Monthly Archives: March 2011

Curtain Raiser to TASTES – The Voices Food Special

The Food Issue

This is about the food issue – both the issue of food and the issue about food. One wonders: What is the reason behind a sudden issue fully devoted to food? Is food really such a big issue? Are we all, sitting behind the facade of ‘eating to live’, really ‘living to eat’? We certainly give enough importance to food to talk and write about it. A large amount of debate and discussion in our lives revolve around this ‘enfant terrible’. Too much of food causes as much headache (stomach-ache and mental-ache) as too little. We have a whole section of economy running on food. There are magazines, TV programmes and even professions that are entirely built upon the gastric needs of the society. Sometimes, it’s an outlet for our emotions (think binging). It’s also a way of sharing our joy with loved ones. A lot can happen over coffee, but a lot more happens over food, on food, and about food. Food is unavoidable on all occasions-formal or celebratory. In fact, food is a major way of ensuring attendance at these events. So, food is also a lure. It ranks high among the things of allure to people. Most people don’t (can’t) really care about anything as long as (unless) their intestinal demands are properly met. Food has a lot of manipulative potential for people. If what we intake really affects our behaviour, put food at the top of the list of things that can influence people. Isn’t this why most meetings and negotiations take place over food? There is nothing like a well-made dish to win us over. The consequences of the deficiency of even the most harmless sounding food component can shock you. Food can affect us through all the primary senses – sight of a delicious chocolate cake in the glass shelf of a shop, smell of good cooking from the neighbourhood, talk about that mouth-watering treat you always wanted to try – all are tantalizing and tempting enough. Good food should not only taste good; it should smell good, look good, what’s more – feel good (before and after). Food habits of a person are one of the determinants of his/her personality. If you’re too self-indulgent about food, you’re termed a glutton. If you eat too little, you’re supposedly having an eating disorder. You can be a messy eater or a fussy eater. You can eat like a bird or guzzle like a pig. And the thing about food is, whatever your attitude towards it, it shows – as extra layer of fat on your body – or its absence thereof.

Food, can therefore be a source of much mental distress because like many things of relevance to humanity, it too falls within the all-encompassing purview of the morality and etiquette police. There are do’s and don’ts regarding food also. But nothing beats that mental agony when you suddenly can’t find the right thing to satisfy that searing pain in your gut that says: ‘It’s time to eat!’ And at that time, nothing else enters our consciousness except the thought of food. And no philosophy or principle comes in handy. When you have to eat, you have to eat. Everything else takes the back seat. It’s no wonder; the only thing that runs strictly on schedule here, is the mess. Anything else can be in a chronic timing mess, perpetually getting delayed, moved around in favour of other things, but as long as the food served on time, everybody’s happy. The question of whether a special issue is needed aside, if there’s one, what better topic to fill its pages than food? Would any other subject incite commensurate attention? I seriously doubt it, and I rest my case.

Arun K. (EE)


Call for articles

Dear all,

Voices is delighted to present a food special issue next. We invite your opinions on food places in campus and restaurants near campus. You could give us a review of a restaurant, share recipes or food related experiences. You could send in your cartoons or sketches too. We look forward to your articles to make this a gourmet affair.

Kindly mail us your articles to the following e-mail id. –

Thank you.
Bon appétit!

Contents March 2011

The tale of two lectures

The man who rejected Padma Shri

Noices News

Some Unanswered Questions

SnT Run 2011

An IISc centenary lecture in the IBM centennial year

Rambling Wit

Birthday Celebrations Becoming Birthday Violence

Union Budget 2011: A Review

Prakruti as IISc Bathroom Managers

The hen-house

Insanity Unlimited 8

IISc in news

Gymkhana corner

Download March 2011 issue

The tale of two lectures

Satish Dhawan Auditorium and Faculty Hall, March 3, 2011. IISc hosted two luminaries who are important actors in the Indian socio – economic – political stage on a single day. Shiv Shankar Menon, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, delivered the IISc Golden Jubilee Lecture on ‘Science and Security’ at the Faculty Hall. P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu, interacted with the audience after the screening of the documentary, Nero’s Guests., at the Satish Dhawan Auditorium. The documentary screening was organised by Concern along with Vikalp Bengaluru and Maraa.

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell

P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu interacting with the audience at Satish Dhawan Auditorium. Photo – Concern

Nero’s guests addressed the issue of farmer suicides happening in the country over the past decade or more. The plot of the documentary is Mr. Sainath’s investigations into the farmer suicides in Vidarbha, one of the leading cotton producing region in the country. The documentary was named after the grand party organised by the Roman Caesar, Nero, for the citizens of Rome as described in Tacitus’ Annals. During the party the prisonersof the state were burnt to provide lighting with hardly any dissent from the guests. After the documentary, Mr. Sainath interacted with the audience largely comprising of non IISc-ians.

On growth

Mr. Sainath argued that the measure of growth is an indicator of the economic activity of the state and does not guarantee social well being. Looking at developing countries in South America, he claimed that growth is not essential for HDI. For a country with third largest number of billionaires, the HDI rank is poor (119). Unlike John Kenneth Galbraith’s and Amartya Sen’s argument of growth with justice, the aim should be growth through justice with equitable distribution of wealth. According to the third National Family Health Survey, the percentage of malnourished children in our country is over 46%, this is worse than that of Sub Saharan Africa.

On net percapita grain consumption

Quoting the economic survey, Mr. Sainath argued that in the 1950s, the per capita grain consumption of the country was 444 gms. In 1991, it was 510 gms. However, with a declining population growth, if the per capita grain consumption falls to 436 gms, the argument of growth is debatable.

On agriculture

With a country having 43 million people registered with the employment exchange, depending mainly on IT (which is not a great creator of jobs) is a bad strategy. In India, women are not classified as farmers. This adds to the plight of thousands of agricultural households in the country. A hit in agriculture means a hit in the allied sectors also. Agriculture needs to be declared as a public service. The definition of Poverty line is fraudulent in the country. According to National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector study, there are 836 million people in the country who live on less than INR 20 a day.

On Geneticaly modified crops

Mr. Sainath described GM crops as Agriculture on steroids. Using GM seeds reduces the soil fertility by 25%. Following the Punjab model as described by the RBI governor (D. Subbarao) will be disastrous.


Knowledge is power, power is Science

Shiv Shankar Menon at the Munich Security Conference in February 2011. While delivering the IISc Golden Jubilee Lecture, Mr. Menon mentioned about how he was asked to talk on cyber crime as he hailed from a place known for its IT competence. Photo – Sebastian Zwez.


Science is changing the security calculus of the nation, commented Shiv Shankar Menon, the National Security Advisor to the PrimeMinister. Mr. Menon commented on the two revolutions that has changed the security system of India in recent times. First, being the introduction of the nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapon is a political weapon and leads to a doctrine of deterrence. In 1998, when Pokran – II was conducted, India sought minimal deterrence and was not interested in an arms race. The fear of the enemy is what prompts a country to possess the nuclear weapons.

The second revolution is the emergence of Information Technology. The progress in Information Technology has made the country aware on cyber espionage and cyber warfare. The two success stories of recent times are the succesful completion of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the improvement in maritime security using GPS navigation.

India should develop its own technical competence just like the case of telecommunication and space technology. It is in the hands of researchers to work towards the security of our country by focusing on innovative technologies across disciplines that would enable India to protect itself. Answering questions raised by the audience, Mr. Menon stated that diplomacy is not a beauty contest where being loud or popular matters. Popularity is not the measure of the effectiveness of the foreign policy.


[A Voices Press initiative]

The man who rejected Padma Shri

It was a dream that I shared with Prathamesh to host Palagummi Sainath in the campus. I also invited him for a possible talk, which he can deliver in the campus. But it did not materialise (I mailed his old e-mail id). So it was exciting to know that Concern along with two other organisations managed to get him to the campus. Amartya Sen calls him “one of the world’s greatest experts on famine and hunger”. A cult figure for emerging journalists, he declined Padma Shri in 2009 stating that the state should not be judging journalists. You knew you were listening to someone genuine when the person did not begin with the rhetorical “It is an honour to be in the ‘prestigious’ Indian Institute of Science …”.

Surviving Academicians

Mr. Sainath, as a student in the ‘prestigious’ Jawaharlal Nehru University, was a student activist who had led many protests in the JNU campus (the Vice – Chancellor was Mr. K.R. Narayanan, who later went on to be the first citizen of the country). During the very serious discussion, there were a few lighter moments in the form of anecdotes. A Marathi journalists had once questioned Mr. Sainath, asking if alcoholism the real cause of farmer suicide. He had replied, if that was the case, then there would be no journalists alive. A slight pause was followed by, so is the case with most of the academicians.

Contrasting opinions

Voltaire, the famous philosopher, remarked “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. Shiv Shankar Menon, the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, remarked (during the IISc Golden Jubilee lecture) that the emerging technologies rests in a few corporate hands and this is not comforting. Mr. Sainath (in the discussion after the documentary screening) was arguing how the income inequality was widening and the losers in the budget are the social service sector and Agriculture. Mr. V.K. Varadarajan, former editor, Business Line, during the Panel discussion on the Union Budget (organised by Management Studies) expressed that social sector will benefit from the budget. He was possibly referring to corporate farmers and farmers cultivating cash crops.

Mr. Sainath argued that IT is not a great creator of jobs in the country. While, Mr. Vivek Kulkarni, former IT secretary, Govt of Karnataka, argued (in the panel discussion) that enough incentives are not given to IT sector in the budget. If for every 100 crores generated by the Iron and Steer industry, two percent goes as salaries, the figure is 60% in the case of IT sector.

To quote Adam Smith, the father of Modern Economics and Capitalism, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”. The floor is open for deep thought and discussion.

Shyam (Mgmt)

Noices News

Obese Research Student Miraculously Completes 10km Marathon. Gives Credit to Fit Guide Running Behind Him

In what could be truly described as a triumph of the eternal human spirit over the “weight” of limitations imposed by the mortal human body, Golu Dhol, an obese research student miraculously completed the 10 km marathon event in the third edition of the SnT Run held at IISc.

Golu however decided to give the entire credit of his victory to his advisor Prof. S. T. Kadak. “I would like to give the entire credit for my feat to my guide Dr. Kadak.” said Golu.

In a candid and exclusive interview with the Noices Team, Golu revealed the details. “I had neither hopes nor intentions of completing the run. I just registered for fun. I managed to wake up early today as my roommate Khoom B Karan was snoring very loudly. So I thought I might as well come and collect my T-shirt and slip away quietly,” said Golu.

Golu continued, “You see, my guide had assigned me some work over the week. Obviously, I had not completed it nor made any progress towards its completion. I was avoiding him for the past one week. You can imagine my shock when I saw my guide participating in the run. I mean, I knew he was fitness conscious but I never expected to see him here. I was so scared he would see me and ask me about my progress. I tried to escape, but there was too much rush. One thing led to another and I got pushed towards the start line by the crowd. Somebody flagged off the run and suddenly everybody started running. My guide also started running towards me. I was so scared. I just started sprinting and never looked back after that.” said Golu.

Noices enquired why he decided to keep running for the entire track of 10km and did not slip away (considering his physical condition) through any one of the side shortcuts along the track. Golu’s reply was, “You think I did not try? So many times I tried to wander to the side and slip away along the wrong route. Those numerous volunteers standing all along the track just did not let me go wrong. They immediately kept pointing out to me that I am going in the wrong direction and pushed me along the correct path. How was I supposed to escape? My guide behind me, volunteers on the side, there was only one way out for me after that”

On request, Golu posed and smiled for the Noices photographer, proudly holding aloft his trophy, certificate and his chest badge (Bib No. 9211).

Noices decided to speak to the volunteers and get their views on the event in general and on Golu Dhol’s extraordinary performance in particular.

“Overall, the event went off smoothly. Only place we faced some tension was when non-runners started coming and demanding T-shirts. We were running out of stock but the demanders were persistent. Finally I had to remove my T-shirt and give it to a protester. But the others did not relent. Finally I threatened to remove my pant and give it to them. Then only they left me alone.” said Balwaan Khan, a volunteer.

Noices decided to move on and speak to the volunteers and spectators at the finish line. Almost all of them seemed to recollect with great accuracy, the time and manner in which Golu Dhol passed the finish line.

“I was so surprised when I got the news that he is about to complete 10k. I got up immediately and came to watch him at the finish line” Said Khoom B. Karan, Golu’s roommate and a spectator.

Noices asked the spectators at the finish line why and how each one of them seemed to recollect seeing Golu cross the finish line. Was it his innate charisma? Noices asked the spectators what according to them, was the one special quality that made Golu stand out from the rest of the crowd and etch himself in the memories of all. “He was the only one who continued running even after crossing the finish line” said a volunteer.

Arjun Shetty (ECE/MRC)

Some Unanswered Questions

On the occasion of Women’s day, we revisit a subject in Voices that we had briefly touched upon in a 2007 issue ( The abuse that women on campus face and a few simple tips on self help and protection.

The last few years did witness a self defence two day work shop, coordinated by the women members of the 2009-2010 Students Council. A person who dared to cross boundaries of courtesy was asked to publicly apologise. The topic to start a gender forum was floated on an e-group but with little success or should we say abysmal failure; we ourselves being members of that team. The reactions and the jabbing humour were very disheartening.

Despite these sparse attempts, we often are not sure if the women who really need self defence are participating in the programs or it is the usual bunch of confident, enterprising women who volunteer for all of the things anyways. Please understand that we are not being judgmental about women who don’t participate. The concern here is that most of us feel that, “This cannot happen to me”. We need to step beyond the tinted glass existence. We need to understand that it is not whether we are a potential victim, it is about in case we become one, are we capable enough to take care of the situation?

We all hear horrid tales where colleagues are not being nice or being too interfering, problems with lab attenders etc. But most of these cases do not come out in the open for fear of criticism and blame. The victim is often blamed and ridiculed. This adds to the emotional trauma she is going through and becomes one of those cases where everyone is interested in seeing and knowing about the victim, rather than worrying that such a horrid incident should not repeat.

A recent incident where the victim received immense support from faculty and lab mates and the person guilty lost his job; makes all of us realise that change is possible.

The issue that we are trying to raise is whether we can build a system that will meet the target audience. A women’s cell that actually works; a group of trained people whom girls can approach in case of a discomforting incident. Do we need an institutional policy in this regard? Though by law, every educational institution has to have a support body looking at sexual harassment. Who do we approach? The floating SC, that changes every academic year? The administration who are also responsible for the safety and security of our students?

While we await that answer, we request all women students to kindly understand the importance of being a keen observer, and being self reliant.

A few simple safety tips:
Please ensure that at all points of time, atleast one other person on campus is aware of your whereabouts.
In case you are receiving crank calls or being stalked(extreme cases), retain all mails, smses and call proofs(timings).Also, one practical solution could be asking a guy friend to take that call and give the caller a piece of his mind. At times, miraculously it helps.
Share any unnatural incident with your friends/ colleagues.
Understand that you do not have to take undesirable behaviour, be it from a friend, a colleague, a senior or even a person in authority.
Remember that it is not your fault. Do not wallow in self pity.
Also remember that you can stall untoward incidences, by being a little attentive and careful.
Carry a pepper spray (Rs. 500 a can) and if you do so, make sure you know how to use it. You could carry a swizz knife/pen knife/ even a strong deodorant (works like a pepper spray).
In case you are reluctant to approach help on campus due to confidentiality issues, help is also available outside. You can call 1091(Toll free number) – Vanitha Sahaya Vani, the Women’s Helpline at the Police Commissioners Office.
The other helplines you can approach, which also handle personal and family counselling are:
SAHAI helpline- 25497777
Viveka- 55330387
Helping Hand- 23535687
Parivarthan- 25298686/25273462

Let us work for this together. We aim to do an anonymous and confidential survey on eve teasing and harassment on campus and solicit your participation.

**Wikipedia: According to India’s constitution, sexual harassment infringes the fundamental right of a woman to gender equality under Article 14 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution. Although there is no specific law against sexual harassment at workplace in India but many provisions in other legislations protect against sexual harassment at workplace, such as Section 354, IPC deals with “assault or criminal force to a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty, and Section 509, IPC deals with “word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.

Further reading:

The Article by the Student Who Faced a Case of Abuse A Personal Account – Aftermath

I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I still can’t believe it happened.
I thank my stars I got away. I can’t think beyond that.

I wouldn’t like to think of myself as a coward (indeed, if it happened again, I wouldn’t hesitate to take a knife to an ‘important’ part of the person’s anatomy). But at that moment I was helpless. I realized that all the self-defence training wouldn’t help if you’re frozen in shock. And, in panic, you can’t remember which self-defence tactic you’re supposed to use; you can’t even scream.

If it’s a stranger, you’d be quick to act. If it’s someone you considered ‘safe’, your first reaction is shock, as your mind is slow to process what’s happening.

I would like to point out here, that we women think that we can generally spot a pervert – from his snide looks or comments or rely on our instincts. But it doesn’t work all the time. There are covert perverts who seem all decent at the surface until they actually do something. I’ve tried to think of all the interactions I’ve had with the offender, trying to figure out how I was taken in/why couldn’t I spot his not-so-honourable intentions/how could he do this/how far would he have gone if my legs hadn’t moved/could I have done anything to prevent it/how could I have been so dumb, etc. but I’m yet at a loss to figure this out.

We all stay in our world of blissful ignorance – thinking we’re safe, that such things won’t happen to us. I think it’s time we recognized the potential danger – by this I don’t mean one should be paranoid in the company of men or fear that someone would jump out at us any time (although I did become paranoid for quite a while after the incident). But we should be alert, and prepared to help ourselves at all times.

(I bought a pepper spray after this – as someone said, better be safe than sorry.) You never feel you could be a victim until you are one.

Another point I’d like to make – not everyone feels comfortable to complain. You’d never wish to relive it – the fear, humiliation, outrage. Besides, there’s needless publicity, unless everyone around you is understanding; if not willing to wipe your tears, at least not adding on to your misery. You’d prefer to forget the incident and move on rather than bring the offender to book, which gives the offender the misguided notion that he can get away with such misconduct.

The one thing I was sure of was that I HAD NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. I HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG. If perverts exist in the universe, it’s NOT my fault.

My deep regrets that I do wish to voice – due to my shock, I couldn’t even deliver a much-deserved punch. And all I’m left with right now is anger.

As told to: Vasantha (CSA) and Madhurima (MGMT)

SnT Run 2011

IISc hosted the third version of Science and Technology Run (SnT Run) on Sunday, 6th March, 2011. The event was jointly organized by the Students’ Council and IISc Alumni Association. The participants in this event covered a wide spectrum ranging from the IISc fraternity and alumni, corporates from “Silicon Valley” of India, students from science and engineering colleges across Bangalore, to the local people who were enthusiastic about running for Science and Technology.

The previous two editions in 2008 and 2010 were quite successful, witnessing a participation of over 1500 and this year’s edition saw the number of participants cross 2000.

Proceedings started with a welcome address by Dr K R Srinivasan, President IISc Alumni Association and convener of the SnT Run 2011 . Guests of honour included names like athletes, Mrs Reeth Abraham, Mrs Ashwini Nachappa and Mr Najeeb Aga. Prof Balaram, and Prof Balakrishnan graced the occasion with their presence. The rules and regulations and the technical part of the event was managed by Elvis Joseph from Bangalore Schools Sports Foundation. The events lined up this year were, a 10km mini-marathon, 5km Fun Run, Children’s (55 years of age) of 2km and a 5x1km corporate relay. The various categories of the runs were flagged off by the guests of honour.

The event went off as planned and was conducted in an almost perfect and glitch free manner. The event was well received by the participants and there was no lack of enthusiasm in the crowd as was evident from the never ending applicants at the registration desk.

Students’ Council thanks the innumerable volunteers for their selfless efforts and support that helped make sure that the event went off smoothly.

Special mention must be made of the efforts of the Environmental Initiatives Committee of the Students’ Council and the associated volunteers who made sure that the littering on campus during the event was kept to a minimum. We can say with certainty that at the end of the event, we have left the campus in the same litter free state it was in at the start of the event. We thank the participants for adhering to the no littering rule and for making use of the dustbins placed at regular intervals.

A new concept introduced this year was the BoF Session (BoF – Birds of a Feather). Derived from the phrase “Birds of a feather flock together”, BoF sessions involve informal discussion groups that are formed spontaneously. The participants with shared interests gather under a placard (stating their interest) and carry out discussions without any pre planned agenda. The aim of the BoF sessions this year was to provide an opportunity to outsiders to get to know the institute better by interacting with its students, alumni and faculty in a comfortable and relaxed environment. There were 3 BoF platforms namely – Students BoF (about courses in the institute, pursuing research in institutes of higher learning, BS programme at IISc), Corporate BoF (to discuss existing association of corporates with the institute, scope for future collaboration, continuing education programmes at the institute) and Alumni BoF(interaction between alumni and current IISc community). Prof Narahari (CSA) and Prof Iyer (MGMT) kindly volunteered to be present during the BoF sessions and we thank them for their invaluable advice and guidance during the discussions.

After the event, the feedback from the participants widely proclaimed the third edition of the SnT Run as a very well organized one. While it is impossible to mention all the feedback we received, here are a couple of samples,

Much better than last year in all senses….great ambience (as always)….very well attended… great partcipation from iisc student community…great breakfast (nice surprise)… couple of minor time…for 10K course was short by 500/600 m…

Other suggestion…if we can hold this race in mid jan of early feb more students from outside campus can join (Mar is the exam time..)

Great job team

~Gopal Halder (Bib No: 1012)

Kudos List:
* Great run, great people and amazing atmosphere. I will run next time too.
* Caring and helpful organizers, volunteers and support staff

Complaint list:
* Distance of 10 kms was only about 9.3kms.

* There was a patch of about 200mts where there was lot of dust/loose sand because of construction.

~Manbinder Pal Singh (Bib No 1850)

Thank you for arranging the run which was just excellent! I work for Citrix Systems and all of us who came from Citrix loved it. The campus is absolutely beautiful. I ran with my entire family (wife and 2 children 12 years old) and we all finished the 10K run.

~Krishna Durairaj (Bib No 1664)

Overall, the general feedback proclaimed this edition as bigger and better as compared to its previous two editions. There were suggestions for improvement regarding the distance of 10km being short by around 0.5km and the dust on some routes. We are sure all this constructive criticism will help us do better the next time around.

Students’ Council would like to take this opportunity to thank all the participants for making this event a success. We thank all those involved in organizing this event and the volunteers without whom this event would not have been conducted in this professional and streamlined manner. We hope you will join us for the next edition of the event also.

~ Students’ Council
Photo Credits: Jagadish (CPDM)

An IISc centenary lecture in the IBM centennial year

Director of IISc (left) with the Chairman of IBM (right), Feb 9, 2011

The IISc centenary lectures were instituted in 2008 when the Institute stepped into its 100th year, facilitating the hosting of talks by experts from academia around the world. The first time a speech was delivered by someone from industry was on 9 February 2011 when Samuel. J. Palmisano, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM, addressed a fully-packed J. N. Tata auditorium. This lecture was also part of IBM’s series of lectures and conversations initiated at the start of its centennial year in 2011 – in partnership with universities around the world and intended towards ‘exploring how the world has changed in the past 100 years—and how it will change in the decades ahead (’, drawing lessons from its legacy.

Palmisano joined IBM in 1973, became its President in 2000, CEO in 2002 and Chairman in 2003. Among other honours and awards for business leadership, he is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His lecture on the 9th was titled ‘The ideas that shaped a century, in technology, business and society’. He started with an extract from a speech in 1962 by Tom Watson Jr, the son of their Founder, when IBM had turned 50: ‘… corporations are expendable, and … success – at best – is an achievement which can always slip out of hand.’ Fifty years later, Samuel said: ‘Tom was right – success is fleeting. Of the top 25 companies on the Fortune 500 at the time of Watson’s lecture, only four remained in 2010.’

The history of IBM has educated them on the ‘source of any business or institution’s continued success and impact’. IBM has continually changed – from making clocks, cheese slicers, typewriters, personal computers, software… – all this has been done by one company. And they have proceeded, from operating in one country to around 170 countries. Samuel spoke of the need for continual forward movement in the case of IBM and never to define themselves by the things they make, no matter how successful they may be at present. But though they have continually changed, they have been doing exactly the same thing for 100 years. In 1962, Tom Watson Jr pointed out that an organization must have a sound set of beliefs, faithful adherence to these beliefs, and it must be prepared to change everything about itself except those beliefs. Samuel said: ‘…I would argue that the need for a foundation of belief and values is greater today than ever before, because change is faster than ever before, and the arena is larger and more complex than ever before. In a globalizing world, with work spread across vast networks of organizations and individuals, people need something that holds them together, that provides a touchstone for their actions and decisions.’

A decade ago at IBM, they identified shifts and transformations that would play out in future. As CEO, Samuel started an initiative to re-examine their core values; and they came together online in the form of social media. A value was shaped: ‘Innovation that matters – for our company and for the world’. Samuel said that translating good beliefs into actions differentiates a good company from others, and this is done through a continually recreated culture.
The cult of personality in business is a powerful lure. What happens when a prototype leader – Tom Watson Sr – is no longer there? – ‘The challenge becomes how to perpetuate a culture through time.’ Samuel again cited Tom Watson Jr in 1962 saying that this must be done if an organization is to meet challenges. Samuel talked about two forces that will change the future, viz. technology and global integration. He pointed out that technology has, over a century, moved from being a set of tools to an industry to a science. Technology is how we see the world today, how we understand the dynamics of complex systems, and how we decide the course of action. It is not just a succession of gadgets and websites – it is the way the world works. The vast amounts of data being created can be turned into insight. For example in New York, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly uses data to fight crime. Samuel said that leaders of today must understand, not the mechanics of technology but its implications.

Speaking of global integration, Samuel said that this would create new economic opportunities. Over the decade, IBM has changed from a ‘20th century multinational model’ to a ‘globally integrated enterprise’. They have lowered their operational centre of gravity: where do they locate expertise and decision-making? – globally networked; and where do they integrate their company? – at the point of client interaction. Three years ago, they launched a corporate citizens services core; teams of IBMers go to different cities in emerging markets such as Ghana to make them smarter cities. They come back and share their experiences with other IBMers through social media.

The key lesson from IBM’s history is that: ‘If you want long term success, you have to manage for the long term.’ Samuel also noted that: ‘… building for the long term is not for the faint-hearted. It often compels the enterprise to act when that isn’t obvious, to place bets that seem risky in the near term, and to combat corporate inertia when times are good.’ It involves clearly defined behavioural cycles, how and where to allocate resources, how and when to take decisive actions, and talent development. It shapes the way you see your company and its role in industry and society. IBM has always had progressive workforce policies. In 2005, for example, they were ‘the first company to put genetic information off-limits in employment-related decisions.’ Samuel said he came to work every day thinking that IBM would outlive him and that they would leave a better IBM than the one they inherited. He emphasized that the measure of any organization such as an industry or an institution is what was its impact and how is the world different because it existed? He believed that the past century and the next one was and would be better because of IBM.

On the collaboration between academia, business and governance, Samuel indicated that this could address many questions of society; but cooperation is hard due to the human aspect in addition to the scientific impact. Considering combined work, personnel at IBM and researchers at IISc have collaborated on projects and as many as seven faculty members of the Institute have received the IBM Faculty Awards which are intended to ‘foster collaboration between researchers at leading universities worldwide and those in IBM research, development and service organizations; and promote courseware and curriculum innovation to stimulate growth in disciplines and geographies that are strategic to IBM. (’.

Certain points in Samuel’s speech struck a chord of remembrance for the valedictory speech on 16 December 2008 during the IISc centenary conference by P. Balaram, Director of the Institute. He also spoke of learning from the past: ‘… It is only when you understand the past will you really understand the present; will you really be able to take yourself out of the very little, personal involvement in your own careers, and be able to look at a picture which is somewhat larger, and which requires the attention of young, energetic and imaginative people.’ On the history of the Institute, he noted: ‘… the one thing that we have, and we have in abundant measure, is an extraordinarily romantic history – a history that makes one understand how institutions grow in an environment which is completely barren. How do they grow over an enormously turbulent century that has actually seen two World Wars and one cold war? Of the Institute, he praised: ‘…I suspect that some of these laid-back qualities of the Institute are in fact to be prized and protected in an era in which people are running faster and faster, but to destinations that they do not know.’

Regarding future planning and management, Balaram said: ‘…we should build an agenda for the future, which is our own agenda. We should also build a kind of implementation mechanism which will take this agenda forward.’ He talked about the vision of the Founder, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata – ‘to have an institution which would transform the scientific landscape of India; which would give to a nation that was yet to be industrialized, its first research institution.’ That was the vision of Tata over 100 years ago. ‘Today, if one wants to have a vision for the second century of the institution … it must be a very practical vision that is guided by the realities of the present, and also, what might be projections for the realities of the future.’ said Balaram.

Geethanjali Monto,
D-215, New housing colony,
Indian Institute of Science,
Bangalore 560 012.

Rambling Wit

Today I met an auto driver who insisted on communicating with me in english. Initially I wondered why. Then I realised that his english is better than my kannada

Arjun Shetty (ECE)
Illustration : Jithin K S (ECE)