News

FROM WORDS TO CLICHES

By Sanjay Jha

( Published in edited version in Hindustan Times dated April 7th 2011).

In the tense days of JP’s Total Revolution in the mid-1970s when I was still in high school, All India Radio always seemed reassuring, the situation is tense but under control. There is nothing more powerful than the predictable impact of a cliché. It is like a stealthy rogue who emerges with monotonous regularity on appropriate occasions without causing any sweat beads. Best, it works. Compounding them is the never-ending supply of esoteric terms that subtly replace our old hackneyed ones . The first time someone told me to take a rain check, I sneaked a furtive look outside of my window. It was an incandescent day.

The usual guilty culprits are those financial sharks, business managers, hyperventilating media, and even creative copycats, like Bollywood who come up with regular bursts of originality. Add cricket analysts to that list, and you have a veritable mix. Here is a select sample.

In TV studios, the most famous wife is not Aishwarya or Angelina but the nameless one of the great warrior, Julius Caesar. Every day some pontificating pundit will shake his head in acute disbelief and say “ he/she must be above suspicion like Caesar’s wife”. Hardly anyone knows the real contextual relevance behind that salacious origination.

Of course, the corporate-world and the tired media is nowadays obsessed with deficit; poor Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the erudite economist and former finance minister had perhaps never contemplated that he would have such a permanent engagement with deficit financing . .

The new family and friends scheme in corporate India is called crony capitalism; as in Noah’s ark they swim or sink together,  their ill-gotten wealth in tow. The IPL association is strong. The real bane of India is the often heavily promoted short-circuit attitude called jugaad .Mostly uttered by frequent fliers in business class to display their understanding of agrarian India,  it has great sound byte value especially at frozen destinations like Davos. Like Harbhajan Singh’s doosra by Anglo-Saxon ESPN commentators.

Due diligence is usually overdue, and corporate governance just sounds so Harvard  even the Golden Peacock spreads its majestic feathers in hearing that pious item-number.
In India, it is chronically the “ systemic malaise ” that fails us, despite tech experts like Infosys, Wipro and Cognizant.

In every brainstorming session ( you always wonder where the brains snooze during this supposed blizzard ) the boss energetically pumps up the blank expressions sitting in a semi-circle staring at him open –mouthed ; think out of the box. After a pregnant pause, somebody says, Can I go to the bathroom, please? Perhaps , a preferred  place for intellectual stimulation. Ever since finance pros talked of leveraged buy-outs, the management consultant , the other competing avatar for the buzzword-factory created a “buy-in”, fed up with getting people to just agree.

Personally, I would have sued those consumer marketing guys for sexual harassment for suggesting customer intimacy so liberally in a public platform. But following CRM, the jargon-obsessed had to create a little more familiarity. Next what ; have sex with the customer? Everyone wants to grab that “low-hanging fruit”, not knowing that the crawling worm and fuming competition gets there before your claws do.

If you are simply ill-equipped for that arduous task, you just don’t have it in your DNA; it’s a congenital deficiency. Poor you! Make do, with The Times of India and HT instead.
I have never quite fathomed why HR guys constantly chant competencies, when all they mean is relevant skills.

At the end of the day , say many , especially in early morning meetings with a sense of foreboding finality. Others have just two things to share, and then proceed with a laundry-list of interminable story-telling. It’s not rocket science, says the pin-striped boss, whenever he wants you to feel foolish. Not that he knows rocket science either or do those NASA engineers.

I find silos silly, because actually instead of feeling in water-tight compartments I could name my next dog with that Occidental sounding name. Despite the 2 G scam, bandwidth commands a huge spectrum amongst modern-day managers. If you don’t have it, there is no deal, man ! Who cares for the over-used resources these days?

And if you are indeed not duplicitous, why start every sentence with —Let me be honest ? Everytime someone makes a long monologue but switches seamlessly to having said that , you know they are master of irony and some bad news is in the offing. Notwithstanding is passé.

The metrosexual is the marketing man’s mantra for creating lifestyle market segmentation for the yuppie-type. While some believe that this is a high on testosterone randy fellow residing  in cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai or Delhi, he is actually the guy who does those mask-like facials every alternate day and blow dries his fluffy tresses, while his nails are immaculately clipped and the chest clean-shaven.

In the long run we are bullish .Sure, but by then you will not remember that flawed forecaster and his short-term grotesque stock recommendations. Your banker will nowadays never take a haircut, meaning a loss. But I thought hair grows back, right ( I maybe an odd exception)?

The IT crowd suddenly introduced us to deliverables, while making their valuations scribbled cursorily in the form of back of the envelope calculation. They also don’t want your contact details anymore, they want your coordinates.

And frankly if those Wall Street greedy sharks can at best come up with a financial  product ominously branded as credit “default” swaps, wasn’t the world expected to not pay-back?? Now you know why the global meltdown happened? By the way,  decoupling does not mean removing  a pair of smooching lovers in Bandstand.

Transparency is what I remember we needed in those days when we made presentations before the PPT took over. But nowadays the T word is like the T-Rex, omnipresent, gigantic, oppressive. Raja, Kalmadi, judges, police, politicians, Lalit Modi are all responsible for this monstrous mess. Best practices are usually best ignored.

Everyone wants to leave behind a footprint , and whether you have a driving license or not, you need to have it all in a dashboard .Its not just the razor blade, but everything has to be cutting edge, especially those PPT’s.  Anything small is now giving that Tata car costing around Rs 2 lakhs some free publicity and is nano, the new mini- midget. So go beyond nano-thinking, folks ! Think big!  Relationship managers were created by foreign banks to forge equations for further monetary fulfillment but under the soft touchy feely designation.

And after those thought-showers, a paradigm shift is the next step to get traction. Isn’t it far less exquisite and so boring  to say , let’s just think differently to create results? And all companies, whether or not in the energy business requiring to transfer gas from the Godavari basin needs a leadership pipeline .

My mind goes into the world of Hughes Hefner over-drive every-time they say Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra spent “ quality time together in his vanity van ” . Sure, does it mean Baskin Robbins has no chance whatsoever? But this one has replaced being “ just good friends” by far. Whenever the object of ridicule is targeted in those gossip-infested tabloids, they are  not available for comment

A batsman is usually clean bowled , says Ravi Shastri, but I noticed a hell of a lot of dust and dung on that last stump standing. He is also plumb LBW , never flat-footed or plain lazy. And India has recently shirked its past habitual hangover of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

And when my daughters say, Dad, stop being a loser, they are only affirming what my wife has been stating all along; Speak up, my friend, even if I am not hearing you.

Sanjay Jha is Executive Director of Dale Carnegie Training India. The views are personal.

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