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Simple Living High Thinking

It has been a while since I have posted on my blog and this one is Blog2

Among the distinguished guests attending the conference was H.E. Dr. Rishma Narain Singh, former Governor – Tamil Nadu and Assam. Dr. Rishma, shared with us the Gandhian Ideology on life which can be summarized in a simple phrase  “Simple Living High Thinking,” based on three elements, Simplicity, Honesty, and Generosity.

I want to focus on simplicity, as this is ironically a very “simple” term yet it is difficult for many to implement or even see. This is one thing I have learned from the many Indians I know or came across. Many of the successful entrepreneurs and businessmen that I know have always operated in the most simple and modest fashion, yet have achieved a lot.

Simplicity does not mean that we are going for the easy answer, it is a concept that is about a direct approach, one that is straight forward addressing the right points and what is important. Often we spend time discussing or thinking about many unnecessary things which takes our thought, our life, and our work into a vicious and complicated cycle. Rather than going in circles around a topic, attacking the core of it is what matters. As you avoid these vicious cycles, you will be able to think with a clear mind. Often this also is a result of having a clear path in mind, and if you don’t then this approach can help you find one.

By taking the unnecessary out of our formula, decision-making becomes much easier. Getting rid of the waste around us and the un-necessary luxuries and sometimes un-necessary people will help.

Of course this also is a result of positive thinking. Positive thinking often results into positive ideas and actions. With positive thinking you eliminate all the toxic thoughts around you making it easy to see what needs to be achieved. People who think in a positive fashion often take the simple steps needed to achieve their goals. It can be a simple phone call, a meeting, and idea, an innovation, or a question. If it gets the job done, then just like the famous slogan for Nike, “Just do It.” And people who have these ideas they simply take the actions, those necessary to get the job done. Because they think in a simple fashion they can take actions, and actions are at the end what make the difference.

emiates

Hello tomorrow!

A friend has recently shared a list of top airlines for 2012 and Emirates was ranked third after Singapore and New Zealand.  It is no surprise to see Emirates Airlines, which is only 27 years old, among the world’s best airlines, specially with its massive fleet that connects you to more than 120 destinations. Several months back I have criticized Emirates Airlines for their poor customer service. In the same manner I have criticized them before, it is only fair to praise them again for a job well done. On my recent trips  things has changed. I have seen a much better attitude and improved service from the cabin crew, and it was back to the Emirates I knew a few years ago. I am very happy that Emirates listened and changed. I hope they keep this service consistent.

The reason why I am also writing this post, is to look at the Emirates experience as in interesting case of both business and strategy. In 1985, Gulf Air, which was probably one of the more prominent airlines regionally, decided to cut back its flights to Dubai due to its fear of being a feeder to other carriers. This of course would affect Dubai’s ambition to become a business hub for the region and this was the move that triggered the start of Emirates Airlines.

It did not take too long before Emirates have become a major rival to Gulf Air and later one of the biggest player in the global aviation industry. Gulf Air today is struggling to survive. It is a case of shortsightedness and ignorance from Gulf Air, and a result of sitting in its comfort zone.

With the ambitions of Dubai and the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and the high standards set by him, it was not too long before Emirates Airlines started to grow both in number of airplanes and revenue, and i am sure that in a few years, it will become the number one airline the world.

The executives at Gulf Air failed to see the potential and opportunity ahead of them as the decision was based on potential competition rather than potential collaboration. Had Gulf Air worked with the authorities in Dubai, things would have been different today and we may have not seen Emirates come to life. In fact Gulf Air today might have been among the top airlines in the world.

Collaboration and not competition is probably the best solution to growth. Competition will always exist in business, but those who have a long-term vision, know very well that with collaboration more can be achieved. This case may be almost 30 years old, but if we look today, a lot of large corporations are heading for more collaboration to sustain their positions in business and grow. Additionally, many would feel that their position in the market would give them superior advantage, ignoring the possibility of smaller and more ambitious players becoming tomorrow’s rivals. And this indeed was the case for Emirates and Gulf Air. In the end, both Emirates and Dubai ended up as winners!

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It’s Organic!!!

Since I have returned from Korea, I went grocery shopping here in Dubai last week for the first time, something that I usually don’t do. Anyway, what has attracted my attention is the amount of shelves filled with stuff that is labeled organic. It seems that there is a big movement towards selling and buying organic things here. Well, what interests me the most is the notion that organic is healthier, and because of that you get a super price tag on those organic items. I am not sure how and why people believe that this is true. From the little that I know, there is not much scientific evidence that organic food is healthier from what I like to call main stream food, and I don’t think there is a big difference in the way they taste.  While of course the method in which organic food is produced is different and slightly more expensive, that does not justify the hefty price tags on them. And recently, the ministry of environment here in the UAE introduced an organic tag that you will need to place on products if you wish to claim that they are organic. This means of course fees to paid which will eventually be passed to the consumer. This organic label as you all know also goes beyond food, as there is organic clothing, and organic soap, organic paper and may be sometime soon an organic smart phone. So all of these items that are being labeled organic are also labeled healthy in the consumer’s mind.  Of course, you can argue that you can buy whatever you like and at whatever price, and I usually tell people the same thing. After all this is your personal choice, whether you agree or don’t. But one thing that bothers me here; if organic food is healthy or healthier, as claimed, then does this mean it is ok for people who can not afford to pay for the organic option to eat the conventional food, which based on this argument is considered unhealthy!

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After one year!!

More than a year has passed since I have decided to go for my MBA. While the idea of dropping out came to my mind more than once, I have eventually finished what I started, at least I can say I have achieved something. The MBA journey has been an interesting one, not in its learning process but in what is taught in MBA programs. On my blog, the most visited post is “what does business school teach you.” Most of the hits came from people asking google the same question. It seems that they are either learning the hard way, about to quit, or about to start the same journey. I just hope that my blog post has influenced them in  a good way. Going to school after all is good and you get something out of education one way or another.

When I reflect on my experience, I sometimes wonder, what if I took a year off and spent the same amount of time and money and experimented doing new things and visited new places. One year, away from I would routinely do everyday to one year of new adventures, business adventures or fun stuff. Starting a new venture even if it is tiny will always teach you some thing new, and something different. You become the master and the student in the process. You set your own rules, and you set your own goals. No need for GMAT, admissions, ranking and all the non-sense that comes with business school. It would become a journey where you compete with your self and not others, a book that you write rather than read. The idea is so tempting that I sometimes regret that I have never thought about it before. Even traveling to new places, meeting new people and discovering new cultures is a learning experience in its self. I was fortunate to travel to many countries around the world mostly for work, and every time I landed somewhere, I learned something new. You become your own admissions, you become the dean, you find your mentors, you will always be the student, and you will decide your graduation date.

I am not sure how would someone think of making such a choice, but taking a decision like this, can be creative, different, courageous, and if things go wrong may be foolish, but so was the MBA decision to some extent.

A year ago, I said that I am taking a year off to study at a reputable business school and earn my MBA. Now, I think I should have rather took a year off and tried something new!

Ramadan

رمضان كريم و الحال هي نفس الحال

كل سنه يطل علينا فيه شهر رمضان الكريم و الحال هي نفس الحال. يبتدي الشهر الكريم بتبادل التهنئه عبر الرسائل النصيه و عبر وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي. أما بعد التهنئه و عن طريق نفس الوسائل تنهال علينا النصائح الدينيه و الاجتماعيه و الصحيه و غيرها. فكلما قرأت رساله زاد الفرح  في القلوب وانتشرت الابتسامات. فعلا انه مجتمع متحضر  متفائل و مثالي. الكل يتحدث عن المثاليه و يوزع النصائح و ما أجملها من نصائح. فمن لا يريد أن يفكر بهذا الاسلوب  الايجابي و الجميل والمليئ بالالتزام الديني.  و مع صباح أول أيام الشهر الكريم و الابتسامه لاتزال على وجه الجميع الى أن تبدأ بقيادة سيارتك متجهاً إلى عملك. و في مجرد ثواني تتغير هذه الابتسامه الى وجه عبوس. فالمثاليه التي عشتها تركت في صفحات تويتر و أصبح الشارع كميدان المعركه. فالكل صايم و لذلك علينا ان نخالف كل قواعد المرور. “يا أخي أنا صايم، و تعبان  و متأخر على الدوام”. أما مع وصولك للدوام فكأن شهر رمضان فرض علينا عدم العمل. لان كل  الناس صائمين، والصيام في  هذه الحاله يمتد الى الصيام عن العمل. هكذا هي المجتمعات المثاليه على صفحات التواصل الاجتماعي . أما رحلة العوده الى البيت فهي كمغامرة الصباح ولكن أشد شراسة. فالكل مستعجل يريد أن يعود الى  بيته ليستغل الوقت في العباده في هذا الشهر الكريم. و اذا تأخرت في العمل و حبيت ترجع قبل صلاة المغرب، فتأكد ان سيارتك مجهزه للسباق، فسباق الفورملا انتقل الى الشوارع العامه .

ربما من الافضل علينا ان نتوقف عن العمل خلال شهر رمضان، فللأسف الشديد أصبح هذا الشهر شهرا للكسل و العصبيه و غيرها من “اللا” مثاليه. “اذا عندك شغل بتخلصه فتعال بعد العيد”..هكذا نستقبل شهر رمضان قبل قدومه فما بالك ان رمضان السنه يصادف فصل الصيف الحار. يعني لا للانتاجيه لمدة ثلاثة شهور على الاقل بما فيهم شهر رمضان. و كل هذا يحدث و نحن لا نزال نتذكر آلام الأزمه الاقتصاديه السابقه و العالم يستعد لازمه ماليه أخرى تدق على الأبواب. وبناءً على هذا كله فأنا أقترح أن نعطي مجتمعنا المثالي إجازة في شهر رمضان لاعطاء الجميع الفرصة الكاملة “للسهر” …في العباده طبعا. فهكذا لا زعل في الدوام، ولا على الشوارع و تضل المثاليه التي نتحدث عنها…قول و فعل .

و كل رمضان والحال هي نفس الحال

رمضان كريم

70years

70 years old!

As the train door opens at the Yeouksum station and I exit slowly, I see a seventy something year old man rushing to get into the train with the help of his stick. This is just a small evidence of the fast paced life here in Seoul. Even at this age, you are still running to make it to the next stop in life. The image is not so different back home in Dubai although it is not as serious and as fast as in Seoul. People are rushing to get to the next point and trying to make sure that they will get there before anyone else does.

The wise man popping up once in a while on someone’s facebook or twitter page tells us to “enjoy life”, “be happy”, “be content”, “be patient” and the list of words of wisdom are long that we keep saying them everyday and do the opposite.  Unlike the wise man, life has taught us to run and run faster, fight and fight harder, even when it is time to raise the white flag.

With a faster and more demanding life, we tend to loose the meaning of waiting to get something. While we naturally don’t like to wait, anticipation sometimes makes the experience a more enjoyable one. It is very difficult for me to understand how we have made life more luxurious for ourselves and yet it is more demanding and stressful. We have faster cars, trains, planes, cell phones, the Internet and still we feel we want to be faster. By being faster we save time, but we end up being busier and busier. Being faster does not mean being happier anymore. It has ended up being a way to survive. But is that really true?

and The question is for how long do we need to run like this and for what?

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a cup of tea!

I drink a lot of tea and coffee and what I have learned that it is beyond the caffeine kick that we seek from time to time. A few weeks ago I attended a tea exhibition in Seoul. Yes there are events even for tea and they are big. In fact what was most interesting about the event is that it included experience events where you can learn how Korean tea is prepared and served and all the traditions that go along with it. Of course tea or coffee have a lot of traditions in many parts of the world. Like Korea, Japan also has a unique culture and the Arab World has very special traditions built around the Arabic tea and coffee. Recently, I went with friends for the first time to a TWG Company store in Hong Kong and was surprised by the big selection of teas they have got and every one of them probably has its own story. I am not sure if I can remember half of what was on their menu. It is very impressive to know that certain traditions go thousands of years back and are still in practice.

The unique culture around coffee and tea also goes beyond tea parties. Tea brings people together in social gatherings and formal occasions. Most business meetings start with an invitation to tea or coffee. In some cultures you simply get served without being asked. It is an ice breaking tool and a way to get to know others and build relationships and trust. So many things can take place around a cup of tea.

The teacup also taught us that the simpler our approach to life, the more satisfied we could be. Back home, I have witnessed on many occasions where problems were solved and partnerships were forged over a cup of tea or coffee. It is very common to hear someone say “that we are coming over to drink tea at your office” This is mostly a signal that we want to meet to discuss issues or want to cooperate with you. I have witnessed lawsuits that have been sitting in courts for years quickly solved when two businessmen meet “with out their lawyers” over a cup of tea.

And, this is probably something you all do. Getting a cup of tea or coffee can be good an excuse to get away from work. You sometimes unintentionally end up dragging your boss with you.

My favorite tea is the Indian Chai “ milk tea” what’s yours?

Unknown

The Advertisements in me!

 

Not me, but in the Middle East.  This has been bothering me for a while. A lot of things when it comes to advertisements and PR in the Middle East do not make sense.  Our media outlets have outsourced their advertisement sales to incompetent ad agencies that have blown prices out of proportion. This was possible during the property boom, but we have seen how unreal those prices were and still are. Having more expensive advertisements only serve the ad agencies. Businesses and even government agencies are the ones paying the price.

 

If you look at campaigns, designs, and messages they carry, you would be surprised with the quality and lack of creativity in them, even from the bigger advertisement agencies. A lot of ads even lack the basics of cultural sensitivity. I think some of the Arabic ones can replace the comic sections in newspapers. In fact, if you trace these agencies then, it is easy for you to trace the few who control them and you will not be surprised why such non-sense takes place.

 

In the last few years, even government agencies started to appoint PR agencies, to do their branding, PR, and so forth and pay them millions of dollars for almost doing nothing. Having worked with some of these PR agencies, I can tell you that they can’t even draft a simple press release properly. And if you want to know, how they won their contract, then search for the new Marketing recruit and you will find the missing link. A lot of the work within these government agencies is still done by their ‘“internal PR Department.” So if you have a PR department that is very competent and experienced, then why do you need an advertisement agency.  In fact, why pay a million for a logo. After all, you are not Pepsi. And with that in mind, I just wanted to remind our friends who hire these big agencies that the Nike logo was designed for only $35. The money spent on these agencies can be utilized better in improving services or training their internal PR team, who have always done an excellent work.

 

Here is a very recent example that struck me. An announcement was made recently that Dubai has the most expensive billboard in the world with a value of $1.3 Billion Dollars.

 

This is how those behind the campaign justify this:

 

The billboard involved a man with a Jet Pack, initially hidden within the billboard, who emerged from the billboard and flew around it for approximately 20-30 seconds, before landing back on the billboard. If the Jet Pack act for the billboard were to have continued for a month, it would have cost approximately USD 1.3 Billion.

 

The seconds of flight time for the billboard in Downtown Dubai would cost a minimum of USD 500 per second. If the number of seconds in a month (60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24hours x 30 days = 2,592,000 seconds) is multiplied by USD 500, the total amounts to approximately USD 1.3 Billion for the month long fly time for the billboard.”

 

I don’t know, but does this make sense to you guys; is this guy flying non-stop for a month. And is this supposed to be a billboard or a TV advertisement. They have calculated how much it will cost if this dude keeps flying for a month non-stop, which is apparently not happening, and will not happen. In fact, they missed to include the cost of erecting the billboard, rental, and printing the banner in their calculations. May be if they included those, then it would cost about 2 billion dollars using their logic. Apparently this campaign was backed by Emaar, the largest property developer in the country. Emaar posted $560 million in operating profits for the year 2011, less than half of the suggested cost of this billboard. And by the way, the design is terrible.

 

Unfortunately, this was hailed by the local media. Another flop that one of those useless advertising agencies tried to pull. It is sad to see how these advertisement agencies underestimate the intelligence of the public thinking that this will sell. I am sure they can justify this in a way that a lot of media will capture this and start talking about it, but this will generate a lot of negative PR rather then positive PR.  The effect of this negative PR, particularly through new media channels, is some thing that these PR & AD agencies don’t understand and frankly speaking don’t even care about. We really do not need this unnecessary propaganda and false messages. People are not stupid. And to our friends at the local media, the most expensive, does not mean the best, in fact sometimes it does not mean anything and does not add value to anyone. Please understand that Dubai does not need this, we have a lot of success stories, and people from all over the world come to benchmark our success. Please don’t be deceived by the false campaigns these advertisement agencies drag you into. You can report on much better stories, which go unreported because of this nonsense.

 

In the past few years, we have seen a surge of young UAE national that have superb creative skills, and have mastered the art of new media and driven their business forward.  Others have mastered design, and many are emerging as great writers. They have also used their skills in a lot of philanthropic activities and social work. Their efforts were recently applauded and supported by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai. We thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed for his continuous support to young and emerging Emirati leaders.

 

I believe that it is time that we take back media and pr into our hands and give these opportunities to young and talented Emiratis; at least those business opportunities within government based media outlets and government agencies. These promising young leaders of the future will definitely produce much more creative work and deliver better results as they will not only be doing business but at the same time serving their country, let alone the fact they will give back to the community; something that these big ad agencies have never known.

 

 

want to be a child

Do People grow up?

The first question is how old you should be, to be dubbed as a grown up. Back in the days, by the age of 13 you were considered to be a grown up and should become a responsible person. These days, people in their 20’s 30’s 40’s even 50s act like children. I see this everyday and everywhere, in school, at work, and on the subway.

You probably can better understand what I mean when you look at the way people take pictures of themselves and post them all over the place in very childish poses.

These days, it is difficult sometimes to say that someone is an adult or has grown up. What adults do these days is closer to what children used to do many years ago. In fact it is closer to what children were asked not to do before.  As a child, you were always told not to break the rules, and will be punished if you did. As an adult you always break the rules, find ways to bend them, and to make it more exciting, you brag about it. As an adult, you tend to want to be bad and do things that are considered wrong, things you will probably till your children not to do.

You are probably playing more video games today than when you were a little kid. You are probably holding a teddy bear as we speak, and you are probably wearing a T-shirt with your favorite cartoon character on it. Does this sound familiar to you; it is certainly familiar to me.

Personally, I don’t think there should be an age limit for saying that someone is a child or not. In fact there is nothing wrong with being a child. Sometimes it is more fun being a child than an adult, even if it is for a few hours. The experience of being a child again is definitely and exciting one.

News

News!

I was watching CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewing General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan as she was asking him about the situation in Afghanistan and about their strategies, troops withdrawal, strengths and weaknesses of their position and so forth. She then switched to President Gul of Turkey and asked about his stand on many issues regarding Turkey and what he is his country’s plan about many issues in the Middle East. Minutes later we move to news of Massacres in Syria. Since the Gulf war in 1990, at least that is as far as I remember, war scenes are on TV as they happen. The news these days strike me, as they no longer seem to be news. Strategies on war are openly discussed just like a football game, with pre game analysis, half time analysis, and post game analysis. In a football game, it is very difficult these days to predict strategies of a coach even if the most intelligent and experienced analyst tries to give you his insight. But in situations of war, aren’t these strategies supposed to be secret. Aren’t discussions among world leaders suppose to take place behind closed doors? Are we almost seeing everything that happens in the world live and on air like a football match? Let a lone the jumble of information we get via YouTube and other social media channels. We all know that to a certain extent, there is no 100% transparency in news channels and they all have their biases, then imagine the flood of info with true or twisted information coming to us almost instantaneously via these social network sites, and for some, people cant wait to get or send the next tweet. I recently received a video clip from a friend via whatsapp of an ad for Volkswagen in china, and the title on the message and the video read’s Japan’s latest technological advancement. Since the global financial crisis, I started watching business channels with thousands of theories, analysis and predictions and the more I watched these channels and programs the more I got confused to a point that I was not sure if we are in a crisis or not and if the reasons were really well defined as any sensible person would see them or were even twisted and spiced up more and more.  What we see on mainstream media seems not so different except it is wrapped and packaged in a nicer way.

Whatever we get via these channels, we seem to just want it now, whether we know what’s coming, we know what to expect, we know if it is true or false, we know if it is twisted, we know it is going to be a surprise. We came to a point that we just can not wait and want to know more about things happening around us even if it is not our business and even if we do very little to change the bad things in our world. So are we expecting to see and know everything “live”. It no longer becomes news as we live and see every moment of it.

One thing however I a really struggle to find an answer for as I am sipping on my coffee and watching the news, is how do those people who died in these massacres feel as their bodies are being displayed in front of millions of people, and the scenes of their dead bodies being replayed over and over. I just hope that our need for information “now” does not take away what is left of human dignity.

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