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10 defining moments of 2014

Another year has just passed by and as we welcome the new year of 2015, I took the first new year resolution that I will pen down 10 defining moments of 2014, which I feel had impacted the world. I am sure 2015 will be an exciting and good year for me – because, here I am taking time out on 1st Jan to honour my new year resolution. Believe me, this is a record for me and I pat my back myself :-) Coming away from the self-glory mode, let me focus on really writing on the 10 defining moments (in a chronological order based on the time of occurrence)

Welcome-2015-Bye-Bye-2014-5

1) Early 2014, most probably around Feb, we came to know the devastation being caused by the outbreak of Ebola. While the outbreak of Ebola is not new to mankind, what this made me feel that we are probably still hundreds of years behind unravelling the mysteries of nature. While technology has progressed by leaps and bounds in last few decades, still we are at a mercy to understand life and it’s manifestations through different forms – some makes us smile with hope, some makes us cry with despair. We can only hope for the best in the years to come ….

2) Political muscle power has been in display over hundreds, thousands of years. In olden days, kings used to force into others land in search of valuable resources. People have killed people easily in wars fighting over territories and show of strength. Ego’s have played big in many leaders of the world, past and present. Wars have been inflicted under the excuses of “imaginary” weapons; gaining “strategic” geographical positions to keep an eye on what others are doing; crippling economic growth or at least try to do so has been in play for years. So, when the Ukraine conflict started in Feb / March ’14, we are once again reminded of the erstwhile Cold War in action. While that struggle of power still continues, sometimes I laugh at the irony of human civilisations – on the one hand we give “peace awards” and talk of peace, harmony, development, growth; on the other side, the same hand does not hesitate to take action to break the same peace & harmony ! What a contradiction of human beings !

3) Disaster hit us when the ill-fated flight of MH370 just disappeared from everyone’s eyes. Yes – just “disappeared” ! In today’s world, when technology is in fingertips of people everywhere in the world, it is sad to convince ourselves that a big flight with so many people can just “disappear” from everything ! Or are we really convinced ? Till date, we have not got any conclusion of this disappearance – and till that happens, let us humans remain optimistic with the belief that the individuals in that flight are safe somewhere !

4) Came May’14 and came an event that has been rare in Indian politics for last few years. Came a political party with absolute majority by itself in forming the government of India after many, many years – thereby decimating the main opposition party by a huge margin. While I will not deliberate on whether this is good or bad for India, what we all have to admit is there is a big brand of NaMo on the rise – that one individual can take on everything and yet succeed in winning the elections is something I have not witnessed in my lifetime. Positive perception of India is on the rise since that day, stock markets have been consistently high – only thing to wait and watch for is whether the “acchhe din” (good days) have really come or not.

5) For every four years, sports lovers across the world always wait for the grand event of FIFA World Cup to happen – so, Jun’14 was the time of the year when people lifted themselves from their frustrations, problems of life and focused attention on the sand, beaches, beauties of Brazil. As always, this world cup also brought great tactical football – apart from that, two things really caught me unawares. Firstly, how frustration and disappointment on performance in one match can bring the demon out (again !) of a star and classy player of Luis Suarez! It was hard to believe even after seeing the replays that he actually bit a player (again!). The other thing was apparent from the first game – Brazil was riding on hope, emotions rather than quality play in the world cup. But that’s not what surprised me – the utter desolation, collapse of their play and riding on emotions was so spectacular that they conceded 7 goals in a world cup semifinals ! Germany scored 3 goals in 76 Seconds and 4 goals in 4 minutes (have a look at this article) – can you still believe that ? I have never witnessed such a collapse in football ever, that too in a semifinal of a world cup !

6) Oct’14 witnessed the recognition of human peace – the Nobel Peace Prize‘s were awarded to Malala (Pak) and Kailash Satyarthi (India). Contributions by these two individuals are undisputed – one a very “matured” girl, the other a great person. But what this made me to think that while so much animosity, fighting happening on a daily basis along the Indo-Pak border, here are two individuals from these two nations talking peace, walking hand in hand. Such contradictory visuals – but you still feel that one day, this “dispute” will come to an end and then common people from these countries can actually walk hand in hand.

7) Indian football arena was suddenly buzz with excitement with the launch of Indian Super League (ISL) in Nov’14. Optimism was running high and expectations were that Indian football will improve by leaps and bounds after this month-long tournament. Rationale was that if you practice, play and rub shoulders with players like Del Piero, Anelka, Pires, Materazzi, James, etc, definitely something will be transferred to the Indian players, apart from sweat and dust. Well, I had already shared my personal views on ISL in one of my earlier blog entitled “Indian Super League (ISL) – the saviour or the conqueror?” (https://ayanmajumdar.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/indian-super-league-isl-the-saviour-or-the-conqueror/). But definitely football had become more “family” game when you saw families going to the stadiums. Whether that enthusiasm still runs high when iLeague starts is something to watch for.

8) Internet freedom has been under threat for sometime now. Internet was defined as a place where expressions can be shared “freely”; technology is being advertised even today as “technology does not discriminate” – but in last 5 years, I have seen a throttling of such speech by ruling governments, whenever someone expresses opinions which does not suit or favour the parties in power. I personally feel that internet should be kept “free” and governments / corporations should not clamp down on the benefits for their gains. I also feel that control should be exercised by police if internet is used to violate laws (like fostering terrorism, human trafficking, etc). But broadly if technology can provide cheap facilities to common man for communication, expressions – then why will organisations intervene and try to control that for their benefits, monetary or otherwise. The small incident that happened in India in Dec’14 forced me to think on this topic – that is when Bharti Airtel planned to impose VoiP charges on consumers just because they are unable to compete with the likes of  WhatsApp, Skype, Hangouts, etc. While this was an incident of curtailing net-freedom because of profits, the issues of internet freedom will continue to haunt us in the years to come.

9) Throughout the year 2014, oil prices have been falling steadily. The oil price has fallen by more than 40% since June, when it was $115 a barrel. Currently is around $70 a barrel. At a meeting in Vienna on November, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which controls nearly 40% of the world market, failed to reach agreement on production curbs, sending the price tumbling. Also hard hit are oil-exporting countries such as Russia (where the rouble has hit record lows), Nigeria, Iran and Venezuela. While experts can analyse why this is happening, my guess as a layman is that again the reason of “conquest” amongst nations is probably the main reason. Of course, as a common Indian, I welcome this “fighting” amongst nations for a change – because at the end of the day, I can buy petrol at a cheaper price. Thanks for this “disagreement” and hope that this “disagreement” increases more and more in the years to come.

10) Finally, as I was almost certain the year will come to an end peacefully with no major incidents, came another out of the blue related to Indian cricket. The “sudden” retirement of MS Dhoni from test cricket at the end of the 3rd test at MCG between India and Australia has opened up all kinds of theories. We love controversies, we love “sudden” decisions, we love to be “experts” – we definitely had another opportunity to voice our opinions, have debates amongst friends and foes, listen to TV “experts” discussing on the issue, etc. Definitely the year ended with a huge energy level for sure :-)

So, with an opening balance of high “energy” levels, I am sure 2015 will be more energetic than ever. With this, I wish you and your families a very happy and prosperous new year 2015 !

The continuous change

“The only thing that is constant is change” – never before this statement of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus is true than today. The world has changed dramatically in last 10-20 years – and I am referring to the positive change, not the negativity surrounding the change (like inequality, extremism & radical views, etc). And we as professionals working in this world for last 10-15 years have actually experienced the change with our own lives. Further we can see further dramatic change in the near future as well – we don’t need to be a philosopher to predict this.

I believe the fundamental drivers behind this major change are two main reasons : 1) the rise of the so-called “third world” economies now often referred to as BRIC countries and 2) the rise and popularity of internet and ability to do business across the world almost seamlessly. And when I refer to internet, it is not the “conventional” desktop / laptop based internet, but the revolution that was triggered through the mobile technology (be it our smart phones or our tablets or a combination of the above).

The economic growth in the “third world” countries has helped in not only creation of wealth and “hunger” for materialistic goods, but also helped in drive huge “aspirations” to compete with the once-upon-a-time Goliath’s of the world.  Even the population of some of the BRIC countries (once perceived as total “curse”) has helped in bringing in that aspirational energy into life – that to some extent has become the “strengths” of the emerging countries. The average age of working people have reduced drastically in these countries. This has not only increased consumerism but also making available global pool of skilled resources that is challenging some of the foundations of the west.

The cheap availability of internet along with its capability to force business through has helped in driving more global optimisations within corporations. Hence, issues like supply chain optimisation across the globe is now possible – wherein you look for quality but cheaper supply chain catering to different market segments. While there will always a set of the market looking for the best of Ferrari, Apple; there will also be a big part of the market who are ready to accept a product having 60% of the features but at 40% price discount. All these potentially can be addressed through a global enterprise taking into account pockets of expertise – whether that comes from Taiwan in Asia or Netherlands in Europe or USA, it does not matter anymore. That is why for a given market, we have products sourced from various countries. I feel UK is the best example for that where in the supermarkets we have tomatoes from Spain, clothes from Bangladesh or India, chillies from Africa and nuts from Brazil. Just imagine driving the entire supply chain in such a scenario without internet – will drive you crazy I am sure!

Let me share some statistics that I found recently in the internet:

– 36% of global GDP is through movement of goods & services
– cross-border internet traffic has increased by 18 times in approximately last 7 years
– 38% of total cross-border movement of goods & services are coming from emerging economies
– since last 5-6 years, increase in cross-border calls through Skype has been over 500%
– globally more than 2/3rds of the population has mobile phones

The above scenario is a huge opportunity for all of us as individuals. We ideally are no longer restricted by local constraints – jobs / opportunities within our cities / countries. If we are rightly skilled (rather if we are “timely” skilled) and look forward to make the entire world out village, this is the time.

Opportunities are huge but as we enter into the broader world, the one thing we all need to keep in mind is “the only thing that is constant is change”—which to us means that if we do not adapt to “change” (in mind-sets, in updating our skills, in taking challenges, etc), we can also perish in this process.

We are really living in dynamic times!

Not knowledge, but Information is Power !

When we were in our teens and starting to bunk college, we were often told about a phrase which supposedly defined professional life and the growth of an individual in the never-ending rat race of success – the phrase was “knowledge is power”. I still remember that our community had two distinct school of thought on this – one supporting the cause and the other clearly opposing that. Of course, the noble opinion was that which opposed the motion – simply because you could feel the greatness within yourself when you could claim that you helped someone grow up the knowledge ladder because of your greatness in sharing the limited knowledge you had on a particular subject. Apart from the feel-good factor, there was obviously the phenomenon of teaming and helping each other which made this school much more glorified than normal.

But with the advent of internet and the ease of accessibility through mobile phones and tablets made me think if really knowledge is power or not. Reason being that by a mere click, you can get the fundamentals or a basic knowledge of any subject you might be looking for – whether its the know how of how a digital camera works to Einstein’s theory of relativity or Marxism, it does not matter. You have all the basic knowledge that can take you through a normal discussion either with a client or with your friends, where your immaculate knowledge depth keeps on impressing them day and night. Then there are sights like “how stuff works” which basically serves the purpose of an internet encyclopedia or equivalent. Even if you get bored by reading stuff on the internet, or cannot concentrate hard on a tough and complex subject by going through lots of figures and diagrams enveloped within a sea of text; most of the times you will get attractive video clips in sites like You Tube and likes. You now have all tools and options to make knowledge acquiring quite attractive and easy. Finally even if you do not know the sites where you can find useful information, you will get a virtual guidance through fantastic innovations we often describe as “search engines”, where companies like Google outpace its own competitors.

So, if you ask me on the subject of knowledge and power in the 21st century, I would rephrase that and say that the turn of the century has evolved the world knowledge with internet and probably today’s world will stand up and say “Information is power”, simply because knowledge can be easily “acquired” using online technologies, but you now need to keep track of latest trends and information – as based on these trends and information, you can go on and get the knowledge through several clicks.

What do you think ?

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