CUSTOMER STICKINESS – CORNERSTONE FOR SUCCESS IN THE MODERN, COMPETITIVE WORLD

Let me begin by quoting Mahatma Gandhi : “A Customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us, we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work, he is the purpose it.He is not an outsider of our business, he is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him, He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so”.

This Talisman of the Mahatma is probably an extrapolation of the Indian psyche of “Athithi Devo Bhava” (Guests are equivalent to God) though I haven’t heard of an Indian guest who pays for his stay & services consumed !! That the Mahatma realized the value of customers several decades before India Inc woke up to this business tenet is a testimony of the Mahatma’s vision for independent India. Hang on, I am not an ardent follower of Gandhian principles, neither do I support all his actions during & after the freedom struggle. But this talisman of the Mahatma struck a cord.

The lifeline for businesses around the world is, top line growth, which translates into bottom line growth(assuming all other management funda of economies of scale, reduction of NVA activities, cost cutting blah blah are taken care of). Top line growth is fuelled by new customers & retention of existing ones. While the Business development heads are aggressive enough to hunt of newer customers in new geographies, businesses increasingly tend to loose focus of existing customers (or rather take them for granted !) This folly of businesses failing to nurture existing customer relationships often spells doomsday. Why ? Read on for answers..

The world is increasingly interconnected than ever before. One disgruntled customer is no longer  confined to his country/industry. There are several avenues available for angry customers to begin what is called “VIRAL” marketing with a caustic tongue, a.k.a “bad mouthing”. A customer who indulges in such uncalled for marketing has potential to break all future growth for companies. For companies relying only on new customers, viral marketing is the NEMESIS.

On the flip side, happy customers can add value to your business as well ! This brings us to the big question of how to convert our existing customers into our virtual salesforce ? This conversion can take place only when companies intentionally develop a strong bond with customers & ensure to have “top of the mind” recall (perceptual mapping) when customers face their next business problem.

Customers of large corporations can be classified into 4 major strata within a Customer Stickiness Pyramid. The customer “stickinesss” pyramid is a framework for measuring success of companies in converting existing customers into positive viral marketers (brand ambassadors) for the products/services they consume. The parameter used to measure success of this conversion process is called a “Stickiness Score” (on a scale of 10). Higher the Stickiness Score, the better it is for you!

The Customer stickiness pyramid primarily has 4 strata :

Strata 1 – Satisfaction

At the bottom of the Stickiness pyramid is the “Satisfied” customer. A product or service well delivered creates such a customer. But the satisfied customer does have a few heartburns while adopting or consuming the new product/service. A satisfied customer is one whose expectations have been largely met but falling short of the 100 % mark.

The stickiness score for such customers is very low – ranging from 0 to 1. Primarily these customers have grudges against the solution/product consumed & have been restrained from voicing their complaints due to a large set of requirements being met. These grudges get inflated over a period of time. Hence, at the drop of a hat, customers in this strata do not hesitate to jump the ship & partner with your competitor. Once lost to competition, it is impossible to bring them back on board. The base of the pyramid shrinks if such customers are not attended to.

Strata 2 – Delight

The second strata from the bottom is a delighted customer. Such a customer is a result of sustained delivery of good service & product quality at every touch point. This includes meeting business objectives & technical requirements, mutually enriching people-people interactions, customer support/service etc. A long term relationship can be easily built with these customers as they are keen on sharing unsolved business problems (which generates business opportunities) which in turn  enhances the “trust” capital & reduces the “trust” deficit.

The stickiness score for customers in this strata would be around 5. Nevertheless, the delighted customer needs nurturing as the foundations of a strong & mutually beneficial relationship are being laid. The relationship is yet to mature & has the potential of slipping. However a slip or a downgrade of such customers will not result in your competitor’s gain. At worst, one would end up with a Satisfied customer – far better than NO Customer at all!

Strata 3 – Astonishment

The third strata from the bottom of the Customer Stickiness pyramid is a customer who is “astonished” through your product/service delivery. This customer is a result of non linear benefits realised in their businesses through the product/service consumed. A long term relationship built has reaped rich rewards & unlocked value for the customer. Example of such situations could be, a sustainable solution for reduction of operating costs, drastic increase in return on investment (qualitative & quantitative), product/service has been an enabler for quick turnaround in responding to market needs thus helping develop new businesses etc..Such customers are built over a period of time  ( prolonged period of spending time in Strata 2 – Delighted customers) This is primarily because it is time consuming to establish rapports with more than one power center within the customer’s organization.

The stickiness score for such customers would be 7.5. These customers are close to ideal brand ambassadors for you. They speak for you in international forums & industry conferences. Their depth of understanding of your company provides valuable feedback on how we can be better & target new customers. It is safe to assume that these customers are life long partners unless disaster strikes (Murphy’s law)

Strata 4 – Ecstasy

The topmost strata of the Customer stickiness pyramid in the Ecstatic customer who has chosen you as the partner of choice (& not compulsion as in Strata 1 & 2). For such customers the world begins & ends at your doorstep. Such customers develop a strong sense of brand loyalty for your company & act as evangelists in promoting your brand. Though there is very little difference between an astonished customer & a ecstatic customer it is worthwhile to note that an ecstatic customer will not be lost even if disaster strikes.  What about the Customer stickiness score ?? 10 on 10 !

Conclusion :  It is important for companies to classify their customers into these buckets to help them strategise better in the art of customer retention. All companies would have a stereotypical pyramid structure (wide at the base, narrowest at the top) once done with this classification, i.e more customers who are merely satisfied & very less who are ecstatic. (Though it was stated in a different context – Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid – hats off to the Management Guru, Late CK Prahalad, this funda applies here too) Classifying customers in these strata alone would not suffice. Conscious efforts must be made to upgrade customers from a lower strata to the higher strata with significant contributions from all employees (not just the CRMs or Marketing Heads). Strata 2,3 & 4 would be fed with constant upgrades from their lower strata. Feeding customers into Strata 1 is best left to the Sales force !! The Sales force of companies must continuously target new customers to feed into the base of the customer stickiness pyramid making it wider. Relationship managers must focus on increasing the pyramid’s width bottoms up from Strata 2. This promotes healthy competition in obtaining new businesses(growth) between sales teams & relationship teams.

Such a model will see your company through  thick & thin with new customers boosting your revenues in upturn & existing customers helping you stay afloat & grow marginally even during downturns !

 

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April 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm 1 comment

Role of a householder – Hinduism

The Hindu society is categorized into 4 “Ashramas” or stages of life. They are 1) Brahmacharya Ashrama (student life, a period of learning) 2) Gruhastha Ashrama (family life) 3) Vanaprastha Ashrama (a period of withdrawal from active life, playing the role of a mentor) 4) Sanyasa Ashrama (a period of complete withdrawal from worldly life). Assuming that the life time of an average human being consisted of 100 years, each of the above ashramas had a time span of 25 years.
Partially, these ashramas hold good even in the modern day world (21st century) wherein the first 25-30 years are dedicated towards acquiring knowledge of the sciences, economics, arts etc. The subsequent 25-30 years are spent raising a family. However there are differences in how these ashramas are looked upon in India today.
The last two ashramas seem to have lost their relevance in the modern day world.

Of the 4 ashramas mentioned above, the Gruhastha ashrama is considered the most important. It is considered the “most productive” of the ashramas. The Gruhastha-Gruhini combination is expected to shoulder enormous responsibilities for the sustenance of the other 3 ashramas. The student’s primary focus is on acquisition of knowledge. The student needs the necessary infrastructure & the financial support for devoting his time to the primary activity of learning. The Vanaprastha Ashrama (in a Vedic society) can be equated to the post retirement period in the modern world. The elderly again need the support (moral, financial or physical) for sustenance. This was characterized by the Joint family system which existed (& continues to exist to a lesser extent). The joint family system is a unique feature in the Vedic tradition where care for elders is compensated by effective mentoring of GEN NEXT. The Sanyasi as an entity is not entitled to own or owe anything. For sustenance, he depends on alms (bhiksha in Sanskrit) given by the Gruhastha. Hence Gruhastha Ashrama is the only “non-parasitic” ashrama as it supports & nourishes the other 3. However in the modern world, due to the growing influence of West, the concept of “I,me,myself” has blurred the responsibilities across all the ashramas.
Duties of the Gruhastha thus need be driven with a sense of “Contributorship” & not with a sense of “Consumership”. His duties can thus be categorized into 5 headings as follows:
1)Brahma Yagnya 2)Deva Yagnya 3)Manushya Yagnya 4) Bhootha Yagnya 5)Pitru Yagnya

BRAHMA YAGNYA
Hinduism is probably the only religion in the world which worships Nature as the Almighty. Hence, the elements of Nature are revered & respected as GOD. This principle is reflected in the 5 temples in South India (Fire(Agni) as Annamalai Deepam in Tiruvannamalai , Sky ( Aakash) as Chidakasha in Chidambaram , Water (Jal) Jambukeswara in Tiruvanaikaval, Air (Vayu) Vayu Lingam in Sri Kalahasthi , Earth (Prithvi) Prithvi Lingam in Kanchipuram). The pious Hindu Gruhastha worships Nature(Creation) by lighting the Deepam everyday at home & prays for Universal Peace. The Deepam symoblises Agni which stands for purity. The human body itself is a combination of these 5 elements & the Gruhastha strives to realize the truth of Brahman(Paramatma,GOD),the driving force behind these very elements. Such an introspection calms down one’s mind & makes him an effective “Contributor”.

As a side note , Hinduism has always believed in glowing lights throughout the world, unlike the dominant religion of the world which believes in extinguishing candles even during happy occasions !!

DEVA YAGNYA
Hinduism acknowledges the fact that not every Gruhastha would relate to the principle of GOD manifesting as Nature. Hence, it permits the use of idols for representing the Almighty. The 33 crore Hindu Gods are a testimony to this principle. The Gruhastha thus can perform several rituals( Yaga, Abhisheka etc..)praying for Universal good. There are Yagas for universal peace,rains,properity,good progeny etc..Atleast once a year, the Gruhastha should undertake a ritual for world’ good or country’s good or society’s good or ATLEAST his family’s well being.

MANUSHYA YAGNYA
Hindus as a race are very tolerant & Service Oriented. This is based on the Vedic principle that every other human being is a bundle of the 5 elements which make up the Universe & hence by serving man, one is actually serving the Brahman within.. Hence the Gruhastha needs to perform the duty of serving humanity/society through body, mind or money (tan, man or dhan in Hindi). There are several such organizations in India which serve people(even non-Hindus) selflessly (without any hidden intentions of converting them into HINDUS). Often such noble efforts go unnoticed due to the biased media & the west aping intelligentsia. Social Service as a duty is thus very critical to a Hindu Gruhastha’s life.

BHOOTHA YAGNYA
Hinduism respects all living beings(other than human beings) like animals,plants,underwater world etc.. Hence the Gruhastha must play the role of nourishing these beings with a sense of belonging to the same family( Universal family – Vasudaiva Kutumbakam). This is exhibited by the practice in several South Indian households of placing boiled rice, grams near the window sill for crows,sparrows,squirrels to feed on.
Amazing !! Does this happen in any other religion ?

PITRU YAGNYA
Hinduism believes in the Karma theory. Being very simplistic the Karma theory = As you sow(or have sown in your previous births as an animal. plant etc..) , so shall you reap (in this human birth or subsequent births later).Building on this concept, our ancestors could be living on this planet/Universe in a different form altogether. The Pitru Yagnya is a form of thanksgiving for their contribution to the planet/society/culture & our well being. Our Vedic mantras infect also pray for those whose progeny are not performing the PITRU Yagnya.

All the five Yagnyas listed above are duties of a Gruhastha as he/she commands the requisite money/muscle power to perform them. If one performs them, it would be for his/her good & would inculcate a sense of pride in being Hindu in the next generation & build a sound value system. Hinduism has never preached the principle of “I,me,myself”. But a blind aping of the WEST in India is eating into this fundamental & pure advice of Vedic scriptures.

I have recently entered the Gruhastha Ashrama & have begun discharging my duties, in small way to develop a sense of “Contributorship” & come OUT from a sense of crass consumerism. I exhort all such HINDU Gruhasthas to take the plunge & preserve our ancient culture & value system !!

Proud to be a HINDU ! Jai Hind !

May 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm 1 comment

Be Incorrect !!

Markets worldwide are undergoing “Correction”. I may be stretching this too far(as markets are not just “correcting” but “crashing”). But I felt this is an appropriate time to pen my thoughts on being “correct” !!

We live in an ecosystem wherein being “correct” is critical. Individuals need to be seen or perceived to be on the correct(or right) side of things – Politically correct(at your workplace/family), Socially correct (in the “samaj”), Religiously Correct (Secular ?? or Pseudo secular??)

Most of us abhor politics , but end up being worse than politicians when it comes to dealing with people & situations at home or at workplace. We want to be seen moving with the right people at work. In this context, “right people” are those who don’t speak out their minds & hence are in the good books of all !! The whistle blowers or the “truth speakers” are often unpopular. These folks don’t care a damn for sounding politically correct. But we don’t want to be seen in the very company of them for long as it would “brand” us as being INCORRECT !!

The ecosystem drives us to be “Socially Correct”. Lavish & extravagant spending during festivals & weddings is the order of the day. It does attract media attention, but mostly for all the wrong reasons. These days, weekend talk-shows focus on how socially insensitive we have become. Every extravagant celebration is said to be adding fuel to the fire dividing the Rich & the Poor. Social activists criticize the affluent in indulging in all the niceties when millions of their countrymen are on the streets. But, these very social activists don’t hesitate to fly “Business Class” (& not “Economy Class”) on International routes ! (Note : I myself know of a self proclaimed & popular social worker who flies Business Class during International travel. The very project she opposed for several years has now been completed & is benefiting crores of people !!! She continues flying Business Class. ) Arent such people trying to be elitist, but painting a picture of being Socially Correct ? I am not against being Socially Correct per se. But, the advice to be “Socially Correct” is not being given by those who are practicing restraint and are being “Socially Correct” in the true sense of the word. You better heed the advice of those NGOs & social activists(the so called “socially correct”) failing which you would be branded INCORRECT !!

The Constitution of India drives us to be tolerant towards all religions i.e. being secular. But increasingly, the word secularism has taken the meaning “Hindu bashing”. The concept of secularism is distorted to mean “appeasing minorities”. In the process, the silent majority in India are being antagonized. The state sponsors religious tours of people belonging to a particular religion. This “sponsorship programme” has been going on for the past several decades !! Is this being secular ? Isn’t it not favouritism ? However, singing the “Saraswati vandana”(invoking the goddess of learning & seeking Her blessings) in primary schools is perceived being communal as it antagonizes the minorities ! Hindu children in some schools in India are being told not to smear their foreheads with the sacred ash (“Vibhuti” or “Thiruneer”) or wear a “tilak” on the forehead.The logic being that doing so would hurt the sentiments of the non-Hindus !! It baffles me ! How can my wearing a “tilak” offend someone else !!! Gullible Hindus are being lured into other religions in the name of doing service to the Lord & to spread the “God’s Word”. In other words, if one claims to be a proud Hindu (& that too in India, one dare not say so in any of the Arab world countries for fear of having their hands/tongue being chopped off !), he/she is labeled “communal” & hence being INCORRECT !!

My aim of writing this post is to bring out a need to be INCORRECT. I must add that “Correct” or “Incorrect” are words with highly subjective interpretations. But it must tickle a few thoughts in the reader’s mind. What is “Correct” for me need not be “Correct” for you. However by being INCORRECT, we shouldn’t be hurting fellow human beings mentally or physically.

My earnest appeal to everyone reading this post is “Don’t let the media, social activists or people(barring your well wishers) around you decide what is CORRECT for u. U decide what is CORRECT for u. If you believe that being CORRECT always doesn’t give u a sense of satisfaction, then just be INCORRECT !!!

Jai Hind ! Jai Great Lakes !

March 21, 2008 at 4:04 pm 6 comments

Inclusive Growth

Having spent about 4 months in the IT industry, though I am not qualified to critique it,
I am in a position to at least draw a comparison between the 2 industry sectors I Have worked in.

Prior to my MBA from Great Lakes Institute of Management, I was with the Engineering industry for 20 months. This industry is characterized by low margins(can u believe that companies in Engineering Industry operate at margins as low as 5%) , lower salary structures, fierce competition and faces acute manpower shortage. In short, the Engineering industry is a mature industry. The Americans & the Europeans were considered pioneers in this sector with a whole heap of companies vying for the same business. There were major Indian players too like BHEL, L&T, etc…who have made a significant mark in the world arena. However they all had one common thread running across — low wages. Engineers are paid a pittance when compared to their counterparts in the IT sector. 16 hours of work a day, a 6 day week and a job profile which involves a substantial amount of physical labor apart from the high pressure work at your desk takes a sizeable effort. In other words, employees were (& are) squeezed to the maximum extent. Hence, frustration seeps in fast for these industrious engineers, especially in comparison with their IT counterparts. That is one of the big motivating factors for the fresh engineer, from the core Engineering sciences (including those with around 3 years of work ex) to make that switch to the IT sector. The glitter, glamour and the luxurious lifestyles of the so called “tech – geeks” cannot keep those outside the IT sector “outside” for long. Engineers have started making the switch (including me) to the so called “happening” industry in India.

I have no complaints against the IT firms or their stalwarts. But, what I have seen amongst some IT stalwarts & employees after having spent 4 months in the industry is a feeling of sheer contempt for anything “non IT”. For them life starts & ends in the IT sector. The fact that there is technology beyond Information Technology is not comprehendible by them. That must be an area of concern for all. As one of our former Prime Ministers had said about a decade ago, “IT is good for India’s growth. But we must all ensure that it doesn’t create another social divide – the IT haves & the IT have nots” With pay packages touching astronomical levels, largely due to the IT sector, the fear of creating another social divide will soon become reality.
No doubt, the IT industry has made us feel proud as Indians after a long interval in the post independence era. The euphoria the sector has created is now reflecting in the other sectors of the economy as well. The thrust for “thinking BIG” has come from the IT sector.
What startles me is the fact that most of the companies in the IT sector operate at such high margins(28%) !!! Logically arguing, one would expect them to have implemented best processes to prune their costs to enable them to enjoy such healthy margins. However that is not the case. Employee Utilization levels at most IT companies is abysmally low!! None of the companies touch even the 77% mark in Utilization. In lay man’s language, it means that 23% of the employees in an IT firm would be literally warming their seats doing nothing in the plush offices across the country. On top of it, these very “jobless-employees” (an oxymoron) are paid handsomely for doing what they are doing!!! i.e. for doing NOTHING. There is no room for such complacency in the Manufacturing/Engineering Sectors. If the IT firms follow some fiscal discipline while recruiting/retaining people, & cut corners, then their growth story would be unparallel in the world. They can then be brought under a tax regime which wouldn’t adversely affect their growth. This would result in some cash inflow for the Government. This additional cash can offset the revenue from tax collections from other sectors & a mini tax holiday can be extended to the manufacturing sector on a priority basis !!
However, the growth of IT has resulted in a step motherly treatment being meted out to other sectors of the economy which are operating at much higher levels of operational efficiency. Even if 20% of the tax sops given to IT sector are doled out to the manufacturing sector in India, Indian companies would become world beaters in their respective industry segments. With the kind of fiscal disciplines these companies follow, their margins would improve, which in turn would at least reduce this mass exodus of engineers from the core sciences to the IT sector. It needs a lot of foresight from the intelligentsia to champion such a cause.
Sustainable development cannot be achieved by just basking in the glory of one sector of the economy. It has to be all inclusive growth. A growth which would destroy social barriers and not create new social divides.

October 1, 2007 at 7:21 am 6 comments

The Best People in my life !!!

There are awards for excellence in various fields – medicine, engineering, technology, research, bio technology, space, defence, social service etc..Companies & individuals receive accolades for outstanding work in their areas of expertise. But have you ever wondered why is there no award for an outstanding homemaker?? Is it because the importance of family as a unit of Indian society is fast diminishing?? Or is it simply because there are no clear set of parameters for judging a man/woman as a homemaker?? I think it is the latter. This in turn leads to the argument that giving an award for excellent “home making” assumes greater significance than all those awards mentioned above!! Being objective, it is fair to say that home makers play a role that not only secures peace at home in the present, but plays a fundamental role in converting a “house” into a “home” !!

Several home-makers (predominantly women) would qualify for this hypothetical award called the “Best Home Maker” & it would be impossible to single out one mother/woman for claiming this award. For every son(daughter), his(her) mother is the best home maker(if she is a non working Amma)
But one Home maker whom I think would win the award hands down is my AMMA (obvious choice). This article is hence a tribute to my Amma & Appa. Its always said “behind every successful man is a woman”. But success here is in terms of professional achievements. I would rephrase this commonly used sentence to suit the “Best Home Maker Award”. I would say “ Behind every successful Home Maker woman is a man” That’s how my Appa figures in this jig-saw puzzle of the “Best Home Maker” award !!

One word which would describe my Appa is “Contented”. A man with minimum wants and one who has exemplified the concept of “Simple Living, High Thinking”. Inspite of passing out from the one of the prestigious IITs, he is an edifice of humility. Contemporary IITians were busy chasing their careers with great vigour and hence making a fortune. But here was a man who looked beyond himself and chose a career path which would give plenty of learning opportunities and a stable source of income. Now,how many would settle for such a career??? This was primarily because he was driven by a set of values which propelled him to believe that his children’s education was his top priority !! This in turn made him sacrifice a lucrative career path he was offered in the prime of his career !!! How many B.Tech MBAs would do that ???

My Amma is best described by one phrase: “ An ocean of love & mercy”. She is one of those who would not just sympathize with a less privileged being (man / animal), but also take action to lessen their pain. She has been a great friend, philosopher & guide to me & my brother. We(myself & my brother) have spent more time with Amma than with Appa as she has always been there for us at home whenever we wanted- a luxury we couldn’t enjoy with Appa. Often minimum interaction between father & children tends to create a division between them.The mother thus plays a crucial role in ensuring that this divide is contained and prevented from becoming a gulf. My Amma played the role of strengthening the bond between her children & her husband to perfection. She has ensured that I am not only a good citizen of this country, but also a constructive contributor to the society & to the environment.
In short whatever I am today is because of the innumerable sacrifices my parents have made !!

It is said that , cutting the umbilical cord signifies the physical separation of the child from the mother. But what it means to me, is that the need for a physical connection between the two is no longer essential as the new born & its parents are now bound together by mutual love & respect. A sense of belonging is established for a lifetime !!

I am hence puzzled & amazed to see some of my friends make statements like “ Now that I am earning, I need not depend on my parents & they better not question me on what I do with my money or with what I do with the things I buy with my money” I personally feel that such children forget the fact that their earnings today are fruits of the seeds of sacrifice sown by their parents long long ago. I would ask them , “Have your parents ever asked you to repay the money they spent on you for your education & upbringing ?”, “Have they ever refused buying you your favourite book/doll/cricket bat if they had the money ?”. Hence they do have a right to question you however old you become!!

Its time for me to payback to my parents for all that they have done to me. All I can do is seek their advice and guidance throughout my life. Walk on the path they’ve shown me with humility. Pass on these great genes to the next generation.
That’s the least I could do & ofcourse bow to the BEST HOME MAKERS of my life !!!

THANK YOU AMMA & APPA for everything !!!

July 29, 2007 at 4:29 pm 6 comments

The Ultimate Secret of Happiness

All living beings yearn for happiness. Among the living beings, human beings are a set of species who take decisions for being joyful in the future. It doesn’t stop at that. People want to be eternally happy. Logically following, to be eternally happy, there needs to be an eternal source of happiness. Such an entity (if it exists in this world) can henceforth be called an “Uninterrupted Pleasure Source” (UPS). This UPS varies from individual to individual. For a child, it could be ice-creams, toys, chocolates whereas for a youth, it could be his/her spouse, money, job, home etc.

However, mature individuals must step back a little and introspect whether this so called UPS is really an eternally source of happiness. Is it possible to lean on a so called “eternally” existing source of happiness? For example, can a child derive happiness from the ice cream for its entire life. The source of this eternal happiness also shifts over a period of time. But is the new source of happiness an eternal one ?

The source of happiness from the external world is subject to factors beyond human control. The external world is unpredictable, uncontrollable and unsustainable. For example, the existence of your spouse (external world) would give pleasure to you today.In the absence of that person (external world) one’s pleasure vanishes. In short, no worldly object(money, job, car, profession, spouse, house, parents etc.) can  give a human being eternal happiness as no such object exists. A person may loose all the objects mentioned above in a flash(so it is not eternal)..so how does one stay happy always ???

The only option human beings have is to rely on an immortal object for being eternally happy. You can call such an object by any name: “Self”, ”Atman”, ”Brahman”, ”God”, ”Consciousness”, ”Almighty” etc. This is the true Uninterrupted Pleasure Source.

Vedanta does not ask us to neglect the external sources of happiness (spouse, children, house, money, power etc.) Infact, Vedanta encourages us to enjoy these sources of happiness to the maximum extent possible. Our scriptures only want us keep reinforcing the thought in our minds that these objects of pleasure are temporary in nature. Drawing an analogy, Vedanta asks us to treat these external sources as the electricity (power) we receive from the local power board which is unpredictable, uncontrollable and unsustainable. The UPS is the generator one owns in his/her house that can be switched ON whenever the external power supply is lost. This would enable the individual to remain peaceful/calm/happy in the presence (of external source) or the absence (one derives joy from the individual’s inherent source in this case) of the external source of happiness.

Treat the pleasures from the external world as the power supply from the Electricity Board, but have a backup(UPS) – the diesel generator set ( which you own within yourself) This reservoir of power within every individual is called the Brahman – the consciousness which is the spark within every living object in this world. It enlivens your body. The spark is gone, you are gone!! No amount of external “recharging” can infuse life into it.

Human being’s perception about life is the exact reverse of this idea. They hold on to external objects thinking they would be able to enjoy their pleasures forever, but fail to realize that every such external object is temporary and is not worth holding on to tightly.

So, it is upto human beings to discover that he is a part of a blissful existence called the Brahman and must draw from this reservoir of happiness throughout his life. All the happiness (bliss) lies within yourself. That’s the true secret of happiness.

Jai Great Lakes !! Jai Hind !

March 23, 2007 at 4:22 am 2 comments

Not everyone’s life changes!!

The middle class in countries across the world are said to be the “cursed” lot. In
India , they are squeezed by the government of the day by imposing tax on the income they earn and the agony is aggravate by doing so at the source of income. The rich circumvent and bend rules to protect their interests. The poor try to hang on to the subsidy/dole offered by the government of the day. The poor also do not envisage a long term vision of saving etc.. Thus caught between these two extremes in India the middle class families strive for a better life(if not for themselves, atleast for their children).Children from such families generally do not disappoint their parents and end up toiling very hard in the educational front and start their careers with a salary more than what their parents might be earning at the fag end of their careers.  So I believe for these families there is a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel. Their lives have undergone change and definitely a change for the better. However, there are a few in this society whose lives are so “wretched” that they are incapable of changing either from within or from outside. This post is dedicated to all those in this society whose lives haven’t changed for the past several years, but whose very existence in this society has helped many of us sleep, eat and live happily.

The first entity in society I have always spent indebted to, is the municipality/corporation employee who cleans the blockages in the sewerage system in the city. It happened once while riding from the Taj Coromandel, that a good friend of mine sitting behind me on my bike asked me a question and made me feel very very small as an engineer. She asked (seeing a man coming out of a manhole in the busy, arterial Anna Salai), “Isn’t there a way, u as an engineer, can do to improve this guy’s quality of work?” I gave her some explanation which I realized was far from “convincing” according to any stretch of imagination.  I have also seen a similar person(working with the same organization) near my house doing the same job. The question asked by my good friend always flashed in my mind. What have I done as an educated person to improve this guy’s life? What can I do to bring him out of this “hole” created my “man”? Has his life changed from what he was 10 years back ? Will his life be any different 5 years from now? I am dumb.

The second entity in the society I would like to ponder about is the lady who has been delivering milk to our house every morning for the past 25 long years. Waking up at  3 AM everyday, waiting for the Aavin truck , sorting the half lite/1 litre packets, arguing with the truck driver, taking an exact number of packets of milk everyday & delivering the milk to the houses(around 100 in number) – is the general routine she follows. When she goes on her annual pilgrimage, she makes alternate arrangements to ensure that no one suffers. The lady (today around 60 years old) has been doing this tirelessly for the past 25 years!! Would any educated person be willing to do the same work for 25 years?? Even if he does work for so long, doesn’t he deserve a better deal from life ? from society? I am dumb again.

There are a whole lot of people whom we  need to be thankful to in this society, starting from the farmer, the construction worker, the milkman/milkwoman, the garbage picker, the person cleaning toilets, sweeping roads, cleaning the sewage…the list is actually endless !!! These folks have impacted our lives tremendously(we don’t realize how ?) Asking me how? Imagine that one of them goes on strike !! Would you or me be able to take up his/her job ?? That’s how these folks impact our lives.

When I think of such people, I feel humble and makes me accept whatever life has thrown at me as a gift. I believe that, as one goes on accumulating professional degrees, his/her outlook towards life & the society becomes narrower. We crib continuously that our life hasn’t changed to “our” liking. We don’t care to stop by and note that someone’s life hasn’t changed at all!!

I personally would like to come out of this syndrome of always complaining about life and how GOD has not been fair to me. These various invisible elements of society have all been instrumental in moulding me as an educated citizen of this country.  Hence I personally believe that we, as responsible educated men and women in the society must ensure that the lives of the children of such pillars of society are better off.

We owe it to them !! It’s the least we could do !! Isn’t it folks ? Ask your conscience.

Jai Hind!!

Jai Great Lakes!!

February 20, 2007 at 4:04 pm 6 comments

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