my uncles to take me to my cousin’s place, where I would make him play this song on loop on his LP player. The only thing I understood was the song and its words.

It wasn’t until years later that I ‘became’ a fan of both RDB and Gulzar. And realised that the first ever song that kid me loved was by these two.

I got around to singing a cover of it today. It’s 30 years too late. For the 4 year-old me:

And here are the chords if you want to play as well:

Lakdi ki Kathi (Masoom) 1983
Composer: Rahul Dev Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar
[D]lakdi ki kaathi [Bm]kaathi pe ghoda ghode ki [D]dum pe jo maara hathauda [G]dauda dauda [A]dauda ghoda [D]dum utha ke dauda
Verse 1: [D]ghoda pahuncha [Bm]chauk mein [D]chauk mein tha [G]naai [D]ghodeji ki [G]naai ne [D]hazaamat jo banaai [D]tug-bug tug-bug tug-bug tug-bug [D]ghoda pahuncha [Bm]chauk mein [D]chauk mein tha [G]naai [D]ghodeji ki [G]naai ne [D]hazaamat jo banaai [G]dauda dauda [A]dauda ghoda [D]dum utha ke dauda
Verse 2: [D]ghoda tha [Bm]ghamandi [D]pahuncha sabzi [G]mandi [D]sabzi mandi [G]baraf padi thi [D]baraf mein lag gai thandi [D]tug-bug tug-bug tug-bug tug-bug [D]ghoda tha [Bm]ghamandi [D]pahuncha sabzi [G]mandi [D]sabzi mandi [G]baraf padi thi [D]baraf mein lag gai thandi [G]dauda dauda [A]dauda ghoda [D]dum utha ke dauda
Verse 3: [D]ghoda apana [Bm]tagda hai [D]dekho kitni [G]charbi hai [D]chalta hai [G]mehrauli mein par [D]ghoda apana arbi hai [D] [D]ghoda apana [Bm]tagda hai [D]dekho kitni [G]charbi hai [D]chalta hai [G]mehrauli mein par [D]ghoda apana arbi hai [G]baag chhuda ke [A]dauda ghoda [D]dum utha ke dauda

खिड़कियाँ

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जब कभी किसी गली या सड़क से गुज़रता हूं, ख़ुद को वहाँ के घरों की खिड़कियों से अंदर झाँकता हुआ पाता हूँ.

अंदर क्या दिखता है?

क्या ही तो दिखता होगा साहब. मैं हूँ ज़मीन पर, और देख रहा हूँ पहली-दूसरी मंज़िल के कमरों में.
दिखते हैं, बल्ब, ट्यूबलाइट, पंखे, छत, दीवार, मचानों पर रखे सूटकेस और दीवारों के रंग.

इन्हीं सब को देखते-देखते मैं गढ़ता हूँ एक दुनिया, कुछ ज़िंदगियाँ, उस घर के बाशिंदों की.

क्या बच्चों को पढ़ने के लिये खाने की मेज़ पर कोहनियाँ टिका कर बैठना होता है? या बिस्तर पर ही पालथी मारकर बैठते हैं, या टीवी के सामने ही?

जब पापा घर आते हैं, तो क्या घंटी बजाते हैं? या ख़ुद की चाबी से ख़ुद ही दरवाज़ा खोल लेते हैं? उनके आने की आवाज़ से क्या बच्चे उछल कर दरवाज़े की ओर लपकते हैं, या कोई पालतू कुत्ता है जो उनपर लपकने को तैयार बैठा है, या सभी कोई मैच ही देख रहे होते हैं, और कहते हैं, रोज़ तो आते हैं, नया क्या है?

खाने की ख़ुशबू क्या घर के कोने-कोने में जाती है, या माँ को बार-बार चिल्लाना पड़ता है, कि खाना लग गया है, आओ जल्दी?

क्या इस घर में बिजली गुल होती है? और होती है, तो कितनी मोमबत्तियाँ जलाई जाती हैं? एक ही जिसके इर्द-गिर्द पढ़ाई, सब्ज़ी काटना, कशीदाकारी सब होता है, या हर कमरे को अलग बत्ती मिलती है. या फिर इन्वर्टर जैसा कोई साधन है घर में, जिससे ये ही पता न चले कि बिजली रानी रूठी हैं?

इस घर में कुत्ते की प्यारी सी दुम हिलती है जब दूध से भरा कटोरा उसके सामने रखा जाता है, या एक बिल्ली का बच्चा है, जो डिब्बों में अपनी एक दुनिया बना लेता है, और उन्हें ही अपना क़िला मान प्रहरी सा उनकी रखवाली करता है? या फिर यहाँ एक शीशे का हौदा है, जिसमें सुंदर-सुंदर नन्ही-नन्ही मछलियाँ सारा दिन अथक तैरती रहती हैं, या एक पिंजरा है, जिसमें चिड़ियां चूं-चूं-चीं-चीं करते-करते पिंजरे के इस तार से उस तार पर फुदकती-बैठती हैं?

इस घर में सोते वक़्त बच्चों को कहानी कौन सुनाता है? नानी, दादी, माँ, या पापा? या बच्चे इतने सयाने हैं कि ख़ुद ही टीवी पर देखा दिन भर का हाल बड़ों को सुनाते हैं?

शाम को बैठक जमती है या नहीं, जिसमें छुटकी नयी साइकिल लेने की फरमाइश करती है, और मुन्ना ट्रेकिंग ट्रिप पे जाने की ज़िद करता है? और ये सब सुनकर माँ-पापा उन्हें डपटते हैं, या ये कहते हैं, कि देखेंगे, अच्छे नंबर लाओ पहले?

कोई है इस घर में जो सचिन बनने के सपने देखता है, या कोई है जिसे डांसर बनने की धुन सवार है? या कि सब सपने बाद में, पहले पढ़ाई करो, ये सब करने को ज़िंदगी पड़ी है की नसीहत मिलती है उन्हें?

ऐसे ही कितना कुछ सोचता हूँ, जब भी किसी खिड़की के पास से गुज़रता हूँ. दस-पंद्रह सेकंड को एक नयी दुनिया, एक कोई और ज़िंदगी सोचता हूँ. शायद कल्पना करता हूँ उस सब की जो मैंने नहीं भोगा, या उस सब को याद करता हूँ, जो मेरा हर रोज़ हुआ करता था, और आज यादों में कहीं छुपा पड़ा है.

चलिये अब अगली खिड़की पर, दीवारें पीली हैं, और अलमारी के ऊपर शायद कुछ डब्बे रखे हैं, और पंखा धीमे-धीमे चल रहा है…