Analog Feelings From a Carbon-Based Life Form Amidst a Digital Sea of Silicon Objects

Under a Cloud by Albert Ryder

Yesterday (Tuesday, January 6, 2015) I spent six hours walking the North, South and Central Exhibit halls of the Consumer Electronics Show. While overwhelming, it was also inspiring and thought provoking.

My short summary of the technology is that things are getting larger, thinner, faster, clearer, cheaper and more connected, while everybody is lusting after or leaking into everybody else’s business.

Besides the technology I focused on how I felt on the floor, since in the end the technology should be in the service of people and their hopes and dreams.

My three big takeaways are

1. Optimism: Despite constant concerns about the economy or the state of the world, things are actually getting better. And technology is absolutely magical in making it so. More and more people can afford some of the most mind-blowing technologies that let us discover more, entertain more, express more, learn more, be more productive in finding a job, doing our job, and saving more. For a cost of less than $250 a month, a family can have a 50 inch state-of-the-art television, a tablet, a powerful home computer, a couple of smart phones, a decent internet connection, and access to streaming movies via Netflix and music via Spotify. And the power and connections of Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and much more. Globally, smarter and cheaper phones are providing opportunities for both a better life and people revolution. We all have “God like” power.

2. We must find ways to overcome complexity and offset regret: Many of us remember the days when we would buy computers only to find that the same computer cost half as much a year later. Now that is happening to more and more things we buy. While walking around and thinking whether I should buy a 4 K TV, I came across a Sharp 8K TV! And my thought was: let’s wait! Increasingly, as more things get obsolete faster or cheaper faster, companies may want to think about enabling access rather than ownership. Leases not just for cars but for almost everything.

In addition to regret (did I buy the right thing at the right time at the right price), there are just too many choices. And in this Internet of Things mania the possibilities to confuse will grow. The ability to link things together so they are easy, solve a need and deliver value will be key. Which is why I believe the first platform for scaling the Internet of Things will be automobiles. Automobile companies package bundles and all of the stuff works in tandem. The home is a long way off since there is a riot of offerings that are discrete, unconnected and just goddamn ugly.

3. Connectivity is a double-edged sword: Everything is getting connected, from large objects like televisions and automobiles to smaller objects like pedometers and watches. Humans like interaction, but we will soon reach the stage of more than occasionally wanting to be disconnected. It was only when I left the panels, meetings, and gatherings and put down the phone and just walked around either the show or between the hotels that I could think and actually be me. Otherwise I was finding myself in the flow of the status quo. It is important to recognize that our minds are being both enriched but also colonized by connectivity. If I am constantly connected and interacting with you and your thoughts what will happen to “me”? Man is both a social animal but also a solitary one. Robert Frost noted that ” Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference “.

(Painting is “Under a Cloud” by Albert Ryder from collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City)

Three Takeaways From TED Global 2014


Last week I was fortunate to attend TED Global in Rio De Janeiro Brazil which was titled South! While I have been lucky to attend many of the original TED’s in Long Beach (and now Vancouver), but this was my first time to participate at TED global which this year had 1000 attendees.

A key difference between the two TED’s are threefold. a) The profile of the attendees and speakers, b)the topics being discussed and c) underlying themes with TED Global participants being 1) far more global versus American, 2) the topics being more close to todays reality than tomorrows possibilities and c) the underlying themes being about empowerment of every day people and humanity versus self actualization.

Both TED’s are awesome and if you ever get the chance to go and can afford it I would highly recommend. You can of course experience it at the 10 TEDx events every day all over the world or be among the millions who watch the talks at TED.Com.

Here were my three

1) Mobile combined with cloud computing is the single biggest enabler of all time: We have always been told about mobile in the hands of billions of people will change society but every prediction is probably not revolutionary or optimistic enough since it has not foreseen what these mobile devices can become when combined with cloud computing and data driven algorithms. We saw a combination of incredible low cost medical  solutions from early cancer detection to the potential to  identify ingredients in any food by simply scanning it and much more.

We saw how electricity was being provided and home improvement facilitated by mobile payment systems. How governments were being held to account by the ability to photograph and share their behavior. How culture was being enhanced and captured for posterity by individuals with nothing but a phone on their pocket linking to a cloud and open source movements.

You cannot but be greatly optimistic about what people will do to improve society and humanity at a scale that is unprecedented.

2) Openness  and accessibility will have the greatest impact:  Despite being someone who uses both the Android and iOS operating systems I have been a tilted Apple fan . It is clear I may have underestimated how the open nature of Android which brings with it lots of clunkiness will actually be the operating system for the world ( or something like it since no one can predict what surprises may come) and Apple while being highly profitable and newsworthy will likely be a gated system for people who are rich and fashionable enough to be in a gated community.

Apple may control the fashionistas and the press but Cupertino is going to have to really find ways to be even more open (maybe even licensing out iOS to low cost manufactures) than their recent efforts if they want to be a part of the rest of the world. Amazing that the company that brought  forth the computer for the rest of us and the smart phone that changed the world may find itself as the mobile system for the elite in a world despite their trailblazing.

Why? Because as more and more people all over the world see their phone as the next most critical thing to their family members  the real innovation that is taking place is not “native advertising”, “swiss watch replacements”  and ” wonderful to hold and behold” but how mobile technology can lift millions out of poverty, dictatorship and sickness. Its time for Apple to “Think Different” once more.

All of us who work in organizations and governments will be more “open” in our mindsets on how we partner, how we organize and how we move forward in a world of platforms, blurring lines between countries and skills and much more.

3) Technology itself is not good or bad but it enables people to be leverage goodness or badness: Clearly technology by empowering more people than ever before, I believe will create far more opportunities for a better life for billions in the future.

But there is a dark side including the loss of privacy and inability of the current systems of government to adapt to the increasingly mobile data driven tech world. Glen Greenwald the journalist was one of the few big names known in the West to speak since he lives in Rio. Along with quite a few others he explained how critical privacy is to all of us. Two statements he made stood out. First is that we are only ourselves when we are not being watched and second, even Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg who have questioned the importance of privacy go out of their way (including Mark buying up all his neighbors homes) to remain private.

Also sometimes we mistake the ease of starting a movement with actually achieving its goals (notice how many movements today start with a tweet but end with a thud) and could technology be a pacifier and a distractor that makes us lose the plot as to what is important ?

The future does not fit in the mindsets or containers of the past.

Am optimistic that things will be much better than ever.

Facilitating Movements


Today, in an age of empowered consumers, who are connected via social networks in an always on basis, smart marketers are realizing that finding ways to create or link to a broad movement can have greater longevity and impact than any campaign.

But how does one align a Brand with a movement in a way that is authentic and tonally correct ? Any over reaching or overt commercialization has the ability to create a movement against an advertiser for their heavy handedness.

An  effort by Nescafe in India that launched earlier this month on You Tube is a great example of  the nascent stages of what may become a powerful movement that the Brand facilitates and links to but does not necessarily own, since all movements are owned by the people who participate in it.

There are three key realities of linking to a movement  (Resonance, Fit and Relevance) that this effort illustrates

1. Resonate with an underlying truth: Today India and particularly the younger generation is moving from a country of day dreamers to dream builders. They are far less willing to accept the status quo or “karma” and far more willing to forge the future through self improvement and personal growth. The country is optimistic and forward looking and this effort links nicely to this reality.

2.  Brand Fit but in a supporting role: Tea in India is the social drink, while coffee today is  still primarily a beverage drunk alone. It is in some ways like a cigarette that one uses to relax and pick ones self up. It is a personal catalyst and an enhancer to self reflection.  This effort nicely inserts the brand in ways that still make the individual and their growth the star.

3. Personal Relevance  that allows viewers to see  themselves in the story: This is not the story about a stutterer but one about personal striving and overcoming challenges. This is a human agenda and one that viewers can engage with. They can not only share this very well produced effort with others but can begin to tell their own story.

Many Marketers believe creating movements are about leveraging technology and sharing platforms.

They are wrong because these need the advertiser to do the work.

What a movement needs is for the people to do the work.

The Brand sets up the scaffolding and platform but people own it and customize it and the Brand wins because it is linked to it.

In a world increasingly of self marketing where people market to themselves and to others facilitating movements can be very powerful. Something, Nestle may have begun to do with this initial ad that already has 4 million views.

Too much math. Too little meaning.


Today we are living in a data driven world infested by mathematics.

In marketing we worship the algorithm and its superiority to human decision making.

In our conversations about music and books and postings we boast about the number of songs we have downloaded, the number of books we have on our Kindles and how we can switch between devices more than discuss the books or the music.

In social media we are besotted by measuring and increasing our followers, friends, and connections.

In a world of  ascending Buzzfeed, Vice, Vox our media landscape is driven by the viral vortex of volume verification.

The wearables that will soon festoon our bodies will allow our quantified selfs to resonate with numerics.

Data data everywhere.So much data we will sink.

Data often without meaning. Who will help us think?

I am a math major. I love numbers and logic.

But somewhere in this hurly burly of numbers we may end up worshiping before the wrong totem pole.

1. Too much plumbing. Too little poetry.

In the world of media we are so fixated on the plumbing of finding the right person at the right place at the right time that we forget that the interaction we deliver will have to be absolutely right and brilliant not to piss of this superbly well located person at the exact right time. The better the “targeting”, the more important the tone, content and quality of the interaction.

Lets think about the poetry (water) versus just the plumbing.

2. Too much content. Too little time..

Marketers instead of focussing on improving their own products and services and gaining insights about their customers have got seduced into being content providers. They believe the social platforms of the world will help them distribute their in house content or they can impregnate journalism with the seed of their marketing messages under the rubric of “native” advertising.

The ability to quantify the social media distribution and the cost reduction in content creation allows for this type of focus and decision making.

In the world of content everybody now is finding ways to create new content and more content and scalable content and viral content without realizing that the time we have is limited and increasingly the returns to content are going to plunge as we increase the numerator (amount of content) while the denominator (amount of time we all have) remains the same.

Soon we will see a major content crash like we did in the cost per thousand views for display advertising.

Because the best content is created for itself and not as a shill for a marketer. It is created by true experts or is truly authentic.

 3. Too much information. Too little common sense.

In Finance we are inundated with books and articles and mutual funds and investment experts who use up everybody’s time and money to justify the money we give them for their time when almost no one can beat this simple three step formula

a) Spend less than you earn

b) Diversify your savings using low cost index funds which you re-allocate once a year

c) Hold for the long term

In Health and Diet we have books  and articles and experts  and charts which eventually cannot beat three steps

a) Eat less and move more.

b) Diversify your eating across a lot of food types (today something that is good for you will be bad and vice versa) while moderating alcohol ( lots of data suggests 2 drinks a day for men and one for women is better than none!)

c) Sleep enough

Intriguing that finance and health have basically the same general best formula built around moderation, diversification and long term habits.

More importantly the point of money is to enable you not to think about it. The point of food is to enjoy it as it is one of life’s great joys versus it being some monster you have to manage and grapple with.

In the end the world of science needs to support the world of living and art.

Anybody can read an excel spread sheet and let the numbers make the decision. In fact if that is what you do get ready for your job to be soon replaced by a machine.

But the point of the machines is so that we do not have to bother as much about the numbers and go on with living.

Its not the number.

Its how you use it to live and what you add to it to make decisions.


Why Nestlé’s “Share Your Goodness” is More Than Good



Nestlé has hit a nerve with its latest “Share Your Goodness” campaign. This series of heartwarming ads has emotionally resonated with millions of people in India, as well as a larger set of the global population via social/online media.

If you haven’t seen the campaign yet, I’d encourage you to check it out. The first commercial is Adoption and the second Dabbawala.


I share this campaign because it’s a great example of next generation storytelling and its message has resonated with many, largely because the campaign leveraged a number of new media tricks – from online video with extended versions to smart search optimization and seeding its own hash tag #ShareYourGoodness to enable sharing and discovery.

But the campaign is a success for more reasons than just great storytelling and new media tricks. So why did this campaign succeed and what can we learn from it as global marketers? The lessons are surprisingly less about digital technology and more about analog humanity.

  1. Storytelling is critical: Both executions, particularly Adoption, is a well-honed story – a story with humanity that leaves enough unsaid that the viewer brings their own experiences into the experience and therefore it becomes more engaging.
  2. Human insights are key: The core insight is really about how food is central to human bonding and social experience. In both commercials, food serves as a bridge, a connection, an expression of love and understanding between siblings, husband and wife and just people.
  3. Smart marketers own the category benefit: Food is an effective way to share our goodness. This is the underlying emotional benefit of food, besides its ability to sustain us physically. By linking Nestlé to this underlying category benefit, Nestlé looks bigger, more purposeful and more relevant to life than just being a food manufacturer.
  4. Break The Mold: Somewhere a client or a series of clients made some bold calls. First, they decided to launch the campaign online. Second, they approved story lines where the brand is the hero without the product being the hero or appearing all over the story. Third, they approved scripts that took on out of the ordinary topics. And finally, they understood that we live in a connected world and had their agencies seed, enable and leverage sharing.
  5. Recognize  and leverage the power of new media: Many marketers see digital and new media – even today in India and often around the world – as an after thought, an add-on or something one does to claim it is in the plan. The reality is that in places like India, which is the second largest market for Facebook with 100 million users (also Twitter’s and Linked In’s second largest market) and a highly mobile (soon in India 250 million smart phones), new media is as much media as old media and can allow for far more flexibility to create and distribute an idea. Why not start with the idea first and then determine the media rather than starting with the :30 or the print ad?

International appeal

The underlying insight of human goodness linked to sharing food, combined with the realization that the digital world allows one the room to tell a story which can then be shared and edited for other media, is so big that I believe this campaign has an appeal for international audiences, making it possible to leverage this effort across the globe.

In a connected world, the best ideas can come from everywhere and the Internet is global!

Marketers and Agencies need to realize that some of the old arts (storytelling, insights, understanding category benefits) and pure client and agency guts are very critical. So is the ability to seamlessly leverage old and new media in ways that get people not only to be viewers, but be part of the media distribution plan.




This is a remembered summary ( I spoke without a script) of my remarks on Feb 6 2014 when accepting the Chicago Advertising Federation’s Silver Medal Award.

Thank you to the Chicago Advertising Federation for this honor. I am humbled to be part of a group of people who have received the CAF Silver Medal, many of whom are in this room and many of whom I have worked and learned from. Thank you to Rocco and Jill for their words and emceeing the proceedings and to Cheri Carpenter, Mary Markou and Tanya Graham for organizing today, to Ria, Andrew and Jack for their tributes, and to all of you who braved the Chicago weather and cold to make this occasion special.

In every life, and a career is just a part of life, chance plays a very big role. Luck matters. Some believe things are destined and “it is written” while others like TE Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia believes “nothing is written.”  But regardless luck and chance play a big role in life.

It is not this chance that I would like to speak about but rather about the chances that people took and the chances people have given me over the years without which I would not be here.

Let me start in the middle or at the beginning of my US life where the Graduate School of Business at The University of Chicago (now the Booth School)  gave me a chance to be part of a world class university by admitting me with no work experience and an okay GMAT score. I was only one of two people from India admitted that year, 1980, and one of a handful from outside the United States.

When I graduated with great grades only one of 35 companies I interviewed with called me back for another round. I did not have a work visa. I was from India. I looked and spoke like an Indian. A gentleman called Mike Kearns was interviewing for a company called Leo Burnett and because one of his friends in the agency, Sadru Patel, was an Indian he decided to overlook the lack of a work visa and call me back for a second round. But before the round Sadru and him prepared me to ensure that I had the best chance to get in. I interviewed with legends like Dick Hobbs (who was one of the driving forces behind the Leo Burnett Media department and who would help birth Starcom) and many others, all of whom voted to give me the chance to get a job. Without the chance that Leo Burnett and all those folks gave me, I would have graduated jobless and possibly returned to India.

In those days even if you were going to join the Client Services Department you would start in media and before you were “placed” on an account you sat in a large room called “The Pit.”  It was a big conference room which had a series of desks and one phone which Tony Weisman who had joined the same day and is now the CEO of Digitas in North America sat next to and barked out the names when the phone rang for one of us in “The Pit” to go do some thankless adding of numbers or spreadsheets (this being real spreadsheets since there were no computers).  My main job in “The Pit” was to work with the head of media research called Jayne Zenaty who showed me how to build the case for an emerging new technology called “cable television.”  That chance to see how you built a case for something that still was in its infancy turned out to be very helpful some decades later.

When I was finally placed on an account (Maytag and Allstate) I was fortunate to work with Don Amos who took a chance by taking me into his office and letting me know that I “did not fit”. What he meant was that while I was good at running the numbers and doing the buys, I could not speak about sports or culture or make others feel that “I fit.”  Today this advice would be considered “illegal” but Don did not just provide advice but took it upon himself to send me to college football games with his children, get me into the University Club and pick up all the social graces, cultural cues and nuances that mattered (and still matter) in corporate America. Don Amos took and gave me chances.

When I moved into Client Service on Procter and Gamble, my first boss Patricia Swindle who is here decided I had no writing skills and as far as I was concerned she became the Devil incarnate in that she would make me re-do memos at least 20 times (this was in the age of typewriters) until every word, every sentence and every selling point was as tight as possible. She gave me the chance to improve my writing skills. Others like Paula McLeod, Mary Bishop and Peter Husting threw me meaty and strange assignments that included observing and analyzing rat studies to build a case for an anti-plaque toothpaste. When going through these rat studies with corporate lawyers like Carla Michelotti who is also here, I wondered where I was and what I was doing. When would I work on a prestigious account and do glamorous things.

As luck would have it my next assignment involved trash bags. Glad trash bags. I moved onto this account owned by Union Carbide two days after the Bhopal Gas disaster to go work for a Client who was from the deep South and yelled at my account director with me in the room as to what he was thinking putting me on the account. Bill Haljun who was my director just said I needed to work under hostile conditions and hostile clients and here was my chance. He was a religious man and then said we should pray things would work out. His prayers worked and when I left the business two and half years later some long lasting achievements were (along with Warren Guthrie) renaming the company to First Brands, developing the first data driven way of allocating spot television spending to market results and learning how to make amazing ads with Kent Middleton who today is the longest serving creative still at Leo Burnett and who is also here in the room. I also was terrorized by an Account Supervisor named Mike Miller who was convinced that I was the worst presenter he had ever seen and so decided that I needed to rehearse and rehearse and present and present till I knew what I was doing. He did not say you will not present because you are no good but rather you will present till you become good. All these folks took and gave me chances.

I am not a fan of cats and dogs. So after rat studies and trash bags the Leo Burnett company decided I was to work on pet food and specifically on a brand , Amore, where the client did not believe in television advertising but wanted to explore this strange terrible second class thing called direct marketing. My bosses  Jeff Herscovitz and others insisted that I learn this direct marketing thing the Client was interested in. So mailing lists, de-duping, postage costs, databases were encountered rather than Hollywood TV shoots or working on McDonalds or United Airlines or Kellogg’s…But that would surely come when I became an account director….

It was time to be promoted but there were no positions since all the large accounts promoted from within. So Tom Collinger who ran the direct marketing department gave me the chance to be a director in his group though I really was not a direct expert. In some ways it was also seen by many as career suicide since the 34th floor was full of outsiders like Jerry Reitman and Tom Collinger spouting things about integrated marketing and data bases. I joined the “leper colony” and started to learn about these “dark second class” arts. Also got interested in a thing called Compuserve and Prodigy because the economics of direct marketing had a bunch of fixed costs like paper and postage which needed to be offset to make the economics work.

One day driving to a Client to present a direct marketing plan with Linda Wolf who would become the CEO of Leo Burnett but was then running the Fruit of the Loom account and was the head of new business I spoke about computers and technology. She asked me to go see Rick Fizdale then the Chief Creative Officer who was determining how to staff a new business pitch for IBM’s Personal Computer Business. The assignment was not a creative pitch but a 90 minute conversation about the future of computing and what we would recommend IBM market its PC. Rick gave me the chance to lead this pitch and I was armed with the first IBM Think Pad, went off to Forrester conferences and got to work with legends like Bud Watts ( creator among other things of the Rhapsody in Blue themed ads for United which we still hear today). We lost the pitch even though we had got the recommendation right (which was about empowerment and suggested that IBM stop thinking in silos and instead of giving us their PC business to put all their business together), they first hired an unknown agency for a few weeks and did just what we recommended with Ogilvy and Mather who had worked closely with IBM leadership at Amex where they all had come from.

In order to work on the IBM pitch I had left my direct marketing job and so I was now without an account and a new business loss. Bill Lynch and Rick Fizdale asked what I would like to do and I asked if I could start an Interactive Marketing Group. They were not sure what I was talking about but they said yes you can do so but you will have no staff. So I started the group with no staff, no account, no budget in a business where stature meant how many clients and budgets and people you controlled.

Jan Klug who was running a part of the McDonalds account called me and gave me the chance to pitch her Client about Leo Interactive to help them evaluate the Time Warner Full Service Test in Orlando in 1994. McDonalds hired us and we needed people to help us with content for this test and I was introduced to two young brothers, Adam and Eric Heneghan from Iowa who had moved to Chicago with a company called Giant Step Productions. We asked them to work from the Leo Burnett building. We then found ourselves recommending McDonalds to get out of the Time Warner test telling them that it was not going to work. The Client wondered if we were mad since we were asking our only Client not to do the only project that we were working on. We asked that they actually think about a company called America Online instead and a CD-Rom company called Broderbund to partner with.

In rapid order Carla Michelotti’s husband Bob Colvin then a senior agent at the talent agency ICM, introduced us to Broderbund and helped introduce us to folks that allowed us to create the first online live talk show called Oldsmobile Celebrity Circle on America Online. Bob and ICM took a chance on a crazy Indian guy spouting interactive marketing, a bearded savant called Tig Tillinghast and two strange looking Iowan folks which were the Leo Interactive Marketing Group.

Then came a flurry of gambles and chances that people took. Adam and Eric agreed to sell a majority of their company to Leo Burnett. Bill Lynch, Jim Jenness and Rick Fizdale allowed us to take Leo’s name off the door and make Giant Step the Leo Interactive Marketing Group and they let us leave the building into a loft in Greek town and fund things called a server room! And from this loft Clients like United let us launch them on the web and General Motors partnered with then sites like Hot Wired. And the person who helped us build the underpinnings financially was Frank Voris who later would be a driving force with Jack Klues behind another new entity called VivaKi…

3 years and 100 employees strong Adam and Eric taught me how to be an entrepreneur, how to make payroll and a lot of other things but we came to disagree with each other since I remained loyal to Leo Burnett (whose employee I was and which owned 75% of the company) while they cared about Giant Step and its future. I returned to Leo Burnett sitting in a fish stinking room above Catch 35 with nothing to do.

And then the phone rang and gentleman I know well said…”Hi this is Jack Klues. I am about to launch Starcom. Can I convince you to join me to help us on digital and the future?”. And thus was born Starcom IP. But I was not the first employee of Starcom IP. Rather an ex Starcom employee, Tim Harris, had been hired back from a company called Launch Media ( a CD-Rom music magazine run by David Goldberg now CEO of Survey Monkey and husband of Sheryl Sandberg) to help Starcom in digital. Tim Harris was pissed I was there but decided to give me a chance to be the President of Starcom IP (he was Vice President and the only other employee). And with completely made up credentials we got Miller Beer to take a chance on us. As we grew we hired folks in a most unusual way. The first hire was someone we thought was a online porn specialist called Steven Governale (he was not), the next was a pal of Tim called Jeff Marshall. Every one we hired had to be approved by everyone else and we took chances on the most unusual and most strange folks who left successful careers to take a chance on us. PJ Macgregor, Wendy Barsky, Sarah Cook, Andrew Swinand, Dan Buczaczer, Scott Witt, Chandra Panley, Christian Kugel, Courtney Acuff, Michael Zeman…..the list goes on and on. Today these folks are among the superstars of the Industry and they were great then too and took a chance with us.

And the chances and people taking chances grew as we become SMG and got people to give us chances to launch the first gaming agencies (Play), social expertise (Reverb), mobile expertise (Digits), futures think tank (SMG Next) and then came Publicis Groupe Media. And during a PGM board meeting we built a case for the future that the only way to win big in digital was to buy a company called Digitas or one called Aquantive which had a unit called Razorfish. While we went about doing that we were given the chance to launch a unit called Denuo which a gentleman called David Kenny (CEO of Digitas) called to understand better.

Soon Digitas came into the fold and we launched VivaKi which included Vivaki Nerve Center with Curt Hecht at the helm and in time included Performics and Razorfish and much more.

The chances continued when eight months ago I got a call from Maurice Levy when I was in China and was asked to Chair DigitasLbi and Razorfish. When I asked why he noted I was “acceptable” to the Pete Stein, Shannon Denton, Luke Taylor and Tony Weisman and the other CEO’s of the company. They gave me a chance to work with some of the smartest folks and best transformation marketing and technology agencies in the space.

But when it comes to chances that have been given to me the biggest chances were given to me by my parents who educated and grew my sister Moeena and I. Our parents were extra-ordinary people who grew up very poor and believed in education and made sure we had the best ones we could get. Jack and Frank had an opportunity to meet with them on a trip to India. Our parents always cared about doing the right thing and never forgetting where they came from and giving back. Our father would study under street lights, walk miles to school, could afford one meal and when he was successful always focused on the folks who studied today under lights and struggled to succeed.

My in-laws who I first met when I was twelve also took a chance by letting me marry their daughter but also were like another set of parents. Today my parents and my father in law all of whom got to live past 80 are no more but my mother in law is here to represent this era.

But when it comes to taking a chance not one has taken a bigger chance on me than my wife who probably decided to marry me when I was 12 or definitely before we were seventeen. She was the President of her school, one of the best students and the reigning beauty queen. Our daughters Ria and Rohini , when they looked at my picture from those days ( awkward) and not a very good student or a player of any sports still ask their mother…”what were you thinking mom…what did you see?”

Rekha typed my admissions form into Business School. Stood outside the station the first day I came home from work from Leo with my basket of apples. We had just enough money after paying the rent and grocery after my first check to buy a Mr Coffee machine which we kept for 25 years till it exploded. And a splurge was going to eat at the Burger King outside Esquire on Oak Street where we wondered how anyone could afford the stores. Today when Rekha occasionally goes there what we remember are the two of us eating our whopper and looking forward to a cut rate matinee movie. Rekha bet her life and future on me and she gave me the biggest chances and gifts including our daughters.

So here I am because of chances I have been given and people who have taken chances on me.

A  benefit of success  is the ability to give chances to people and taking chances on people.

Because the best thing you can do when given chances is to give other people chances…

Four Feelings After Four Days On Magic Mountain


This past week I was one of the fortunate 2600 or so people  to participate in the 2014 Annual Meeting of The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

It was my first experience at Davos and here are my feelings after four days on Magic Mountain (Davos is also the site of the sanatorium in Thomas Mann’s famous 1924 novel  called Magic Mountain )

1. Overwhelmed: There is rarely a concentration of so many talented folks from government, technology, business, the arts in a small town that has one single street (The promenade) which can be walked end to end in about 40 minutes. One moment I was in a room with Mohammed Yunis the Nobel Prize winner for his pioneering work in Micro finance, Matt Damon the actor and Ariana Huffington and a few hours later at a small breakfast that included the leaders of McKinsey, BCG, the Harvard Business Review and Facebook. Or a few hours later watching Simon Peres the President of Israel on the same stage that a few hours earlier Hassan Rouhani the President of Iran was standing.

2. Humbled: If you ever think highly of yourself a visit to Davos serves as a nice tonic and slap in the face. Yes, you are fortunate to be there but you clearly realize that your inclusion must have been a major mistake. Its not just all the big names but the place is filled with young folks from NGO’s and tech startups and the Arts who are scintillatingly brilliant, driven and often succeeding in changing the world. You feel small.

3. Inspired: While it may be easy to make fun of “Davos Man”, and it is still 85% men with two thirds from countries that account for 12% of the worlds population, it is clear that many of these folks are here to actually help deliver on the World Economic Forum’s mantra of “Committed To Improving The State Of The World”. This is done on at least three levels.

First, it is a forum for connection where people who would not connect with each other or have access to each other can. Eminent bankers sitting with young students. Bill Gates counseling young entrepreneurs. Larry Summers (Economist), Maurice Levy(Marketer) , Marc Benioff (Technologist) conversing and commenting on why developed countries are less optimistic while developing countries are more optimistic about technology. At most conferences you do not get such a smorgasbord of viewpoints. Oddly the different angles inspire far greater insights than most conferences where everybody is really in the same Industry.

Second, the conference itself has between 8 and 10  parallel  tracks that one can attend that span everything from what the outlook for China or Japan or Europe is to new advances in healthcare, energy or environment to sessions on meditation, the mind in a hyper connected age and the future of privacy. If you decided to keep away from your Industry (like I decided to do ) and only expose yourself to new arenas and perspectives you can and be illuminated beyond belief. This understanding of  a much bigger canvas surely helps make the world a better place because it brings more perspective.

Third, this is about people. Even though one is surrounded by amazing names and titles which leaves one feel small, in time one realizes these are human beings and people and while intelligent and driven just simple carbon based life forms. Oddly conversations occurred between any two folks were both high minded and illuminative and simple and human.

4. Educated: My notes from all my meetings and sessions were prolific but I tried to narrow it down to some key themes that I sensed were a silent undertow to the overall event. Here were my top six.

a)  Unemployment: There was a real concern that a combination of technology that in the short run destroys more jobs than it creates, businesses that maximize margin versus investment and governments focussed on austerity versus growth (outside of Japan) are creating long term problems with over 200 million people worldwide looking for jobs.

b) Age versus Youth: Countries like Japan are aging to such an extent that in the next 20 years  their population will decline by a quarter unless they let in immigrants. Other nations in Western Europe are running economics to protect the well being of the established and leading to high unemployment among the young with Spain having over 50% unemployment. Will the young who are highly social and connected pay attention or use social media to tweet pictures of food to each other?

c) Inequality: If there was a theme to this conference it would be inequality among different constituencies (young versus old, tech enabled versus tech challenged, employed vs unemployed) and the potential social and political ramifications of such inequality. A general thesis was that an investment in education was critical and progressive taxes may be necessary.

d) Technology and Data: A large part of the optimism at the conference was not just that the economies appeared to be on the upswing in most places, thought during Davos markets began getting shaky, but that technology was going to enable great advances. There was a belief that while there would be short term dislocations and impact of technology overall it was a force for good. The governance of data is likely to be a huge issue.

e) China: If there is one country that dominates Davos it is China. Whether it is in the room or not, one sees a more confident, more assertive China. Along with the United States it increasingly appears we live in a G2 (Group of 2 world), with Europe being bifurcated into a growing Germany and East and a muddling along West and  most of the emerging countries somewhat eclipsed in the limelight versus some year ago.

f) Google/Alibaba/Tencent are increasingly more powerful than most Governments: Apple does not show at these events and Facebook was present and is on the rise but the dominant tech companies at Davos were Google who held a party where everyone came to kiss the ring and Tencent and Alibaba who lurk in the air and are clearly about to join Google as two of the other three huge global players (even though initially China based)

Oddly the power of Internet companies is a reason why the WEF which is a truly global organization is so relevant. Today in a connected world, countries may increasingly be containers of the past with rules, regulations and codes that fail to resonate with where we are and organizations like the WEF allow for solutions and conversations about the future to happen.

If ever given a chance do go. It is a mind blowing event.