Are you protected from monopolies?

Attended  a good talk by Joseph Siglitz , followed by Branko Milanović as part of lecture series organized by Azim Premji Foundation on Wednesday. Thanks a lot Azim Premji Foundation to bring eminent personalities and organizing public lectures in Bangalore.

Explanation by  Branko how countries calculated global inequality was an eye-opener. Prior to 1980s,  global inequality seems to be studied in limited fashion without proper mechanism to collect data across countries. For example, to know average price of commodity, first we need to collect average prices of all countries, incorporate differences due to currency valuation and arrive at average price of commodity.

Yes, monitoring inequality was not easy task with less computer penetration, my curiosity brought to question ” Will Adhaar help to reduce economic and other inequalities ?” then I reminded myself Adhaar is already getting implemented like monopoly.

Key message from eminent speakers was close to “Will Foreign investment drive down prices and shift production to outside country?” I already observe that Indian suppliers are challenged to compete with foreign firms and may be this will  increase inequality.

Here are interesting facts in economics I learnt in session, written  down for my reference. Also recommend reading article OF THE 1%, BY THE 1%, FOR THE 1%.

Monopsony is a market similar to a monopoly except that a large buyer, and not seller, controls a large proportion of the market and drives the prices down. It is sometimes referred to as the buyer’s monopoly.

American Belief: Americans are die-hard optimists and believe that things are going to become better tomorrow. Today Americans are continuing to feel good, Are they really good?.

Trickle-down economics: Throw money at the top and benefits will trickle down and all people get benefited. This is not working anywhere including USA. Median income of common people is stagnant and working hours have increased. Looks that people are well-off as they worked harder. With increase in productivity, why wages are not growing? Should they not go up together?

Obama Administration pumped money in to economy and that did not trickle down to people in need and went to banks and bankers salary. Is the increase of inequality after 1990 a result of change in politics?

Multiple dimensions of growth in inequality

  • More money at top
  • More people in poverty
  • Reducing of middle class life expectancy
  • Inequality in wealth
  • Inequality in health
  • Inequality in access to justice.

Open Indian marker to Walmart to learn about corruption. When income stagnates, social pathology sprouts up.

Inequality in opportunity

While we talk that USA grew to current stage in 100 years and China did the same in 30 years, Can we start asking our-self. “Why only parts of country or small percentage of population have grown fast, while  the same growth is not shared by the entire country?”

Newspapers do not write what happens every day. They write unusual scenarios” For every one person who moved from inequality to equality, there is large section of population that has not been able to make this transition.

Children of the people who are impacted by inequality continue to be impacted, as education which helps in transition comes with baggage ” The education of child continue to depend on education of parent”. If inequality depends on parent, Can you choose the right parent when you are born?

Agriculture Developed or Advanced countries are keeping agriculture outside of free markets. Why are they not getting rid of agriculture subsidies?

Shared that Brazil sued USA on cotton subsidies.  the subsidy was neither reduced or removed. Instead USA gave money to Brazil and in return, Brazil was asked not to raise issue. He asked “Why does India not sue USA on cotton subsidies?” 

Agriculture labor is unskilled. Decreasing wages for unskilled workers and increasing returns to skilled workers. While average salary wages get calculated , the average wage is taken based on salary of skilled and unskilled workers. What does increase of average wage means? Inequality exists between skilled and unskilled. Is globalization good or bad for unskilled workers?

In addition to describing the root to create inequality, the speakers explored alternatives that can be explored to come for approaches to reduce inequality.

When question becomes “Can you Choose right country to be born to move away from inequality”, the real question is not any more in economics, it is in politics.  Already impacts are observed retirement security, child education and ability to own a home.

  • Decisions today will affect inequality decades later and hence the key is to rewrite rules of governance again.
  • Inequality has been a choice,we choose to live with. This is result of how economy has been structured via tax, legal and expenditure policies at governance level.
  • Equality and economic performance are compliments. You can get both. Needs awareness of inequality in society and focused working to reduce existing inequalities and stop further rise of  economic and other inequalities.

Can we redefine that development is to increase income for poor people irrespective of where they are, in their countries of birth or elsewhere? The speakers touch based following that I was not able comprehend fully.

  • Introduce concept of Citizenship rent : Every citizen gets before you were born in country.
  • Changes to concept of Migration and concept of national welfare state. Where you live is the most important determinant of your income that can reduce , Can we allows people to choose the right country to born, or at-least to live?

Focus on where the real value is

Read this blog contents in article as guidance for existing financial or banking firms interested to  take advantage  of Digital banking. Copied generic part of articles here for my reference( forgot the actual source. Sorry!)

Focus on where the real value is Launching a successful new business requires complete clarity about what its value drivers are. While this seem like an obvious point, we find it is often overlooked. Instead, there is a temptation to copy or replicate existing models.
Constantly test to refine the customer experience Launching a successful new digital-banking business requires a marriage of traditional consumer research and a deep, real-time understanding of the behavior and pain points of individual customers. This means a constant and rapid stream of prototypes starting with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and subsequent iterations in order to figure out what will make the customer experience superior across all touch-points. This sort of “real life” testing is critical for identifying what customers actually value as opposed to what they might say they value. It also yields up to 70 percent fewer defects and errors.
Organize for creativity, flexibility, and speed Building a business using a constantly iterative approach requires a way of working that banks typically aren’t used to. There are three areas where a different way of operating needs to be nurtured.

  • Cross-team collaboration. The core group building the digital bank should have a solid understanding of not just the new technology architecture, but also of the bank’s design and brand and the economics of its business model.
  • A ‘garage like’ working environment. While an actual garage isn’t necessary, a physical space that provides a nurturing environment for creative thinking and prototyping is. This means open spaces, plenty of whiteboards and worktables where people can congregate and work together, as well as habits that foster innovation, such as so-called sprints
  • A central ‘control tower’ team. Launching a digital bank is a juggling act, with multiple miniprojects running at the same time. It is the job of the control-tower team to make sure all these projects are coordinated by moving resources to necessary teams quickly or prioritizing initiatives so that timeline targets can be met. The team must work to identify bottlenecks and then either quickly resolve them or refer the problems upward to the CEO or the board.

Create an ecosystem of partnerships Successfully launching a new digital-banking business requires quickly acquiring a critical mass of customers. Two industries with large amounts of digital customers who can help the process are e-commerce marketplaces and telecommunications.
Build a two-speed IT operating model To implement the test-and-learn approach and short release cycles that are so critical for launching and operating a competitive digital bank, two different yet integrated IT systems are needed: the traditional, slower, secure and stable, transaction-focused legacy back end and a rapid, flexible, customer-centric front end.
Get creative with marketing To communicate such distinct selling points cost-effectively, banks must cultivate word-of-mouth recommendations and feedback through social media

Corporate Sustainability

Sustainability begins with a principled approach to doing business.

Born with privilege of father reading  company annual reports where he invests in small amounts and also involved in creating his company annual reports, I started to read Indian company annual reports from age of 12. In 1990s, there was no internet, my father used to have stack of hard bounds (Carries few today also) and started reading. In those days my curiosity made me check for last page and both sides of back cover (in annual report) to see pictures and photos that describe social  and community initiatives of corporate.

On receiving MindTree  annual report last week, I observed there was less or no data on CSR and got surprised.  Today I received sustainability report, that has half number of pages compared to pages in  annual report.  My respect of the company increased in my mind. Learnt about The Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact  and you can find more in this article. Copied them for my reference to my blog.

Human Rights

  • Principle 1 Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights;
  • Principle 2 Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

Labor

  • Principle 3 Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  • Principle 4 The elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor;
  • Principle 5 The effective abolition of child labor;
  • Principle 6 The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Environment

  • Principle 7 Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
  • Principle 8 Undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility;
  • Principle 9 Encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.

Anti-corruption

  • Principle 10 Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery. 23

What does a Great Father Do?

Today my daughters wished for Father’s Day. It raised question how should father be to children. Sharing  real life story observed and asking myself “How will I behave with my children in adverse condition where I have no control?” and “Can I be father to my daughters like the father to his son in the story?”

“This is the price you pay for having a great father. You get the wonder, the joy, the tender moments – and you get the tears at the end, too. “

Once upon time, there was father and mother. The retired father had a son and daughter. The son went to engineering college.The son was healthy guy, involved in sports and leading social-curricular activities at college.  The son was college students chairman and coordinated placements also. In his final year, the son got placement in non-IT firm, which was very much aligned to his passion and got placement in IT company.

The son wanted to be in India, with responsibility of taking care his retired parents. When son submitted his medical checkup for non-IT firm, the company send him an email that they are withdrawing the offer and the reason was that he has only one kidney. Yes, one of his kidneys was removed when he was less than 2 years old. The son was broken and could not comprehend the reason, as he never have thought someone would reject him based on physical ailment and have involved in lot of automotive work with passion.  The son went to attend the initial training for IT firm and realized his mind not ready for IT job.

Here comes the real test for father. Your son was confident with his success and for no logical reasons, he has been thrown away from pedestal and how do you  support him. The father supported his son and asked him to do what is best for him. The son joined a job in his area of interest  paying him salary less than Rs 10,000 p.m. This job was a really tight job being on the shop floor and hectic interacting with lot of people.

The father motivated son to appear for GRE/TOEFL. The father enabled son with internet dongle( not common in those days) month, downloaded application, printed them, filled them and got pay order for application fees and send application to colleges, travelling where needed.  The son got admission in to college in USA and had no scholarship.  The father said that he will support with his means. The son quit his job to come and prepare and the father has bought one-way ticket. When you leave job, you lose your medial insurance also.

Here comes the second test for  father. The son plays volleyball every day and one day he slips and his ribs are broken. His visa interview is around. The father and his friends admit him in hospital and they perform minor surgery.  The father acknowledge that falling in sports was natural.  when your children make mistake that impacts their life, as parents we get annoyed and hurt them with our words. The father did not say anything and spend a lot of money, which was limited at his life stage.

Here comes the third test for father: After 2 weeks, they find that surgery has not healed and the surgery needs to be repeated. The father was broken in heart. Visa interview is coming, tickets are booked, son does not have job and son is in hospital, need to spend money, which is  limited and they have to repeat surgery.

The father ran around found an elderly doctor waiting till late night. His only priority was his son life and not him. The elderly doctor said that he would take care  son’s priority and not others. The son may attend visa interview and will not be able to travel on booked date and can travel after week of the booked date.

Before his retirement, the father  bought car and he loved driving  the car. He sold the car and paid for second surgery. He explained others that there is problem with his ears and does not want to drive and hence he is selling his car.  As there was no money to get another fresh ticket, he ran around  and literally pleaded/ requested many people and  with doctor’s  letter was able to get ticket transferred to later date without additional payment.

Readers can see connect between this story and Sujatha‘ story, which I have read also. When I observed this father-son journey, it came across as new age variant and decided to write and wish all fathers Father Day.

Can I Keep off FaceBook & LinkedIn?

My last  week experiences and yesterday acquisition news and article “The One Question That Matters in Microsoft’s Acquisition of LinkedIn”  got me in to mixed feelings and started look inward to find my one question.

I was shocked to see a message on last Thursday ” Dr. Ravindran expired” send by another college mate of mine. First  big shock was a person who studied with me for 2 years has expired. Then I could remind myself of visiting his house,talking to his wife and children. Then I was reminded of the discussion at their home about children. My mind started thinking what will children do? What his wife who has experience in nursing and hospital care do? Will she get a job after break? How will family survive without money?

The second big shock was that message was delivered via Facebook by another classmate of mine working with Dr.Ravindran at REC- Trichy. My buddy has send message earlier and I have seen message after 13 hours. I talked to my buddy and was not sure of going to Chennai to respect deceased soul.

First time,I felt pathetic of our dependency on FaceBook and distance we have created within us in disguise of social connections. Two questions raised.  the first was Why I did not see Facebook for 13 hours?. The second was Why did my friend not send me SMS?

The weekend was quite a very disturbed one. Spend time with children and my family. I saw the movie”iraivi” with my wife and read this review Iraivi: A film about women who bear everything and put up with anything . Started thinking how much time I spend with social networks, where I am just a consumer of content. How much time I am losing to social networks that I can sleep or  spend with family and friends? When I looked at my time of posts and tweets, they were all present in night time. 

I writ blogs. I do not publish my blogs to LinkedIn and publish them to Facebook and twitter. Some time I check how many people have visited the blog and it seems increasing. Do I need to check stats of my blog every day? Am I wasting time there?

Earlier Facebook lured me to connect connect with all my school and college friends. I developed a good profile. Facebook  went for IPO and made money in their IPO. I had one question “Did our friendship really improve?” The answer was NO.

Earlier LinkedIn lured me to connect with all my colleagues and thought it might help me in my career. My profile is 100% complete. When people connect on LinkedIn, I gave them an appropriate response and have rarely got a response back and people who connect with me rarely write back to me. I also find followup based on LinkedIn is tricky. When I searched for a job after my startup, I got little or no help.

On another note, I realized that I am spending more time on the articles posted on LinkedIn. I have already subscribed to the guys/authors who matter.Why do i still spend time reading articles at LinkedIn? I also realized that my time with books is coming down compared to digital media and see decrease in my log count per month.

While educating my children not to become consumers of internet and become creator,  I have fallen to be consumer of social networks. Without content consumers and publishers and people who have 100% profile, why will Microsoft pay and buy LinkedIn? Though I never paid for LinkedIn, I have been good content consumer of LinkedIn and helped them get better valuations. In process I have lost my personal time.

I have suspended my  Facebook account and I decided to log out of LinkedIn account and put myself under observation for one month. I am going to be on twitter. This means I cannot login to websites that  make use of FaceBook or LinkedIn. I will share my  experience in this blog.

Where are”Made in India” products ?

At start of 2016, I wanted to experiment to purchase more  Indian stuff. The experiment made me realize different aspects of life and economy. The more I went by bus and cycle, the awareness of ground reality becomes more evident. For first time, I have decided to move to Khadi shirts and already put the same in action.

Observing books & gadgets where I spend most of my time, i was not proud of my purchases and usage.

  • Used Nokia and Blackberry phones earlier. Our home sees usage of kindle, iPod and iPads. Where is Indian device?
  • Use Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, Ever-note, Dropbox and Skype. Where is popular Indian software or mobile app?
  • Use GMail, YoutTube, Yahoo without memory that they are not Indian brands. Same with HP , DELL or IBM/lenovo laptop. where is Indian laptop? .
  • Read  yourstory.com articles and used to comment my view. Realized I am forced to perform Facebook login and post comments, decided not to post comments.Thanks To Yourstory.com for regional language focused stories, while all is in English
  • Adhaar uses bio-metric devices manufactured from foreign locations. Do i believe that my tax money is utilized well for my country’s own welfare? I did not get Adhaar.
  • I purchased Tamil books in shops. As online market place sells books at deep discount, I buy books in the online market place. Still I am resisting the urge to buy a paid book on kindle for myself to read. Should I pay more price and buy book in shop?

I wanted to buy new phone. Apple phones are too costly and do not fit with “Value for money” concept. Moto is China brand and unsure of reliability. The market flooded with Samsung and brands of Chinese phones. Brands like Nokia and Blackberry are dead. Microsoft is in ICU or brain dead.  Clearly indicates that India is consumer market for foreign smart phones and is not innovation center for smart phones.

While I was at school, my friend’s brother  worked for C- DOT. On his home visit, we hear his work place experiences of what they are creating for India. Their creation and transition to digital telecom switch technologies was fore-runner to enable Indians to leapfrog from analog phone era to digital phone era with STD booths.

Today, What to say my daughter about what is created in India?  My daughters do not get to experience STD booth in the current era of internet and smart phones.

When I look back to 90s era when I was at high school, I do not remember many reliable Indian brands of Television and VCR players. Then the market was flooded with foreign TV brands. We see a similar trend in refrigerators and washing machines. You see the same trend has come to smartphone industry.

Earlier mobile phones arrived with US brand or Europe brand (manufactured else where). Brands like Nokia, Blackberry and Samsung were more prevalent when the market was small.  As the demand for mobile devices increased, new  Indian brands like  Micromax and Spice introduced. These brands manufactured smart phones in China and distributed in India and did not have better relaibility or better service centers like NOKIA

Except Nokia, no mobile manufacturer hosted a manufacturing facility in India.With no expertise to manufacture smart phone, innovation benefit from mobile smart phone  hardware is lost for Indian economy.

Today Chinese companies have sold to more than 90% of their country people and find their market saturated. In their search for new markets, they look at India, which is new market for Chinese.  With advantage of manufacturing and innovation, Chinese companies are leveraging free Indian market places like flipkart.com and snapdeal.com to reach to Indian consumer and offer phones at low prices and large benefits . See article

Effectively Indian customers and e-market places are collaborating to enable Chinese manufacturers to dominate and take over smart phone market. Chinese companies have money to advertise phone features and sell at lower cost as they own the factories and creation.

While I understand that support for Indian entrepreneur to stand up Chinese dominance from India is less, working in IT industry in Bangalore gives me a feeling that I am part of creating problem ad Indian customer and Indian IT professional.   

  • Indian customer purchases mobile phones and devices from foreign brands. Indian customer purchases apps from foreign brands.
  • Indian professional work for foreign companies and earn huge salaries. Salaries paid in Indian Rupees are  smaller than profit earned in dollars. Indian professional fail to learn nuances to launch their own products and make it successful.
  • The impact of automation on jobs will have more impact in India than in USA. Indian service companies in BPO and IT sector will need less number of people for jobs.
  • The new behavior of buying new phones in every 2 years is helping established foreign companies to capture Indian market and get a strong foothold here.

Need to do something. Write to me your thoughts.

Is it fair to ask “Married or Single?”

Read article Married or Single?  posted by Punit Soni. In recruitment process, candidate asked this question”Married or Single?”. I was surprised to see this article. May be I did not expect an article on women rights from Punit Soni (sorry?) and was happy that he was ready to scratch upon the tip of the iceberg. Made me think my IT Career experiences.

Been for more than decade in IT industry, I agree that huge effort is needed from new manager to follow fair approach towards women and differently able people.   Not only large companies can create a fair environment for women, small companies and startups can do also. What is needed is a positive mindset and that comes from positive interactions experienced by male employee early in career in his team or by his supervisor Did they have right experiences that influences them on being manager to  create positive environment for women?

Here my experiences and learning that has helped me to create my perspective towards women employees. sharing the same to say it is possible to create positive mindset.

In my second job, the only Tech Lead I worked for long duration and was friend was women. One day, she had to leave late and she comes by 2-wheeler from south Bangalore. My manager Asif had called for a taxi. On her leaving, he asked her to go home safe in taxi. She went in cab leaving her 2-wheeler. These are times when team worked using desktops and  cab means private card called in advance and we worked in Central Business district. Thanks Asif to help me get right perception to support female employee.

When we went to USA, we had our first daughter born and we were only two of us. Not knowing what to do in new city, I asked my female lead engineer(45 years old) and she was extremely helpful to make me see the responsibility to take care of my wife and my child.   At the same time, She raised question to my  company manger “what will Srini do if baby is born and project is over previous week”. My manger neither gave her proper answer and also came and polished asked “How does she know that your wife is pregnant? I responded that this is our problem and we will handle”.

This lead engineer c and manger shared  how my manger responded and  shared that we take steps to ensure that  your family will not be in zombie state and know what to do. Surprised that how Mid-West Americans supported, contrary to my past wrong belief ” Americans do not care”, both men and women. When baby was born, support received from everyone in Milwaukee, made me humbler and also make me to think of “Pay backwards”what I received. Our manager  attitudes gets developed when we are engineer and the positive it is towards women, it remains positive later. 

In my third job at startup, it was multiple experience. As company, women were treated well. Company bought 4 wheeler and hired driver for company owned 4 wheeler and employed the driver.Officially the driver becomes escort for female employee going late. After Prathibha case, female employees were asked to go home by 8:30 pm and we had a cab at 8:30 pm . Another trip at 7: 30 pm to drop employees to closest bus-stop. My friend Sudhakar showed that we can  balance diversity and being frugal and it is mindset.

On my end, I hired women employee for short term. she was quick learner, well skilled and went for higher studies later.  Thanks to V who  was my first female team member.  She shared how guys behaved, remarks shared without bad intention and why it hurts. My patient listening to her geared myself to hire women employees and understood their needs from manager.

Talent needs to be valued, irrespective of  men or women. My colleagues used to share with women candidates project challenges, late evening call support needed. We conveyed that we will support your well being, we have constraints and still we try our best. Planned their work  to allow them leave home by 8:30 pm or have setup to Work from Home.  We need to answer questions from male employees for this partial support to women.

For my team, there was female candidate for interview for automation engineer and I observed that she was pregnant (already father to 2 children). J performed extremely well in the interview and answered beyond my expectations and her current salary was too low with our offering.  Asking her to wait, I went to my HR(female) & recruitment mgr(child) and said “she is pregnant and she is best fit for role”. They said “Hire for talent”. HR influences in large way in creating culture of organization towards women employees. 

I went back and shared with her our interest and said ” I have seen my wife pregnant.  Are you pregnant?”. She answered yes and asked  how she can travel from Vijaya Nagar in this state. She shared that her company is in ITPL and our office was half the distance compared to her office. I asked next bold question” When is baby due date?”. This date fell 2 weeks before release, there was (>) 5 months from day she can join  I hired her.

This girl learnt learn C# and write code in C# using Visual Studio in first month. She did all this independently with  little supervision with my team lead. Her work impressed me to keep in touch for long time, even after both left company, she went abroad and searched for a job coming back to Bangalore. Today I will hire her again if she looks for a job. Jothi taught me to never look at things like pregnancy in job interview.

In my own startup. S , started as fresher, after an year she got married, she became pregnant too.. We switched off elevator beyond 1 hour in morning and evening. The pregnant employee was permitted to come to the 3rd floor office by elevator. If you are attentive to your actions, you can create exceptions every where. 

When she left of maternity leave, we paid salary across her maternity months.  Thanks to Guru who would keep S’s salary first aside, even in tricky times. When she came back, there was an unfortunate scenario for her to leave. S was given gift and asked to get things right and join back. There was clarity in thought that paying her maternity days was right thing to do as employer. Allowing her to  leave was right thing as that is what is expected from a  parent in her situations.  Being parents, we could relate to S as parents.  Your colleagues drive and influence your approach towards women. 

To end, We see more people beyond women with need on humanity to support them fairly and equally to enable them get a fair life, differently enabled people. As part of my product marketing role in 2nd startup, I proposed an innovative way to make NGOs to use our product. GN, my partner allowed creation of  campaign to provide our product offering free for differently enabled students. While we obtained a lot of learning about our learning software and it opened new opportunities, GN decided to walk the talk by hiring 3 differently enabled people in office. The whole office learnt how to work with them and how we make them feel in our interactions. Thanks GN for humble experience that gave me confidence to work with NGOs and organizations working  with differently able students.

On one side, when companies like SAP offer day care centers and special support for female employees, picture is not rosy across IT employees. These are experiences heard from employees, friends and neighbors.

Female employees, mothers in small companies are scheduled calls at 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM or from 9 PM to 10 PM. What would happen to their children sleeping habit?

Female employees in ITPL areas can be found on BMTC VOLVO buses even after 9 PM when roads get deserted. I see girls who stay in one of our apartments coming late. I am happy with women walking on road in night. If female employee is not ready to care for her safety in Bangalore famous for its Pratibha case, how will it strike to manager (male) to think of female employee needs? 

Both male and female employees in India attend calls between 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM. Assume that these Indians can attend from home, when do they spend time with their children? Mostly, you would see their American colleagues would do best to have all things to  protects his personal time. Do Indians not need personal time?.

I know houses where fathers lock their rooms because child would not allow them to take calls. when my girls were young, they come and sit on my lap across client call. I used to inform that she is listening and my daughters rarely shouted/screamed. May be a rare case. Today in home calls, when people ask to ON webcams, I do not or at times I hear that I look dull, I ignore and focus on agenda.  I and my daughter share study room. .

To note, at closing time of call at 9:30 PM, lead/manager asks team member to send minutes of meeting  or send email with some details or perform a small change and wants the same immediate, sharing that would help them be more productive. My question is ” why they fail to understand that employee took call in personal time? How fair it is of them to assign work and ask for  completion in personal time?

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