Monday, September 16, 2019

Is your firm fulfilling the Corporate Environmental Responsibility?

Corporate environmental responsibility has been a matter of intense debate for at least two and a half decades now. Earth Summit in 1992 was the formal starting point of the international advocacy for better corporate environmental performance. Research about the role of a corporation in societal and environmental context revolves around the strategy adopted by the business and business policy domain. It has been a long quest to find out an empirical relationship between corporate social and environmental performance and financial performance. 

The fundamental research question has been to justify being socially and environmentally responsible for defying the economic rationality of shareholders’ wealth maximization. 

Margolis and Walsh (2003) conducted an extensive survey on the studies that focus on the empirical relation between corporate social and environmental initiatives and financial performance. Disclosure has been a prominent measure of environmental and social performance of firms. 

They covered 127 prominent studies that focus on this empirical association, out of which 105 studies followed the functional model where financial performance is taken as the dependent variable and environmental and social performance as the independent variable. Among these studies, 52 report positive association, 26 report non-significant association, 7 report negative association and 20 report mixed responses.

Corporate governance—

Corporate governance as the determining factor of corporate social and environmental disclosures is another important dimension in this field of research. The Report of the SEBI Committee on Corporate Governance (Securities Exchange Board of India, 2003) conceptualizes corporate governance as the ethical conduct of business with commitment to values. 

Corporate governance represents the culture of a company and forms the basis for the social and environmental performances and disclosures of a company. 

Internationally there is a high degree of difference between countries in their social and environmental reporting practices (Once & Almagtome, 2014). Netherlands and Scandinavian countries have legally enforceable environmental performance reporting requirements whereas companies in the United States have to submit their emissions data, which is publically available, to the Environment Protection Agency. Moreover, the Securities and Exchange Commission in the USA has defined a criterion for social and environmental disclosures that impact business. All this goes to show that the outcome of corporate behaviour is the result of interplay between social, cultural and legal systems of the country.

Corporate environmental disclosure: Summing up

Majority of the studies on the determinants of corporate environmental disclosure are for a limited number of countries only. Moreover, in case of cross-country studies, the country-specific variables are ignored and only firm-specific variables are taken into consideration. The choice of disclosure of corporate environmental information over and above regulatory disclosures is a trade-off between the desire of the corporate to disclose and the need of the stakeholders for the information. 

Moreover, the legal system of a country is evolved around the needs of its people. Environmental regulations differ among countries and these are not always correlated with the scarcity of the natural resources. The culture determines how the citizens of a country value natural resources. 

More than economic factors, the choice of environmental disclosures by corporates seem to be related with the culture of people of that country, its political freedom, legal system and freedom of press and media. 

You may also be interested in— 

Friday, September 13, 2019

How Big is India’s Rural Market?

Dinesh Kumar was a former Associate Professor (Marketing), Birla Institute of Management Technology (BIMTECH), Greater Noida. After finishing his MBA from Panjab University, he gained a wide experience in sales, marketing and rural distribution for over 15 years. He switched to teaching in 1995 on receiving a teaching fellowship from Norway. SAGE is the proud publisher of his book “Rural Marketing”, co-authored with Punam Gupta. SAGE has a fast-growing list of high-quality textbooks in Marketing.

There are a number of myths about Rural Marketing. One of the myths relates to the size of India’s rural markets. Since two-thirds of India’s population of 1.3 billion people live in rural areas, it is said to constitute a huge market. Many people write that India’s rural markets represent huge marketing opportunities in the face of saturated urban markets.

Many writers and consultancies suggest that rural marketing an easy task since it represents a large proportion of under-served markets. McKinsey’s report Bird of Gold, for instance, expects incomes to triple by 2025, and while “the new wealth and consumption will be created in urban areas, rural households will benefit too.”

While researching for our book, Rural Marketing (Sage, 2017), we found this to be a rather simplistic understanding of the subject. Many companies have discovered that marketing in rural areas is not as simple as tapping into a virgin market. Our analysis shows that the rural market is not very easy to exploit. If we look closely, we find that rural marketing cannot be thought of as simply marketing in rural areas. Since even large companies struggle to get their rural marketing approach right, there is a need for a proper understanding of the subject and to redefine strategy based on market realities.

Economic projections apart, poverty, indebtedness, and isolation persist in rural markets. The fact is that much of India’s rural population is poor and lacks purchasing power. There is great inequality of income and certain segments lack access to resources. Thus, while a rural inhabitant of the USA can afford a comfortable lifestyle, many people barely subsist in rural India. Those living below the poverty line and marginally above it, also lack resources for market participation. If we exclude the poor and those barely above the poverty line in rural areas, the size of the rural market is considerably reduced and is not as large as it looks in census figures.

Poverty, broken roads, lack of jobs, inaccessibility – these problems reduce the number of people who can actually buy the wonderful products that modern marketing offers.

In fact, a big challenge in rural marketing is how to reach markets and to supply to retailers who are usually poor and lack resources to buy stocks of goods. If companies realize this, it will prevent them from making the mistakes that many companies have made in rural India.

Read the SAGE textbook Rural Marketing by Dinesh Kumar and Punam Gupta closely analyses two crucial components of the rural market—marketing to rural areas and empowering the ‘bottom-of-pyramid’ (BoP) markets to create successful business ventures.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Developing the Essential Skills of Effective Communication

Dr. Ujjwala Kakarla is a poet and author. She is working as a Senior English Language Expert at Trans Aviacons Pvt Ltd (Air Force Academy) in Hyderabad. She worked as Prof. of English in various technical institutions and Deemed University for more than a decade. SAGE is the proud publisher of her book “Functional English for Communication”, co-authored with Tanu Gupta and Leena Pundir. SAGE has a fast-growing list of high-quality textbooks on education.

Basic Skills of Language: An Input to Effective Communication

English seems to be an easy language when learnt by means of informative approach. When used as a skill approach, many learners feel difficult to listen and understand, read and understand, speak and write to communicate naturally and spontaneously. We can’t describe a flower without its parts-petals, sepal, stigma, stem, etc. So too, language cannot be described without its foundation skills- Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Moreover, Language cannot be developed without its basic pillars- vocabulary, Grammar, Pronunciation and spelling. English is truly a complex language with crazy inventions, strange words, lexical relations and misinterpretations.

To increase the level of English proficiency and interaction, the secret code is- practicing with the aid of helpful exercises, descriptions, language games and group discussions. The foremost need is to apply a few wise strategies to learn, practice, grow and develop your basic skills:

Creating your Vocabulary
Regular note making of passive words and expressions is one of the easiest ways to learn their contextual usage creating as many sentences as possible. Further, many of these passive words can be turned into active vocabulary by means of creating stories and essays that help you remember better and spell effectively.

Description of Pictures
Choose any appealing image and describe it in as many details as you can. Learners get acquainted with as many adjectives as possible and understand how to spontaneously express their feelings and perceptions.

Practice English Grammar Exercises
Choose such exercises that explain the grammatical concepts in a clear and simple way. By practicing grammar-related aspects regularly, you can boost up your confidence and be able to speak and write English with ease.

Conversations/Role Plays
The conversation or dialogues learners practice in the classroom is a pair work. These activities overcome the shyness and fear among the students. They also help the students to boost up their confidence to speak the language.

Role plays make students experience a realistic situation. They sharpen their listening skills and bring them in contact with the new language and discover areas where they need additional practice.

Language Games
Language games are learner-centred that promote communicative competence and create a meaningful context for language use. Moreover, they increase learning motivation, reduce learning anxiety, integrate various linguistic skills and foster spontaneous use of language.

Group Discussions
Group discussions help learners in developing their listening and speaking skills. Depending on the type of discussions, it is useful to draw up a list of useful functional language for the learners to refer to. These include phrases for functions such as giving reasons and giving an opinion.

The mastery or proficiency of language lies in being able to understand and use it in both the modes- receptive and expressive. Teaching must aim at an effective mastery of basic skills by every learner. These basic skills are an input to effective communication.

Read the SAGE textbook Functional English for Communication by Ujjwala Kakarla, Tanu Gupta and Leena Pundir will help readers enrich their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills through a large number of practice exercises and examples from academic and professional areas.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Digital Transformation Challenge of the 2020s

In recent years, the term ‘digital transformation’ has pervaded the business press, becoming one of those buzzwords that’s almost impossible to avoid.  But while it’s easy to mock or dismiss the catchy phrases of the day, their rise and fall is usually telling us something about developments in the real-world marketplace.  The question is: what?

For more than a decade, large organizations have been migrating to cloud computing, software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and other internet-based services.  But the global technology community now anticipates a much more powerful wave of change based upon various combinations of smart products, machine learning, algorithmic processes, robotic automation, data-driven operations, and new forms of value creation. Taken together, these capabilities comprise a vision for transformed, 21st-century organizations that look much more like today’s digital giants than the traditional global firm.  It’s hard to overestimate the potential of these changes.

But as the mountaineers say, beware of mistaking a clear vision for a short distance, as the timetable for digital transformation remains highly uncertain.  No one can say precisely when game-changing innovations will reach critical mass, how quickly machine intelligence will advance, what new platforms will be established, how China and India will alter the competitive playing field, or how different the organizations of the future will ultimately be.  No amount of data and analysis can fully answer these questions.

What we do know is that information technology has already transformed or disrupted huge parts of the global economy.  We also know that the current wave of automation and intelligence technologies holds at least as much – and I think even more – potential than anything we have seen thus far.  Despite the uncertainties, it’s hard to bet against the broad-based impact of information technology over the long course of the 2020s.  Today’s digital leaders understand this intuitively.

This tension between highly significant expected changes and highly uncertain timing shapes the digital transformation challenge today and is one of the key themes of my recent book, Seeing Digital: A Visual Guide to the Industries, Organizations, and Careers of the 2020s Over the next decade, information technology is destined to reshape just about every industry and organization – and a great many jobs -- as data, intelligence, connectivity, and automation are brought to bear on virtually every business and human activity.  And once an organization embraces this outlook, the phrase ‘digital transformation’ is no longer just a glitzy buzzword; it’s the term we use to describe the process through which 21st-century global market leadership will eventually emerge.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The tale of ‘Outsourced pregnancy’

“A woman can be a ‘surrogate’ mother only because her womanhood is deemed irrelevant and she is declared an ‘individual’ performing a service. At the same time, she can be a ‘surrogate’ mother only because she is a woman” (Pateman 1988: 217).

Did you know?

  • India became the surrogacy capital of the world with the legalisation of commercial surrogacy in 2002.
  • Surrogacy in India is estimated to be a 2.3-billion-dollar industry that has grown phenomenally in the past two decades.
  • Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, […] bans surrogacy for foreigners and also bans commercial surrogacy in India.

Surrogacy and commodification of a woman’s body

Both patriarchy and the market have encouraged commodification of women’s bodies, and with the advent of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), this has become even more visible. New reproductive technologies (NRTs) and ART have also brought about a new dimension to reproduction that separates sex from pregnancy.

The earlier understanding of sex/intercourse as the only way leading to reproduction is being increasingly questioned.

Both medicine and the market, through surrogacy, have further deepened the exercise of power and control over women’s bodies, particularly their reproductive capacity.

The ‘business’ of surrogacy in India: How is surrogacy marketed in India?

  • For example, the leaflet of a fertility centre in Hyderabad says, ‘Life deserves the best…we try to fulfill your need for a Child’.
  • One hospital in Mumbai claims, ‘A thousand already born…thousand more to be.’
  • The website of a fertility clinic in Bangalore says, ‘Is your longing for a child unfulfilled? Your search ends here.’
  • One clinic in Delhi states their motto is ‘helping families complete’.
  • NOVA IVI fertility clinic, which has branches across the country, has taglines like ‘NOVA IVI is no fairytale, it is a dream come true’; and ‘Restoring hope in couples’.
  • One clinic in Hyderabad claims, ‘We have 75% success rate during summers too!’ (as summer is not an ideal season for embryo implantation).

In a desperate pursuit for one’s own biological child, couples go doctor-shopping from one clinic to another.

Concerns, stigma and limitations—

  • Surrogate mothers not only fight with the larger society against the stigma attached to surrogacy, and with the clinics where they are under ‘house arrest’. 
  • Accepting to become surrogates comes at a price for these women who have to negotiate stigma, separation from family, guilt and the side effects to health that come with an IVF pregnancy. 
  • There is also an expectation from the doctors and the commissioning couple about behaving like a ‘perfect mother-worker’, which means nurturing no emotional bonds with the foetus. 
  • The compensation amounts that the surrogates receive for surrogacy are not permanent life-changing amounts for them. 
  • The reproductive rights of the surrogates—which may include the decision to abort the child, to keep the child if diagnosed with any disease and whether to go for a vaginal delivery or a caesarian section—are all taken away from them. 
  • They have no decision-making powers over the pregnancy and are reduced to just being baby-production machines. 
  • Any criticism of surrogacy is countered by invoking the stereotypical images of motherhood, parenthood and family. 
  • The commodification of a woman’s body has been further enabled with developments in ART. 
  • The medicalisation procedures that ART prescribes can have serious health implications for both the couple and the surrogate that are often not talked about by the fertility industry.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

From a boring job to a meaningful adventure!

Check out what transformational leadership does 

“Employees can achieve superior business performance through their ability to generate ideas and translate these ideas into successful products and services.” 

In today’s knowledge economy, work has become more knowledge based and less strictly defined. 

Transformational leaders motivate their followers to relook their job by elevating the status of the job from being boring, repetitive and menial into something more meaningful and significant. This ascendance of employee’s job as something important and its contribution to overall organizational vision is what prompts them to engage in innovative work behaviour. Therefore, it would be interesting to test the indirect effect of transformational leadership on followers’ innovative work behaviour as mediated through followers’ perception of meaningful work.

Previous studies have indicated that employees’ innovative workplace behaviour (IWB) depends a great deal on their interaction with their peers, supervisors, subordinates, and clients. 

One such valued interaction which leads to innovative ideas and creative work solutions is one that happens between an employee and his/her supervisor. Leaders strongly influence employees’ work behaviours, particularly their innovative behaviours. 

Basadur (2004) stated that in future the most effective business leaders,
…will help individuals […] to coordinate and integrate their differing styles through a process of applied creativity that includes continuously discovering and defining new problems, solving those problems and implementing the new solutions. (p. 103)

Transformational leadership leads to performance beyond expectation by linking employees’ self-concept with organization’s mission and by urging their subordinates to think out of box and display innovative behaviour. 

Gaps and limitations—

However, the relationship between transformational leadership and employee innovative behaviour still remains underdeveloped. A degree of ambiguity and confusion is also associated with the effect of transformational leadership. 

Furthermore, Howell and Avolio (1999) in their study have discussed the manipulativeness of some charismatic leaders that raises question on the ethical intention of such leaders. Such leaders (pseudo-transformational leaders) will not approve of their follower’s innovativeness or creativity. These leaders would prefer their subordinates to be dependent on them than to be independent and productive. 

What actually helps!

Transformational leaders positively influence followers’ job outcomes particularly their innovative behaviours by helping them attach meaning to their work. 

This alignment of sense of meaningfulness of work with organizational goals motivate subordinates to perform beyond expectation, engage in extra role activities and demonstrate innovative workplace behaviour. 

Transformational leaders encourage their followers to challenge status quo and stimulate them intellectually to look for innovative solutions to the existing problems. Due to high performance expectations from transformational leaders, the followers reciprocate creativity, innovativeness and entrepreneurial intentions. 

Transformational leaders also constantly encourage their followers to not settle for mediocre

results and instigate them to strive for difficult and challenging goals by transforming the follower’s inclination for creative perspectives. 

Click here to read the complete article.

Monday, August 12, 2019

A man’s territory?─Analysing Automobile Advertisements

Gender in advertising has received extensive scholarly attention. It is among the most researched topics in advertising ethics. Past researchers have investigated various concerns related to gender roles in advertisements. Of particular concern to the present study is the existence of gender stereotype indicating a traditional male dominance in advertisements. 

The general case of generic representation: breeding ground for biases─

Women are generally depicted as homemakers, caretakers of the family and children, cleaner of the house, endorser of beauty products or sex objects. 

Women’s roles are often decorative, recreational, emotional, inconsequential, subservient to men and defined by men. Women are also frequently portrayed as less knowledgeable than men. 

On the other hand, men are mostly depicted as dominant, authoritarian, professional, decision makers and independent. Gender asymmetry is further apparent in the higher frequency of appearance of men and predominant male ad orientation. More often than not, the voice-overs, primary product users, and main characters are also male. 

Automobile advertising and men─

Overrepresentation of men in advertisements is a universal phenomenon. Automobile advertisements have always been oriented toward men. From being extremely informative in the 1950s and 1960s, automobile advertisements took the shape of entertaining short movies in the 1980s. The advertisements of the 1990s promoted technology and contemporary advertisements focus on style. But in spite of these changes, an underlying commonality has been the extreme focus on men. Automobiles have always been a man’s territory. 

Recent years have seen a reduction in restrictions based on traditional gender roles. More and more women are demonstrating behaviors and foraying into professions that are traditionally considered masculine. However, still, a disproportionally small number of women drive an automobile in India. This observation lends relevance to the examination of gender roles in contemporary automobile advertising.

What did a recent research on automobile advertising show?

  • All the four measures used to examine stereotypic expectancies in automobile advertisements (i.e., ad orientation, gender of voice-over, gender of dominant product user, and gender of main character) exhibit preference for the male gender.
  • The incidence of male ad orientation, male voice-overs, dominant male users and male main characters was higher in the sample of automobile advertisements than the sample of non-automobile advertisements.

─Taken from Fueling Gender Stereotypes: A Content Analysis of Automobile Advertisements in Business Perspectives and Research 

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Friday, August 09, 2019

Waste Management: A Reverse Supply Chain Perspective

From space, planet Earth appears to be incredibly rich as exemplified in the symbolic image of ‘Earth Rise’ captured by the crew of Apollo 8 on 24 December, 1968. 

It seems improbable that in less than 50 years since then, the planet could be on the brink of a set of disasters. One of the most visible disasters facing us today is the growing volume of waste generated in both the production and consumption of goods and services. 

The increase in waste can be traced back to two specific observations. First, there is a significant increase in world population. Second, there has been a rise in per capita incomes of individual consumers. 

Statistics about waste across industries— 

Did you know?

The global waste market, from collection to recycling, is estimated at US$410 billion a year, not including the sizable informal segment in developing countries.

Recycling a tonne of aluminium saves 1.3 tonnes of bauxite residues, 15 m3 of cooling water, 0.86 m3 of process water, and 37 barrels of oil, while preventing the emission of 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide and 11 kg of sulfur dioxide.

In 2000, recycling activities in the European Union (EU) created 229,286 jobs, which by 2008 had increased to 512,337—an annual growth rate of 10.57 per cent.

One tonne of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) contains as much gold as 5–15 tonnes of typical gold ore, and amounts of copper, aluminium and rare metals that exceed by many times the levels found in typical ores.

Focusing on the long-term issue—

For example, the scale of waste incineration facilities should be determined not only by focusing on current waste disposal but also keeping in mind how their use might decline in the longer term due to reuse and recycling efforts. This would not only enhance economic, environmental, and social values but also extend product life cycles and facilitate the use of regenerative materials.

In sum, state-private partnerships typically address many current problems. It is essential that such partnerships evolve to integrate a system-wide focus necessary to achieve the 3R’s of waste management over a longer time horizon.

—Taken from Waste Management: A Reverse Supply Chain Perspective in Vikalpa: The Journal for Decision Makers.

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Thursday, August 08, 2019

Fossil Fuels, GHG Emissions and Clean Energy Development

During the post-1970 period, there has been an impressive increase in energy consumption across the world. The primary energy consumption has increased at an annual growth rate of 2.21 per cent over this period. Energy baskets of a large number of countries remained dominated by fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

There has been an increased significance of natural gas in recent times. Similarly, the share of nuclear energy has increased over time. However, the hydro energy sources did not see much expansion in terms of their share in overall energy mix, whereas there has been a mild increase in the share of other renewable energy sources.

There has been not only the dominance of fossil fuels, viz. oil, coal and natural gas, in world energy basket over time but they have also remained largely irreplaceable. Owing to their carbon-rich nature, their burning contributed to global warming through GHG emissions.

The magnitude of CO2 emissions was 5,891.71 MtCO2e in 1951. Since then, it increased by 5.74 times. In such situation, there is a growing concern within the international community about rising GHG levels, especially CO2, because of its impact on global warming.

Owing to a large number of efforts, the developed nations, at large, are making efforts to contain their CO2 emissions. A move towards low-carbon economies is considered as a key strategy to attain this objective. In this line, a number of innovations are taking place and the development of clean energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, bio-fuels etc. is gaining momentum.

Still there persist various technology-related issues but at the same time, efforts are being made to bridge the gap through trade and investment financing. But, on the whole, a good progress seems to be made.

Global Significance of Asian Giants—

In Asia, there are three major economies, viz. China, India and Japan. Spread over 9.85 per cent of world’s surface area, they reside about 40 per cent of world’s population.
These Asian Giants account for a major share in world GDP. n terms of energy-related indicators, the Asian Giants are quite distinct. The reserves of fossil fuels especially oil are very limited in China and India—Japan does not have any reserve of oil and natural gas. China has a relatively large reserve of natural gas than India. Similarly, its reserve of coal is significantly large. In terms of the magnitude of primary energy consumption, the disparities are much larger. China alone accounts for 22.92 per cent of world’s total primary energy consumption. Similarly, India and Japan also account for a significant share in world total consumption of primary energy.


Two major conclusions: First, there has been large fossil fuel dependence of the Asian Giants. Second, the effort made by the Asian Giants in not only the development of clean energy installed capacities but also the development of clean energy technologies especially by China and Japan is remarkable. India could not do much on technology fronts except than developing its installed capacities through imported equipment.

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Incorporating Artificial Intelligence into your Digital Transformation Journey

by Amitabh P Mishra & Ashish Ranjan, co-authors, A Modern Playbook of Digital Transformation

Let’s assume you have figured out your Digital Transformation strategy, and have already embarked on the execution of the strategy that includes initiatives based on analytics and IoT. Now, however, due to a number of reasons, senior management wishes you to foray into AI – e.g. it is expected to provide a competitive advantage or enhance the image of the organization or its ability to attract top talent.

Among the first questions that you’ll need to answer are: Does AI have a place in my industry? If it does, where should I start?

The concept of artificial intelligence is widely misunderstood. The reality is, most of what passes for AI today doesn’t contain any element of ‘intelligence.’ For example, if your HR system is voice-enabled and responds to your questions and requests, it’d be referred to as ‘AI technology.’ In reality, the system must include the element of learning in order to be called AI.

AI is a journey, of which RPA (robotic process automation) is the first step. RPA mimics human actions, while AI simulates human intelligence. In other words, RPA merely ‘does,’ while AI ‘thinks, does, and grows more intelligent with time.’

Therefore, consider starting your AI journey with RPA as the first step, e.g. to automate your HR processes such as reimbursement or payroll processing, or finance processes such as GST, taxes, Account Payables or Receivables. This technology primarily uses ‘chatbots,’ or simply ‘bots,’ that automatically performs manual, repetitive tasks.

Here’s an example of a business scenario RPA can help you automate: business travel. The key challenge is the volume of invoices from the travel partners or agencies, the time and effort to process the paperwork (the invoices along with supporting documents). The repetitive nature of the task makes it eminently suited for automation. The workforce employed in handling this task can be released for higher value-add tasks.

Now, let’s take a look at the scope of the task. For a company with $1B of annual sales, it may translate into the following order of volume of paperwork per month: 4,000 airline invoices, 6,000 hotel invoices, and 2,500 taxicab invoices.
Your objectives could be:

  • 75% reduction in manual data extraction. RPA technology will improve the effectiveness of automated scanning and data extraction. 
  • 100% integration with ERP and other systems that will use the extracted data in downstream systems. 
  • Reduction of manpower requirement by 80%, in terms of FTEs. 
After performing an analysis of the various products in the market, you may narrow down your options to one of several leading OEMs such as UI Path, Automation Anywhere, or Blue Prism.

You may then evaluate the competing proposals on the basis of a framework consisting of: (a) architectural fitment, (b) financial benefit, (c) ease of adoption and use, (d) time taken to realize the benefit, and (e) total cost of deployment and ownership.

Once you pick the product and the partner, the next question is whether you’d want to go for a full-fledged implementation perform a PoC first. In order to minimize your risk and to be able to demonstrate success quickly to senior management, a PoC may make sense.

A word here about senior management buy-in. You may want to follow a two-pronged approach: first, provide annualized benefit numbers, clearly mentioning the source (e.g. $0.8M reduction of costs due to 75% lower FTE requirement). Second, portray the benefits as direct, i.e. revenue increase or cost reduction. Anything else would be indirect – e.g. increase in employee productivity. Senior managers would always ask you: so what if we increase productivity? Can we reduce our headcount? If not, this is only an indirect benefit.

RPA is not an end in itself, but a required step in the journey to incorporate AI into your Digital Transformation journey. By following a deliberate process to identify a suitable business problem, and a thoughtful process to pick a product, a partner and a strategy, you can get AI to go work for you

A Modern Playbook of Digital Transformation

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What ails the IAS & Why It Fails to Deliver?: An Insider’s View by Naresh Chandra Saxena

Despite their high integrity, hard work, and competence, IAS officers, who occupy almost all senior administrative positions in the states and Centre, have not been able to improve development outcomes for common citizens. India could not achieve many Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, particularly in hunger, health, nutrition, gender, and sanitation. India’s social indicators are today worse than countries poorer than India such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. Besides, growth has not helped the most marginalized groups, such as tribals and women. Of all the disadvantaged groups, tribals, especially in Central India, have been the worst sufferers, primarily because of anti-tribal forest policy, displacement laws, and poor governance. Section 46(1) of the Rajasthan Tenancy Act places women at par with lunatics and idiots. 

IAS officers working as Collectors and Commissioners have not been able to ensure that teachers and doctors remain present in their place of postings and provide quality services. Land records are terribly outdated with the result that nearly two-thirds of all pending cases in Indian courts are related to property disputes which take an average of 20 years to settle. The IAS Secretaries in the state governments collude with the junior staff and do not honestly report figures on hunger deaths, malnutrition, usage of toilets, etc, leading to erosion of accountability. They are also not able to ensure regular monthly payment of honorarium to the contractual staff, such as para teachers, Rozgar Sahayaks, AWWs, and cooks in MDM.

The author argues that not only many welfare programs have a design flaw, governance in India at the state and district levels is also quite weak, manifesting itself in poor service delivery, uncaring administration, corruption, and wasteful public expenditure.

The book also describes how reforms initiated by the author failed to make any impact because most IAS officers resist change, or are indifferent to the poor. He got a new law passed in UP for preventing tribal land alienation, but not a single acre of land was restored to the tribals. The economic philosophy that he followed in his career was, 'socialism for the poor and free market for the rich'. The political and administrative system in India, on the other hand, seems to be believing in 'indifference to the poor, and controls over the rich to facilitate rent-seeking'.

As Joint Secretary, Minorities Commission, he exposed the communal bias of district administration in handling riots in Meerut, but he was punished for bringing to light killing of innocent Muslim women and children by the police. 

When the Bihar bureaucracy had collapsed during the Lalu years of 1990-2005, he sent a letter to the Chief Secretary of Bihar accusing many IAS officials of behaving like 'politicians - the English speaking politicians - corrupt, with short term targets, narrow horizons, feudal outlook, disrespect for norms, contributing nothing to the welfare of the nation, empty promises, and no action.'

The book is full of anecdotes ranging from how the author resisted political corruption that led to Prime Minister's annoyance, to a situation when the author himself 'bribed' the Chief Minister to scrap oppressive laws against tribal women.

The author analyses the present Indian situation and suggests policy changes in all cross-cutting systemic issues, such as the role of politicians, tenure, size and nature of Indian bureaucracy, accountability, monitoring of programs, and civil service reforms, which will transform individual competence of IAS officers into better collective outcomes

What Ails the IAS and Why It Fails to Deliver

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Friday, August 02, 2019

The science behind the drinking pattern of youth 

A substantial body of research shows that young people’s first alcoholic drink and first intoxication usually occur in their final years of elementary school and peak before their mid-20s. 

But is there a pattern? 

Young people’s alcohol consumption on a given day is the combined result of their present life circumstances, past experiences, and future expectations.

Previous studies indicate that both early drinking onset and heavy drinking during adolescence are associated with family background characteristics, including social class, income and education. Alcohol consumption during adolescence is also associated with cultural factors such as gender roles, for example, masculine, risk-oriented lifestyles, parental styles and peer-group pressure. 

These studies provide important insights about the structural factors influencing youth drinking, individual decision-making in the social context must also be taken into consideration. 

Alcohol consumption is closely associated with the social context 

There is often an assumption that young men and women have to learn to become alcohol users by following the culturally prescribed pattern of drinking in which drinking too much—or too little—may lead to low popularity. 


Daily alcohol consumption is categorized into five groups: not drinking (not shown), cautious drinking (one unit of alcohol), moderate drinking (2–5 units of alcohol for men and 2–4 units for women), binge drinking (6–10 units for men and 5–10 for women) and heavy binge drinking (more than 10 units of alcohol). At age 15–16, both genders are most likely to drink on a Friday when most consume between 2–4 units of alcohol (about 40% of the men and 37% of the women). 

» Saturday is the second most likely day for this age group. 
» Results show men become more likely to be weekend bingers. 

» At age 15–16 and 18–19, academic motivation is positively associated with belonging to the majority group and negatively associated with heavy drinkers. 

» ‘Family socio-economic background’ variables such as parents’ education and income are not strongly associated with the young people’s weekly drinking patterns. 

» Family instability is, however, significantly associated with less likelihood of belonging to the majority group and weekend drinking at age 15–16 and 18–19. 

» Regarding ‘lifestyle indicators’, both smoking cigarettes and having friends described as drunk are strongly related to a weekly drinking typology with high alcohol intake. 

» Temporal drinking patterns were associated with individual factors (gender, academic motivation), family socio-economic background (parental income and education, family instability), lifestyle indicators and past drinking patterns. 

» The main finding is that young people have very distinctive weekly drinking patterns. 

» Lack of academic motivation was found to be associated with high alcohol intake at age 15–16 and 18–19. 

Click here to read the article. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Analysing—Online Queries on Sexual Health

Sexuality is an important aspect of the human personality and influences the thoughts, behaviors and emotions of humans. With so many aspects of one’s life being influenced by sexuality, it is only natural that humans have always had questions regarding sexuality.

The stigma attached—

People suffering from sexual health problems and dysfunctions have a lot of stigma approaching health care professionals. With the coming in of Internet-based services, people are finding it easier to seek help online anonymously.

As an industry, this is likely to continue to grow and offer opportunities to people in distress to seek help.

According to a recent United States survey, 52 million adults have used the World Wide Web to obtain health or medical information.

However, the information consumed may/may not be accurate—

“Sexually frustrated men make a beeline for anyone who calls himself a sexologist, blissfully unaware that India has no medical sexology course.”

Even India’s most famous sexologist, Dr Prakash Kothari, concedes that “there is no qualification to become one. One becomes a sexologist either from experience or attending conferences abroad.”

Gender disparity:

96.8% of the queries come from men. Why?

Variety of reasons were culled out from the research such as:

  • The gender difference could be due to the clinician being a male, and that this could also have created hesitation in women seeking help.
  • Sexuality is still treated as a taboo, reinforced by parents, prominent personalities, and society at large.
  • It could also be related to the assumption that women in India do not experience sexual issues.
  • Anxiety, shame, and embarrassment displayed by men influenced with pornography instigate them to ask numerous questions on online healthcare portals which may/may not have expertize.

A probable solution and gateway to authentic health information—

The Indian Government has started a National Health Portal Gateway to authentic health information. offers a number of services which include mSwasthya—a mobile app which can be used to consult a doctor—among other uses. So the reach is far and wide even in the rural areas of the country and can be accessed by anyone having a smartphone.