Wednesday, December 16, 2015

SRK's Keynote at IIM Bangalore

IIM Bangalore is my alma mater. I spent two of my best years there about 25 years ago. Recently, they held a alumni convention and Shah Rukh Khan was the Keynote speaker. I share his inspiring keynote.

Thank you to Saif and team to put all this together. Good evening to the Alumni of IIM, the faculties, students and distinguished guests.

I was so pleased with myself when Mrs. Shaw requested me to give the keynote lecture for this alumni conclave until I saw the alumni list. My mind suddenly froze up like the icebergs in Iceland where I have just shot my latest song, and I thought, “What will I say to all these wonderfully wise people?” For a second I contemplated sending a stunt double but then I read a joke about the wisdom of all you amazing achievers from IIM. The joke made it clear to me that all of you are extremely wise, but your wisdom is of a different kind from us lesser mortals. It went something like this….it was about a kid who claimed he was too good for the standard 1 that he was in and should be promoted to the fourth standard. He was marched to the principal’s office and for gender equality reasons; obviously the principal was a lady. She thought the kid should be given a fair chance, as ladies are always fair and said she would ask him a few questions and if he will answer them right…he will be promoted to the fourth standard. Her first question to him was… 
what does a cow have four of that I have only two of? Boy after a moment…Legs.

What is in your pants that you have but I do not have. Boy…pockets.

What does a lady do sitting down a man does standing up and a dog does with his one leg raised. Boy…shake hands.

What starts with F and ends with K is a four letter word and if you don’t get it, you have to use your hand….boy confidently…A Fork.

The principal looks at the teacher and tells him, send him to the IIM …he will fit in there just perfect.

That gave me some confidence to stand before you all. Maybe in your quest for knowledge, you all might have overlooked some very basic and simple truths…so here I am…to widen your sphere on how normal mortals would have answered those questions.

I am no guru in creative leadership so please bear me with some compassion and patience and do excuse my humour.

The essence of creativity is the ability to channelize imagination into expression and build from it something new and possibly ingenious. Whether it is an art form or a scientific invention or discovering a new way of doing the same old thing…it begins in the mind. A mind that does not function within the framework of boundaries but constantly searches beyond them is a mind that is able to create anew. The cornerstone of leadership, I believe, is nothing more than cultivating the discipline and courage to nurture and sustain such a mind while constantly calling the bluff of the illusory limits imposed by life.

See I am fifty. An age where you most likely are making retirement plans not romantic plans. But here I am still coochie cooing girls my children’s age. And no they don’t look up to me, actually they can’t because they are all taller than me, they treat me as their age/equal having been put in the position of someone who is a romantic hero, I have cultivated a belief that I can love them back as beautifully as any man can age notwithstanding. With respect dignity and put in my own experiences of life, which younger heroes won’t have. Though I must admit girls having a bit of a father fixation, comes in handy with my endeavors.

Leaders are able to assimilate experience in order to reframe the world around themselves on their own terms. They use the very structure of life to dismantle it. They are not afraid to question, to imagine, to dream and to believe. They are also not afraid to act even if their actions might not result in success.

There is an old song I always turn to, when I am faced with adversity. Being a public figure most of my actions and intentions are questioned, reviewed and sometimes loved and sometimes even distorted. Ranging from praising my sexiness to questioning my sexuality, I get it all. But whenever I feel thwarted I think of this song…Hum to ACT karega. Duniya se nahi darega. Chahye ye zamaana kahe humko deewana kahe hum toh ACT karega.

Many books have been written on leadership skills, on methods and models for it but in my view, it really isn’t all that complicated. To be able to dream unencumbered, to imagine and hang on to a boundless mind filled with ideas so that you never stop renewing yourself and the world around you whether it is your inner world, your consciousness or your outer world that encompasses your profession and your relationships is essential to leadership. But dreaming is not enough, its also important to be able to dismantle the old, the frameworks that are laid out before you, the ideas that you yourself cling to, the ones that hold you back and prevent you from growing. It is by disassembling your fears of failing, of losing (not just things, but people and positions), and most of all- of change that you can be truly creative not just in the things you choose to do, but in the way you view your part in the world you inhabit.

I meet many successful people in the world of business and I often find that while their ideas are very clear, the way they speak of them is oddly dispassionate. The madness and passion are missing. I get the sad impression that business often becomes numerical: about millions and targets or it ends up being so goal driven that there is a stark loss of inspiration from it. I think the emphasis on organizational goals and efficiency has clouded the poetry of creating. Perhaps because of the artistic basis of the work I do, it is difficult for me to relate to this starkness. I feel it lacks life. Creation cannot be a managerial concept/notion, no matter how good the idea is, it has to be an “imaginerial” conception. To lead means to inspire, and you cannot inspire people mechanically or through numerical (with all due respect…unless they are stock brokers or bankers!!). Inspiration is an emotional construct. To make people believe in anything, whether it is a product, a story, an idea, or you: you need to connect their ability to imagine and dream with your own.

You can’t create within a box with unbending walls. It is an open process, one that is welcoming and wild. To abandon that inclusive wildness for a narrowly defined goal is illusory. I have never set one- truly. I have never set out to earn a particular amount, to count the crores at the box office or to compare my worth with anyone else’s. In fact I would go as far as saying that quantifiable goals are indeed illusions. The only reality is hard work.

Diligence is imperative to both creativity and leadership. Making the mistake of thinking that your dreams will take flight without you having to flap madly at those wings to get up into the sky is plain silly. In my experience, its great to delegate, but there’s no short cut to working hard. To know and to understand what you are doing, to be open to learning about it and from it, every single moment requires diligence. It requires work. If you want to excel at something there shouldn’t be a single person around you who can claim to be more familiar with its mechanics than you are. Its non negotiable to strive and to be familiar with your trade. Life remains ordinary if you are unable to sustain the capacity to work hard on your dreams. If you aren’t determined to get there- you won’t. And this is a paradoxical thing because I’ve heard many people say that you need to know where you’re going to be determined about reaching there but it hasn’t been the case with me. I never knew my destination, I can’t even claim to know it today…Now that I am on the cover of Forbes India, is that where I wanted to be as a businessman.

My IPL team has won the championship and its profitable, is that the dream I had for a sporting franchise venture. I have a film running in a cinema hall for the last twenty years…should that be the attempt in terms of achievement for my next film. No I don’t think so. I believe goals actually limit our ambitions and desire. I don’t mean that don’t have goals, but call them milestones…think of them as a passing moment of excellence and keep on striving harder for a place which can’t be defined or confined by names or numbers. I have never set goals but I have truly never done a single thing that I wasn’t determined to do the best. I had no idea where it would take me for the most part of it, but I had the idea that I would do whatever it was with a determination that would scare everyone else away.

No matter how hard we work, however, leadership implies being prepared for disaster. And it will come. If it doesn’t hit you like a tsunami washing away your house and home…it’ll show up some other way, as failure maybe, or then by taking away something (or someone) you loved and believed in… so what are you going to do about it? You can cry and wallow. I do that often and I am not ashamed to admit it. I do that in a special corner reserved for tears in my huge golden bathroom. Somewhere between the Jacuzzi and the steam room, I sit on the floor and shed huge tears of self pity, persecution and how the world doesn’t understand my genius and effort….but then I take a hot and cold shower and walk out wearing my limited edition cologne… ready to embrace disaster. So a bit of wallowing and crying is ok… but the thing to understand is that if you learn how to welcome disaster you overcome it. So what if everything gets turned on its head, change your perspective- do a hand stand- don’t sit there staring at the ruins, start getting bits of you together and rebuilding yourself. That’s what leadership is about after all. Besides a “perfect life” is a farce. God isn’t making utopian ad films and screening them on the clouds to sell it’s USP to you. It’s a man made idea and we’re buying into it all the time. Actually, there is nothing more beautiful than the imperfection of life. Creativity is about taking this imperfection and translating into something beauteous. In my trade, life serves as a fertile ground for innovation and ideas. We use its imperfection every moment. In fact there is really nothing that allows us to create better or to live better than trouble so why not embrace it and embrace ourselves too in the bargain. And while we are embracing, lets embrace destiny too ( in my case I will embrace Kajol, Madhuri and Alia also, which unfortunately doesn’t come in your perks package whichever company you join or create…ha ha) because Destiny isn’t what it’s rolled out to be either. Accidents happen (I am a living proof of an accidental movie star/entrepreneur/speaker at an IIM gathering. I wanted to be a sportsman. Represent India hopefully as a hockey or a cricket player. Suddenly I hurt my back. Didn’t have the resources to get the best treatment. Joined a theater group to fill in time and overcome my sadness of not being able to play at a professional level. Father died and we were evicted from our rented house. Mother went looking for a smaller place and the dealer’s father in law was making a series, called Fauji. My mother sent me to him and he cast me as Abhimanyu Rai in the serial. Things went ballistic from there. I got film offers and one thing led to another, and I became a movie star. By the way we never took the house from the dealer, Mr. Dhawan who actually got me on the road to stardom. And my mother didn’t live long enough to see my work either). I realize now that hurting my back wasn’t an accident, being here speaking to you all is the larger happier accident. So destiny plays a part for sure and no one can teach us either how to find it or how to chase it. Just like disaster, it will come your way but if you don’t have the courage to ride its wave when it does, it’ll toss you right back on the beach and all you’ll get to see is the sunset of a tired and weary life (plus your backside will be sore!). So I would advise keeping your eyes open for life’s magic and not turning away from it citing practicality and good reason. There isn’t one. Be brave enough to face your destiny, to sacrifice for it and compromise for it if you have to. It will always be worth it. To imagine that you know better than life is the silliest (and possibly the most costly) mistake one can ever make.

To conclude, I’d like to borrow from my latest endeavour of creativity- Dilwale and say that unless you live by the heart, unless you are Dilwale, none of this will truly translate into the splendour that life is capable of unfolding before you. The mind is the seed of creativity but the heart is the soil. That seed cannot grow without an open heart. To be able to love, to give, to share, to nurture, to take others along on your journey with as much goodwill for them as you have for yourself is the basis of all creative endeavour, of all real success, of all happiness and of true leadership. If you close up your heart to the world, if you choose to live your life on parameters that let you forget how to love, you will dishonor life and disallow it from honouring you. There is no greater creativity in life or leadership than the ability to touch each moment that you are living with the beauty of living it by your heart, to give back to life the fullness that it has had the generosity to give to you.

And that joke I cracked about the little kid…giving all abnormal answers to basic questions….was just a joke. I really think all of you from IIM are very sexy and cool. Actually I must admit it’s really next to impossible to find such a combination of smart and sexy in so many people together. It’s an honour to be amidst you, and talk with you, for it does get lonely just talking to myself in the corner of my golden bathroom.
Thank you. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Thoughts on Teachers' Day

The Doctoral students invited me to be part of the Teachers' Day celebration. I shared a joke with them which I am repeating here.

There was a preacher and a bus driver.

The preacher used to conduct the mass in the church. He used to give messages like be be good, be kind, love thy neighbour etc. His mass was repetitive, boring and least engaging.

The bus driver was a rogue. He used drink and drive. He used drive too fast. He never followed any traffic rules. The passengers in the bus and the public outside used to be very afraid.

The preacher and the bus driver died on the same day. They landed at the pearly gates. St. Peter looked at their records and asked the preacher to go to hell and the bus driver to heaven.

The preacher was shocked. He could not believe the decision of St. Peter. The preacher told  he was a man of god, he always advised people to be good, he himself led a exemplary life. St. Peter told that the decision has been made and cant be changed. The preacher demanded an explanation.

St Peter said when you were preaching people were sleeping but when the driver was driving they were praying.

We encounter two kinds of teachers: ones like the preacher and the others like the bus driver. The first kind believes in teaching in a boring way while the second kind makes you learn in their own unique way. The most memorable teachers are the second kind who pushed students against the wall.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Diffuculties of being honest

I admire Gurcharan Das. He was a former CEO of Proctor & Gamble India and now an author and news paper column writer.

He has written a book called Difficulties of Being Good. It revolves around various episodes of Mahabharata and raises ethical questions. One classic one is where Arjun questions the war against his own family members. There is link to a youtube video at the end of the blog

In IIIT, we have always believed in being truthful and being honest. It is not easy when the truth and honesty involves talking about not so nice things about ourselves.

This year I made a rather long presentation before the parents of freshman students. Among the many things I talked about, here are a few:
  • Students have lost lives due to misadventure or illness
  • Students have flunked in examinations
  • Students have been detained for a year due to indiscipline
  • Students have been fined heavily for stealing or damaging Institute property
  • Students do not become eligible for placement due to poor CGPA
  • and a few more..
Also I talked about our achievements in the last few years.

I have often wondered whether such true but negative incidents will turn away potential students and their parents. Whether we will be perceived as a pessimistic Institute.

One of the parents of a freshman student met me later. He told me that he had investigated (he is a vigilance officer) about the Institute. In fact he had more refined statistics about the Institute than I had. He knew about most the negative incidents I mentioned above. He appreciated the courage and the honesty of the Institute in narrating such stuff while meeting the parents the first time. He told that he is now certain that his ward is in the right place for next four years.

One may achieve temporary results through lie and deceit but lasting achievements come from being being truthful and honest, having a vision and working towards it, accepting both success and failure and learning from them. This strategy has paid rich dividends in last few years.

And, I hope that being truthful and honest never becomes too difficult a job for us.

In two days time, 69th Independence will be on us. Jai Hind.

Monday, June 22, 2015

NBA Accreditation

Autonomy is not autonomy.

Let me elaborate. The University status gives the Institute autonomy of many kinds. We can offer new programmes. We can institute new degrees. We can fix our fees. And many more.

We want to be known for our programmes in masters and doctoral level. At these level, we must provide assistantship to the masters and doctoral students. As a self-financing Institute, we do not have the resources to do that. Hence, we depend on other agencies to provide these financial help.

When we started Ph.D. programme last year, we requested the Government of Odisha to provide a few scholarships to the Ph.D. students. As always, the Government has gracefully obliged.

We get Assistantship for Masters programmes from AICTE. This year we started a new Master's Programme. However, before we can apply for scholarships to AICTE, we needed to be accredited by NBA.

Now, accreditation has a lengthy preparatory process. The process is based on defining outcomes and working backwards.

This year's faculty retreat is devoted to preparing ourselves for NBA accreditation.

We plan to get a couple of departments accredited by next year.

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Uniqueness of IIIT

This is a question I face often. Perhaps, no one is in a better position than me to answer this question.

In my days as a MBA student, I learnt about Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of a brand. Why will any one buy a product - because of its USP. Every consumer product has a USP given in the form a slogan. For Volkswagen it is Das Auto. For KFC it is Finger Licking Good.

One slogan which stayed with me is by a car rental company called Avis. The slogan is we try harder.

Here are more images of that campaign:

I believe No2ism should apply to our Institute. We are certainly not No 1 or No 2. I shall be happy if some one says we are No 20. What can be the USP of a young Institute like ours.

With no shame, I shall borrow the tagline of Avis:

  • We try harder. 

Also, I shall add more No2isms:

  • We are Hungry for success because we are not No 1
  • We are Humble because we are not No 1
  • We are Honest because we can not afford otherwise
However, there three types of people in our community:
  • The ones who believe we are No 2 and hence they try hard
  • The ones who believe they are No 1 or may be No. 0 (which is better than No 1) and hence do not try hard
  • And the ones who believe we are no 2000 and hence no point trying harder.
Fortunately, the first category is the majority. We have to eliminate the second and the third categories by bringing them to the first category.

I have been talking to the students about this. Both at a personal as well as Institutional level, this is a great doctrine: We try harder. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Capacity Building

In XIMB there was a center called Cenderet. It was brain child of Fr. Bogaert, a Belgian father. Cenderet mostly did rural development work. They will do a lot of training programmes called Capacity Building. I was always a little confused by this. I always wondered if Capacity building is synonymous with training.

When IIIT started there were very few employees: 2 to be exact. I wondered what can two people do. In other words, I was asking the question what is the capacity of two employees:  the capacity for Institution building. I was wondering if capacity is proportional to the employee strength.

Yesterday, I was witness to the high mast lamps being hoisted and installed in the tennis courts. These lamps have been fabricated in-house in our tiny workshop. The procurement to fabrication to installation is being done by our own people. This is a unique capacity of the Institute which was built over a few years. This saves us a lot of money. But more than saving money, it shows a peripheral activity like the workshop can contribute so much towards the Institute Building.

We have built our own ERP for Administration, education delivery. That is a unique capacity.

We have done the project management of our construction. This is also a very unique capacity.

However, on several core fronts of the Institute, we either depend on others or do a shoddy job our selves. The capacity is sadly missing in these activities.

Capacity is what you can do with your own hands and what an organization can do with its own people. The capacity is both capability and willingness to go the extra mile. Often, one or the other is missing. I hope we develop more capacity in many aspects of our operations.