Monday, March 02, 2015

Love Your Dealer

While the face of trade has changed remarkably over the last couple of decades, the place of the dealer has actually got strengthened.

Misunderstanding the internet, many companies tried to focus more on direct marketing and less on establishing any channels for distribution, and have found themselves on the back foot.

Within the world of distribution channels, establishing and building an effective dealer net is certainly one of the most challenging but essential tasks. Anything can be sold through dealers, and without good dealers very few things can be sold!

Your dealer is very often the primary interface that your product or service has with the customer. The relationship that your dealer develops with your end user is of critical importance to the acceptance and use of your product/service. A fact that is often ignored is that it is actually the dealer who is your primary customer. The dealer believes in your product/service and places orders for what you are selling. It is the dealer that pays you for it. Only afterwards does it reach the hands of the end user. Your CRM must therefore begin with your dealers and in turn, the dealer's CRM is critical for your success! Unfortunately we see a great deal of dysfunctional relationships between manufacturers and their dealers.

The antagonism is often mutual: Dealer's Perspective:
  • Poor logistics
  • Poor incentives
  • Poor service
  • Few or no PoS/PoP aids
  • Poor advertising support
  • Insufficient branding effort
  • Not responsive to customer needs/complaints
  • Company sales team visits are too infrequent and too brief, or not reachable
  • No interested in sharing expenses for special promotions/events
  • Poor packaging.

  • Manufacturer's Perspective:
  • Insufficient selling effort
  • Insufficient stock on hand
  • Always demanding more margins
  • Always demanding unreasonable ad spend
  • Always cribbing about delays in supply but always orders at the last minute
  • Not attending to customer needs/complaints
  • Always dissatisfied with provided PoP/PoS aids
  • Not cooperating with the sales team.
  • Always asking for funds for special promotions/events

  • And the lists will go on. But just look at the amount of point-wise convergence! Just scanning a typical list shows that there is more of point of view here than substance. Not that the complaints are not real, but when you have so much of common ground as the basis to build on, there's no excuse at all for not being able to create vibrant and productive relationships! 

    It is primarily the manufacturer who has to take the initiative to get relationships back onto a sound footing. If you don't do it and instead sit brooding over lists of complaints (as above) the result will be that your product or service will be put on the back burner. Most dealers have more than one thing to sell. They will sell what is profitable and what best cements their customers to them. 

    When you eventually do 'zoom out' and take a macro view, you will see that the demotivation of this or that dealer is the least of your problems. When customers have to discover your stuff for themselves, even if what you've got is good, the best of the rest (of your channels) can only deliver 10% to 20% of what you are capable of achieving through a good dealer net. The vast bulk can only come from enthusiastic/knowledgeable dealers who will build your brand for you, and that will happen only when you create the right environment.  

    Most of it is fear - fear of being taken for a ride! Fear comes from the micro-view. Go ahead and be a hard headed businessperson - Knowing where you have to get, you now know what you can and cannot do. Make no false promises. Be responsive and STAY in communication. In fact, make communication your first priority. Mutual understanding and agreement should be the entire basis for your dealer relationships. Share the actual FACTS. Put yourself in the dealer's shoes and try to sort out needs from wants. Be responsive, understanding, prompt and always keep your promises. Remember that the dealer chose you. 

    Most times, this dealer is your dealer because they were convinced that what you've got is what their customers need. Take feedback from dealers seriously. If you are messing up somewhere, you can count on your dealers (who perhaps know as much or more about your type of product/service than you do) to highlight the issues, and even help pinpoint where there is waste and how the logistics etc. can be improved - or whatever happen to be the particular points of contention.  

     And if your marketing or operations people don't get this message - fire them! 

     Try it - vibrant love affairs are infectious and can be virally contagious

    Go get the 90% that's out there waiting for you...

    #dealer #marketing #distribution channel #branding #CRM #communication #love #PoS #PoP, #advertising #logistics

    Friday, February 27, 2015

    The Noble Indian Cobra!

    She was a beauty! 5 feet if an inch and what I first saw of her was the typical wheaty look, with just a couple of inches showing.

    It was not an ordinary day. The day before, I had taken a spill off my scooter, badly skinning both knees and the heel of my left hand . I'd gone to work anyway as we had an important meeting, but the pain killers wore out fast and I left as soon as I could to come and nurse my injuries in the peace of my own home. I'd just relaxed and taken my next dose when young Annamalai came and called from the gate. I dragged myself to the door to see a very excited young man saying there was a snake and right then a bike came up and the rider said 'hop on sir, we need a hand' so I stiffly and gingerly got my stuff together and clambered aboard.

    Just inside our colony gate stood a Proclain and it looked like they had cleared quite a bit of scrub. In front of the Proclain was what was left of a largish termite mound topped with construction waste. The very top of that had been taken off and there, in a gap, she was pinned. I could see she was breathing, but the rest of her was firmly trapped within the collapsed mound.

    I had a chat with the operator and he was confident that he could take off another layer without doing her any damage, and he did a precision job. 

    I could now see a foot of her middle, as thick around as my wrist but which end of her was where was a mystery, so as gently as possible, I started taking  the dirt and waste tiles off both ends. After I had another foot or so of her exposed, from one end she got her head out and immediately flowed right off the mound at my feet. She was in excellent shape despite being nearly buried alive.

    I was slow, and she was very fast. I had by now grabbed my stick and sack and was vainly trying to get her onto the stick as she went round and round both me and the mound looking for a way back in. After three rounds, she gave up on finding a hole and started looking for a way to get right out of there, but the ring of gawkers was solid and so she whizzed around passing twice between my feet as I hobbled and bobbled after her rather helplessly.

    She finally took a run for open space, lifted her head, saw people and stopped, and in that moment of hesitation I had her on the stick and then thankfully she slid straight into my sack.

    As the Proclain cleared the rest of the mound, we also caught 3 baby cobras, all about 2 feet long, and to my utter surprise 4 small foot-long kraits! All of these had been apparently happily residing together under that one big termite mound!

    Once convinced that I really had them safe, the viewers finally stepped in and I showed them the beauty and the babies, now tossing around peacefully in the sack. Somehow, the onlookers had a feeling that I had been bitten, but I reassured them, and then thankfully headed back home. In fact that lovely cobra never once even started to spread her hood, she was simply intent on escape.

    With the adrenaline pumping I'd temporarily forgotten my pain, but the minute I had them, the pain came back in a rush. Aruna was anxiously waiting, so I showed her the lovely big cobra and the bunch of shiny little ones and she calmed down a bit.

    The next day it was a routine release out in a nearby reserve forest territory where the whole group of 8 disappeared into the scrub really fast.

    That night I dreamt of snakes. In particular, in my dream was a big male cobra, who invited me to catch him and then asked to be left wherever I had left his mate. It was logical enough that a mother with babies had a mate nearby... and I told myself that that must have been what was behind my dream. Life returned to normal and I all but forgot my dream.

    About a month later, at around ten at night, I was on the net, Aruna was watching Super Singers on TV and our son Rommel had gone out to get some milk. He suddenly burst into the living room and said, 'appa, come quick, there's another snake.' As a horrified Aruna watched, we grabbed torches, sack and snake stick and rushed off.

    There were about 5 men standing around on the road outside a gate, They pointed to an area near the gate post and said they were sure that the snake was there. The area had some low weeds and lots of grass, so I gingerly started at one end and worked my way towards the gate. There was no sign of a snake. However, the men were certain that the snake must be there, so I started looking for any holes. The area around the front of our gated colony is riddled with termite mounds and as you know, that means lots of interconnecting chambers and passages well underground. I was sure that there must be an access point and we finally found it almost under a concrete slab. Peering in with a torch we could make out just a bit of the snake's head. I tried waiting it out but he wasn't budging. There was no way to move the concrete slab, so we used the water trick, ran a hose into the hole and tried to flood him out. After the area was flooded, he finally slowly came inching out. One of the men had armed himself with a heavy rod, and the message was obvious - either we got the snake or he would - permanently!

    We let him emerge completely and then tried to get him onto my stick, but he kept sliding off (probably because he was still wet). He was big (5-6 feet) fast, and very agile, and Rommel with the sack and I with the stick were hard pressed keeping up with him. We let him run off the verge and onto the road and he was intent on crossing to the rough on the other side. Once there, he would be gone in a flash, so we kept herding him back as best we could until finally on the sixth attempt, he stayed on the stick and Rom had the sack ready and in he went.

    We were winded, and it took a while to get our breaths back. We chatted with the gentlemen and they wanted to know how it was that whenever they had confronted cobras, the snakes always got angry and had their hoods up, hissing and threatening to bite, but with this snake, and the one in the mound, they never even started to spread their hoods and had just run. We explained to them that cobras always look for a way to escape and have no interest in confrontations. As long as we let them run, run they will! There was no magic, cobras have lived in and around humans for thousands of years and are well adapted, stealthy enough and aware of their human neighbours' schedules and so becoming nearly invisible.

    Jobi with my snake stick
    This huge fellow had been occupying space right at their doorstep for years without them ever even knowing. It was just his bad luck that the owner happened to come home later than usual that night on his bike and caught him in the headlight just as our hero was getting ready to go get his dinner...

    That night, I had another vivid dream featuring snakes including some rather exotic ones too. I rarely remember my dreams for long, but this one stayed with me and suddenly reminded me of the earlier dream I had had about the first cobra's mate requesting a reunite. This handsome snake resided just 200 feet from the mound and looked about right to be that beau, so I silently promised him that he would be released at that very same spot.

    As soon as my friend Jobi heard about our rescue, he offered to chauffeur me with the snake to the point of release. He also took a short video of the release itself and that's down at the end of this post.

    As you can see, it's a lovely location. Wild elephants use this stretch to reach water so though not too far from the city, it's unlikely that there will be much real estate development around and except for a couple of temples, it's a pretty deserted area AND this is forest department protected land, so 'our' snakes (a number of whom we have released here) can look forward to peacefully hunting  their prey and rebuilding their families without fear of hasty and murderous humans!

    As a family, we have had the privilege of rescuing quite a few snakes in and around our colony. In December ('14) alone, apart from the 8 we got from around that mound, there was also one big krait (perhaps whose 4 babies we relocated?) and a 3 foot cobra. That means there's at least one other big krait around somewhere, and we've also seen a largish Russell's twice but she got off into thick brush before we could grab her.

    I wonder, did they get back together - what do you think???



    #snake rescue #cobra #krait #Russells viper, reunite, snake dreams, release, forest, video, #termite mound proclain #Naja #Bungarus #Daboia #Rommel #Aruna #Jobi #Coimbatore

    To see some of our other snake tales check out

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    Tuesday, February 03, 2015

    Decrypting Invention, Innovation, and Discovery

    When we learn of an innovation, often enough our reaction is “Wow, it's so obvious, why didn't I think of that?” and we get the “I could kick myself” sort of feeling, and we begin our own search for the secrets of inventiveness.

    Humanity as a whole is fascinated by inventors and their startling discoveries. I'm thinking of inventions that have succeeded so well that we are all aware of them. But not all inventions are commercially successful! With a little introspection, we realize that the main thing that makes some discoveries turn into commercial successes is their ability to solve real problems that folks face. The business world needs innovations that will pay-off.

    In order to filter out everything noncommercial, and to funnel our discovery process towards finding stuff that can sell, we try to zero in on delineating and solving pain points. We observe processes with focus to see if we can't hit on some solutions for ourselves. We are selectively observant, seeking discoveries and innovations that solve real problems that folks face. Ideas come boiling out and that's how many of today's startups have sprung their share of innovations. Seeing startups hit success, established industry becomes more responsive and more committed to processes favoring innovation.

    Pinning down how innovation happens, that discovery process itself, has proved to be difficult. We teach our people how to break everyday processes down step by step, to do walk-throughs, with an eye on improving the effectiveness and acuteness of our observation. In the process we can also generate data that can be studied for clues. A major key to innovation is focussed observation.

    Much has been written about the importance of observation, and observation itself has been turned into something of a science. But just saying 'let's observe' has not in itself driven us to more innovation (that's my feeling at any rate). While observation can and should be taught, there are many to whom observation comes naturally, and for some of these 'naturally observant' there 'naturally' follows a creative process, which does result in new applications.

    Observation on its own is a bit like keeping lots of stuff in storage. The inventor is not just an excellent searcher, but also has the ability after noticing (and storing away) to manipulate that stuff, rearranging and bringing together disparate bits of information, inferring connections, and reassembling them into something new. For the sake of simplicity, we'll dub this as lateral thinking (clue #2).

    A man walked his dog through the woods and when they got home... A well known discovery starts with the casual observation of hard to remove plant burrs on his clothes and his dog's fur. Further examination revealed the tiny hooks on the burrs, and 10 years of work later it became VELCRO. De Mestral was laughed at, but he persevered. Nowadays we talk of biomimesis (copying nature) and it's become something of a necessity to study the natural world for clues to useful inventions! At its broadest, anything and everything from nanotech to astronomy is a potential source of new inventions, and we even have rather unhelpful names for each of these styles of observation. Breadth of knowledge IS important, giving us our third clue – eclecticism. Commercially successful innovations are often found by those creative persons who pursue broad interests.

    The rewards for success are potentially huge. Downline of any good discovery come the myriads of different potential uses and all the spinoffs that can be created that put resulting inventions and innovations to work.

    As we gear up to make discovery a scientific process, we try out many things. Discoveries don't always happen only to individuals! Brainstorming can be brilliantly creative, so group approaches are being tried. Work patterns and cultures at many R&D sections are also in a state of flux as we look for the right environments and working conditions to foster innovation. Right now, flexi vs office, is hotly debated. Many companies are leaving it to their employees and teams to manage their own work environments/schedules etc., and hybrid suggestions are also being experimented with (e.g. 2 days in + 3 days out of the office).

    From what I've seen, even the high profile (and closely watched) inventor and originator does not show us any obvious 'process of observation-creation' at work. We usually find out about the keen observation only in retrospect. High profile inventors do have a bent for observation, and in addition there are large dollops of curiosity. Does it seem obvious that curiosity is what drives observation? We find our inventors to be avid questioners, fascinated with the whys and hows, and willing to dig deep to find answers.

    To summarize, we do have some clues, but I don't believe that we've got to the heart of discovering how discovery can always be made to happen. What we have in hand so far, are focussed observation, curiosity, eclecticism, lateral thinking, and shaking things up to see what results. In practice, our approach seems to be more of an extension of the life hack. We're asking “Is there a shortcut, a less painful way of getting to discovery?”

    Even if an invention isn't on the cards, remember that almost anything can be improved upon and even improvised upon, and therein lies a very valuable source for both startups and more established industries. In market terms, a good improvement is just as valuable and may be more easily marketable than creating a whole new niche! Keep in mind that surrounding business trends also impinge on the process of discovery including concepts like #lean and #agile that are emerging environments for businesses to explore.

    Discovery-Invention-Innovation puts together at least these components:
    Eclectic interests
    Lateral thinking - Creativity
    Changes in business culture/environment - disruption

    Let's jump ahead a bit. Okay, so we created something really innovative. If it is not to be one of the zillions of discoveries that just sink out of sight, then the inventor must put it together and put it to use. Is there a ready demand for what you've got? If not, then can the demand be created? Is it patentable or otherwise protectable from easy copying? Have you put it together as well as it needs to be – Remember: Everything is designed. Few things are designed well.” (Brian Reed). New stuff has to be thoroughly tested, the kinks worked out, and reliability ascertained. Great Idea + Poor execution = (costly) Suicide!

    Now, let's briefly consider some major risks:

    Risk 1 - That old conundrum of challenging the status quo. This is The Establishment! It's a big and very well oiled machine with few kinks, the technology is sound, branding is well established, and channels and pipelines are solidly in place. Into that deep end, you are readying yourself to dive. Competition is a great thing if it is allowed to flourish. When battling giants, getting yourself off to a good start is tough. However, when your innovation is likely to rock someone's boat, stifling it before it gets a toehold is an effective (responding or preemptive) strategy. It's no a joke, so take it seriously, for serious innovations can constitute 'dangerous' challenges to established industry, and so can be bought out and buried - to the detriment of humanity. Perhaps those established players think that they're 'too big to fail', and so the death and burial of any potential irritants is justifiable. In today's Darwinian world of business, let the unwary inventor beware!

    Risk 2 – Perhaps what you have discovered is so far ahead of everything else that there's no easy way to fit it into today's market. On a more mundane level, perhaps it will take time for the technology to become available either for manufacturing or for using your idea. We know that for all intents and purposes, Babbage had put together all the building blocks theoretically needed for a computer way back in the 1870s, but it took most of a century for computers to be made. Check for a good #fit, as it so very often happens that when there is no immediate fit (market fit, making fit, culture fit), further development may have to stop. If you noticed in the Velcro tale, it took 20 years to get from discovery to market acceptance - but our world of inventions is moving faster and faster, so you may not have to wait that long for your time to come!

    Risk 3 – The world of innovation is accelerating. While you may be thinking that you are the newest entrant and readying for the newtech vs oldtech battle outlined in Risk 1, there might be alternative technology that makes your effort redundant just after or even before you launch - I'm reminded of England's Clive Sinclair somewhere in the early 1980s coming off his hugely successful ZX80 microcomputer, developing a truly exceptional 'bent tube' flat screen pocket TV (that had a tiny 2” display but had all 625 lines and deployed a Fresnel lens no less). He launched his remarkable invention just before LCDs took over the small display market.

    Having really discovered something – pause and think it through:
    • What does it do? How will people find it useful?
    • How and where will it fit in, in today's market?
    • Will it scale?
    • What spin-offs will it support?
    • Can we handle the competition?

    Unless (and even if!) you are a genius on multiple fronts, here's a good time to deploy a close think tank to properly think it through. Please do all the basics including SWOTs and viewing from different perspectives (change hats) including gaming, and study what lies ahead... You have begun, but till you launch and succeed, all you've done is to make a discovery!

    A final thought. If you value innovation, then surround yourself with innovators. There are of course plenty of inventors out there, but a surprising truth is that many of the folks around us are nascent inventors, yet unaware that they could be nurturing ideas that might change the world! Let's say that your company has a couple of hundred carefully selected people, I'd say there's a good chance that quite a few of them already have the seeds of discovery within themselves, seeds that are just awaiting your discovery and nurture to sprout and burst into bloom. It's frankly unlikely (but not impossible) to find them in your own R&D section. Clues can be as simple as noting the persons who do their own research (love to learn), or suggest process improvements that increase quality, reduce wastage, tweak alignment, or improve reliability, so do keep your eyes wide open for those sparks of creativity.

    A personal note – I have a strong sense of deja vu when looking over modern debates on the ingredients and processes of creativity – and what it reminds me of are the 16C (in England) debate on mimesis vs poesis.

    Thursday, January 29, 2015

    IBM Made Blood Cell Separators !!!

    Yes they did, and here's the story
    or copy and paste the link on a new tab

    It's something of a high tech fairy tale!

    I used the IBM 2991 >>

    and 2997 when learning to be a blood bank technologist in the late 1970s - gives you some clue as to how OLD I am :)

    Match-Up vs Mismatch

    High ideals, the Vision Statement, our Mission... perhaps a company aims for the stars, but the reality just fails to match up. There's a mismatch between what marketing says and what the company does. It's all too common.

    Making fine statements raises fine expectations and when there is no correspondence, the result is great disappointment. Disappointment is only the initial reaction. Once the bad feeling sets, that company will PERMANENTLY lose trust.
    Trust is precious. Trust is the difference between winning and losing.
    Trust has to be won, and never lost. Especially in this day and age of instant information sharing, when you lose trust:

    • Your channels will shun you or even shut you out
    • Your customers complaints will just ooze through the social net or perhaps even spread virally
    • Your products and services will lose value
    • Your market share will shrink

    Trust is won through integrity, consistency, and honesty.

    Push cannot withstand long without a corresponding pull. Marketing can only initiate, it's your match-up from your integrity and quality that has to carry the load. More importantly, if both (push and pull) do not grow together, the company will not be able to grow at all. Pull can be initiated by effective branding and sustained marketing, but alone it will not sustain if your products/services fail:

    • To meet needs to do what you have claimed
    • To provide value for spend
    • To be available/reach your customers cleanly on demand
    • To provide decent margins in distribution
    • To be reliable

     Identify the problem areas and deal with them. Be open and responsive to your  clients/customers/channels. Just maybe, you aren't getting the right feedback from your market, or your marketers are fudging things so you think it's all minor, all handleable. Keep cross checking.

    Open loops have to be closed! Rather than promptly sorting the issue out, marketing too often task themselves with papering over the cracks. When there's a mismatch between the projection and the reality, it doesn't take long for the reality to win out, and you have become a creator of new pain, when what you had set out to do was to be a solution provider!

    On a larger front too, Marketing is often misused to mask the reality by creating a finely crafted image. The public perception is strongest in fields like politics, but we can even observe this phenomenon in large industry groups like Big Pharma (+insurance+medical practice), where incredible amounts are spent to maintain the status quo through the projection of an image of solid science and trust BUT now the public has become (justifiably) sceptical.

    Another startling recent example is the interaction of industry with environmental concerns and the high volume promotion of the concept of sustainability. A sub topic here is the denial of industry related phenomena like Global Warming/Climate Change. Relying on a big spend on marketing to stave off the inevitable can only produce a small delaying rear-end action. When such large groupings (de facto institutions) lay their foundations on myths, the consequences can be disastrous to nations and even to the world.

    The older word for 'mismatch' is cheating.

    Why then do we dupe people? Oftentimes it's the easy way out and perhaps there is a pressure to get started with what you've got, and iron out the kinks as one goes along. With industry groupings, they have invested 'too much' to consider backing out now. Unfortunately, there's a generic impression floating around out there (a marketing myth) that marketing alone can keep the issues at bay. We let ourselves dupe ourselves. We can be easily convinced that our pretty pictures, fine words, cute/emotive vids, fine packaging, etc. are enough. But, I assure you, if that's all you've got, it is NOT.
    Instead let what you project coincide with the reality that you create AND make what you create match-up.

    Be brave, be ethical, walk your talk

    Originally posted on LinkedIn #Pulse as Match-Up vs Mismatch

    Saturday, January 24, 2015

    Marketing - Get The BEAT !

    They say that marketing is more of an art than a science, and that's how marketing might look to an outsider, but marketers know that there has to be a scientifically solid foundation for the art part to work its magic.

    One of those mysterious (artsy looking) phenomena, is the convergence that's needed in an organization to make any marketing strategy work wonders in the marketplace. The foundation for organizational convergence is laid first by forming effective teams and second by getting the whole organization to synchronize with that marketing focus.

    Sound complicated? It's not... not really.

    Think of a song. Think of a song that encourages dancing. As a broad generalization, if there's a driving rhythm, a beat, folks will feel like dancing. There may be plenty of art involved in finally creating your song, but you already know the level of engagement needed for potential dancers to start moving to your beat. And just think, a great song can inspire great dance, perhaps even new genre's of dance.

    To create such music first requires a solid background in music. It requires practice. It requires skill in composition. You need to try out a lot of different melodies. It involves getting a band together that gel together, who enjoy doing what they do best together, and who believe in the music that they are creating. It helps if there's oodles of talent. And before everything finally comes together, there has to be practice, corrections, more practice and more...

    Finally the music is in the bag. Then it has to get out of that bag and get into the ears of all those dancers out there. It needs a catchy name to go with the catchy tune.

    Another small analogy – take a basketball team, give each player a ball, get them on court and get them to all try to bounce their balls in perfect synch. At first it will be a chaos of noise, then as they get the hang and start working together, it will sort itself out into, not just a rhythm, but a thunderous rhythm – and the possibilities become astounding.

    Now, is that all art and no science? I don't think so.

    First published on LinkedIn Pulse as Marketing? Get the BEAT!

    Thursday, January 22, 2015


    Recently, three very hesitant young people came for advice on job hunting. Very apologetic, and quite down hearted, they were facing a brick wall. The problem? No qualifications. Or that's what they said.

    On digging just a bit deeper, I was not surprised to find that they each had very valuable experience. One had been running a tooling and machining unit for the last three years, another had just left a job of managing a manufacturing unit with two plants under his control, and the third had been doing a successful own retail business when the recent sudden down turn forced him to close it up. Yet HR after HR had been turning them away. They had rarely even got to the interviewing stage, and they were downcast.

    Two of these promising young people had no college qualifications at all. The third had a degree, but in arts. All three got their starts because of recommendations from influential family/friend contacts, and now that they needed to hunt for jobs on their own, the lack of suitable qualifications was haunting them. Everywhere they had tried, almost the first question asked was 'what's your qualification?' Very often, the corollary remark – how were you heading that unit without any engineering or commercial background? In one case, because of a major fight with the management, any request for a reference was out of the question.

    Were I hiring for a project, I would have snapped them up!

    The reality is that the kind of experience that these three young people have is invaluable. It can't be taught in college. They've learned the practicalities of what makes any business run. So, I set out to find out why HR's don't seem to have the ability to see what they have been missing. There seem to be at least two factors at play.
    1. Time – hundreds of applications to scan!
    2. Filters – almost all jobs seem to begin with having some (ir)relevant qualification.

    Rather than banging my head against that wall, I decided to see what could be done about the negativity and hopelessness that had set in. All three needed some serious counselling! Self belief is perhaps the biggest factor in successfully job hunting. We talked about what they had achieved and what they had learned, and we talked about what any employer is looking for – people who have the skills and knowledge that they had already accumulated in the real world of running their various businesses.

    Then comes that other great necessary – the CV. Looking at what they had as CVs, I was hardly surprised that they had gotten nowhere so far. Please, look at your own CV from a HR's perspective. It should be clear what your core skills are, and it should also be very clear how your abilities and skills have been put to use in your previous work. Simply listing employers with dates and job titles does not get you very far. Remember that the HR has very limited time, and certainly cannot be expected to 'read between the lines'.

    In going through the CVs, I found a couple of areas where each individual needed to put in some extra work, and suggested either reading material, or a short course (e.g. in personal presentation, etiquette or in body language). At this stage, in no case was going back to college going to be a useful option.

    Finally, while the run of the mill process of job hunting may be good enough for the so called 'qualified' candidate, for those who have come up the harder way and who have the more valuable knowledge, one needs to try a more nuanced approach. I'd suggest getting yourself a consultant. Beyond that,  your own work contacts, especially business persons and unit heads with whom you had dealt in your previous avatar. As they already know you, getting an appointment might not be difficult, and believe me that's 50% of your battle won!

    And Go for it !

    First published on LinkedIn Pulse as UNQUALIFIED!

    Friday, January 16, 2015

    You Can Do Magic

    Start-ups have gone from dime a dozen to becoming legion. That's both good and bad. Adjectives like exciting, enticing, and vibrant, describe our business environment, yet on the down side, the resulting competition for funds and for the market is simply awful.

    Working as a consultant to start-ups is fun and very challenging. I've been through a longish string so far, and though the projects were diverse, as the start-ups scene has heated up, some common challenges and solutions have emerged. From my experience, here are just a few of the commonest failure scenarios.
    Challenge 1 – The Dream Machine. A lovely product/service that addresses major pain points, is well designed, passionately believed in and yet won't fly. Very often the problem is over confidence. The start-up's mindset runs something like this: “My product is truly revolutionary and it's going places. The market needs me, potential customers are begging for me, so here we come!”
    Taking this product or service on to the market usually ends in disaster. Typically, when all the attention has been on the development and there is an assumption of ready demand, the basic questions of timing, needing a 'fit' in the existing market space, developing channels, marketing costs etc. would not have been adequately thought through. If you then have to create a new niche for your revolution, that can be very costly – and just a bit too risky. Risky is a word that neither the Angels nor VCs relish, so when you go looking for funds...
    Challenge 2 – The Me Too. 2 or 3 friends get together and look with longing at this busy and exciting start-ups dominated market. Everyone seems to be getting into the action, and perhaps some of their friends have already gotten through the 1st funding phase. Why not? It's simple enough, we have to just brainstorm, so let's put some ideas together and hash it out.
    Luckily, most of such never get to Go. There never was the innovation and inventiveness present in the first place. More often than not, the resulting products/services will be copies, and unless they have a lot of luck and also can pool the funds to launch themselves and afford get some brilliant, market savvy folks on board, the results will be either a quiet fade out, or sometimes a spectacular flop. Again, it's unlikely that funding will come through, for copies just don't get much of a bite from funders. You also have a narrow time window, unless what you are copying itself goes big time.
    Challenge 3 – Good But Unscalable. After lots of hard work getting all the bits and pieces to fit together, when the funding folks start asking questions on scalability, the big blind spot shows up and that's that.
    A lack of market experience and not having good advisers early on very often results in unscalable start-ups. Not every good idea can be scaled up, and if it can't scale, it will not get funded!
    Challenge 4 – Built To Offload. Here the idea is to hit the market running, demo the potential and then quickly get someone to buy you out. Sometimes, if the launch and initial publicity are done right, and if the market was receptive, it will work just as planned.
    Unfortunately, sometimes not. If you assume that your buyers are out there waiting, and then can't identify them, you might have to go ahead and carry your baby through. Then, as you have already committed so much, it's to the funders that you will go. As the Angel/VC 's needs would not have been accounted for, you might just find that you have multiple problems and are stuck between the proverbial rock and a very hard place.

    There are of course many more start-up types, but you get my point. I called each a challenge because, when us consultant types are called in and recognise a failure type, we have a real challenge getting our budding entrepreneurs to rethink their babies!

    All start-ups must pay attention to The Market - while bold innovation and brilliant designs can go a very long way, scanty are the concepts/ideas that will 'just naturally' go viral and fly themselves into something much bigger. Do get good marketing advice early on, and keep that advice in mind when looking for funding and launching out.

    Finally, supposing you have this great idea, and it is marketable, and even though you failed to get funded, you decide to launch anyway, remember that marketing can be done effectively even on a shoestring budget.The provisos are, IF and only if your service/product has a place to jump in in the market AND whether you will survive and sustain until you succeed.

    Where is the point of no return? It's very important here to decide at the beginning when you will know that it's not panning out, and what your jumping off point is!

    Study your market as deeply as you can. SWOT out your competition. Targeting is the first priority. Effective social media use with a well designed and promoted web presence (good SEO helps) will get you started, and neither demands a huge big budget. Go for good people (not just high priced!), interview in depth, and then train them as a team. Build commitment, efficiency, responsiveness, a marketing orientation, and give exceptional service (CRM helps) so that 'word of mouth' will also pitch in. If you need a distribution net, pick the small and medium players, work on loyalty, and give them the best returns in the market. Debug and keep debugging.
    In short, you know you have a really great idea, think things through, get good market advice early on, be prepared to sweat, and go for it -
    pitch and don't stop pitching.

    Believe – you can do MAGIC!

    This was originally posted in LinkedIn Pulse 

    Thursday, December 11, 2014

    11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs - Infograf

    Here's an EXCELLENT infograf from Copyblogger that every blog writer has to take absolutely to heart: 11 Essential Ingredients Every Blog Post Needs [Infographic]

    Like this infographic? Get content marketing advice that works from Copyblogger. Study it, memorize it, and keep practicing and refining till you get it! Here's the whole in a pdf

    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    Saturday, February 08, 2014

    The War on the Poor - End it now PLEASE!

    Short and sweet, Robert Reich explains what's wrong with America's approach to their own poor, comprising working families, and otherwise known as the 99%

    Friday, December 27, 2013

    Holy Books And The 21st Century - Exploring Cultural Bridges

    Confusion reigns in many 'modern' religions as ancient scriptures and rituals try to find relevance and meaning in a post industrial world. If ancient texts do have meaning for today's world, then that meaning's discovered through interpretation. Interpretation is the art of finding the original meaning in a text and then showing how that might be relevant today. Interpretation is particularly important for religions that hold ancient 'texts' to be important. In Christianity (my religion) the interpretation of 'the scripture' focuses on the Bible. Understanding the Bible therefore is a major area of concentration in the lives of all Christians. One would hope that better interpretation would lead to better Christians, but that does depend on what we get from our interpretive effort, and on how we then apply what we got to our lives!

    Unfortunately, as a religion Christianity is very far away from finding any consensus on how the Bible is to be understood.

    Rather than diving right into the various attempts to interpret the Bible (which would certainly take more than a series of blog posts to cover) I am going to just try to outline how I personally understand the Bible and how that understanding affects my thinking about one currently 'hot' cultural topic, that of sexual orientation.

    The Bible is an ancient text. It was last contributed to over 2000 years ago and the entire span of its writing covers over (at least) 1000 years! All the various parts of the Bible are written for and about particular happenings in particular places and communities during that millennium. The Bible is not monolithic. The Bible has been built brick by brick and stone by stone, and it has stood the test of time! The Bible's story culminates in four gospels that tell us about Jesus, and then (in the New Testament part of the Bible) goes on to follow the birth of Christianity over the next few decades. It's worth noting that for the writers of the New Testament (NT - about Jesus and the early church) their Bible actually constituted of the largely memorized Tanakh of that day's Judaism, which is mostly our present 'old' testament (OT). 

    The NT writers record the introduction of belief in Christ in various parts of the Roman empire, and simultaneously, they record Jesus' life and ministry in a very interesting way. The style of their records of Jesus are fascinating both for their commonalities and for their differences, but the picture of Jesus that emerges from the reading of 'the gospels' is an incredibly powerful and gripping story of the person Jesus, who did what he did so remarkably well that lives were transformed for good. Jesus' impact is the very heart of what becomes Christianity.

    We cannot reconstruct from these gospel records anything like a 'Life of Jesus' though not for want of trying! We can, however, get to know Jesus himself, and I think the main reason for this slightly odd phenomenon is that many people who personally knew Jesus went to incredible lengths to pass on what they knew as accurately and completely as they could. Naturally, they stuck to stuff that had so startled them out of their slumbers that it became clearly imprinted in their minds. As a natural consequence, their records are not given to being strung together either chronologically or subject-wise, but do provide a wonderfully clear picture of the person, Jesus.

    By studying the gospel accounts in parallel, we can see that many witnesses had come forward to tell what they knew. The result is that 4 different authors draw breathtakingly similar pictures, yet one can clearly see that the roots of their stories have been gathered independently. One impressive explanation for the striking similarities and critical differences comes from B. Gerhardsson who shows that there was a definite "Rabbinic method" that teachers of that day followed to accurately orally preserve their words, and it explains so well what we find in actual fact in the gospels themselves. Incidentally, in cultures such as India it is well known that teachers (gurus) orally train their disciples, and it is precisely this sort of tradition to which we owe the preservation of the sayings of the Buddha (for e.g.).

    So, at the culmination of what was essentially a one tribe story (the Old Testament - OT - of the Bible) we have Jesus bursting onto the scene and creating a cataclysm. For Jesus, the OT - his scripture - was given by God for guidance to mankind. However, Jesus introduces a striking change in how the OT is to be understood... if you want to understand the scripture, (says Jesus, in effect) you have to look for the Father - our loving Father. Don't therefore take the letter of the law as the final thing, though every bit of that is important (as your primary source material), but look instead for what the OT can teach you about the Father, and apply that knowledge of the Father to what you are about today! So, the OT actually records the give and take between the Father and His people, with the people vacillating between periods of understanding and obedience and living in love and justice, then sliding right back into doing all the things that they know will irritate their Father to the utmost.

    Jesus goes on to show us in his own life what really seeing and believing the Father means in day-to-day life. He summarizes the main principles as:
    1. Love God.
    2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

    He tells us that in these two principles reside everything that God wanted us to know from the entire OT.

    I don't think we can easily grasp how shocking Jesus' teachings and doings (based on these two principles) actually were to his contemporaries. The religious leaders of the day at first tried to analyse his message, then when they realized the implications, they tried various methods to discredit Jesus, and failing these, they finally found a way to 'permanently' silence him - that is, they had him put to death by their Roman rulers by claiming that he was a very real terrorist!

    All this happened in a cultural milieu, and fortunately, because of extensive writings preserved from that period, and the meticulous work of archaeologists, we do know a fair amount both about Jewish history, society and culture, and that  too of their rulers of the day, the Romans.

    Now, what's happened in effect is that Jesus, in the life he lives, reveals to us anew who God the Father is. Everything that happens subsequently, with the founding of Christianity, is the working out of this renewing knowledge of God and the resulting renewed relationship with God the Father in and through His Son Jesus. The authenticity of the message of the gospel and of Jesus Himself comes with a terrifying bang at the end of all four gospel accounts, first with His horrifying death, and then with His most unexpected resurrection.

    We can clearly see some of what God has done (in the Bible), and it presents us with a puzzling conundrum. Why has God done these things? The answer that the Bible gives, that Jesus emphasizes, is LOVE!

    Unfortunately for us we are far too fascinated with the 'why' and 'how' types of questions to not enter into speculation. Speculation is the mother of doctrine - and we will see where that takes us soon enough! Suffice it to say that the gospel is so simple that no one can mistake it - at the same time we can also choose to build huge edifices upon it and eventually we will forget the simplicity of the foundation and remember only the complication of what we have constructed!

    As we dig into the gospels for more on Jesus, it is hard to miss the concept of Emmanuel (God with us), by which Jesus is introduced to us (Isaiah 7-8, ‎Matthew 1:22-23). God is with us, and Jesus focuses God's presence in his teachings on what the reality of God's kingdom is all about, especially that the Father is particularly with the downtrodden, the suffering, the sick, the disenfranchised, the poor, the outcaste, the seeker, and all those others that religion and society have left in a lurch.

    And that's pretty much my own basic understanding now of how I find relevance in the Bible, for it's the Bible that leads me to Jesus, and that makes me want to follow Jesus, and to know Jesus. I see Jesus most clearly in his life, his doings, and his teachings as they are found in the gospels and in turn, the gospels help me to see what the whole of the Bible is about, revealing both God the Son and God the Father to me.

    Just as that great crowd of witnesses had memorized and learned from their teacher, so we too should immerse ourselves first and foremost in those very same gospels that record whatever could reliably be remembered of Jesus. I am certain that the very reason we have so many gospels independently covering so much of the same ground, is that for the new believers, the most important thing, the most critically important thing, was to be able to know and then follow Jesus. They needed to get together all that they could of him from reliable witnesses while these were still around, and they did! The same process took place wherever there was any concentration of original witnesses to be had, and voila, out of all those efforts we have now our 4 gospels!

    In the rest of the NT we do not find much of Jesus being quoted, though allusions to His teachings and doings are numerous. This has long puzzled scholars, and bizarre theories have been generated by them in turn. But I suspect that once folks had memorised all the available stuff and were holding these findings in common with others who had also memorised the same stuff (about what Jesus said and did), they rarely needed to keep quoting the known bedrock to each other. Rather, one gets on with understanding and discussing how this works out practically, and you remind one another of where you are more by allusion than by quotation. In fact that's what the word 'gospel' comes to mean in the rest of the NT, and that's probably why outside of 'the gospels' themselves (that constitute that entire bedrock of critically important knowledge - "the gospel") we see so little of the quoting that we would otherwise expect. The ground on which discussions take place IS common.

    The gospels would then constitute something like the basic 'catechism' (boot camp), and the new believer's first job is to memorize (remember that books were uncommon and extremely expensive back then) the gospel.

    Everything that we have in our gospels is therefore The Gospel that was then taught, preached and memorized as the story of Jesus spread out. I do think this grounding process took time and there is evidence in the NT that the time was taken to establish these basics properly.

    Unfortunately, our modern and post-modern church gives scant respect to the gospels and I think this is perhaps why Christians of today scarcely remind us of Jesus the Christ whom they are supposedly following and believing! Instead of a people who behave in a manner consistent with intimately knowing Jesus their Lord and Savior, we all too often see packs of doctrinalists and literalists, who in their loveless rantings more resemble the religious enemies of Jesus than Jesus Himself!

    I have little doubt that 'the gospel' was precisely what Paul (who wrote many of the letters in the NT) had to learn after he suddenly realized that Jesus was The One, and his resulting 'gospel' he finally checked for consistency with other disciples of Jesus who were then congregated in Jerusalem. But all that is speculative... I have no doubt that it is this very gospel that was what Paul proclaimed as he moved through the length and breadth of the Roman empire.

    For the present, I think that's a fairly good summary of my current understanding of what the gospel is and how (and why) it came to be the way it is. 

    What happens next in the NT is that this gospel goes out and meets various groups of people scattered across the Roman empire, eventually creating scattered fellowships of Christ believers/followers. Jesus has been acknowledged by these believers to be the long promised messiah of the OT and is therefore God's anointed one, and in Greek, that is what the word Christ signifies, hence our word Christ-ian.

    In the process of spreading out from Palestine into the larger Roman empire, practitioners of the gospel encounter cultural realities/environments that are not similar to those of Palestine at that time. In these strange new cultural environments, how is the gospel to be worked out? And so we have Paul, John, Peter, James and so on all communicating by way of brief letters (epistles) to address particular situations that arise after the proclamation of Jesus, and as their gospel walks out into unfamiliar cultural territory.

    Now, here we are 2000 years further along in time. We are therefore now in a situation that was reminiscent of those querulous first few steps that the gospel took once long ago, for both cultures and societies (and religion) have changed remarkably over the interval, and yet the same gospel is there to guide us as to the nature of the Father, and the revelation of the Father is seen just as clearly now in the life, teaching, and doings of the Son Jesus. The gospel that Jesus lived out has not changed. The gospel is still addressing human beings, and in spite of our culture, our 'advanced' society, and our technology, we are still just human beings in need of and in search of our Father.

    As I leap out over this chasm, I also notice that in many instances when the gospel spread into the Roman empire, there was culture shock and then cultural accommodation, and we can see this accommodation taking place in the epistles of the NT itself. Some of these cultural accommodations are sensible and sound applications of Jesus teaching and principles, while others fly in the face of the principles that Jesus taught, i.e. are contrary to the gospel of Jesus.

    One excellent change for example, was that racial discrimination was tackled as it became obvious that not only people of Jewish descent were responding to Jesus and believing in Him.

    A contrasting area of cultural accommodation, was the young church's inability to tackle the issue of slavery. There are a number of reasons for the church not to have taken this issue on. However, in subsequent Christian history, eventually it was realised that slavery in any form is not compatible with believing in and following a just and loving God. Eventually, Jesus and his gospel won.

    Since Wilberforce and his friends fought their epic battle in the 19th century,  the battle against slavery - of the official, culturally acceptable kind - has been mostly won. In consequence, colonial influence has waned and we do have a slightly more equitable world to live in.

    Other areas of conflict that were left unresolved by the NT included that ubiquitous thing called war, which is an outgrowth of our tolerance for violence in so many forms, and prominently gender equality, and sexual orientations. As with slavery, the young church was unable to step back and ask whether Jesus' gospel called for changes in these areas. We can see that Paul in particular was aware of the clash as his statement in his epistle to the Galatians (3:28) and again in Colossians (3:11) actually follows the implications of Jesus teaching to their conclusions. But he himself was unable to do much other than to toe the cultural norms in his other writings.

    I am privileged to live in India, which due to its decidedly Eastern culture and agrarian economy has a lot of cultural similarities with life in Palestine 2000 years ago. Still, the changes that have taken place in the world are huge^^.  In India, the gospel as understood by India's mainline churches has its own peculiar cultural blind spots. At its root, we find that we have inherited a literalistic approach to the Bible and subsequently many of the wrong cultural tendencies of peoples from biblical times are used to justify very wrong and anti-Christ-ian practices in our present day church life. The most obvious of these is the failure to tackle the evil of casteism. We have also not tackled our male dominant society, and we have chosen not to take on issues of wealth, poverty and the ownership of property! We have also chosen to avoid questioning the church's status quo on matters of sexuality and in particular the homophobia (LGBTA-phobia) that we have inherited from the Victorian colonial West.

    In general, in the world of the 21st century we actually have a strange situation where many gospel implications (based on the gospel principles of justice and equality) have been wholeheartedly accepted by post-enlightenment, secular, science oriented, common sense based thinkers.

    At the same time we have an even stranger phenomenon of the bulk of Christianity wrongly preferring the norms and mores of the 2000 year old culture that Jesus Himself challenged with His gospel!

    The very fact that modern and post-modern thinkers have decided to support equality and justice seems to have enraged our religious conservatives, and the key question of whither the gospel will lead has been blanked out by blind reactionism. Where we see this most clearly is regarding sexuality and sexual orientation. While abuses in the 'institution' of heterosexual marriage are rampant, most especially in the propagation of male dominance, domestic violence, and in heterosexual exceptionality, we find many Christians concentrating their rage instead against persons with differing sexual orientations (the LGBTA) and particularly focused on 'gay bashing', homophobia. I am frequently told by would-be conservative 'scholars'  that this is because of their 'interpretations' of the Bible, and it involves a savagely literalistic use of some texts*. 

    I have no doubt that singling out any group of people and discriminating against them because of issues of differences from the 'norm' (in this case because of their sexual orientation) is unjust, inequitable, dehumanizing, and against Jesus' gospel!

    The (conservative/non-affirming) church has actually created a class of untouchables and has been the agent of evil in denigrating these persons' humanity. Rather than reaching out to the downtrodden, we (the church that claims to follow Jesus) have become the authoritarians who tread upon the lives of others - what a travesty!

    Yet the conservative-doctrinaire branches of Christianity insist on discriminating against anyone who does not toe the heterosexuality-only line. The fact that 'sin' is found as commonly in heterosexual relationships seems not to count at all. In fact there is a strong tendency to disregard in any active discussion, all heterosexually sinful activity including marital rape, premarital sex, and divorce, from the purview of 'sin', though oddly enough, adultery does seem to be a sticking point for some... 

    The shrillness accompanying any discussion of sexual orientation other than heterosexuality is amazing to me. Forgotten are Jesus' directions to take responsibility first for our own sins and to be nonjudgemental of others, let alone being so willing to cast the first verbal stones.

    Perhaps the most startling thing for me was the discovery that conservative heterosexuals freely admit that they are not aware of when they chose to ('obeying God?') become heterosexual, yet homosexuals (really, any LGBTA) are accused of choosing to be homosexual, therefore denying God, and therefore worthy of hellfire etc.!

    So, do we follow Jesus 
    do we follow the very worldly religious 
    literalistic-doctrinaire-conservative 'way'. 

    It's for you to decide...

    On the one hand as the gospel enjoins, there is love, justice, equality, respect, and a lack of judgmentalism. 

    On the other hand there is condemnation, ostracism, outcasteism, denial of rights, judgementalism, lots of hell-talk, suppression of personality, vituperation, and often outright hatred - all presented supposedly as legitimate expressions of God's love.

    The choice is yours!

    I'd highly recommend Philip Yancey's excellent introduction to Jesus - The Jesus I Never Knew, if you want to get just a bit deeper into "Christology" or just get to know Jesus a little better. But, there's no substitute for reading (and rereading) the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) themselves in any modern translation

    *The conservative-literalistic-doctrinaire dumbing-down approach to the Bible, unsurprisingly negates Jesus' stress on understanding the Father, and negates the importance of living lives of love and service, justice and equality, and living as genetically, ecologically, and ethically selflessly as possible. I've heard this method described as a grammatico-historical approach to interpretation, but neither grammar nor history demands that we exchange understanding for simple mindedness!

    There's an excellent recent short interview/article  on God and gays carrying the views of both Mohler and Vine that's well worth reading.

    An example of three gospel texts in parallel
    healing of the leper:[9]
    Mt 8:2–3Mk 1:40–42Lk 5:12–13
    Καὶ ἰδοὺ,
    αὐτῷ λέγων·
    Κύριε, ἐὰν θέλῃς
    δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι.
    ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα
    ἥψατο αὐτοῦ
    Θέλω, καθαρίσθητι·
    καὶ εὐθέως

    αὐτοῦ ἡ λέπρα.
    Καὶ ἔρχεται πρὸς αὐτὸν
    παρακαλῶν αὐτὸν
    καὶ γονυπετῶν
    καὶ λέγων αὐτῷ ὅτι,
    Ἐὰν θέλῃς
    δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι.
    καὶ σπλαγχνισθεὶς
    ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα
    αὐτοῦ ἥψατο
    καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ·
    Θέλω, καθαρίσθητι·
    καὶ εὐθὺς
    ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ᾿
    αὐτοῦ ἡ λέπρα,
    καὶ ἐκαθαρίσθη.
    Καὶ ἰδοὺ,
    ἀνὴρ πλήρης λέπρας·
    ἰδὼν δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν
    πεσὼν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον
    ἐδεήθη αὐτοῦ λέγων·
    Κύριε, ἐὰν θέλῃς
    δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι.
    ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα
    ἥψατο αὐτοῦ
    Θέλω, καθαρίσθητι·
    καὶ εὐθέως

    ἡ λέπρα ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ᾿
    And behold,
    a leper came

    and worships

    him, saying:
    Lord, if you wish,
    I can be cleansed.

    And he stretched out his
    hand and touched him,
    I wish it; be cleansed.
    And immediately
    his leprosy

    was cleansed.
    And, calling out to him,
    there comes to him a leper

    and kneeling and

    saying to him:
    If you wish,
    I can be cleansed.
    And, moved with compassion,
    he stretched out his
    hand and touched him
    and says to him:
    I wish it; be cleansed.
    And immediately
    the leprosy
    left him,
    and he was cleansed.
    And behold,
    a man full of leprosy.
    But, upon seeing Jesus,
    he fell upon his face
    and requested
    him, saying:
    Lord, if you wish,
    I can be cleansed.

    And he stretched out his
    hand and touched him,
    I wish it; be cleansed.
    And immediately
    the leprosy
    left him.

    *The immediate context for today's blog is India's Supreme Court reifying Section 377 (a section of the IPC - Indian Penal Code, that dates back to 1861 when the British applied their very wise legal ideas to their Indian colony). The section was thrown out by the Delhi High Court a few years ago as ultra vires India's constitution. Right after the reinstatelent of 377, which was more in the form of a timely duck by the SC, came a storm of both protest and gleeful affirmation in the media and on the Net. Not surprisingly, Conservative Hindus, Conservative Muslims and Conservative Christians joined hands in praising the SC while taking the opportunity to generally bash liberals as well as the LGBT community.

    One particular discussion took place on the Facebook page of Indian Evangelical Theologians, and I promised then to share my thoughts on the issues raised there in more detail, so here it is, for what it's worth.

    377, adultery, asexual, Bible, bisexual, Christian, gay, heterosexual, homosexual, Jesus, lesbian, LGBT, LGBTA, NT, OT, Paul, sexual orientation, sin, slavery, transsexual
    #377 #adultery #asexual #Bible #bisexual #Christian #gay #heterosexual #homosexual #Jesus #lesbian #LGBT #LGBTA #NT #OT #Paul #SexualOrientation #sin #slavery #transsexual #interpretation #literalism #doctrine #gospel #celibacy #Gerhardson #gospels #Rome #Palestine #understanding #DumbDown # #condemn #ostracism #outcasteism #rights #hell #HellTalk #vituperation #hatred #love #justice #equality #respect #judgmentalism #culture #CultureShock #accommodation #samlcarr #

    Saturday, December 07, 2013

    Reading A Text in its Context

    How does one read an ancient text in its context?
    Well I just ran into N. T. Wright's little video on this, and how he sees the creation story in Genesis as it would have been understood in the intertestamental period (just before and right up to), the New Testament.

    I'd be interested in the viewer's comments!

    Friday, November 29, 2013

    Suffer A Blessing

    It started some years back, the pain. There was something odd about it. It would begin at sunset and then build up until Aruna's feet felt like they were on fire. At some times it would be less bad and then on other days it would be awful and she would be writhing in pain all night.

    She had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes just about then, and all the doctors at first ascribed her pain to that. Bring the sugar under better control, they'd say... but nothing seemed to work. Then one doctor suggested that it might be something called fibromyalgia and another said it was probably myofascial pain, still another concluded that it was restless legs . There were no real meds for this, they said, but perhaps this one or that one had helped some people, so why not try? There were also a few 'friends' who 'felt led' to share some less charitable opinions with us about unrepentant sinners, God's judgement, and so on.

    The pain went on for some years. It was chronic and it was debilitating, but Aruna managed somehow. Then, in September 2012 came the fall. one night while closing the gate, she slipped on a wet stone at our doorstep and went down hard. She had had falls before as her right leg was a bit weak from childhood polio, but nothing like this fall. When we picked her up her foot was out at right angles and the bone poking out. We called the ambulance and rushed off to the hospital where x-rays showed a complete break, and they had her in surgery the very same day.

    As she came out of the anesthesia, Aruna had a hard time, nasty dreams, savage images and odd incidents from her past seemed to be repeating themselves live. Then her` recovery was slow, but the surgery had gone well and everyone was confident that she would heal up just fine. However, after 10 days, the healing was not happening and in fact there seemed to be areas of flesh that were breaking down, so another surgery took place where a big pad of tissue was placed over the non-healing zone and covered with a skin graft. The plate was replaced by a pin, and then we waited, and waited. The wound seemed to heal well, but her bones were not knitting up as expected.

    Aruna slowly gave up on walking properly again. She could hobble around with a walker, but most of the time she stuck to her wheelchair. There was no further observable progress. And the pain in her feet was back, with a vengeance and was creeping up above her ankles. Now, even her hands had started to burn.

    Let me tell you, there's nothing more horrible for a human to experience than chronic pain!

    Now, the questions began in earnest. What had she done wrong? Why were all these bad things happening to her? Needless to say, some of the most 'helpful' friends were back with their painted smiles and zealous counsel... and inevitably, come on God! You've already taught us the pain lesson, do we really need this to top it off?

    Right about then, Sumi and Kiron (Aruna's brother and our sister-in-law) and my sister Anita put their support behind a proposal to visit Vellore's famous Christian Medical College Hospital. Additional pressure was brought to bear on us by Sumi's parents, the Muthiahs, as Mrs. Muthiah had herself taken treatment there for a broken ankle, and Mr. Muthiah was one of CMC's consultants and knew that it is an excellent hospital.

    It would be difficult and it would be beyond our means, but help was offered by all of these caring folks, and so we decided to give it a try. At least, one last consult wouldn't hurt, and perhaps CMC would find some way to help Aruna to walk a bit better and with less pain. A two day trip was planned, and our very good friends Paru and George Peter offered to come along. George's brother J.P. Peter is a special officer at CMC and he too offered his help, so off we went.

    The consult with the orthopedist Dr. Korula Mani Jacob was right to the point, Aruna had a neuropathic joint and that would not heal. Why the neuropathy? That question was answered by Dr. Vivek Matthews, who did a thorough exam and said he suspected a much more serious cause and that we should come back for comprehensive testing that may take as much as one week as an in-patient. We booked the room and went back to Coimbatore to eventually return after a month. It was a very controversial decision with some folks saying we were wasting time and money and that nothing practical could come of it - but with some more encouragement, we decided to give it a try.

    The one week stretched to two, she went to the operation theater twice and had consults with a host of different specialists. The ortho and physical medicine teams simultaneously worked out a solution for her walking. They came up with a footwear design, specially molded and designed for her that allowed pain free walking. In the meantime the neuro team concluded that it was clearly a case of CIDP, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (and asymmetric to boot).

    This was frightening to hear - an incurable autoimmune disorder! But there was a ray of hope. It had been caught early and before Aruna's muscles had lost their strength AND if treatment was started we could probably arrest its course and keep the CIDP from damaging any more nerves. And the biggest surprise of all was that the leg pain was not diabetic neuropathy and it was not fibromyalgia-myofascial pain, it was definitely the CIDP that was the culprit and eventually her leg pain too would abate as the immune system was readjusted by the treatment.

    Wow! All of a sudden here was hope.

    To put our 'struggles' into a little perspective, that was when we heard from our dear friends Gary and Susan Frede that Susan had decided to go into hospice care and to stop fighting the very terminal stage of ovarian cancer that she was in. What a witness they have been to God's love right through such suffering! I was specially privileged and amazed to hear her cheerful "Hi Sam!" one last time...

    In hindsight we now know that with her CIDP there was no chance at all of her ankle healing, for without healthy nerves, bones won't heal! On further thought we realize that had it not been for that awful broken leg , the two operations and then the subsequent failure to heal, we would just have got on with things as we had been and largely ignoring the leg pain as 'just one of those things'. In hindsight we know that we had been unresponsive to her pain signals, so it took something extreme to get us moving in the right direction. The added suffering, far from being a curse, was actually a blessing. Finally, if we had ended up going to any hospital other than CMC Vellore for diagnosis and treatment, it would have been disastrous!

    Now, because God had blessed us with that kick in the pants of some additional pain and suffering, we've been led to a new understanding, and if not a cure, at the very least we have some answers. The future has become one of hope, not one of despair.

    The thought that we might just have gone blithely on, and Aruna's muscles would have slowly deteriorated and then wasted away and soon there would have been no hope, only a terribly bleak future... that thought shows us that suffering is the first step to wisdom, so suffer the blessing!

    Our greatest blessing: Aruna and her famous smile!

    People to especially thank, not only for what they did but even more for how happily and lovingly they support us:

    Close friends and family: George Peter, Paru Peter, Sumi James, Kiron James, Anita Jeyaveeran, J.P. Peter, Usha and Leslie Bonney, Mr. and Mrs. Muthiah (Sumi's parents), Gary and Susan Frede, Sudhir and Sowdha James, John and Sheila Selwyn, and our own wonderful family doctor and close friend Dr. Ravi Thiagarajan.

    Our home gang: Furkhan and Fareed (our house guests), and all our wonderful young people (Rom and Saran's friends - our adopted kids) Manu, Vasanth, Ijaz, and Farah, and with our good friends Sundari and Xavier and  Christy and Christopher Karunakaran, their lovely daughters Lydia and Sarah, who are both part of the previous gen of adoptees that also includes Karthik Babu and Senthil, all of whom spread their love all around us like a lovely warm blanket!

    At CMC Vellore: Dr. Mathew Alexander,  Dr. Vivek Mathew, Dr. Korula Mani Jacob, Dr. Anil Kumar B. Patel, Dr. Ajith Sivadasan, Dr. Suresh Babu, Dr. Ajoy Oomen John, Mr. Sam Kirubakaran (PT), Dr. Sudha Jasmine, Mr. Joseph (Annexe), the nursing team, attenders, and cleaning staff at the A Ward. There are many more who need to be thanked who were never introduced to us, but we thank you all for being a part of our blessing.

    Those who came all the way to visit us and to pray with us at CMC included Professor Sundaram, Prakash Percey, Jayaraj Alexander, Rajkumar Richard and then that cloud of faithful witnesses who supported us in prayer and love from a distance...