“Keep Me in Your Prayers” – Actual Meaning

Courtesy: My esteemed School Classmate and Friend, Abdul Malik, who exhibited wisdom at a very young age and awed most of his classmates, and has kept us all in awe for the past over four decades

Since we always say “Keep me in your prayers” to each other, I thought of sharing a small story about the actual meaning of these 5 words. Just go on and read it and I am sure you will start thinking the way I am after reading this story.

A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert-like island. The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.

However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

The first thing they prayed for was food. The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, there was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes and more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island.

The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.

As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them, “the first man answered, “His prayers were all unanswered and so he does not deserve anything”.

“You are mistaken! “the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”

“Tell me”, the first man asked the voice, “what did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

“He prayed that all your prayers be answered.”

For all we know, our blessings are not the fruits of our prayers alone, but also those of others praying for us.

This is too good not to share…

My prayer for you today is that all your prayers are answered. Be blessed.

“What you do for others is more important than what you do for yourself”.


Courtesy: My esteemed School Classmate and Friend, Abdul Malik, who exhibited wisdom at a very young age and awed most of his classmates, and has kept us all in awe for the past over four decades


Vijay Srinivasan

4th September 2016

Hygiene and Health

I debated about how I should name this blog post. Should it have been “Toilets, Hygiene and Health”? Or, should it just be “The Indian Toilet Situation”?

There was a recent case in South India (Tamil Nadu State) when a girl child aged 9 years died due to kidney troubles caused by holding off nature’s call for whole days at school. The school spared only 10 minutes for recess between classes and they had just 10 toilets for some 400 students. Girls are disadvantaged when there is not enough time to cater to nature’s call (as do boys but at least they have urinals though no one knows their situation). When the concerned girl complained of pains, doctors diagnosed problems with her kidneys.

Such situations are not uncommon in India where public toilets are in very short supply. The most disheartening thing is that young boys and girls in schools who are the future generation, suffer in a most humiliating manner when they cannot even get access or time to fulfil their most pressing need from a physiological point of view. Government and school administrations should be embarrassed.

Despite the call of the current Indian Prime Minister to build more toilets, there has been no perceptible improvement on the ground. India operates on a federal structure which means that it is not necessary that a State Government should heed the call of the Central Government. The only way is persuasion or defeating the ruling party at the next hustings.

It is time for the people who pay taxes to demand proper hygiene and toilet infrastructure services from the government and public schools and public office buildings. It is the government which has to serve the needs of the people, rather than the other way around. The argument that there are not enough receipts against needed expenses won’t fly as the budgeting process is flawed if it cannot cater to the fundamental needs of the citizens.

According to Centre for Water Resources & Management, India, only 47% of India’s population have access to toilet facilities. And only 36% of these toilets have septic tanks. Given that there are a number of toilet innovations from a variety of private companies in India, it is imperative for the government to buy and install these toilet facilities according to a set formula for population access in both rural and urban areas. While the government now collects a cess related to this program, it is difficult to see the results.

Enter the private corporations of India. Even if the top 50 listed companies of India direct 50% of their CSR budgets towards toilet building (which the government can match Rupee for Rupee), India’s toilet problem can be solved in flat 12 months. Eco and Bio toilets are available today at prices ranging from INR 18,000 to INR 30,000 and the prices will come down if demand is established.

I do not know what we are waiting for. But I do know that children, their personal hygiene and health are getting affected every day in schools, and we have to do something very urgently on a war-footing to solve this problem. Many of us have some discretionary monies available for charity, why don’t we contribute to this magnanimous purpose instead of other kinds of donations? It is proven that if the donor can see and feel the result of his/her donation, he or she will contribute more and continuously.

Time to change the toilet situation in India. Let us follow Prime Minister Modi’s vision but not the slow-moving government machinery. Let us leverage India’s phenomenal private enterprise to solve this problem.


Vijay Srinivasan

28th August 2016

Sports Status – Pathetic Management

Often we hear that the sports management by government sports bodies is very bad in the country.

We also keep seeing that corruption is part and parcel of sports in India, even in a famous national sport like Cricket.

Therefore, no body is surprised with the fact that India is not a superpower in sports.

If sports bodies are managed by politicians who are well-reputed for their role in some of the worst scandals that the country has seen in the sports arena, then one can imagine where India is headed. No chance of beating China ever, which has totally professionalized the management and administration of sports and has put in place an effective system for getting the best out of its sportspersons.

Today, I had the opportunity to see in close quarters what actually happens in a district-level tennis competition, in which my son was participating. I had to kill some 3 hours, and nothing is more interesting than observing the behaviour of parents, coaches, participants, and the organizers. I spent a good part of the time in trying to understand what was going on.

As I had expected, initially there was utter confusion – this is very normal in India, and one should not lose his or her cool, just wait patiently and the confusion would dissolve in a short time, which it did – only it took some one hour or so ! There was no proper coordination amongst the schools and the organizers (who were from the district tennis body). There was no chart displayed outside the tennis academy with names and timings of the competition. People were constantly walking in and out. There was a lot of noise, and if one official-looking guy walked around with a piece of paper in his hands, the boys ran after him, trying to figure out when their allotted time would come and who they are going to compete with.

I was comparing mentally with Singapore and even the advanced international schools in Mumbai – a feeling of efficiency and fairness comes upon you when you witness the preparations and the communication in these places. In almost all other places in India, there seems to be a lack of efficiency and a lack of communication – not a lack of energy, of course !

Well, one has to live with that – India is not going to change in many areas, and sports management is one such area. After a lot of confusion, and time loss, the pairings of competitors was done but not announced. We reached the venue at 8:15 AM on a Sunday morning, and the competition started around 10:30 AM !

The boys were of course not upset, they were networking with other boys ! The parents were visibly upset and complaining to each other. The coaches from some of the schools were present, and they were giving some advise to their respective wards. The organizers seem to be the most upset and confused – I thought how that could be, these are the folks who are supposed to be running the competition. I heard one of them responding to an irate parent as follows: “we are volunteers and not government officials – we have to do free work running around and doing the coordination. Please wait, we will sort out the matter”.

That, for you, is the status of one simple district-level competition, with some 60 participants or so. Imagine the situation when hundreds of sports people need to be coordinated and managed efficiently. Surely we are not up to the mark. Can we use some software here please ?!!!

Extrapolation to the general state of sports in the country may not be the right thing to do, neither is it the correct way to assess things. However, can anyone blame me for writing this post – only small incidents help to form the opinion wherein one is somewhat involved or affected.


Vijay Srinivasan
21st October 2012

Old Contacts

It is well known that it is always important to maintain contact with friends and associates who have impacted one’s life in some positive manner. This principle also applies in case one has positively impacted his/her friends – people do remember positive actions and support rendered at critical stages in their lives.

While “networking” refers to the generation of new contacts in business or industry, one cannot underestimate the importance of rejuvenating old contacts from one’s previous life. When I recently attended the IIM Bangalore Alumni Meet, I realized that I have not seriously attempted to maintain and renew my old alma mater contacts – seniors, classmates and immediate juniors. Of course, I am part of the Yahoo mail group of my class of 1987, but that does not really lead to the objective of regeneration of institutional contacts.

Events like the alumni meet do help in a significant manner, as emails follow after the meet. Phone calls happen, and who knows – there may be business looming somewhere in those calls. It could be mutually beneficial. So, why not invest in ensuring any contact is captured, contacted once in a while, and also met occasionally ? I am doing this now – though I should say that I have met old school contacts on and off over the years. However, after a quarter century, those contacts and classmates have arrived at significant junctures in their respective lives and a rejuvenation attempt, done sincerely, creates interesting possibilities for both sides.

Continuous and constant networking yields positive results, if done without an immediate personally benefiting goal apart from the mutual interest to know about each other and the respective areas of expertise. The same thing applies to old contacts – they just want to know how you are doing in your chosen field, and how they can be of any help in the future. Now, I have access to my secondary school classmates who have put together a great group online after so many years. It is always refreshing to see an email from your classmate who was known as a prankster in the secondary school, and kept everyone including the teachers guessing !

So, I am into this regeneration of contacts from yesteryears in a concerted and coordinated manner. This effort also applies to ex-colleagues from previous companies. Just yesterday I met an old colleague who worked with me for couple of years and has been a CEO of a startup in Mumbai. He is now moving on as CEO of another startup in Delhi, and it was great to meet him after some time and have a cup of coffee. There was no immediate consideration of any sort, but I offered help in terms of providing contacts to him in his new  industry, and he appreciated the support. After all, we are there to help each other and why not offer help if you do understand what is needed and can offer the help in a practical, beneficial manner ?

It was a great meeting, and I am continuing my non-stop efforts to meet other contacts. I am sure all this effort will eventually fructify into something very meaningful. The key issue of importance is the investment of personal time. It is critical to invest time and stay committed during the meeting to understand each other. Things will follow soon.

Hope this helps the budding youngsters who are going to shape the future of business.


Vijay Srinivasan

16th June 2012


Economics of Languages

All through my schooling, the primary medium of education was English. Though there were several mother-tongue based sections, I had always opted for the English medium of instruction, which means that all the subjects were taught using the English language with text books published in the English language by teachers who spoke in English all through the one-hour of class per subject. The exception, of course, was the mother-tongue subject (in my case, it was Tamil).

So, I was relatively weak in the Tamil language. Given that the Tamil Grammar was (and is) tougher than that of English, it was no wonder that I struggled. Though I could read and write Tamil quite well, I could not get high marks, comparable to the other subjects.

Though I managed to top my school in the secondary school leaving examination, I always thought I could have done better had it not been for the drag imposed by my relatively poor performance in Tamil language.

So, when I went to University and got a choice of second languages to select, I was happy to discover that there was indeed a shortcut to higher performance if I chose the French language. I was also surprised to note that it was easy to learn the French language, though speaking it took considerable effort and was not appreciated by the fluent French teacher. He coaxed the entire class to invest more time seeing French movies and listening to audio tapes but we thought that the movies were boring. Since there was no oral examination, most of us who chose French did very well, and I scored 99% in the final French examination at the pre-university level – I would have hardly obtained some 75% in Tamil !

Later on, when I moved out of India, I found that Mandarin Chinese was gaining dominance in South East Asia. I saw several non-Chinese learners of the language, which I thought was even tougher than Tamil. Nevertheless, there are what I call “economic learners” – people who try to learn a language for the economic benefits it offers to them for their future success.

In Singapore, I found that though Tamil was one of the three national languages, the Government of Singapore had realized that Indian languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, etc., had more economic muscle than Tamil. While it never disowned the teaching of Tamil in government schools, there was a relaxation extended to the non-Tamil speakers from India by the government so that they could all learn Hindi at some location during the weekends.

All this experience taught me that a language will only be successful to the extent that it is able to influence people with its economic might. Cultural impact will always be there, but that would not be adequate to sustain the glory of a language. One has to also see whether the world wants to learn that language for some benefit. President Obama mentioned recently about Hindi and Mandarin in one of his addresses, encouraging Americans to learn these languages which are spoken by nearly half of the world’s population today !

So, I am not surprised to learn that IIT (Indian Institutes of Technology) Mumbai has recently introduced Mandarin classes in its curriculum. Some management schools in India, such as Great Lakes in Chennai, have made learning Mandarin mandatory for their MBA Students. Surprising ! But it is a reality today !!

Conclusion is simple for most people (literary folks, please excuse !) : simply follow the right language to the money (and the marks, of course !).


Vijay Srinivasan
25th Sept 2011

Ethics 101 in Schools

After the series of corporate scandals in the U.S. which saw alumni of reputed business schools jailed for fraud, perjury, and insider trading, ethics courses have been incorporated in business schools in the U.S. Many schools have now courses which are compulsory in the areas of ethics and corporate governance. The linkage between the scandals and the lack of such courses in the past is yet to be established, however.

And, we all know that teaching ethics to business management students does not guarantee that business will be free of scandals. Why is it critical to teach ethics to students, we might ask. It is important to provide basic education on ethics and governance models, lest the business schools are blamed for the outcomes.

I was wondering whether it is important to teach ethics to secondary school students in India, in the context of the corruption scandals which have swept India in the recent past. It might be necessary to embed ethics teaching in the curriculum of the secondary students, because the impact or more critically, the non-impact of corruption, will be damaging in the long term for India. The future business and political leaders of India need to be exposed to issues involved in corruption and handling matters involving a combination of corruption, national security, and political funding.

It may be a bit too much when you look at the issues, and government might refuse permission to the educational boards such as the ICSE and CBSE to incorporate such courses, but it might be worthwhile to introduce such programs sooner than later. Teachers have to be trained as well, to ensure that the utility of the courses are fully imbibed by the students at the 10th and 11th grades. This will have a long-term implication for India, given that Indian democracy is inextricably intertwined with corruption, and future bureaucrats have to deal with politics anyway.

There may be resistance all around, but we have to push through. This is no indication that the government in power is corrupt, or trying to be corruption-free. This is required training for students who have to face the music when they venture out in this open, risky, and complicated world of ours, which is much unlike what one gets in the Western world, which encourages governance of a better quality. Notwithstanding that, one has seen the deterioration of public life in the West as well, especially in terms of taking the investing public to a nasty ride.

So, let us start thinking seriously about Ethics 101 for our budding entrepreneurs, bureaucrats, and politicians.


Vijay Srinivasan
27th March 2011

Remember Your Old Friends

I often find that a few select folks who were close friends when I was 15 or even 10 years old, still try to maintain their affinity to the mutual friendship and attempt to keep it alive, despite distances and time differences.

It is not always the case though. More often than not, old friends are engaged with their respective lives too intimately to find any time at all to reconnect with their past. At the prime of their lives, there might be just too many things on the plate to handle. That is normal.

However, a few friends make that extra effort to reconnect and maintain their relationship. I have a few friends like that, and a couple in Mumbai. The strength of a relationship in such cases is such that, an occasional phone call once in a few months is adequate to rekindle old thoughts and discuss matters of current interest. It is wonderful when I do receive such calls.

Recently, I received a call from Stuttgart, Germany, from an old classmate who studied with me in secondary school – we are talking about early Seventies. He called to thank me for some referral I made over an email about one of his relatives. But the very thought of calling up and thanking, rather than let email take the usual course, is a great feeling. One won’t do it for everybody or every situation. People do feel intensely about old friendships and relationships, and old schools and places that they had lived in once upon a time, long ago in the past.

I feel quite touched when I think of Madurai, the Southern Temple City in which I grew up. Most of my formative years up to the age of 18 was spent at Madurai, many of the friendships were formed there. I had a good ride as well as a very bad ride in my life while still being a teenager. Without delving deep into the past, I can say that those years impacted me like none other period in my life. And, when I hear a voice from that time, it is truly amazing to know that somebody remembers me from those times. I still speak to a close friend who still lives in Madurai, and we share some tidbits about how things have changed over the past 3 decades or so. He is still a traditional businessman who has adopted some modern techniques but lives very much in the past in Madurai which has hardly changed all these years !

I was thinking about these old friendships suddenly today after I received that call from Germany, spurred by old memories. I have a very close friend from those times who lives in Chennai and with who I share a relationship with no barriers. We together mimic the teachers from our 8th Grade even now when we meet sometimes – very rare though. When we are not able to meet at all, I give him a call and do the mimic and both of us burst out laughing, sometimes uncontrollably.

Isn’t life made of those small and deep memories, and friends from the yesteryears who have made a significant impact on you or contributed in some way to your growth as an individual ? It is, and today I relished some of those nice memories.

Welcome to the old good world of friendships in these days of Facebook and Twitter.


Vijay Srinivasan
20th February 2011

The Ballooning Cost of Education

When economy is doing good, things go topsy-turvy in this country.

That is not unlike what happened in the boom years in other countries, whether they were in the West or in the East, so I am not surprised.

I can understand the price spiralling of all essential items such as food and clothing, and to a certain extent the rise in prices of real estate. This was to be expected. While relatively bad times such as the year 2008 did not depress the real estate market too badly (Indian economy was still growing close to 6% even during that year which saw global economies crumble), the good times after March 2009 are seeing a huge push up the ladder for most items. Essential food items have galloped to way beyond the affordability of millions of Indians – in many cases, the prices are some 70 to 100% more today as compared to 2008.

But what is incomprehensible is the determination by educational institutions that parents would pay anything, even the sky, for putting their children through good education, unavailable from public/government educational offerings.

Only the elitist of the real elite can now afford higher education. Forget higher education, let us look at LKG / UKG and Primary School Education, to start with. Annual Tuition Fees for premium schools have more than doubled in the past couple of years, on the back of the “robust” economic growth. If growth can be blamed for anything and everything, then I wonder what would happen to other investments and consumables in the near future, when the economy is expected to cross 9% GDP Growth rate.

My estimate of the annual tuition fee for Pre-Primary education is approximately USD 1,300 and for Primary education is now at USD 2,200. Imagine the plight of people with more than one kid. While salaries have gone up for sure, the cost allocation for education has to go up significantly as the above figures are only for annual school fees. The add-ons and other costs of sending children to school would easily come to at least another 50% of the above figures.

We are talking about a country, where the average per-capita income has just crossed USD 1,000 and almost 60% of the people pull-along at less than USD 2 per day.

Of course, the target market for premier schools are the less than 0.1% of the population, who make USD 20,000 or more per year. But even for these folks, setting aside some 20% or more for a two-kid family is fast emerging as a challenge.

One good fallout is the drop in the number of early marriages and the number of children in new families, leading to a drop in birth rates in metros like Mumbai, as has been recently reported.

Let us look at Secondary School Education now. The cost of such education is now slightly higher than the Primary School Education, except for those specialized programs such as the IGCSE or the IB, where the costs go up by twice or thrice respectively. The well-off parents are increasingly moving out of the Indian Boards of Examinations towards International Systems of Education such as the ones mentioned above. The costs are going up because of increasing demand and the deepening scarcity of teachers who are qualified and trained in the newer systems of education.

How about implementing government’s RTE (Right To Education) law in practice ? It is going to be very tough as principals of elite schools have recently highlighted “adjustment problems” for poorer kids who are admitted into their schools due to this RTE legislation.

So, at the end of it all, the conclusion is that nothing can replace an excellent public school education where the government expands its schooling system across the country without any economic objectives. For a country like India, we would need at least double the number of public universities and schools that exist in the United States. We should have set up 25 IITs in the 1960s……..

High-quality education is not easy to construct or deliver, and the free-market costs are going to be rising at the rate of GDP growth rate or Inflation rate every year. Imagine the plight of people who are just starting their families, some 5 years down the road…….


Vijay Srinivasan
19th December 2010

Education – a Commodity

Education has become a pure commodity.

Gurukul does not exist anymore. Teaching is no longer a “noble” profession (neither is providing healthcare by doctors). It is purely a commercial proposition today. Everywhere. Surely in India.

It is easy to argue that qualified, trained and experienced teachers will go where they get free market salaries, which means definitely much more than what they could be getting somewhere. It is true that high-end schools are trying to attract highly qualified faculty as it would be the key differentiator in the marketplace (meaning, parents). No wonder about all this – it is the free market in India after all.

What is not good for education is a toothless education ministry or department of school education. Education should be regulated as it concerns a national priority. It took six decades for India to realise that investment in education is the most critical investment a country can make, and it is not enough to invest 1 or 2% of national income on education. Further, primary education should have been made compulsory from the very first day of our Independence from the British.

If education is left purely to market forces, quality could suffer irreparably – see what has happened in Australia. We all think Australia is an advanced western country, and manipulation of education system is not possible. Absolutely wrong. There are still hundreds of unapproved, non-accredited educational institutions in Australia which are taking foreign students for a solid ride, cheating them all the way. So, it is not surprising that in a vast country like India, you do get unscrupulous education operators, often with “political” connections.

It is heartening to see our Education Minister Mr Kapil Sibal boldly implementing education reforms. He has tried to do much in the last one year, not always succeeding though his intent is right and his priorities are correct.

Education cannot be politicised.

Now it is June timeframe, and almost all private engineering and medical colleges are collecting “donation” monies from aspiring students. I even heard of stories where reputed institutions are trying to sell engineering seats for the equivalent of USD 10,000 to meritorious students ! What are the regulators and government doing ? This is after university admission officers were caught on webcam demanding bribes last year in Chennai !

Well, we are truly in a mess in the administration of the education system. We are also in a mess in the sports administration, but that is for another blog post.

Cheers, and Have a great weekend,

Vijay Srinivasan
26th June 2010

A Bit of Physics Humour

Courtesy : Srinivas Rao, my IIMB Batchmate

Sir Ernest Rutherford, President of the Royal Academy, and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, related the following story:

“Some time ago I received a call from a colleague. He was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score. The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter, and I was selected.

I read the examination question: “Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer.”

The student had answered: “Take the barometer to the top of the building,attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.”

The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly! On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this. I suggested that the student have another try. I gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge of physics.

At the end of five minutes, he hadn’t written anything. I asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one. I excused myself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on. In the next minute, he dashed off his answer, which read: “Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch.

Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^2, calculate the height of the building.”

At this point, I asked my colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and gave the student almost full credit. While leaving my colleague’s office, I recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem, so I asked him what they were.

“Well,” said the student, “there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building.”

“Fine,” I said, “and others?”

“Yes,” said the student, “there is a very basic measurement method you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and his will give you the height of the building in barometer units.”

“A very direct method.”

“Of course. If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g [gravity] at the street level and at the top of the building.

From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building, in principle, can be calculated.”

“On this same tack, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the period of the precession”.

“Finally,” he concluded, “probably the best,” he said, “is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: ‘Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of the building, I will give you this barometer.”

At this point, I asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think.

The name of the student was…

Neils Bohr

The Nobel Prize winner in Physics 1922

Courtesy : Srinivas Rao, my IIMB Batchmate


Vijay Srinivasan
6th August 2008