Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympic Feelings

Call me sentimental, but lack of emotional control has turned me into a joke among friends and family.

Since Sunday, wife and kids have been telling everyone that, 'he cried watching the closing ceremony of Olympics'.

'Can you believe it?' they've been announcing completely embarrassed. 'He sometimes cries at sad movies, and we somehow bear it. But now, tears at this closing ceremony?? Its plain ridiculous! He is losing it!!'

They have been mocking me ever since. And I feel sheepishly wimpish or wimpishly sheepish. Or whatever. But Yes. I admit. I had teary eyes.

But seriously, somehow, something about the Olympics always makes my heart go all lumpy, into some hard-to-explain twists of joy. A strange vicarious sense of pride wells up within me - every time I see the champions standing on the podium, receiving their medals, and mouthing their national anthems as they watch their countries' flags go up. The joy and pride so largely writ on their faces, the sense of accomplishment so evident in their hearts after their successes, gives me some delicious goose bumps - Even though, of course, I had nothing at all to contribute except as being a wide-eyed, open-mouthed TV viewer!

And watching the peoples of nations coming together, in the opening and closing ceremonies, is simply awe-inspiring. The acts of precision seen in organizing these events, and the feats of team work in managing them, goes to show the astounding heights to which human effort can take us.

Since 1984, when I saw the live telecast of Los Angeles Games as a child, I have been hooked to this international celebration of human endeavour. And watching on TV, the games that followed at Seoul(1988), Barcelona(1992), Atlanta(1996), Sydney(2000), Athens (2004) and now at Beijing (2008) have not lessened but only increased my appetite. To see the eyeful feast of human fortitude. To see the athletes rival one-another in strength and agility. To see the wonderful coming-together of nations in peace and harmony. And to see how far, and how high, the mighty human being can reach.

As 204 countries participated in these Beijing Games, reaching peaks and breaking records were sport stars like Superfish Michael Phelps, and Jamaican runner Ussain Bolt, who together set 10 out of the 43 world records set here. An amazing 132 Olympic records were broken.

And a fitting tribute to this human triumph was the closing ceremony where the surprise appearances of Leona Lewis, Jimmy Paige, David Beckham, and Jackie Chan only enhanced the euphoria. And very soon, we’ll call this nostalgia.

But whatever it is, instead of just watching on television, I think its high time that I now make some live contribution of my wide-eyed and open-mouthed viewing. Not to mention the teary-eyed farewells. So, 2012 London Games, here I come.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

For a Few Dinars More

What do you feel when you read this sad news?

An Indian manager is on his way from Dammam, Saudi Arabia to Bangalore, India via Bahrain. He checks in at the Bahrain airport. Refuses to give his details to Immigrations. Looks around the officials strangely. Refuses to go up the escalater on to the plane. Starts making weird noises and gestures. Starts sucking his thumb. Begins to act like a child.

Simply put, he has a nervous breakdown. And is admitted to the Psychiatric Hospital.

(Its actually a complicated situation because he has already checked in. And he is not a Bahrain resident. But somehow the officials were working around)

The following information can give us some insight into the background

The 24-year-old had worked as a manager for a manpower supply company in Ras Tanura, near Dammam, for more than a year.

Sources claimed that his sponsor had cancelled his visa and he was being sent back home without his contract being renewed.

"He was reportedly depressed because he was blamed for an accident involving a company car and was threatened to pay BD5,700 compensation," said the sources.

"He began to show worrying signs of depression. Members of a Dammam social group, Navodaya, learned about his plight and helped admit him to a private clinic.

"Due to intervention of Saudi authorities, the sponsor agreed to cancel his visa and send him home at the company's expense."


Obviously, he was shaken at the loss of job, and probably didn't know what to do, or what to tell his folks back home. He may be feeling he has been wronged. Or that he was being blamed for a fault that wasn't his. He came to earn. And he is going midway, with no renewal.

We are not fully aware of the whole story, but I have a few questions and thoughts on this. Specially, with regard to the accident. Wouldn't a company car be covered by insurance? Why would an employee be asked to pay BD5700 (that's a whopping 6 lakh rupees)? Where would he get it from?

Well, there could be reasons. Like, either the company car was not insured or its insurance not renewed. Or alternately, the person driving was not licenced to drive. If its the first case, its definitely the company's fault. If its the second case, I wonder how he got to driving it.

Whatever the reasons, I feel it is the story of a man who's been accused and abused. It is not of a person with a weak mind, or of a person with no courage. Because, I assume we can credit a worker called as a 'manager', with atleast a bit of common sense.

So, I smell something fishy. And I fell terribly sad. For the way foreign workers are treated. And for the way they are made to feel stressed and depressed. In fact, to the point of making the worker insane!

It is a well known fact that many indians come to Gulf for just a few dinars (or a few riyals more). Hoping that jobs here would get them more than what they would get in India.

Well, not just indians, but filipinos, pakistanis, bangladeshis, srilankans, ethiopians, sudanese, lebanese, jordanians and a host of other nationalities also come here.

It is common knowledge - when you look at many countries today - that the overall growth of a national economy is largely dependent on migrant workers, and sometimes immigrants' toil. When there is a shortage of labour locally (or when there is a lack of expertise or skill locally), it has become imperative for countries to import the same from outside.

Even the great USA is made up of migrant workers and immigrant labour, over the years. We see Canada, Australia, NewZealand are actively seeking immigrants, and they are eager to take them in, for the knowledge and the skill the prospective immigrant is useful for the country.

When you consider geographic mobility over the centuries, shouldn't we ask questiions like these? Did mankind just pop up in diffrent places, at random, and bred generations? Did people stay stuck to their own lands without moving at all? Did countries get formed only by themselves without people coming in or moving out?

In a way, what I am asking is, aren't all countries, made up by labour in motion?

So why disregard people?


Monday, August 11, 2008

Digital Data Merchants

“7 million Americans searched for Apple's iPhone on the Net in April 2008 alone.”
“27 million people watched more than 3.5 billion videos online in UK in March 2008.”
“11 billion videos were watched online in US, in April 2008.”

“Internet audience grew in India by a whopping 27% from April 2007 to April 2008 -the highest in the Asia-pacific region.”

Now, reading the above lines makes one wonder how it is possible to collect data like this. And who keeps track of this information.

Well, its interesting to note that today, there are companies spending thousands of dollars on thousands of employees to keep track of information like this. All aimed at understanding the cyber world to help businesses and individuals in decision making.

I found out that while an organization like 'IDC' - International Data Corporation -keeps on its research of information technology companies and markets, there are organizations like 'ComScore' which maintain massive proprietary databases that provide continuous, real-time measurement of the several ways in which the Internet is used.

IDC provides global market intelligence on IT companies and IT markets around the world. And this Business Intelligence and the Analytics can be downloaded or bought at a price by the information-seeking organizations. The price could seem very high at first, but when compared to the value they have to offer, and when compared to the amount of research-effort that has gone into it, it would be fully justified.

IDC is actually a subsidiary of IDG, the world's leading technology media, research, and events company. Founded in 1964, IDG had 2006 revenues of $2.84 billion and has more than 13,000 employees worldwide. It offers the widest range of media options which reach more than 120 million technology buyers in 85 countries representing 95% of worldwide IT spending.

The world’s huge amount of IT spending makes the need for well-researched information very relevant. And the need is being ably met by companies like IDC.

ComScore is a company that measures the digital world. Its core competency is the measurement of the usage of internet around the world. How does an internet user behave? What does he search for? What does he buy online? What does he listen to? What videos does he view? Which websites are the most trafficked? Which products are the most searched for?

Answers to most of these questions can be found in the output of continuous surveys and studies published by ComScore. This information is now extremely critical for marketing decisions by companies that want to reach specific market segments, with specific internet habits.

Market research agencies used to rule the roost at one time. They still do, but with lesser significance now. Because, these days, the new researchers are on the rise. These cyber data vendors. These data-sellers whom you can’t ignore in a world that is fast getting wrapped in the digital media.

In these days of pay-per-click advertising by Google or pay-by-click transactions by Paypal, who can ignore the need for up-to-date information on a host of things? Its is, therefore, from these research organizations that we learn that the world’s changing. Especially, the digital world. And that…

“Internet advertising spending in US has increased by 23.9% (to $7.1 billion) in Q1 of 2008 over the last year.”
“Google remains the leader in the U.S. with 24.8% of the Internet advertising market share.”
“US Internet Ad spend by 2012 is forecasted to be 16% of the total ad spend compared to the current 11% now.”