Archive for April, 2010

Brilliant Piece in Hindu on Shashi Tharoor
April 20, 2010

The perils of political paratrooping

Siddharth Varadarajan

In Shashi Tharoor’s rise and fall, a Congress attempt to woo middle class

 

New Delhi: The petit-bourgeois mind is superficial and fickle. It is awe struck by the accumulation and consumption that go on in the highest echelons of society, even if outside the borderlines of legality and good taste. But it is repulsed and outraged when forced to confront the tawdriness and venality on which the life it aspires to is built.

Framed by these two extremes, the long-shot and the close-up, the rise and fall of Shashi Tharoor is a cautionary tale about the dangers of entering public life through the constituency of the middle class. The ‘perils of political paratrooping’ is how a former colleague of the erstwhile junior minister pithily described Mr. Tharoor’s fate when asked for his assessment by The Hindu. What made his jump even more dangerous was that it was made without the safety net that grassroot experience or backroom goodwill provides. By the standards of Indian politics, his impropriety in the IPL affair was relatively minor; but unlike others whose warts catch the glare of the arclights from time to time, there was nobody willing to pad up for him when the media drew blood. Fatally injured, he stood his ground just a moment too long. Had he walked back to the pavilion unprompted, he might have survived to play a second innings. But he didn’t do that. Which is why his political career is today at an end.

This was not the way things were meant to be. A month ago, Mr. Tharoor had successfully weathered the latest of several controversies triggered by his infelicitously timed or worded statements. But he had a charmed life. “Mark my words”, a former External Affairs Minister who knows a thing or two about the ways of the Congress party told this reporter over lunch in March. “When Rahul Gandhi becomes Prime Minister, Shashi will be his EAM. He just has to lie low, play a long innings.”

In the run-up to the 2009 elections, the Congress and Shashi Tharoor were happy to court each other. Mr. Tharoor had spent a lifetime as a highly visible and voluble international servant and the thought of toiling away in anonymity as a lobbyist for Afras Ventures in Dubai must have seemed pretty unappetising. He joined the Congress and, with the blessings of Sonia Gandhi, got the ticket for the prestigious Thiruvananthapuram seat. The fact that he chose to enter politics through the heat and dust of an actual election campaign, rather than through the Rajya Sabha, like most other middle class icons, further endeared him to his constituency.

On their part, Congress leaders, and particularly Ms. Gandhi, saw in the foppish and articulate former United Nations official a totem to woo back the middle class. For the Congress president, this goal had been a key element of her politics since at least 2000.

Beginning with the Narasimha Rao-Chandraswami link and the infamous hawala diary of 1995, the middle class, which had stuck with the Congress as the ‘natural party of governance’ through most of the post-independence period, began to cast around for alternatives. The opportunism of the party in toppling the United Front government in 1998 and then trying to cobble together the magical figure of 272 in 1999 further sullied its reputation. Within five years of losing power at the Centre, the Congress managed to completely lose the mantle of being a party of stability and decency, ceding that space to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Improbable though it seems now, all of these qualities so dear to the middle class got neatly channelled around the personality of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Congress won the 2004 elections for a variety of reasons but Ms. Gandhi was clear that it could stay in power only if it kept recharging its middle class credentials. The presence of Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister was vital but the party saw in 2009 the need to go one step further, bringing in newer and younger faces, fresh and articulate. Within that overall strategy, Mr. Tharoor had an appeal that was irresistible. Globally connected but capable of acquiring local anchorage, he was seen as an excellent candidate for a party keen to project ‘merit’, ‘talent’ and civil debate over the usual din of caste, money power and goondaism.

Though Mr. Tharoor’s entry into Parliament and government caused heartburn, few could grudge the positive energy he brought to the job. As a well-known face on the international circuit because of his long years at the UN secretariat, the junior minister invariably charmed all foreign leaders he interacted with. The fact that he could slip effortlessly into French while talking to Ivorien or Togolese ministers or journalists was a bonus for Indian diplomacy.

Shashi Tharoor’s one failing as a minister was the need he felt for constant public articulation. The opposition and even his party colleagues — most of them humourless apparatchiks — misunderstood or even distorted his messages on Twitter. But his virtual constituents revelled in his irreverence. Such was his five-star appeal that the Indian and diasporic middle class forgave Shashi Tharoor for living in an expensive hotel for months on end, even when it emerged that he tried very hard to have the government pay for his stay there. Who paid his bills and why were questions they never really sought an answer to. In hindsight, that episode was an early pointer to the outsider’s disdain for the rules of Indian politics. A disdain that ended in the controversy over the Rs. 70 crore worth of ‘sweat equity’ given to his girlfriend, Sunanda Pushkar, for the IPL Kochi team. The Hindi channels are calling it ‘haseena ka paseena.’ Mr. Tharoor has protested his innocence. Only a thorough investigation will reveal the truth. But for the Congress, matters had crossed a point of no return. It is one thing to be accused of speaking out of turn, another to be accused of corruption. Mr. Tharoor’s indiscretions the Congress could live with, his impropriety it could not. The party which brought him into politics to propitiate the middle class now realised it had to throw him out in a final act of appeasement. But only if it moves to clean the wider rot that is the IPL will it emerge from this fiasco with its image intact.

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8 habits of great blogging – repost
April 20, 2010

Do you want to be a successful blogger?
I do. I might be getting a bit obsessed with it, actually.
Post ideas pop into my head unexpectedly. I keep a long running list of ideas for improving my blog.
I also study how the most successful bloggers got where they are, and I pore over every word that they write.
If you want to be a great blogger, you should, too.
A lot of the top bloggers like Brian Clark, Darren Rowse, and Leo
Babauta have shared hundreds of tips about how they made their blogs so successful. But each blogger’s tips are just a little different.
There’s too much advice to follow
So I would read one special report with a great idea and put that into place on my blog. But the next day I’d find a podcast from another top blogger with contradictory advice, so I’d change my blog again. Then I’d come across a third idea from an equally successful blogger, which sent me down a totally new path.
Finally I realized I needed to stop focusing on little things like what plug-ins to use, how to write my About Page, or where to position my ads.
I needed to focus on a bigger picture. I wanted to find out what all these top bloggers had in common. Their mindset, their mental habits.
I spent a lot of time observing, which led to this list of the eight success traits shared by all top bloggers I’ve found. I’m happy to share it with you.
The good news is that even if you don’t have all these personality traits already, most of them can be developed over time. Best of all, if you can cultivate these traits, you’ll become more effective in the rest of your life as well.
1. Effective bloggers are prolific
The first key to being a successful blogger is to write. A lot.
The more you write, the better your writing gets. The more posts you add to your blog, the more juice you’ll get from search engines. And more content means more reader visits to see what’s new.
There’s no way around it; it takes work to be prolific. Effective bloggers work hard. Putting a successful blog together requires a lot of time in front of your computer, and not surfing LOLCats or Twittering about what you had for lunch. Great bloggers put serious time into researching, writing, editing, and planning posts for their blogs.
2. Effective bloggers are concise
It is a truth universally acknowledged by top bloggers; people come to your blog for a reason. Usually because they want to learn something from you.
No one wants to read fluff or blather, especially online.
Top bloggers know how to quickly get people’s attention, how to keep it, and how to make their posts easy to digest.
Most effective bloggers tend toward short posts. They also divide their copy into short paragraphs, and use bullet points or numbered lists to keep the reader scanning. They use compelling subheads so readers can scan for the information they need.
Brevity comes in handy in other areas of life, too. Keep your phone calls short. Pare your email messages down to the essentials. You’ll have more time for creative work, and people will be much more interested in what you have to say.
3. Effective bloggers are analytical
Successful bloggers don’t work or live in a bubble.
They always look to their readers, observing carefully to see what readers care about and respond to.
They study their statistics, so they know where readers come from — what sites, what search engines, what search terms, and even what countries.
They know when they tend to get the most traffic, what kinds of posts are best suited for their audience, and what kinds of headlines get tweeted most often.
Then they tailor the timing, content, layout, and images of their posts to suit their audience.
4. Effective bloggers are lifelong learners
If you’re new to blogging, you’re probably on a steep learning curve at the moment.
Maybe you tell yourself that things will get better when you’ve been doing it longer. There won’t be so much to learn. You’ll have systems in place soon and everything will run smoothly.
Sadly, I think this is a myth. I’ve been using and designing for the Internet for about 15 years, and it keeps changing. Just when you’ve got one element sorted out, something new gets released. Or becomes obsolete. Or mutates in 20 different directions.
If you want to stay ahead in blogging, you have to keep learning.
Fortunately, being curious and wanting to learn keeps you young and your brain active. A love of learning doesn’t just set you up for a successful blog, but for a successful and happy life.
5. Effective bloggers are focused and consistent
Successful bloggers choose a topic and stick to it.
They write consistently about their chosen subject, and with a consistent voice and approach. Even when they write about something that seems to be off-topic, they relate it back to the niche they know their readers are interested in.
Top bloggers are also consistent about timing. Most stick to regular posting schedules. Whether they post three posts a day or two posts a week, their readers know what to expect.
6. Effective bloggers plan ahead
Successful bloggers know where they’re going. They have a master plan and they stick to it. Yes, they adapt based on feedback, but always in service of a vision.
To paraphrase Seth Godin’s recent book Linchpin, “Effective bloggers ship.” Top bloggers don’t waffle for months about the typeface on their upcoming ebook. They may tailor the angle, price, or format to better suit their market. But they don’t let themselves get derailed. They follow the plan.
7. Effective bloggers are persistent
Top bloggers understand that success doesn’t happen overnight. Real success rarely happens quickly.
Time is on your side. To get to the top takes consistency, hard work, serious study, and lots of persistence. Successful bloggers don’t give up.
8. Effective bloggers are self-starters
I’ve been self-employed for years.
I’ve noticed a lot of people like the idea of working from home, working for themselves, being their own boss. But if you want these things, you need to be able to manage yourself.
No one is going to sack you if you’re late. No one reminds you of important deadlines or nags you to get your sales numbers up.
If you want to be a successful blogger, you need to be a self-starter. It’s not enough to have good ideas. You have to act on them.
What trait do you think is most valuable?
What do you think the most important trait of a top blogger is? It might be one of these eight, or something completely different. Let us know in the comments!
About the Author: Annabel Candy is a travel fiend who currently calls Australia home. She has travelled widely and writes a personal improvement blog called Get in the Hot Spot. It’s stuffed with inspiration and tips to help people live their dreams

50 top management thinkers and leaders
April 12, 2010

 

Ciaran Parker’s  – Porter the Numero Uno…

Not surprisingly Michael Porter was ranked ( in the year 2005) as the numero uno of the top 50. While MPs contribution to the Management world is undisputed, I was slightly hesitant to straight away nod my head in agreement. However the term “value chain” that he invented surfaced to my mind and his longevity ( circa 1980 onwards till  date) of influence made me dispel whatever little doubt in my mind.

Porter’s competitive strategy framework is a must understand to survive as a manager.

Chaotics – Kotler and Caslione
April 11, 2010

What have been our past blind spots? What is happening in these past blind spots now?

Is there an instructive analogy from another industry?

What important signals are we rationalizing away?

Who in our industry is skilled at picking up weak signals and acting on them ahead of everyone else?

What are our mavericks and outliers trying to tell us?

What future surprises could really hurt (or help) us?

What emerging technologies could change the game?

Is there an unthinkable scenario?
These are the questions you ask when you build an early warning system. Say Philip Kotler and John Caslione in their book” Chaotics. Good to see Philip Kotler back in action after his legendary contribution to Marketing