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Realism v/s Optimism

As the new financial year is about to begin, organizations and their leaders look at the goals they want to take for themselves.  The process of goal setting, and its results are often influenced by the mindset of the leader.  A lot of organizations often use the following clichés while goal setting.

  •          Let’s plan for a big leap
  •          We can certainly do lot more given the talent we have
  •          The market is huge, and growing, and it’s all up to us6-image
  •          Without strong growth, we will be letting down our shareholders
  •          Our board has given us the mandate to push harder
  •          Let’s aim for the Sky!

Sounds familiar?  While this looks exciting and promising and defines what I would call as an Optimist Mindset, it has several pitfalls which organizations and leaders fail to discover.  Optimism based on one’s ambition, dreams often can be disconnected or far from the reality.   While there have been many powerful stories and tales around how a big dream got realized – and hence the power of thinking Big, it fails to account for how, 99.5% other such big dreams never materialized.  So would it prudent to make the goals more realistic?

There is a case for a realistic approach. The difference between pure optimism based approach and a realistic approach is sometimes so obvious that people chose to ignore it or downgrade its role in making goals happen.   That small thing called “common sense” is often derided because it seems to bring down the lofty goals which an Optimist Leader is trying to project.  And History has always decorated the Optimist….Realists have hardly been recognized for their contributions.

optimist vs realist


There also can be something like an Optimism Fatigue which organizations need to watch out for.  Multiple occurrences of organizations projecting a bigger picture than what it achieves can lead to the team feeling fatigued and disillusioned. This is a situation which leaders need to avoid. The key is to keep the gap between Optimistic and Realistic goals and their approach to minimum. Plugging this gap is vital for organizations to grow in a sustainable manner!!


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Dark Forces. Yes or No?

The Riddle

Recently I was talking to a friend who had been experiencing a difficult moment in life. He mentioned that he’d gone to see people who read from purportedly ancient Tamil scriptures and revealed to him that he was under the influence of negative energies; dark forces that made him do unpredictable things. He wondered whether the answer for his uncharacteristic behaviour lay in his being possessed.


He asked me for my opinion on stuff like this. I told him that I was an active disbeliever. That I would always look for empirical or cognitive evidence to see whether these stories would hold true.

I also mused to him that I preferred not to externalise blame for my behaviour and that I preferred to look within.

The Musing

As we talked, I realised that a lot of the stuff that we struggle with is on account of us not learning critically important life skills like emotional regulation, practising restraint, carefully choosing our thoughts, leading a balanced lifestyle etc.

The Garbage In – images (1)Garbage Out formula works with human lives as well. If you sleep 9 hours, eat right, exercise, practise some form of stress management or relaxation, educate yourself on emotional control etc., your life will be good. If you sleep less, eat wrong, don’t exercise, don’t spend time on emotional regulation or relaxation, then your life will not be good. The chances of uncharacteristic behaviour with the former lifestyle are far lesser than with the latter.

I’ve heard people equating thoughts and emotions to “energies” or “forces”. Makes sense as “forces” drive us, propel us. If we also take into account the fact that in olden days anything negative was referred to as “dark” then we can suggest that negative thoughts and negative emotions are the same things as “dark forces”.


When people say that the universe has dark and light forces battling each other, they aren’t talking about anything esoteric; they could merely be suggesting that the way people think and feel affects outcomes in the universe. To my mind, it’s all brain science, psychology and emotional and interpersonal intelligence.

The Answer

I would like to propose that this confusing of “negative thoughts” with “dark forces” arose due to one or both of the following two factors:

  • The evolution of language: The difference in the way words were used then and now.
  • The tendency of poets (ancient and modern) to use metaphors that allude to something rather than being specific about things.

180px-Jacques_barzunThank God for those who wrote elaborate prose instead! Thank God for the left-brained, engineer type who look for and provide details and specifics all the time! Imagine the confusion this world would be in without them! Imagine receiving performance feedback in metaphors, in allegorical verse! Performance too then would be symbolic!

I propose that all of us stretch our cognitive abilities a little or apply the filter of reason whenever we are presented with talk of the esoteric or the occult or the vague.

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 Organisations are much like humans. They grow, they forge and manage relationships, they play nurturers and yes, they want to live past a hundred. It would make sense for organisations to do another human thing – make New Year resolutions (beyond the financial goals they set for themselves every financial year!!)

Here are a few things that I would love to see organisations resolve to do, starting this year:

Focus on Strengths – Align people to roles where they can use their innate Strengths as opposed to roles where they are merely competent. This is what will move your organisation from “competent” to “Strong”.


At the very least, Employ a Competency based approach – Use Competency Based Interviewing (preferably in conjunction with Strengths instruments) and use Assessment Centres before pr

omoting employees. The science will take the guesswork out of hiring and promoting, saving organisation the heavy costs that result from poor performance and rehiring.

Focus on creating “Interpersonal Wealth” – It’s a more equal world than ever before. Traditional

power roles don’t hold much importance any more. Employees are less intimidated by their bosses than they used to be. There is a plethora of options out there today.


Similarly, wives are not subservient to husbands and children are not to their parents (at least in the urban world). It is just not possible to pull rank, to get things done on the basis of hierarchy – there is no hierarchy. What is needed is excellent interpersonal skill – so good that it gets termed

“Intrpersonal Wealth”! From just getting along to forging deeper relationships to having enough personal power to influence outcomes, it is interpersonal wealth that will be responsible for making organisations thrive. The smart organisation will invest in helping their employees develop this because it will impact not only their relationships with their customers and peers but also impact how well they are doing in their personal lives. Just like some organisations are investing in…

The physical health of their employees – Repetitive Stress Syndrome, Carpal Tunnel, Blackberry

 Thumb, Computer Vision Syndrome, neck and shoulder pain, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Insomnia, Stress, what not! The human body is more perishable a resource these days than it ever was! Mandatory Provident Funds and Insurance are not enough. Mandatory exercise and fitness levels, mandatory limitation on working hours, mandatory vacations, ergonomic seating, “optional standing desks” and counsellors in the office – there are some things that are being done by some organisations. Many more need to be still done by a lot more organisations. The definition of workplace safety too needs to be revisited.

Employee Engagement – For those organisations that are not measuring and improving engagement yet, please partner with organizations like Gallup, Mercer, Hay Group or us. It’s a vitally important metric and in an increasingly competitive and dynamic marketplace, it is set to become even more important. In fact, I would like to see it being discussed at shareholder meetings!

Ethical – We live in difficult times, corrupt times. Recent political events in India suggest that there’s a wave rising against (finan

cial, if not yet moral) corruption. If this is a genuinely new India, it won’t be long before people start paying more attention to corporate corruption (eg. data manipulation or payoffs to obtain ISO or eSCM type of certifications; or corporate-politician nexuses). These are times to be exemplary leaders, to show other organisations and employees the way.



Environment – There are more reasons why these are difficult times. Industry and humanity are almost locked in a battle for our earth’s meagre resources – water, land, minerals etc. It’s an age where the words “more” and “consumption” are possibly heard more In conversations than “thank you” and “please”! No one knows the meaning of moderation or restraint (neither corporations, nor politicians, nor the affluent, nor the middle class, nor Phaneesh, nor Tejpal). In such times, it’s important to think about the impact of our actions on others now and on ourselves eventually.

We need to stop and think about how what we do affects those around us. Trees, tribals, minerals, mountains, seas, soil, air, water, fuel.



 CSR – Being responsible members of society. Ensuring the well being of the vicinity and the people we share this landmass with.Walking the path of the man who spoke of pursuing the greatest good of all.



About the Author:

Aman Zaidi, The author is passionate about employee engagement and facilitates a signature workshop called Creating Involved Employees

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Playing to your Strengths

Ever seen a run-around backhand in tennis? Ever wonder how many Grand Slams Steffi Graf would have won in tennis if she hadn’t constantly run around her backhand to crack that heavy topspin forehand?

Ever wonder why Damien Fleming and Shane Warne bowled their stock delivery to get their hat-tricks in Test cricket?

Ever wonder why Rahul Dravid never opened the batting in ODIs? Ever wonder why Sachin Tendulkar batted at no. 4 in tests and not any higher?Sachin-Tendulkar

Dravid was great at defence. Defending his wicket, wearing down the bowlers came naturally to him. Tendulkar was a stroke-player. Dominating the bowler was what he was good at.

When you wanted someone to stand his ground and not lose his wicket, when you wanted to defend a test match, you looked towards Dravid. When you wanted quick runs, when you wanted to put enough runs on the board for your bowlers to attack with, you looked to Tendulkar. Or Sehwag.

 What would happen if you asked Dravid to play like Tendulkar? Or to Tendulkar if you asked him to play like Dravid? Would they have been the colossuses they were? I don’t think so.

Dravid_742000f The situation in the workplace is entirely different.

People aren’t usually asked to play roles that are in line with their strengths.

Organisations and managers, generally speaking, make no effort to understand what the strengths of their people. The people themselves are not sure about what their strengths are.

Imagine someone who is very good with people, being boxed into a cubicle where he/she processes invoices every day. Imagine someone who is brilliant at math selling soaps for a living. Please note that they’re not bad at processing invoices or at sales. They do a decent job of it but they’re not spectacular at it. Not as spectacular as they would be with people or math!OfficeWorkersGroup

Do we not want spectacular employees? Do we not keep throwing out terms like “outperform”, “chase excellence”? We do. All of industry does today. Yet we continue to slot people in roles where they may be merely competent instead of strong!

The Competency approach has served us very well. As behavioural and management science evolves, it’s time to additionally look at a Strengths Approach now.

Strategic coach Dan Sullivan says, “If you spend too much time working on your weaknesses, all you end up with is a lot of strong weaknesses.

I for sure didn’t want to devote energy working on my project management skills, only to end up as an average project manager. Instead I stumbled onto my strengths and today I feel very rewarded when clients come back to me asking me to do their workshops for them.

What’s great is this – one doesn’t need to stumble on to their strengths anymore. There are scientific tools available today that will help people discover and employ their strengths gainfully.

Go on; use these tools to discover what makes you a Tendulkar or who are the Dravids on your team!

The author is passionate about strengths and an accredited StrengthscopeTM practitioner.

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Branding as a Strategy for SMEs

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan

What is a brand? Among the numerous definitions I have come across, the one I like best is this – it is a quality which ensures that consumers ‘desire’ a consumable product or service being offered. Put simply, a brand gives an irresistible IDENTITY to a business. Consumers ‘buy the brand’ and NOT the product or service!

Very often, small and medium businesses that are in their early days of growth and evolution tend to view branding as an aesthetic cost-exercise – one that involves creating some or all of the following things:

  • Name (of the company, product or service)
  • Logo – a visual trademark that gives it a unique identity
  • Tagline – (a catch-phrase that explains the offering)
  • Colours
  • Shapes (of the product)
  • Sounds (A unique tune or notes used in advertising the brand)

Once they’ve gotten themselves this kit, most of them tend to forget all about branding and focus their energies and spends on infrastructure and processes, in their quest for greater business results.

There a few exceptions, though, which believe in the power of branding and the continuous evolution of the brand. History has shown us that, more often than not, such businesses grow to become industry behemoths both in terms of business value and by the immense ‘soft-power’ they wield over consumer behavior. Such brands tend to become synonymous with the product or service they offer. Consumers tend to use them as a benchmark against competitive offerings and therein lies the power of branding!

There are examples galore in India – Parle-G for biscuits, Chik Shampoo for ‘sacheted’ grooming products, Godrej for ‘Steel Almirahs’… the list goes on for iconic brands that became synonymous for the products they stood for.

We’ve heard about brand strategies and plans for branding but can branding in itself be a strategy? In other words, can branding be USED as a STRATEGY for the growth of the company?

  • How can branding enable SMEs to stand out in the crowd and attract FDI or grab the attention of big MNCs that will set-up shop in India, sooner rather than later?
  • With internet access facilitating wide and direct reach to consumers across the world – can branding help SMEs bridge the digital divide and reach out to untapped customers?
  • In fact, can branding enable SMEs to realize the maximum value for their offerings and then go on to create sustained, breakthrough business results?

Many interesting questions pop up given this new approach to branding. This article aims to answer some of these and along the way explore 5 SIMPLE yet POWERFUL, MUST-Dos for every SME. In doing so, it is hoped that these SMEs will be able to use the full potential of their brands as a strategic tool to power the growth of their businesses.

1)      The ‘equal-to’ Mantra for IDENTITY

DO NOT claim to solve generic problems. Period. Your customers have specific problems and they’re looking to you for solutions. Answer them with specificity. This is perhaps the most powerful way for you to establish early credibility and mindshare that can sustain. Keep it simple. Let your product or service be ‘equal to’ a specific solution.

Hero_Honda_Splendor_2007 pulsar_320x240

For example, if one goes by consumer perceptions in the motorbike segment over the past decade, Hero = Mileage whereas Bajaj (Pulsar) = Power. This ensured clear segmentation of the customer base. Every other new entrant had to fight them for this slice of the market-pie. Proclaim, upfront, clearly, what your brand is ‘equal to’ and capture a market segment that ‘belongs to your business alone’. Mind you, your business model must enwrap your brand and get tied-in!

Marketing is often said to be capturing a large slice of an identified/ existing market. I’ll go one step further. If your product or service offering is new then go forth and ‘create a new market’ for it by simply playing the ‘equal-to’ game. You can then merrily watch competition play catch-up for a long, long time!


2)      The ‘WHY-HOW-WHAT’ mantra for CONSISTENCY

Now that you’ve figured out your ‘equal-to’ platform, it is necessary to ensure that the communication is clear and sustained across channels. Mind you, it is far more important for your team to have clearly understood your brand and speak about it in one language, than your advertising. Not to say that is not important. At the start, your brand’s attributes must resonate with your company’s values and purpose. This will reflect as your company’s culture, imbibed and displayed by your employees. They will then speak the same language to the outside world.

image for blog post

Again, keep it simple. Answer, clearly, the ‘Why-How-What’ of your brand, to borrow from Simon Sinek’s famous TED TalkBy that I mean, find answers to the following questions:

1)      Why are you doing what you are doing as a business?

2)     How are you planning to achieve your desired goal? 

3)     What will you create/ offer to achieve this goal – create a product or offer a service?

Have regular discussions on these three fundamental questions. Freeze on the answers and proclaim them, consistently, across channels/ media. Remember, this is ‘Who you are’ as a business. Be consistent. Get people talking about this mantra, within and outside. Chances are that your customers will align with your deeper ‘Why’, appreciate your ‘what’ and help you in your ‘how’!


3)      The ‘Whispering-voice’ mantra for EMOTIONAL Connect

Customers either think rationally (left-brained and data-driven) about your brand OR they can connect emotionally (right-brained, emotion-driven) with it. History tells us that it is the latter behavior that all ‘Brands’ desire from their customers – an emotional bond that translates into preferred purchasing patterns. With such customers, there is always an inner voice telling them to choose you over your competitors for no logical reason. And that is what you want to retain and nurture for a long period of time. Because, it doesn’t break easily.

Take ‘Salt’ for example – for decades, families in India have sought out and asked for TATA Iodised Salt with the firm belief that it was/is the purest / safest.


Salt meant TATA-Salt, back then in 1983 when it was first launched, it still does to a large extent even now! Even though competitors have presented consumers with seemingly superior facts about their products, TATA-Salt’s market leadership has remained pretty much unaffected.

There’s a powerful emotional connect between consumer and product established, in this case it made them feel safe and secure through its purity. It is the way the brand makes a customer feel that binds the two together.

Find that ONE emotional connection that can hook customers to your product or service and then proclaim this. Do you make you customers feel safe and cared for? Do you make life easier for them? Connect with your customers on these points before and after a sale. Even better, involve them in building an interactive community. State this boldly and confidently like you would to a loved one. Make them believe that you’re constantly thinking of them and listening to their needs and concerns. Engage on social media with your customers and answer their grievances/ concerns/ suggestions/ comments et al with full honesty. Before you know it, you won’t have customers – you’ll have brand ambassadors.

4)      The ‘Unwrapping-gift’ mantra for CRM

Once you are off on this journey, you will discover that these very brand ambassadors are doing a whole lot of brand-building and selling FOR you. These are customers who already love you and your product/ service! They are unabashed fans who sing hosannas to your offering in public!

First-up, put processes in place to ensure you recognize these true ‘friends’ as they come into your inner circle, acknowledge them and then reward them. Cultivating loyalty from these ‘early adaptors’ will not only ensure a steady stream of new customers, it will also mean a steady inflow of business earnings. All this with a little effort on your part!

Thank you card

For example, at Pragati Leadership, we generously give away ‘I thank you’ and ‘I appreciate you’ cards to all of our colleagues, vendors, well-wishers et al! Some prominent businesses incentivize customer loyalty with valuable gifts, takeaways, prizes and recognition. And get rewarded with ‘referrals’ in return!

Figure out your loyalty rewarding mechanism and keep in regular touch with your brand ambassadors. Be active on social media. Write to them. Ask them to write back. Seek feedback, suggestions and advice. Inform them about how you’re putting their ideas into action or otherwise. Reward them again. Soon, you’ll have more and more customers vying to be part of this inner-circle, waiting to unwrap a gift of acknowledgment from you. Keep your door always open for them. They’ll open many windows as ‘referral channels’ for your business!

5)      The ‘Elastic-asana’ mantra for FLEXIBILITY

In this rapidly changing economic, social, political and consumer scenarios, you must be ‘flexible’ in your approach to using branding as a strategy. Staying updated and evolving with times is a necessity. Speaking the language of the times, evolving your offering to suit changing needs and tastes is integral to a good branding strategy.


For example, look at how Marico’s Parachute Coconut Oil has reinvented itself as a brand over the past decade to stay relevant and create new markets through innovative product variations.

Mind you, the main product and its promise has remained true and consistent all through – pure coconut oil that is good for your hair! One of India’s oldest consumer brands, through innovations in packaging, branding and tamper-proofing alone, Parachute continues to remain a market leader in its segment, adding newer consumers to its burgeoning base of loyalists. And to think that the name and the product have no relation whatsoever in the first place just goes to show that consistent and powerfully potent branding can be a dependable strategy over decades!

So, if your plans and strategies aren’t working as well anymore, do not be afraid to change and adapt. Use that as an opportunity to go back to your customers and engage with them afresh! Ask them for direction and you’ll be surprised as to how they will show you a way out every time.         

Multiple examples across the country tell us that those MSMEs that are flexible and resilient have survived macroeconomic challenges and came out stronger. Those that use branding as a strategy not only come through stronger but go onto become industry leaders once the dust settles and calm prevails. Will you be there too?

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Bhakti Marga – The Ultimate path

Bhakti Marga – the path of Devotion is often referred as the pinnacle of all paths, where all other paths eventually converge.   It is one of rarity even though it is profoundly blissful.

bhakti 2

The Sufi Saints, Gopis of Krishna, Mira bai, Hanuman are examples of who walked this path.  Well, this is not even a path, it’s more of a state.  The state of devotion, in which the distinction between the limited Self and the object of devotion, often it being the – Universal Self disappears.   Even Gyan Marga talks about the very same thought.  Then how does this differ?

bhakti 1

Narada – in his treatise – Bhakti Sutras – describes the maturing of love as devotion.   When the desire or longing intensifies to a level, where the only focus is the attainment of the greatest, or the divine, one is said to be in state of devotion.   It is the next level to love.    Love is about coming close, merging.   At the physical level, this often manifests as attachment.   Love gets distorted to lust, anger and other negative feelings through the layer of Ego.  Ego field is the reason for the distortions we experience in our daily lives.   But without this ego interference, the power of Bhakti shines.


The wise people realized the dissolving of this veil of ego is easier when one effortlessly falls in deep love with the divine.   Devotion is the natural outcome.   One doesn’t seek anything more.  The part – Bhaj, is now merged with itself ( the bigger Self).  What more can a child ask for than to be re-united with the mother?


How does one even experience a taste of devotion?  Does it require one to sing hymns, praises to the divine?  Does it call for anything special?  The special thing to do is to turn ordinary!!!  Only an ordinary being can experience this special state of devotion.   Because even if one believes oneself to be something, the veil of ego will stop from experiencing devotion.  So in that sense, it is being totally surrendered, an act of wilful submission, of dissolving.

Na aham vasami vaikunthe yoginam hridaya na cha, madbhakta yatra gayanti tatra tishthami narada.

The Lord says: “O Narada, I dwell not in Vaikuntha, nor in the hearts of Yogis, but I dwell there where My Bhaktas sing My name!!    The state of infinite bliss and bhakti are inseparable.

There is the keynote of devotion and surrender throughout the Gita. Bhakti-marga is the easiest, safest, surest and quickest way for attaining the highest bliss or God-realisation. That is the reason why Narada Rishi says: “Bhakti is greater than Karma, Jnana and Yoga. “


That’s the ultimate Treasure – Love for the sake of love itself.  Love without any conditions. Love for the highest!!

This can not only uplift oneself, but the whole Humanity.  All great shifts have happened because of devotion of few people to a cause, country or God’s children.   The power is always there.  The power of Bhakti – by being the instrument of the divine.

Dissolve and be free !!!

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The Karma Marga – Perfection in Action!

Most Actions have a binding effect.  That in sense is the design to keep the world moving in perpetuity.  For example, winning a race would seem perfect, but even that has its own baggage.   The baggage could be some rivals getting jealous, loss of privacy etc.   Similarly, losing itself produces its own side effects.   So results arising out of actions bring about some bondage.

It is then very rare to find people performing actions which would not bind them.   What are such actions and how does one perform them?  Can one in the current scheme of things be really able to do something without having the bondage out of results?  Can a CEO of any organization be not bound by the results of his actions?

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The key in this is expectation.  Results by itself don’t bind oneself.  It’s the expectations from the results which create attachment and bondage. How can one not have expectations?  While it is just natural to have them, it has and will continue to be the root of this bondage. What would be the way of reigning in the expectations?

Krishna in the Bhagwad Gita advises the Despondent Arjuna – to not worry about the results (fruits) of one’s actions, and just surrender the act into Him.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:

“tasmad asaktah satatam karyam karma samacara asakto he acaran karma param apnoti purushah”

arjuna questioning

Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty always, for by working without attachment only one attains the Supreme.

Another perspective is to do things for the collective Good – That is called Yagna. Whenever such acts are performed for unselfish benefits, the act is deemed to burn the bondages of Karma. Unfortunately, even though they perform good deeds – people do get caught up in the results.  Often, good people want respect and appreciation and that in itself is bondage.

In the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, the character Phaedrus describes the difference between planned acts and spontaneous acts, the latter which are being performed without any measure of expectation.  An arduous mountain expedition with its rigor when performed as a pilgrimage has a different quality to the same act of climbing the mountain.   There is no baggage of expectations.  It certainly is uplifting even though physically it brings the same amount of tiredness.  The spirit of doing the latter act is that of Joy.

Zen book

So what’s the verdict – Joy is freeing the mind from its own bondages.  Joy is in doing the act.  Joy is not outside the action.   When every small act is done joyfully, without the mind paraphernalia, it brings freedom. That is perfection in action – perfect because the perfection in the being is expressed through the act. Not of the mind.

The Yoga happens as a result of the mind not being caught up in the results of the act.  That is Karma Yoga – the perfect action – free from any bondage – joyfully and effortlessly.

True Karma Yogis never look back at successes or failures – because that doesn’t matter to them.  They have done the action out of joy, and it is over. Period. The world will definitely analyze their actions, and results, but it will not bother them, because they are enjoying the game, not the results.


Sachin Tendulkar epitomizes this through the love for the game. It is the love which keeps him going even though his body and mind now are not so agile.

Are you ready to face every ball that is bowled at you for the sheer joy of facing the delivery? Are you ready to be a Karma Yogi?

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Synopsis of Carpe Diem Mumbai 2013, August 9

Theme: Wholesome Leadership – A paradigm shift in leading change

Venue: Sofitel Hotel, Bandra-Kurla Complex, Mumbai

Date and Time: 9th August 2013, 6.30pm onwards





Participant Profile: Top Leadership (Non-HR), Top HR and L&D leaders; Sectors represented included Banking & Finance, Telecom, FMCG, IT/ITES, Manufacturing, Insurance, Realty, Pharma, Engineering, Designing, Real estate etc. with a mix of Small, Mid-Cap & Large scale industries.


Sequence Index of events:

  1. Welcoming the guests at Carpe Diem 2013
  2. Introduction and context setting by the host Mr Vivek Yatnalkar 
  3. Introduction to the panelists (CLICK HERE to view their profiles)
  4. First panelist, Mr Anil Swarup’s sharing on ‘Self-Mastery’ 
  5. Second panelist, Mr R Mukundan’s sharing on ‘Relating to & Developing People’ 
  6. Third panelist, Mr Shrikant Joshi’s sharing on ‘Delivering Value’ 
  7. Q&A with the audience
  8. Felicitation of panelists
  9. Closing comments by the moderator & host
  10. Dinner & networking



The stage was set for a ‘Wholesome’ evening at Sofitel Hotel as the first of the guests trooped in for Carpe Diem Mumbai 2013. It was a drizzly Friday evening and a festive holiday on account of Eid at that! Yet, the steady in flow of guests continued and by 7pm the Salon Louvre was packed.


The host for the evening, Vivek Yatnalkar – the COO of Pragati Leadership, took stage and started proceedings by welcoming the guests. He touched upon the current state of affairs vis-à-vis Business, Social, Political and Economic at a local and global level to lay the foundation for the discussion.

  • ‘What is the prevalent style of leadership today?
  • Is this giving us the results we want/ seek?
  • Are we going in the direction we want to go?’


These were some questions he asked the audience to ponder upon. Vivek, then went on to introduce Wholesome Leadership and suggested this new approach as the way to lead sustainable change.

He explained the three facets of Wholesome Leadership, namely: Self-Mastery, Relating to & Developing people AND Delivering Value. Explaining briefly the manifestations of these three facets, Vivek justified the What-Why-How of this new approach and its relevance. He used the analogy of the see-saw versus Lift.


While one shows the current dilemma facing businesses in balancing people development with business growth, the other simply shows that both can happen in parallel. He suggested that Wholesome Leadership can serve to ‘lift’ people and carry them forward towards sustainable change!

Vivek then introduced the three distinguished panelists to the audience before handing over the baton to Arun Wakhlu, our Executive Chairman, who was the moderator for the panel discussion. Taking cue from where Vivek left off, Arun urged the audience to think long-term and sustainable. To hammer in the point, he narrated a little anecdote from the Apache Indian community where elders would place all children and sit in a concentric circle around them while taking all collective decisions. This was done, he said, to ensure that they’re always aware that the effects need to be positively experienced for the next seven generations! As leaders, we need to have a similar ‘Wholesome’ approach, Arun reiterated.


Thereafter, Arun invited Mr Anil Swarup – IAS, Member of the Cabinet Secratariat, Govt. of India, to take the podium as the first speaker. Mr Swarup spoke on Self-Mastery and livened up the atmosphere with some pointed observations, funny anecdotes and witticisms in the bureaucratic context.


His inspiring talk for the next fifteen minutes urged the rapt audience to start this journey of transformation with oneself. He laid down some fundamental attributes to Self-Mastery, starting with a belief in a larger purpose and in the potential of self.

  • Mr Swarup stressed that this was crucial to delivering lasting value.
  • To achieve that, he urged leaders to be unwaveringly passionate about the work they do.
  • As leaders, they need to be seen as uncompromisingly honest and transparent, keeping promises they make.
  • They also need to be free to dream BIG and have a vision that is inclusive, he urged.
  • Finally, Wholesome Leaders need to be Efficient in delivering results to ensure that they become the change that they want to see in the world.

(You can watch the full presentation HERE)

A thunderous applause greeted Mr Swarup has he made his way back to the stage. Next in line was Mr R Mukundan, MD of Tata Chemicals, who was speaking on the topic of ‘Relating to & Developing People’.

Mr Mukundan started off the interaction by showing the audience a short video clip of an interview with the late Steve Jobs, chief of Apple. In the interview, Steve explains his mantra of ‘TRUSTING’ his colleagues completely to deliver. He explains how Apple functioned as the world’s largest ‘Start-up’ because it allows leaders to make decisions without any overseeing. (You can watch the video HERE)

Using this as a basis for his talk, Mr Mukundan shared that every year he showed this clip to his team for inspiration and guidance. He then went on to explain that it all began with the right value systems being put in place. If the team had the right values, their actions would facilitate better people relations and development, he justified.


Mr Mukundan suggested that leaders need to build trust and commitment in their teams by treating their members as people and not just professional entities. To this end, he offered some simple pointers to follow:

  • Get to know key people as persons!!!
  • Set the context – the situation, direction etc
  • Delegate more – Work Levels
  • Stretch Projects
  • Development Dialogue (IDP)
  • Encouraging learning and Sharing
  • Performance Dialogue (PMS)
  • Career Counselling
  • Coaching

 (You can watch the full presentation HERE)

The audience seemed to agree wholeheartedly with his take on Mr Mukundan and applauded him generously as he took his seat, making way for Mr Shrikant Joshi to take the podium.

Mr Shrikant Joshi, Chief Executive of L&T Realty, was the third panelist, speaking on ‘Delivering Value’ to all stakeholders, as a crucial facet of Wholesome Leadership.


Mr Joshi’s presentation was replete with inspiring examples of the wonderful slum rehab work undertaken by L&T Realty in Mumbai, through their initiative, incidentally titled ‘Pragati’! Through this initiative, Mr Joshi explained, over 5000 modern apartment units were handed over to slum-land owners who were now living a comfortable life.

He also explained about how L&T Realty, contrary to industry practices, had pledged to have a 30% women workforce, which it has achieved! Through the many pictorial slides that followed, he threw light on a number of social initiatives undertaken across the country by the team to deliver value to all stakeholders.

(You can watch the full presentation HERE)

The floor was then thrown open to Questions from the audience.


An invigorated group then sought more clarity on how to implement the simple practices of Wholesome Leadership in their day-to-day lives.

Thereafter, the host, Vivek Yatnalkar, once again took stage. He thanked the panelists for their insights and sharing. Arun then proceeded to hand over mementos to the three eminent panelists, as a token of appreciation and gratitude.


Finally, Vivek summarized the evening’s learning and prodded the audience to begin this journey of Wholesome Leadership and leading change by ‘taking ownership’. He got the guests to remind themselves of the mantra ‘ If it is to be, it is up to me’ and with that, the evening of learning and sharing drew to a close.

But there was a surprise addition to the flow that no one anticipated. The Sous Chef at Sofitel was welcomed on to the stage by Vivek to share his ‘Special’ creation for the night, keeping the theme in mind. Chef Angad, explained that he had especially prepared ‘Wholesome food’ for Wholesome Leaders’ by a creative use of Wholesome ingredients, much to the delight and laughter of the audience.


As the guests made their way to a sumptuous spread, the panelists were swarmed by some of them eager to continue the Q&A and to seek some more wisdom from the three stalwarts. At about 10 pm, some good food, banter and networking later, curtains were drawn on a stupendous evening at Carpe Diem Mumbai 2013.

 (You can watch the full set of images from the event HERE)

The entire Pragati Leadership Team would like to thank the guests who attended this learning and networking event, despite other pressing engagements. We would also like to thank the staff and support team at Sofitel Hotel for making the event a well-organized and enjoyable experience. Last, but not the least, many thanks go out to our esteemed panelists for taking time out from their busy schedules and gracing the occasion.

 We look forward to hosting you/ your colleagues at the next edition of Carpe Diem 2013 at Delhi-NCR on October 4th. To register for the event, please send an email to

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The Yoga Marga to Freedom

The western world has made the word “Yoga” very fashionable.  Since lot of celebrities now endorse as an essential part of their lifestyle,  it seems that this path is really popular.   But contrary to what one labels as Yoga, the principles and practices as described by Sage Patanjali are very profound.


How does this Marga work in our quest for liberation, freedom?  And freedom from what ?   The ancient philosophers had already worked out that the self  is Supreme and all the other things which bond us, restrict us is Maya.  But the stranglehood of Maya deludes us from the truth.   The prescription to transcend this is called Yoga.   The Sanskrit meaning for Yoga is Union.  Is it Union with the self?  But aren’t we united already?   Yes, in the broader sense, we are.  But somewhere the disconnection arises because of the delusions cast by Maya.

Ignorance of that brings darkness.  Moving from the darkness to light that we are is Yoga.  The self is illuminated, powerful and yet we suffer.

So let’s begin on this path of Yoga.   In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called Ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life, directed at the ultimate bliss of the self.. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to connect with ultimate reality of self.  The eight limbs are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

The eight fold approach need not be sequential. In fact, they are supporting processes.  For eg. Practicising Niyama helps in Asanas, and practicing Asanas helps in Dhyana.   The ultimate goal is Samadhi – being one without any effort, in bliss and with complete transcendence, united with the Self.


The description sounds exotic, but in reality we do attain Samadhi, albeit for a very small period of time.  The pleasure of Samadhi has been described as 1000 times more than that of a sexual orgasm.  Osho, in his book from Sambhog to Samadhi describes how man seeks sexual pleasure not knowing that he is seeking Samadhi!!!

Where does one start?  Just imagine your journey has eight options. Which one would you choose? It can get confusing.   The physical plane is the easiest one to relate to.   Start with practicing Hatha Yoga and learn a few Pranayama’s.    With gradual practice, one starts observing the other principles also.

The obstacles in this path can be many.  The worldly pleasures are likely to sway one’s mind back and away from the path.  It takes continuous remembrance and patience to stay on this path.   The ultimate treasure of freedom is not at the end of the path but the very path itself.    But one stops walking, and the treasure is gone.

Yoga in a sense – is the knowledge  of Oneness in everything.  As Patanjali says in one Verse,

Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam

Living through this stage of Yoga, reveals the Seer or the Self, in its most brilliant form.

sculptor at work

A way to understand Yoga is the analogy of a sculptor working through stone.  It is the removal of the unwanted material which brings out the statue.  The sculptor doesn’t add anything!  Similarly, the practice of Yoga removes the unwanted materials (read the Samskara’s or the impressions of the mind) which block the Self.

You are the diamond which needs to be cut and polished!!  That’s this path about…Are you yet ready to shine?

By Vikas Bhatia

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Gyana Marga

Gyana Marga – A road to liberation.

Gyana – Knowledge in Sanskrit has been described as one of the paths to liberation.   Most knowledge is acquired for practical benefits or for worldly success.   Either you acquire knowledge to get around in the world, like knowledge of French will help you communicate with people in France and knowledge of herbs would help know which ones are useful and which ones are poisonous.  This kind of knowledge is essential for one’s survival.


Success is often also linked to amount of knowledge one acquires.  The rush for acquiring MBA and other degrees defines the value of knowledge in the scheme of things. The current era is labeled as the Knowledge era; where knowledge is prized over capital, labour, land etc.

So where does this knowledge to liberation fit in?  Is it really relevant?  Well it is relevant, if the quest for knowledge is really there. It is relevant if we find ourselves unhappy in spite of all the progress we see around.  It is relevant if your life seems meaningless in spite of the worldly success you might have.


Many well learned men sought what is the ultimate knowledge which man can ever acquire.  Some scientists have explored the frontiers of space and are trying to discover the Higgs Boson particle, which supposedly gives mass to the entire universe.  And billions of dollars have gone to research the origin of the universe, where and how did it all start… On the other hand psychologists, sociologists and other philosophers have examined the issues of mankind and have explored the wellbeing of human mind and what keeps us going, and where is the human race headed.

Vedas – the knowledge created by the Ancient Seers of India have described life and its abstract nature and its relation to God.   Their focus is on the ultimate knowledge which liberates us from the trials and tribulations of life.  Same is the case with Ashtavakra Gita and Bhagawad Gita.   Gita – the song of life, describes the duality which we are all sandwiched in.  Each action of ours brings forth a result and along with it, another set of problems.   No action is flawless.   And yet we need to act and be free.   Why is this knowledge so priceless?  Simply because it liberates us.   What does this liberation mean?  It means that we as individuals have a choice – a choice to see that the entire universe is our own creation and is one being.   This choice of seeing the whole instead of parts is liberating.   It transcends conventional behavior and actions. It transcends everything one sees from the plane of logic.


It doesn’t mean that logic is not important.  Logic is very important to know the cause and its effect.  Logic allows us to organize things efficiently; it helps us to run businesses, trains and organizations.    But it stops at that.  It doesn’t offer synthesis.

In the path of knowledge – Gyana Marga, it is all about finding this synthesis and thus happiness and liberation.  This synthesis is about the source of life, the source of everything and experiencing Oneness in spite of the duality life offers.   The ability to celebrate this Oneness over duality is what Gyana Marga is all about.

How does one start about on this path?  Most of you already are on the path.  The knowledge of life is not separated from life itself.


That is what Siddhartha, the young Buddha, sought before his enlightenment.   The ability to observe, contemplate and reflect, are the skills required on this path.  And all of us have been blessed with these skills.   So put them to use, and see the beauty of the universe through the lens of Oneness, and celebrate.

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