Tag Archives: India

Elephant Risk Management & Technology Innovations

With dwindling habitats and large appetites, Elephants are increasingly dangerous in countries like India. Elephants are increasingly entering cities, killing people and eating crops of coconuts, ginger and other valuables.  On December 29th, for example, they entered the Indian city of Bhubaneswar, attacking a honking car and injuring six people reports The Times of India.  This video of an Elephant rampage in Sri Lanka shows how hard they are to control.  This elephant plays with a minivan like it’s a toy.


If you’re a farmer, or just live in a city with a forest that contains wild Elephants, they represent a special kind of
Enterprise Risks to your business, not unlike the Monkey Marauders noted in a previous blog entry.

But in the case of Elephants, several noteworthy options are being tested for efficacy in thwarting the Elephant menace:

1) The man honking his horn was hoping to scare away the elephant, and that strategy backfired

2) Forest officials in Mochapallam brought two trained elephants to drive a wild herd of 13 elephants back to the forest.  They successfully persuaded 12 to follow, but one got away and chased officials and local citizens.

3) The officials in Mochapallam ultimately were successful in getting the remaining renegade Elephant to retreat to the forest by lighting firecrackers.

4) A Bengali inventor, Amunuddin Ahmed, invented an “Elephant Repellent“, that combines sirens, bulbs and wires connected to a battery, or solar power.

Each of these examples, is a real option – the investment, or partial investment, with an uncertain payoff.  In one case, there was not only no payoff – but the strategy backfired.

I’m continuously fascinated by the range of risks that need to be considered by different industries in different countries.  Clearly Elephant rampages are rare, but so are Enron scandals and both have terrible outcomes. Are you considering all the risks to your operations, even if they’re not as exotic as Elephants?  Do you understand your options, and what they’re worth to you?

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Great Satan or Savior – What Do Two Views of American Government Leadership Mean To You?

As someone born in the US, and well traveled, I’ve often wondered about the variation in sentiments about leaders from America.  I often felt treated as a prototypical American.  People assume I fully support every action the politicians from the US government make, frequently false.  The feelings of people in Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Pakistan, and Iraq about US Government Leaders are well known to be fairly negative.  I recall as a 16 year old living in Norway, that Europeans would often deride me because of their dislike of US government policy – though I wasn’t old enough to vote.  With the US Government meddling in others domestic affiars, and breaking its’ own rules frequently, I don’t like but understand the term “Great Satan” used in parts of the middle east to describe the USA.

But I’ve also experienced a sort of American “halo bias“.  In my frequent trips to India, I’ve found Indians extremely happy to meet an American.  I have had random strangers want to shake my hand, have me hold their baby for a picture, or buy me a free soda.  Yes, I often am offered free Coca-Cola at shops in India.

What I didn’t know until this article, is that there is actually a religion that worships the US.  The BBC reports that every February, the people of Vanuatu celebrate John Frum day with US army uniforms, wooden weapons and the Star Spangled Banner.  They paint “USA” on their chests.  Village Chief Isaac Wa, says “John is our god”, and believes that an American from World War II will be returning to Vanuatu’s 30,000 Frum worshipers.  This group of people in the small micronesian country are part of a “cargo cult“.

A cargo cult appears sometimes in tribal groups upon their first interaction with technologically advanced alien groups of people.  These cults are focused on obtaining material wealth of the advanced culture through magical thinking, and religious rituals.  In Vanuatu’s case, they believe an American GI named John Frum helped them rebel against the aggressive teachings of British and French missionaries and colonial masters.  They believe the American helped them retain their culture by throwing off the oppression of a foreign state, not unlike the original patriots who founded the US.  Vanuatu people celebrate annually, hoping and praying for the return of the man they call their “Jesus”.

David Calderwood’s article about these Cargo Cults reminded me of Richard Feynman’s critique of 1960’s-era psychology.  But Calderwood makes a compelling case for the current lack of understanding of US natives optimistic about government intervention turning around the US economic crisis.  He notes that Americans have naive, and unsophisticated views of how wealth is created, and so they, like those from Vanuatu, have a sort of Cargo Cult worship of government-intervention in economics.

Business leaders would do well to consider how we’re perceived when we do business in other countries.  Most globe trotting leaders with whom I’ve worked with are already concerned with security.  But they often are relatively insulated from the root cause of the sentiment about the US – positive or negative.  Even though business leaders are not responsible for foreign policy decisions, they often take the brunt of it, with some being kidnapped or killed for their iconic status as an American.  As we are seen as prototypes of our entire homeland, we must be ambassadors for goodwill with other free people to do our best to change inaccurately positive or negative views of us and similar others.

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Suffering from Human Capital Distortion?

As I watch the news of Detroit’s CEOs begging for billions more from Uncle Sam, I wondered how many people remember the automotive bailouts of yesteryear that failed.  I remember as a child watching Lee Iacocca beg bureaucrats successfully for $1.5B.  Apparently this original bail out didn’t work as they’re now asking for even more handouts.  Iacocca, now refusing most interviews is apparently somewhat embarrassed by the fact that his original hand-out turned into welfare for Germany’s Daimler-Benz, who purchased Chrysler, and then spun them off, now asking for more government dole.  I’m not terribly fond of conservative publications, but it turns out that in 1983, The Heritage Foundation seems to agree that the original Chrysler bailout failed.   It seems that only a rich country with attention-deficit-disorder (ADD) could proceed shamelessly to ignore the failed bailouts of the past and chase good money after bad.

I recently took a trip to India. Every trip to a developing country like India reminds me just how distorted are our US and European mental models of labor.  Low quality, poor design and high wages from Detroit are certainly a part of their woes.  For example, the UAW’s typical worker in 2006 earned $32/hour, artificially inflated by Unions backed by the Government’s Department of Labor.  We’ve grown up in government schools, and our careers shaped by companies in labor markets that are anything but free.  This is the case even where Unions aren’t involved.  The various US or EU barriers to skilled people traversing borders increases labor costs far above what they would otherwise be in a free market. 

The Indian example provides poignant lessons.  In just a few years, India will have more people available for work than any other country.  Thousands have become successful business people in Silicon Valley, both in San Jose (US) and Bangalore (India).  Let’s consider educated Indians in a different industry that is also hampered by US regulations and red tape.  Americans, so dissatisfied with the state of US education, are already outsourcing their tutoring to Indian teachers, like TutorVista, according to the New York Times.  Tutorvista charges $25/week for tutoring, or $800 for an entire year, with unlimited sessions with expert teachers. These Indian educators speak english, and the going wage rate for an entry-level High School teacher in India, according to the compensation website payscale.com, was 120,000 Rupees, which in US dollars is less than 3,000 per year, using yahoo’s currency converter.  Indian teachers of primary schools start at even less – 96,000 Rupees.  Indian teachers are mobile, and starting to migrate to the US, where they’re able to start making $27,000 to $35,000 US dollars (1.6 Million Ruppees).  Sure, the cost of living is higher in the US, but it begs the question – if it weren’t for government barriers to good teachers coming to the US, we could have a significantly larger supply of good teachers willing to work for less.  I’m sure not all Indian teachers are fully effective, but what if we could screen teachers like we do others, and hire the best at a wage premium to Indian labor rates?  In a frail economy, where US education is poor by global standards, increasing the supply of low-cost, high quality teachers seems like it should be a good thing – to increase investments in human capital that will pay off future dividends.  But I’m sure that’s not politically popular with the powerful Teachers Unions.

Let’s go back to the automotive industry.  India’s Tata motors famously is now producing a $2,000 car for global sales.  They did this without Indian government bailouts, but have had their own fair share of Union and political barriers to initially launching their operations in West Bengal, and now Gujarat. Do you think Tata could have done that with UAW’s wage rates, and restrictive work rules?  When will our governments, unions and other power-mongers get out of the way of free people who just want to make a better life for themselves, help children get better educations; and allow poor people to buy an affordable car?

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India’s Harvard to Use Computer Adaptive Testing

The premier management schools in India, the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are migrating their common admission test to a computer adaptive test, using the same technologies deployed in the US to certify physicians, and offered by The Scientific Leader.  The Business Standard reports that IIM is seeking better information on the performance students, hence their desire to migrate to the most sophisticated form of human assessment available in the field of psychometrics.  IIM will use their CAT system to assess over 250,000 students for only 1,800 seats at IIM and other business schools.  With those large numbers taking the test, IIM will also benefit from adaptive testing’s improved question security – as every person gets a personalized test, and it’s rare that two people get the same questions with adaptive measurement.  CATs are unrelated to any sort of measurement of felines.

Are you tired of tedious tests?  Worried about the security of your high-stakes tests?  I encourage you to check out The Scientific Leader’s free whitepaper on the applications of Computer Adaptive Testing to leadership assessment.

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Child Capital Powers Playground

Can Children’s play produce power?  Could theirs be a new renewable energy source to provide clean power in remote, off grid locations?  Much to my surprise, yes, today’s technology can turn enthusiastic energy from youngsters into electricity.

I watched the story with interest, and hope for an entirely new source of human capital value, not only for off-grid locations to produce and store power; but also as a potential exercise-based method for people in developing countries to make a living by riding bicycles and other devices that generate power, and can be sold for a profit.

After searching a bit more, I discovered that the idea was patented in 2006 by a University of Michigan professor, Dr. Shunmugham Rajasekara Pandian.  Pandian noted that “one to two minutes of playtime can power a 20-watt light bulb for two to three minutes”, in an interview with The Michigan Times.

Professor Pandian

Professor Pandian

It’s an interesting example of how  play can produce value, and if desired be monetized by transforming it into energy that people want and are willin to pay for.  It’s also an example of a new option for developing countries with poor electrical infrastructure.  For example, The Wall Street Journal’s Livemint reports that while Indian electricity grew by 4.4% in October of 2008, the power production is still tens of thousands of megawatt hours less than desired targets.  India, home to some of the worlds finest software programs, cannot grow effectively without electricity.  With labor costs low, I wonder how much this can represent a new business model that creates power while creating a profitable business – not just for children playing, but for “banks” of adult bicyclists peddling for profit and stable electricity for their customers.

The Scientific Leader’s new valuation technique, called the Cue See Model(TM), is an approach to define, measure, and improve the ability to determine the value of investments of all types.  Including the value of human activity such as children’s play turned into electricity, it considers the Quality, Cost, Quantity and Cycle Time of all assets working together in combination.  Considering the value flow of children’s play, when mixed with Pandian’s invention, it provides yet another example of the ability for inventions to create new business models and solve problems, profitably, and without damaging the environment.  Cue See provides a framework to look prospectively, and retrospectively at the value of a buisness or other organization as it transforms raw inputs (e.g. human play) into outputs and outcomes valued by customers and stakeholders.  The Cue See Model (TM) is detailed in the forthcoming book, “Leading Scientifically: Managing Risks and Increasing Returns”, to be published in 2009 by Prentice Hall / Pearson Education.

Are you optimistic about this technology?  Intrigued by the business potential of it?

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