Its been 5 months since I decided my future is going to be in films. Its like those fb quotes that you don’t post thinking either its inappropriate or i am not big enough to post it yet but safely store it in a corner in your notepad which surfaces in fb after some time :) You really can’t run away from your innermost calling. So here I am. making films! 

I have been writing all these years but always thought I will save them for now. I would just write synopsis. But before I quit, I had written a full length feature script. But I can’t approach anyone with it so decided I am going to make short films to prove that I can tell a story. For a person in formative years, reaching wider audiences is crucial to gauge popular feedback. Honestly, the critics will always have something to fault. here’s an illustration – adapted from the aesop’s fable ”The Miller, his son and their donkey”.

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Adapt, adapt and adapt. Finally what you have is so NOT you. How do I defeat this? 

  1. Have a clear guideline. For example, say your films will (1) be realistic (2) be simple to understand — no elitism (3) communicate in layers i.e. readily understood but when peeled convey profound meanings/feelings. (4) Whatever… just know your ambit. Adapt within these guidelines. Guess what, Adaptation is the Beauty and Curse of all living beings. So leverage it for the good. 
  2. Try and have reference points which your team can relate. Guidelines are ambiguous. For example, say you want your films to be like Balu Mahendra’s films, Bala’s films, K Balachander’s films etc or Film X, Y, Z etc. 
  3. Try and target a wider audience to gauge popular feedback. For example, I formulated what I call a “bus theorem” or lets say “motel theorem“. The motel theorem goes like “What percentage of people in this motel will understand and pay to watch this movie.” Why motel? Because it has people from all walks in right proportion. You have govt buses, omni buses, you have fewer people in personal vehicles like car, you have workers, you have women, you have children. This sample would closely reflect the population. 

Here comes the problem for today’s independent(indie) film makers. 1 and 2 is well within the film-makers control but how does he reach sufficient people in various walks of life. That there is very limited, practically no, avenue for revenue from short films is well documented. While this is also linked to the absence of a distribution system, more importantly, offline distribution is even more crucial for “popular feedback”. The problem with online is that 1. you generally reach only the literate. 2. you get feedback that is regurgitated after seeing – this is no way equal to say 50 people watching it live. You can check the pulse for every dialogue and scene. Obviously, the avenue that is working as of now offline is small screen competitions. But it can accommodate only a handful. If one is selected though he will have to quit his job! So it isn’t covering Indie’s really. 

Recently my friend and college junior Selvakumar Vinaiooki had posted about “one reel movement” an arrangement by which 10 minute shorts were shown in theaters before movies. This was in 2008. But I learnt later that this flopped because it was an authoritarian initiative – a production house made films and screened in their cinemas (which showed mainstream films) but didn’t survive for long. Perhaps they started too early. 

While I was pondering over this, my friend Rajavel Subramanian, invited me to a play in the city. I was expecting a well established theatre or the typical places I have seen plays in Chennai in the past. I was mildly surprised at “Spaces” near Besant Nagar Beach, Chennai. It was quite spacious and had the awesome aura to the place – natural, contemporary, artistic. We saw a street play! Pretty cool!. The only rule is that you can not charge entry and you get the space free! You are allowed to keep a donation box. 

There came my Eureka moment. 

IDEA: 

Why can’t we, film-makers, leverage such facilities across cities in a co-operative society model. Hire same location weekly and same time. Say Spaces, Friday 7pm.  For Spaces, rent is nil and can host 100 people easily. We just need projector and screen. We can rent or one of the members can lend. The operational cost is peanuts. We can market in FB initially. Audience should know if I go Friday 7 pm, I can check out some short films. One hour every week, 3 shorts. This way we could get footfall from the offline population. We can utilize some offline marketing later. Of the 3 shorts we could keep one international and two from community. We need a team to select and screen every week. The three 3 shorts besides giving an avenue for distribution will also help widen our own horizon as film-makers. 

For other cities…I wonder, wouldn’t film schools have such arrangements for their young alumni? Can’t we talk to them to take our films as well? Can’t we talk to college cultural groups for screening in their auditorium. VisComm departments could spearhead such initiatives. It’s educational for them as well! 

We need a name. What if we became huge offline distributors :) Just kidding.. but for brand sake and what we stand for – offline distribution of independent cinema we need a name. StreetCinema? GulliCinema? RoadieMovies?

If you want to contribute/participate join the fb pages Indian Underground Cinema and Film buffs rendezvous.  Folks there have been debating for a while. Will we make it? Hope so. For now, let’s focus on what’s in our control – the path, the team and our commitment. 

Its fairly clear for Chennai. What we need is a few thousand bucks for renting projectors [ or a projector donor :) ] , a line-up of movies and the show is on. I am on and will need some volunteers. 

Whoever you are, you can help us. Spread the word. Come to see our films. Shape our distribution model – share your thoughts here.

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Read this article today: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Citycitybangbang/entry/the-longevity-of-the-indian-politician

Pretty interesting thoughts from Santhosh Desai. He argues excellently that the job of politicians is very complex but still many manage excellently well into their 80s. Should we then look at ways to utilise people over 60?

Honestly, in about 12-13 years of corporate life, I have come to question it at times. Many of my friends have talked about early retirement. I perfectly understood their view but personally I would never do that. Right from my college days, I have always argued one should not look to retire at 60. Reason for my thoughts – if you live till 90, you waste 30 years!!!

By the way, the question that Santosh Desai ends with is irrelevant to those who are not looking for answers from others. Theethum Nanrum Pirar Thara Vaara – No sweetness or bitterness in your life is others work. Even today there are professions that keep you occupied till you die – here are some: writers, social service, academicians, business administrators, lawyers and doctors. But still the question remains: why some retire early and others go on and on?

On one hand you have people retiring in 50s, 40s, and even 30s. On the other hand corporate life has shown that the best of the best have never retired or retired late. Ratan Tata retired at 75. Just talking about the exceptional people – Sujatha. APJ – radiant eyes even at 75. [side note: Man I must thank the IIM-A seating strategy of giving assigned seats – otherwise I would have never sat in the front row, even for APJ! ]

So is it only that the best of the best retire late? There was this doctor – Lakshmi Narayanan in manapparai, a small town near trichy. When he died at 90 the procession was bigger than what anyone got. I am sure he wasn’t the best – leave alone the state or nation – not even the best in the small town. But just his dedication and his unwavering focus on service was unflinching. He was the cheapest – charged like 10Rs etc when others charges 100s. For some it was free too! The hospital was much better. Our family never went to him but I admired him for what he did.

Why do these people want to go on and on? When I looked at people who retired early, it was enthusing just from one point – man these guys made money so fast that they could retire early or wow they are so content that they took VRS. But self-sufficiency or contentment can never stop one from pushing for more. I guess when one realises that life is a gift and especially when it is a hard-fought gift – you want to make every minute or year count.

ps: about self-sufficiency and contentment being reasons to stop. On the contrary those are the reasons why people make some exciting decisions in life. Self-sufficiency and contentment allows you to take risks. Did you see when Kamal talked about Viswaroopam controversy – “I have tens of houses to go eat and sleep and I am not worried about loosing money”. Dont you think that gives a sense of freedom to go do what you want.

It’s hard for the incumbent to move to new, faster model.

Google chairman Schmidt opined like this about Microsoft in an interview with salesforce.com CEO Benioff. I thought that was so true. I could think of several such examples – salesforce.com itself is a good example of leveraging this advantage against “not so nimble” giants that occupied the CRM market. Google with the internet, facebook with social network, makemytrip/monster over traditional facilitators are all few case-in-points.

I had read many cases during my MBA about how IBM which stood the test of PC still lost some ground to newer players who leveraged offshoring like Infosys; How GM, Ford lost ground to Honda, Toyota; The point is that as companies age, they develop processes that fit the existing model. The people selection and development and other systems also comply with the incumbent business model. These processes become the huge ship that can’t turn quickly when they spot the iceberg (assuming they do spot it!). With time, when a new need emerges, a new entrant leverages a new model to effectively satisfy the new need. The incumbent then is unable to swiftly change their model to stay relevant. The people, processes and systems not only create friction to change but also groupthink makes company happy with status-quo. I have to note here the concept called “Theory of Business” – the idea is to stay relevant to the market i.e. to spot the iceberg. But that does not address how a company stays nimble with its people, processes and systems.

But then is it really true? Does a company become less agile as it ages? I wondered. Well, tell Steve Jobs that “It’s hard for the incumbent to move to new, faster model.” Following responses are possible: Smirk, Slap or rolling on the floor laughing out loud. :) From an existing company he kept giving new products that, as someone put it in TechCrunch, were not just hits after hits but were home-runs after home-runs. First the iPod that took good care of the “incumbent” Sony. You could argue that iPod and iPhone are in fact the case stated by Schmidt. Just that it’s an existing company that entered a new market. But take PC market. First with Mac, Apple defined the edge of computing, usability and even form factor with iMac. With iPad they are defining the next evolution of personal computer. After I come back from work when I hop onto fb, twitter, linkedin, google reader, youtube and my internet reading list why would I switch on my laptop again? To call a desktop a personal computer is so stone-age Microsoft! Let’s think for a moment. Why couldn’t a new entrant come up with a tablet and surprise the PC market incumbents, to name a few – Apple and Microsoft? Not with Apple, because Apple defines the evolution and not the new entrant!

This is what leaders do – they don’t just have market-share, they define the market. Now what does it make Apple so successful in staying nimble even as it ages??? Certainly, it’s a worthy topic for a research paper. Let me speculate on this a little bit and please share your thoughts:

  1. Have being nimble as part of the strategy itself – then your people, process and systems or more comprehensively the 7S of McKinsey will be designed towards nimbleness – huh…It’s so easy to lay down these terms know. That is why MBA is easy but businesses are not!
  2. Keep the radar on – to check if the assumptions of the business (theory of business) are relevant for the current changes in the society, markets, customers, products and technology.
  3. Depending on the industry and the company strategy keep a portion (more for say hi-tech, pharma as against say construction) of the company focused on innovation. Focus on the five tenets of innovation development: read this article I wrote.

Obviously the list is not complete. Let me know what you think your company is doing to stay nimble. Or is it really hard for the incumbent to move to new, faster models?

Mr. Pranab Mukherjee has exempted earnings upto Rs. 1.8 Lacs from taxes. So what’s the end effect of the increase in tax slab? Rs. 2000 lower tax, for anyone with annual salary of Rs. 1.8L and above.

There was lot of confusion with even some of the learned minds in calculating the tax benefits. What is the rate at which this Rs. 20,000 increase in slab would have been taxed? 30%, greater than 30% or 20% or the “effective tax rate” (just divide your actual tax amount in last payslip by annual salary for this). None of it – it will be 10% of the Rs. 20,000. And, by the way, this Rs. 20,000 increase in slab does not cascade for all other slabs. The buck stops at the base slab :) Let me explain here.

Check the existing and proposed tax slabs and tax rates below. The only change is highlighted in yellow and red.

Tax Slab 2010-2011 Tax Rate 2011-2012 Tax Rate
0 – 1,60,000 0% 0%
1,60,001 – 1,80,000 10% 0%
1,80,001 – 5,00,000 10% 10%
5,00,001 – 8,00,000 20% 20%
8,00,001 – your salary amount 30% 30%

 

If that didn’t explain, read on: Existing slabs and tax rates are: 0-1.6L – 0%; 1.6L-5L– 10%; 5L-8L – 20%; above 8L – 30%; So basically what Mr. Pranab has done is to squeeze the 10% bucket to 1.8L to 5L instead of 1.6L to 5L, so you will save 10% on the Rs. 20,000 (1.6L to 1.8L) which will not be taxed.

And, by the way, if you are from the fairer sex, none of this discussion is for you as your tax exempt slab already was Rs. 1,90,000 in FY 2010-2011 ;)

Yes, numbers lie too! Don’t confuse yourselves with Rs. 20,000 increase in slab. Thank Mr. Mukherjee for the 2K that will you can pocket sometime before April 2012. Getting a bit more technical, if u r going to have ur dinner on him tonight don’t spend more than Rs. 1,818. That’s Rs, 2000 discounted at 10% per annum – net present value of Rs. 2000 in April 2012 as on today (subject to lot of assumptions)!

I liked what Kamal, a versatile film-star (legend), had to say to four budding, and very promising, directors in a TV show. He was saying “the more ethnic you become, the more global you get!” – I liked the way he thought about how a “world-class” movie should be made. To make a movie that will excite audience worldwide, you don’t need to go to exotic locations across the world, use latest technology etc. You just do a movie showing interesting characters that are soaked in taken culture. You normally do this right when you take your own culture. A fan loves to see Japan as it is and that goes to any other place. In his opinion, and I tend to agree, virumaandi, naan kadavul etc are world-class because they get more ethnic and hence world audience would want to have a peak! I have appreciated similar cultural portrayals in Memoirs of a Geisha, Troy, Aviator, Spanglish etc etc….

I thought this was interesting – don’t go elsewhere for glory, search within!

In a way this philosophy is good even for many other cases of identity building where one goes out of the board to differentiate without recognizing if you just be, you will be different! This goes to one as an individual (say professional), an organization in monopolistic competition (say restaurant), in children’s upbringing… almost everything I can think about!

Let me briefly explain the examples I took so as to illustrate the pattern. Individual – never try to be someone else to be noted. If you just be, you will be different. God never made any two men same! Restaurant – there is nothing better that explains ‘get more ethnic to get more global’ than a restaurant. The more authentic you get with food, ambience, experience the more global reach you will get! Upbringing – Don’t raise an American in India or an Indian in America – either will confuse the kids. Both are great cultures, just make your choice and teach core values – what I term as values are all single word adjectives (Honest, Open, Brave, Hard-working, Kind, Fun-loving…). My point about upbringing is that: don’t go broad across cultures rather go deep in one culture along with acceptance of other cultures.

Note: the beauty of getting more ethnic to get more global is based on the premise that people “want” and “like” multiplicity in – restaurants, cultures, people etc! So don’t loose it as a fanatic when you get more ethnic ;)

I welcome any thoughts on this – this topic roused interesting debates in my recent discussions with friends: best of both worlds is better? Spineless followers of west (or east)? Ethnicity is necessary but not sufficient condition? Get the hell out of your hole :) Etc etc….Pretty interesting stuff. Many valid observations but a man has to make his calls and I made mine :)

Recently I was thinking about how to effectively sell transformation or big change. [This was from a PPT perspective but still this is a good approach, I thought].

There are three major aspects – one, be clear on what is the macro level objective – what are we after? Two, address customer’s major pain point or dream. Three, demystify change.

1. First, value must be simple to be understood.

2. Second, what does every CXO/function head dream of?

The most pertinent question is “How will my company/function mature with time?”

This is the reason why SEIs Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and Gartner’s Hype Curves are famous – they show how a phenomenon/company matures or transforms with time.

ð  Insight: With time as an axis show maturity progression & savings at each stage

3. Third, what will de-mystify change?

Big bang brings opacity and high risks;

Baby steps and phased approach de-risks change/transformation for customers & us equally.

ð  Insight: Sequence activities/changes;

What comes first, Why so?, How much savings, What is the stage-gate etc. Again in my opinion, sequencing is the reason why CMM was so successful: first repeatable process then defined process, then measureable processes are quantitatively managed – this gives a structure to how you are going to evolve in a continuum – to me this is critical in any change management process.

Ps: How an individual faces change and how an organization faces change are very different like B2C and B2B marketing. I once read this “Who moved my cheese?” book on managing change when me and my wife were grappling with a change. My initial reaction was: ok there is some truth but this is an idiot’s book – telling what is apparently clear! But as days passed I started thinking I am not all that one-dimensional when it comes to change – sometimes I even resisted change! [Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw are mice characters in the book. Sniff – foresees change; Scurry – adapts to change quickly; Hem – is lethargic in changing; Haw – totally resists change. This book is a great (and quick) read either as a professional or simply as an individual.]

At last, my dream to have a blog of my own comes to life!

Why the name – pebbles and parables? As I go through life, I learn many small things. I view them as pebbles of wisdom – ones that are glistened by the gliding stream of learning. In a way, the aged pebbles facilitate smoother water flow. In a way, another person could view it as just a stone. It cud even be a fun-toy, a beautiful piece of art or a weapon. While some of my pebbles may indeed be stones, there are certainly few things which you and me and the world, at large, acknowledge as ‘right’ and them I name as ‘parables’.

I intend to write brief snippets, just like parables, that cud be pebbles of wisdom, fun, anger or indeed just a stone.

by the way, the photo in the header was taken in bushkill falls, pa by me.