Srinivasan G

Srinivasan G

Am I caught asleep at the console?

Everything in technology is changing faster than ever. Change is also in how we work with fellow developers, how we interact with our customers, and how we code. Don’t get caught asleep at the console. It will not be easier for developer to experiment things outside code and needs extra effort to come back to code.

Let me start with a brief. I started code with windows at school, moved to write code with command prompt in Unix during my master thesis. In first 12 years, I developed multi-layer, system, desktop, SaaS and web applications and the emphasis on user interface was less. In my start-up it development was in web(cloud) and mobile applications (hybrid  and native) and was back at command prompt and involved getting hands dirty with user interface for website and user interface for web and mobile. In last 15 months, I explored business side of my start-up involved in  product evangelism & customer facing and continue to be in touch with user interface.

Working in corporate, I used to observe change in what I used to code mostly every 5 years. In the start-up phase, I did not observe change being focused on developing mobile and web application and deployment on cloud. I have missed to observe the bigger change  with advent of cloud and HTM5 and the rise of JavaScript frameworks. I am happy that I learnt nuances of mobile application development(hybrid and native).

  • Continuous integration was niche in 2005 and has been norm today. I used to be involved with build script and make files, resolve parallels across version and run/follow based on daily builds(twice) on staging server. Today there are a array of deployment tools and staging server has migrated to cloud. A manager need not run behind infrastructure team to build a new server for urgent new project, developer will get it from cloud.
  • Very little programming begins from scratch these days.  I come from schooll where I started learning COM code and first windows code starting with void Main().  Today frameworks seem to rule ; the coding begins with Ext JS, ExpressJS, or some other collection of code that serves as a foundation. No tutorial starts with the basics.
  • I used to build HTML pages in notepad for my first blog. You do not start website any-more, you create account on someone’s website, buy template and customize template and put content. In addition, integration with social networks is needed to lure people to visit the website.
  • Writing COM and WCF interfaces was a lot of work with interface language. Today Interfaces have got a fancier name : an API. They are on a completely different machine and may be run by a completely different company that is charging us for every call.
  • Now everything goes through the browser. Once upon a time, I worked on web application hosted on IIS after removal of ASP.Net and does not send code to browser. IE used to be larger version of webBrowser control in Microsoft world.  There are still games that are custom made and do not need a browser. Change is coming for games to be on browser when JavaScript developers learn to write screen canvas object.
  • Knowledge of the library is as important as knowing the ins and outs of the language itself.
  • If it runs on our test machine, it will almost certainly run on the server. This is becoming more common with advent of VMs.
  • Raise of Node.js and JavaScript: Before some of you were born, Web servers spit out static HTML. Now it’s all done in JavaScript. The browser speaks JavaScript, and also the server layer (Node.js) and the database layer (MongoDB and CouchDB). HTML is generated by JavaScript code framework like Ext JS  at the client.

For me biggest change, it the way to monitor performance. Once you printed time when the code began and when it ended and added  subtraction for you. Now many of the problems don’t occur on one machine.  A profiler to your code would not reveal the real bottleneck caused by weird interconnection or a sluggish database. To understand what is going right and going wrong, you need to track the network calls for the network of software and performance of individual modules.

What I have learnt in cloud applications has changed. What was difficult to achieve like security integration with enterprise has been simplified and developers are more use to nuances of cloud. Mobile application that does not need offline capability can be performed using HTML 5 and become cross platform compatible.

I have not been caught asleep at console. I have been away from console.  There has been a change for sure in my absence at console and things have moved on. Let me ascertain the change at console and find reason fot the change to appreciate the change.

At the same time, I am worried how the excess dependency on tools and frameworks would impact basic concepts of students coming from college. My advise to them is to embrace libraries and frameworks. They need to move away from tools to use them and rather write program using simple editors like notepad or vi editor at command prompt. To learn basic, they need to take efforts by self initiative to setup single -instance application environment on their computers. Once they are strong in basics, they can move to tools. May be I would write basics as blog as part of my journey learning change.

Customer service is unsexy topic.

E-commerce and e-banking are sexy topic to customers based on convenience and discounts. I wonder why and how most well-meaning companies that are so dynamic and friendly in marketing and selling, seem to be dumb and  look out of sorts, and inept, about customer service quality.

Today morning  I observed that my wife was talking to Flipkart.com customer agent that she received message that her order has been cancelled as she was not at home. She has made Cash on Delivery(CoD) order.  The customer agent talks that they could not reach her and she responds that she is teacher and cannot take calls when she is at school.  I am sure something is getting resolved. Based on my wife experience and  Pathetic Customer Experience , I have question whether companies decided to assume ” if customer does not pick call on mobile, we assume that he is not available”.

Today customers are made to feel pampered and are made to feel they never had it this good by marketing campaigns and TV ads. This leads to thinking in Indian customers that they are the nawabs and rajas on whom companies shower all kinds of goodies. Alas! that is until the sale happens. Ask the same customer for delivery, the story is different. Ask the same customers six months later the story is usually different. Indian customers are made to slowly accept to fact similar to corruption that  all post sales customer service is not good as pre sales service.

Most Indian companies declare high degree of customer focus as their priority. To what extent does this priority translate into delivery of customer quality? There are Indian companies that are customer obsessed and still fall short of their promise. For most others it still is simply a marketing slogan. ‘customer is king’ ‘customer is God’ are freely used but not meant.

What is high priority for organization?  Urgency to make sale to customer? What is important to customer?

  • Marketing and sales teams work independently from the customer service support team. Organization fail to structure to enable feedback loop between the teams and they realize that  the promise does not match with reality and the need to collaborate with each other and that is not there. Marketing teams are small and highly qualified persons while customer service team are large and average persons.
  •  The thought patterns of the employees of other departments do not match with the emotions displayed in marketing and selling department.  For example, organization promise excellent customer service but more obsessive to cut costs to serve customer, promise work –life balance, but expect employees to stretch.   Employees lose productivity when they are subject to contradictory orders.
  • Functional separation of CRM and customer support desk . From customer perspective, CRM handles all communication and service  related to customer. In reality, CRM enables managing the sales and marketing processes to manage customer at pre-sale stage.  The customer service/support desk( separate from CRM) is used by customer service to manage customer post-sale stage. Does split in technology and people impact customer service? In some companies, the support desk is outsourced completely.

Some people think that shaming on social media will change customer service. Please see truth on the ground. The focus becomes not to resolve the actual issue for specific person and goes to make sure that you do not go berserk on social media creating bad publicity. Does something really  concrete happens to customer service as whole? May we should consider social media as information transmission channels and not  customer channels. We need to change in communication approach to one that serves the purpose it is intended to serve.

Another is customer feedback. Do companies make effort to inform customers action taken based on their feedback?    I know that e-commerce companies show scores for customer and supplier.  Do companies have courage to disclose the cumulative scores they receive from the feedback? Cumulative score for e-commerce or virtual taxi companies?

Here is another article Some People Hate Self-Checkout that adds a different perspective to pre-sale stage.

Pathetic Customer experience

When a bank uses third party vendor for processing and also third party courier for delivery, who is responsible to meet SLAs promised by bank to the customer? It seems the banks are not worried whether technology process service the customer. When they do not get service, the customer needs to spend 45 minutes to get on-line request to be delivered adhering to Bank’s own SLA.

Last week, a calling agent called me from a Chennai company and shared “Your cheque book package has been returned to us saying that door locked”. I said to the agent we were in town and both me and my wife work and we might have to go outside house that the house is locked. We live in apartment and the security did not share a message that some one came with a package.(good security,  given a note they pass to residents for sure). I checked my mobile and noticed  SMS from a courier company asking me to pick delivery time  XXX to YYY  or ZZZ to AAA pm on specific day. As both time options falls in the middle of both of our working hours, I skipped to respond and hence the package has been returned.

  1.  How many times did the courier agent try to deliver package? Post man and agents paste a sheet that courier has come or drop this to security and there has been none.
  2.  Why was package not send  by Indian post to address, which is my communication preference? This issues has been faced earlier.

The calling agent failed to acknowledge the problem. I added that  SLA time duration to deliver  cheque book is not met. The calling agent said that here job was to inform me and she can raise a new request to send the same back and she has no influence over the courier. When enquired aboyt her access to my personal details, she reported that they received based on contract and the access to her.  15 minute over.

Next I called bank. It took 3 minutes to reach to representative. Followed with demand of  adhering to delivery time for cheque book  within stipulated time as per SLA. Demanded that proof shown for reminders given to me and how many were presented to me? Honest guy accepts he does not have that and  asks me whether you answered the call or seen SMS from courier.  when explained, he acknowledges that that is reason for non-delivery and  seems I made mistake and hence I have not received cheque book. He asked me details to order cheque book again as the previous one has returned . I refused to provide details as he also knows that the previous request has not been full-filled. He defended approach by courier (which is not my preference) representing safety of my stuff. When questioned what is safety that my personal details are in hands of Chennai company, he defended they have  agreement, based on which my data was provided.  At end of long call he  accepted that the courier guy has not delivered and would make sure that courier agency calls me and deliver the same. 30 minutes over. 

Later the courier guy called and received the cheque books.

Let go the past. Be present now.

Sometimes I ask myself
  • Feel guilty “why I am making things difficult?”

learning or exploring opportunity to learn more about myself.

With new awareness, I connect dots in my past and could see learnings that has prepared me for next level.  This make me feel good. Why I am not stopping and realize the value of learning and apply to my life?

We make choices and need to  live with the choices we made.  Some of them might make us not comfortable. You need to be aware of the past to make new choices to enable  transition.  Feeling guilty over old choice leads to labelling and does not allow to let go.  I have been helped by my friends support in these transitions to realize there is nothing to do about past choices. Instead we need to learn from experience due to past choices and Let Go and  be present with open mind to make new choices and being  aware of one self.

Here are choices labeled as bad in my life. As they have lead to learning in reality, I am destroying label to let go and Be present with open mind.
  • My father made me work on  house financial portfolio and I cannot spend money for any luxury things. He taught me value of money .
  • My father never allowed me to dropped to school in his work vehicle though company driver offered me to drop and come.He taught me value of ethics and fight against misuse leading to corruption.
  • Decided to join selected engineering colleges on merit  and If not, join arts college.  I know value of earning money that  I could refuse when my father offered to pay capitation for engineering).
  • I decided not to pay capitation for MCA and started Mathematics. I know value of money and helped me learn more about myself when I learnt the course has no campus placement currently and I need to create placement collateral with my senior and knock company doors.
  • 10 company tests cleared and cannot sit for interview due to course ineligibility. I learn the patience and resilience to reach goal of getting campus job at 15th time.
  • All company projects was under Y2k transition.  That was an opportunity to know learning is important to me as I learnt using machines available in night about COM, CORBA and deliver  training in other centre.
  • The company had bond of 1 lakh and no real work. Whatever happens, your commitment needs to be kept and you  work on win-win always.
  • Your product division and business application division company lost organization focus with merger of the organization. Good learning that it is time to let go system driven applications and move to customer driven application.  You also learn how people influence  organization style  in merger times when same organization  stood for  best treatment for employees in IT industry.
  • Joined  a OPD start-up instead of MNC which provides free lunch and cafteria.  You  learnt to influence and arranged caterer in cafeteria to serve snacks in-house.
  • OPD start-up was bought by a company that understood revenue and not our culture. You learn how that in tricky situations where it is not right for you, you need to do right things to complete what is right for your team and your customer. You then decide to move to a start-up and this is learning of how you need to treat people/employees and what they feel when you do not value them.
Let go the past, Be present and Move forward

Conquering the Chaos – amazing read.

The book is dedicated as “Dedicated to honest and upright government officials in all emerging markets for the courage they show every day” and was pulling my attention. Thanks to my friend Shradha for introducing me to book.  Awesome read. Recommend to everyone working in indian IT industry( service company and also MNC).

There is good review of the book by Kajari Mukherjee in PDF format. This blog  is my acknowledgement to Ravi Venkatesan that his book provides a good perspective about state of affairs from a very balanced position.  Going forward, I would not ask some questions on corporate practises  as I have answers acceptable to me and focus to develop courage to take action wherever possible,

Being who I am, I was able to connect with the following.

  • “Their choice is between spending countless hours defending themselves or paying one or more tax to  individuals so that they can focus on business.”
  • Lawmakers struggle to find the middle ground between industrial development and defending the rights of small landowners.
  • Adversity breeds innovation and new capabilities. it is precisely because India is a difficult environment that it is important to learn to succeed here.
  • You need to have an end-to-end view of the business and think not just about sales.
  • Put their careers on the line and do what is right. How do you look for evidence of courage? The absence of passion and drive is a dampener, but the drive for results by itself is not enough. It is an extraordinary test of who you are as a person and as a leader.
  • Learning agility is a capability that can eb strengthened by experience, by repeatedly throwing young leaders into ever more complex and difficult challenges.

Being in start-up, I was able to connect with following

  • The bottom of the pyramid represents an opportunity to earn trust and goodwill through social responsibility and shared value initiatives.
  • It is easier to skim the top of the Indian market than to figure out how to crack the challenging middle market. To continue to grow requires the courage and commitment to move down and compete in the larger middle of the market.
  • People working in emerging markets need to have an explore and learn approach. They have to be profitable but not every month.They can spend money, adjust and fine-tune their business model and then make money.
  • Taking a bet on someone and thrusting her in to a larger role is a proven process and the only one that I know works.
  • Middle market customers have limited disposable incomes but big aspirations; they will not accept products that compromise quality or functionality.
  • You cannot understand he life of a fish unless you dive in to the water.
  • Most people do not achieve much when you give them a slightly higher target; they operate out of a fear of failure.
  • It is possible to build a brand without a huge budget.
  • Western Executives are often transactional; they focus on the issues and numbers, but fail to develop relationships. Managers invariably try to optimize their company interests as they believe that is what they are paid for. It is tough to engage with key stakeholders in ways that do not come as pure self-interest.
  • M & A always require support from the top. If the senior management does not support the M&A strategy, the deal will fail.

Exploring data analytics, I liked this sentence “A fundamental problem about the world is that data is only available about the past. if you wait, until the data is clear, you are going to be taking action when the game is over.”

Let me complete blog with book  sentence ” The more difficult the market us, the more money we make, because others struggle more, or not even enter.”

Kid Safety 4: Technology,Startups

This is continuation of article “Kid Safety 1: CCTV,Background checks.“,  Kid Safety -2 : School and Parents. Where to use technology? and  Kid Safety 3 : Media, Internet. Being techie, I propose that we leverage technology to solve actual problem in education at the ground, rather than the superficial administration and productivity problems.

We leverage technology to track schools and create awareness campaigns. Here is suggestion to start with.

  • Ask all schools to submit scanned copies  certifying that awareness classes are completed to education department website. The submissions would be visible to public. Any untoward incident at school would get recorded in the website.
  • Schools can choose to display occurrence of classes with date and time on the school website. Parents need to look at this website and decide during the admission process  in school with awareness of the school attitude towards  safety.
  • Education department monitors the occurrence of these classes and also make sure that untoward incidents are available in the education department website. More untoward incidents might lead to revoke license of school or when school does not conduct these classes.

We leverage technology to provide safety to children against porn.

There should be a community portal to capture the websites related to porn.  People can submit website to marked as being porn site. The website would be reviewed and marked as blocked.  The idea is to capture these sites dangerous to children.  All the sites blocked would be transparent to public. what next?

Ask internet service providers  to start offering 2 type of connections. a child connection (porn free) and unrestricted connection ( no restriction).  This gives the choice to consumer to choose the connection to be subscribed. By default, customers are signed for child connection and the customer needs to explicitly ask for unrestricted connection.  The consumer is responsible to choose connection type.  One can have unrestricted connection on mobile and child connection at home.

All our internet service providers  have completed KYC for their customers.  They can communicate to customer that starting on a particular day all connections would be child connection and customers need to SMS to activate unrestricted connection  and then they  also get access to porn.  The unrestricted connection can come with premium cost over  child connection.

Let me end with question for start-ups in education space. Why there is focus in the area of Sex education for children? Is this not a  problem to be handled? May be an opportunity for education start-ups to join together and evangelize as group on the issues and educated their stakeholders at school. This would part of their marketing activity. Being a global problem, this can help to create awareness in other countries also.

Kid Safety 3 : Media, Internet

This is continuation of article “Kid Safety 1: CCTV,Background checks.“ and Kid Safety -2 : School and Parents.  Main stream media reports the harassment to kids as news and does not take up any investigative journalism. They keep going about reporting these unfortunate incidents. Once the next incident happen, the media forgets the previous incident and moves forward.  I am happy to see media like Citizen matters are creating awareness in smaller way possible around concerned parents. I am concerned that we have no insights to what has happened to child who suffered in July and to her parents?  Are there child able to continue go to school?  How is school treating them? Are they getting empathy in their difficult situation and not sympathy?

I observe here that agencies generating ranks for schools are not looking to children safety issues and child harassment.  Here are some of  Rank 1,Rank 2, indiaranker, Day School ranking 2013 and it is surprising and quite strange  that they have no parameters towards child safety in school , sex education and  transport system of the schools. Did they decide not to cover these issues?

Schools ask children to use computers. Assignments are send on computer and my daughter checks them on laptop.  Do teachers are aware of the presence of  large danger called porn through computer?  Do Women Watch Porn? Nation Wants to Know provides the extent porn is spread in India. I want to start that I have seen porn in some format(not internet) when I was at final school, going to theatre, considering myself as rebel/hero and the urge to perform things that society does not agree to be done by children in school.

Porn is largest content consumed over internet and has impact on individual mental growth. How Much of the Internet is actually for Porn and The Ultimate Breakdown of How People Watch Porn Online   and The Internet’s Dirty Secret: Nobody Knows How Much Porn There Is explains that porn is everywhere and it was alarming to see the article  India among the top countries in viewing porn materials.

Today child with access to mobile or computer and career focused parents might end up watching porn and the parents would never become aware of the same. The parent would be under assumption that child is studying for school projects, while child actually watching porn. How will children behaviour get affected when they view porn?

Today what is role taken by school, government and ISP who want to enter education and leverage children’s need to identify new sources of investment. There is nothing wrong technology can enable education. Are they aware of the harmful effects of technology to handle the same? What are the steps taken in this direction?

Porn seen by a child today might have impact for a long time. It destroys the youth with addictive practises and pollutes their mind to cause harm during sex. I am not asking to block porn. Where are the awareness campaigns  for children and parents? Who would own process to create and run these awareness campaigns?“.

Schools have started to  conduct “Good Touch, Bad Touch” classes. Should the government not make these classes mandatory? It should be delivered by human being. There needs to be awareness sessions on sex education and sex harassment to  teachers parents.  These classes should happen once in a year and the attendance should become mandatory for parents an teachers. May be government could create some awareness videos with help of doctors and clinicians.  These videos can be used by facilitator to evangelize more in local neighbourhoods.

Kid Safety -2 : School and Parents

This is continuation of article “Kid Safety 1: CCTV,Background checks.“.  Read article Is a school responsible when child abuse takes place on its premises?  and continue blog.

Observing concept of outsourced school staff, external to school external staff for co-curricular activities and prevalent in higher classes. In these scenarios, the regular teachers have left school for home and the children are in school premises for extra classes. Who is responsible for safety of children during extra class? School? External agency? Staff of the external agency? Should parents not demand schools to publish the external contract agreements entered by school in terms of children education and children safety? Some would be marked as no risks and some would be marked as “Risk” by school and parents need to take conscious decision whether child needs to be part of activity governed by external contract agreement.

Now let us question some of our own behavior. I mean parents in school pick-ups. The parent drops the child late due to some reason and is delayed to pick-up the child. Are parents expecting the school staff to work in  IT job working style “I check-in, spend 8 hours and then check-out and are ready to pay over-time “? The school staff might support a few days putting extra hours and do not want to be taken granted as they need to go to their home, possibly to join with their children.

Some parents have genuine reason of traffic as the reason for delay in pick-up. Parents get charged with small fine to discourage these delays. Does small fine really pinch parents working in IT industry? When parent has not come to pick the child, what should the school staff do? Leave home? Stay at school till parent comes? It might happens that child is left in responsibility of the  available support staff or staff who can wait in school, they can harm your child, and they are not responsible folks. Parents need to acknowledge their responsibility to be on right time to pick-up.

Kid Safety 1: CCTV,Background checks.

In year 2014, We already have heard more than 3 instances of  harassment to girl children reported in Bangalore. This has been in a Marathahalli school, followed by a pre-school on Sarjapur Road, and now at Jalahalli school.   It is interesting to see these untoward incidents happen more in today’s upmarket locality of Bangalore with  IT professionals as major residents. The children of affected school  have tried to propose some guidelines and see that is good step of responsibility taken by parents.

I see this article 40 points Vibgyor parents want the school to address   earlier.  While it is a good initiative and has some good points to explore, I am not clear of the whether these parents are connected with reality and seem that government wants to wash of its pilict role by recommending some of them Private schools should follow school safety guidelines and protect kids: Govt

For me, the article  Will a password between you and your kid ensure safety?  made more practical sense and would add little more on the same.

Corporates use video surveillance approach to identify thefts and mal-practices that happen in their premises. Most of the time one or two staff keep viewing the video streams and they are not experts in this area.  It serves as a good post-mortem analysis as part of  root cause analysis to any problem and  help administrators to understand incident details like the time when incident happens and area where incident happens leading to come with steps to prevent similar incidents to happen in future.  It is prevention mechanism and not a protection. What is this prevention mechanism for the child who has been effected?

Corporates use Background verification to verify details of person joining organization across past employers, education qualifications, personal preferences, criminal record and drug test records.  The background verification is  audit check and not a ‘ police investigation’. The audit verifies that the credentials claimed by candidate are really true in the real world.    We already hear a few instance of  IT employee of a large company was criminal and the back ground checks has been completed and did not identify and report this criminal background.

Coming to school, the school might not report untoward incident that involves their staff to police station and not gain negative publicity and bad marketing.  They would quietly send away the problematic staff who would join another school. Then the new school background check will not identify this.  If  school staff decides to perform bad incident and stops video surveillance  by switch off of Power main  in the crime duration, CCTV loses its value. Some would suggest use of background generator to power the video surveillance.   Let us remind that  huge expense  for the school towards background video surveillance  lead to complete safety and leads to increase in your child school fees.

Do you have a daughter? Watch Drishyam movie

I have watched Malayalam movie Drishyam. Brilliant and Original and a landmark movie.  Thanks to Sriram for making me watch the movie( his second).Instead of providing plot description, the blog  focus on the strong message provided by the movie for both type of parents and society in general.

I recommend that parents watch this movies along with their children more if they have daughters.  Though it  is Malayalam movie, the full movie comes with English subtitles to enable you to understand the language. As the movie and viewer  drives towards the George Kutty family win over the police, it might not be possible to mandate that schools need to make children watch the movie similar to  Modi address to students.

  • Children are aware to  the positive usage of technology in their life including mobile. Neither the children nor the parents are much aware of the negative approaches or methods in which technology can be misused.
  • Children want others to respect their privacy and enjoy their freedom. The privacy or private moments might help students to think about their self goals and aspirations.  Very few students or even adults are self-driven. Granted privacy to children might lead to children to perform negative things.
  • Parents want their children rights and freedom to taken care by school.  When police or government official comes to school, the school authority might allows external agencies like police to question or interact with your children. Do not expect that school authority would call parent before allowing the police to interact with the child.
  • Children want to enjoy a care-free style of living with freedom and independence. Other students or adults can leverage their care-free style to find some weak moments or embarrassing moments that can be exploited against us.  “If you are good, do not expect others to be good to you.”
  • If you are parents of only sons and have no daughters, the movie has a message that you need to take care of your son well.
  • One should delay making judgement on other persons in society and in family. Fathers generally are judged to assign more priority to profession more than to  personal life. They make sure that family is safe and continue with their profession with that assumption of safety. On being aware that the family is exploited, fathers assign 100% priority to lead  family back to safety zone of freedom and independence.

If you are a professional, analysts interested in Big Data or analytics or leader/manager want to learn leadership skills.

  • This is a good scenario to explain Situation Leadership. What would you perform when you find yourself in a scenario similar to movie hero.  Would you be logical in a weaken state of emotion? To validate your answers, put yourself through a question similar to ” What would you do if this happened to you or to your daughter?”.
  • Data points can be developed by an uneducated person to prove his innocence or data points can be prepared to blame person of committing a mistake. When you see data points and graphical representation, remember that  “Visuals can be deceiving. Do not believe what you see!!” 

I end the blog with a wish that no girl or boy or mother or father ends up in  a scenario similar to characters of the movie. To know of the innovative aspects of the movie, please read  article  5 Reasons Why you should watch DRISHYAM , ‘Drishyam’, or Women’s Rights in Indian Pop Culture , Do not believe what you see.


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