Dear Blog – Happy 10th Birthday!!!

Yes, this blog is celebrating its 10th birthday today.

I can’t believe it has been 10 years already.

What started as a simple collection of thoughts, memoirs, incidents, milestones has actually gone on and completed a decade!

Although the last few years, I’ve barely given this blog its due worth. But what I think is priceless today is going through the older posts and recollecting and reliving the memories that lead to it.

This blog was just a simple medium to socialize and network. A medium to put words to random thoughts. And did that successfully for many years. But I never carried on.

I complained about not having enough time many years back. And it has only gotten worse. I think you need to take time out for the things you care about. Somewhere, during the journey of the last 10 years, I lost my passion to blog.

But the fact that I am back here today, to spend time on this page, 10 years after I first set it up, means something. I will no longer continue to wish and pray and hope I can revive this blog. This hasn’t worked to date.

What has worked for me before is using this blog as a form of expression. No glamor. No mad rush to increase readership. No real interest to make new friends. Just my little space of expression and thought.

Life has gone a long way. A decade of celebration isn’t just full of fun and frolic. There have been pain, failure, loss and disappointments. But to sum it all up, this is life. I am father to 3 lovely kids, and a loving doting wife. We have all what we need today. Glory to Allah for that.

What really is the highlight of my day is to relive the excitment and unpredictability of raising a newborn. Yes, my little Fatimah, who will turn 3 months old in a few days. I’ve recorded my experiences as a first-time dad on this very blog a lot. Little less so when my little girl was born 5 years back. But this time, I want to capture as much as I can. Someday, I will come back, or maybe my kids will, or their kids – who knows how many generations will read this blog. Would it matter to them to know how much their daddy loved them? And what was it like to raise the kids?

I think it would matter to them. Especially, when they have kids of their own.

I am in a high pressure job but I will be kidding myself if I say I did not want it. I badly wanted this. But it is also time to move on. More so, to take time out for my loved ones. I have sacrificed the one thing that I know will never come back – TIME. So there has to be a balance. These kids are not getting any younger. I am surely getting older. And heavier. And rounder. But that’s me. For the kids, these are their best years! I want to make the most of these lovely memorable moments with my wife and kids. In my persuit to give the best life to my kids, I am taking away the best time of their childhoods. I am robbing them of their time with their father. A father who should come home without any leftovers from work. With a free and fresh mind, to give my kids a time of their lives. Every day.

Coincidentally, I was having this conversation with a colleague at work today. He said something that made me think. Our time is too short. And we ruin it because we are carrying baggage home from work. In our minds. So before leaving work, make sure you take it all out on someone. Any one. After all, your work owes you that 5 min to crib for all the shit you take for it, day in and day out.

Does our work or office really owe us anything? Does a salary suffice for all the crap you take at work? Your employers would like to believe that. Sadly it is true. It requires a very strong mind to disconnect from work. And reconnect again the next morning. I have failed miserably at that. And hence have spoilt perfect evenings worrying about work. This will not happen moving forward. My kids deserve better. My family deserves better.

And my body deserves better. Not just a obscene number on the weighing scale. All of this has to be aligned. My time, my work, my health. Not for me but for the few who love me. And my love for them. A healthy mind is as important as a healthy body. The last few weeks have been a revelation for me. Not because I suddenly attained nirvana. But because I’ve spent the last few weeks with a person who I despise the most from my work ecosystem. Yet, those man-hours spent working with him have given me so much insight. A man should never stop learning. More so from your enemies. I mean we are not sworn enemies but let’s just say we never got along too well as co-workers. And I was locked up in a room conducting an audit to fix a complicated problem at both our companies are facing today. We decided to bury our hatchet and get on with what was more important than me and him. Maybe I was not much of a learning for him. But he really opened my eyes. I refer to different phases of my career as ‘learning curves’ and whenever curve begins to flatten, I think it is time to move on. I think just when one of the curves was flattening, I ran into this guy. Professionally, this was one of those spikes that you long for. One that could change the course of a career. Who knows!

Maybe this is what a decade teaches you. To recognize, acknowledge, learn. grow.

To another decade.



End of Ramadan

For the uninitiated, Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. We fast from dawn to dusk, in hope of pleasing the lord almighty and attaining our ultimate purpose in life – The Afterlife!

At the start of each Ramadan, there is much excitement about what lies in store for the next 30 days. We fast, we pray, we eat. Biological clock goes for a toss. Sleeping patterns change. Eating patterns change. The ultimate goal is to maximize our time pleasing Allah the Almighty and follow the footsteps and guidelines laid down by the Prophet (pbuh).

Even the working hours are reduced to 6 hrs a day. Everyone around is cognizant of the fact that you are fasting. People refrain from eating, smoking in public. All this is a mark of respect to this amazing practice laid down by the Almighty.

And thus, as we approach the end of Ramadan, there is a lot of sadness and nostalgia in the heart. The disappointment of not doing enough. The fear of not seeing another Ramadan. The memories of the past 30 days, where every aspect of your life had changed. Ramadan is a glorious month. And as we dawn to close yet another month of Ramadan, my only wish today is to carry forward little part of the last 30 days with me.

And hope we live long enough to experience another Ramadan. The eternal holy month of Ramadan.

Eid Mubarak to all.

When Roger wins…

My adoration of Roger Federer is no secret. I’ve celebrated when he won. And I have cried when he lost. And just like everyone else did, I had doubts if he ever had it in him to win another major. He has put all of it to rest today.

Roger Federer has won his 18th grand slam title earlier today. By doing so, he has further distanced himself from the rest. The next highest grand slam winner is Sampras and Rafa, both tied at 14 each.

So what makes this victory so special? The fact that it came nearly 5 years since his last slam, at an age when 90% tennis players are into retirement. And against the player who has been his nemesis for the entire duration of his career. And to do so upon returning back from a career-threatening 6 month injury layoff. I think nothing can be more special.

But what makes it special for me? I think I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Roger has been my inspiration since the time I understood what’s the real meaning of inspiration. Everything about him has been surreal. At a time when he was winning grand slams , defeating opponents, rising up the rankings and creating history, I was closing sales orders, achieving my quotas, cracking contracts and signing commission cheques. There really is no comparison but to have someone who has mastered his art with sheer hard work, to follow someone of his stature gives me the kind of hope like no one else.

What’s not to like about a man who has single-handedly inspired millions of kids around to world to pick up a tennis racket?

And to all those like me, who never played the game, Federer was the epitome of success. His success meant the world was in order. And that there is nothing to worry. We are all going to be OK. It gave me hope. And a sense of belief. That even I can be special. That even I can achieve the seemingly impossible. There are times in life when we are in self-doubt. And in those moments on weakness, people want to cling onto whatever they can find. Even the tiny bit of hope, that little ray of little, is enough. To brush ourselves and get back into the arena. To start believing again that things will get better. Invariably, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Roger brings me that hope. To me, my ambitions and to my dreams. That it is not over till it’s over. Roger brings me that will to keep fighting. To be persistent and to work hard. There is no shortcut to success. And anyone whose seen it closely can tell you there really isn’t. Roger brings me the belief. In myself and in what means the most to me.

So if one man can inspire millions with what he can do with a tennis racket, then that’s really enough for me to believe in myself. To wake up tomorrow morning with a new zeal, renewed hope and reignited enthusiasm about life. To understand that failure is ok. We all fail. We all lose. But to get back up and get to work, that’s the beauty of HOPE.

To all of us who believe we can, I can just use the same 3 words that inspired millions around the same time some 8 years back – YES WE CAN.

To Roger – Thank you for letting us be part of this amazing journey and to instill hope in all of us. In me. Good luck for the rest of your career. For me, this was the final frontier. #18. We will be with you till the day you call it a day.

Till then….how about #20 @ Wimbledon?

Email Efficiency

Last week after I got back from my vacation, the only thing I was dreading to get back to was my inbox. For the first time in 10 years, I had managed to stay away from my emails for the entire duration of my holidays. Well, 8 days really isn’t much to be proud off but it was a holiday nonetheless.

So here I was trying to contemplate how best do I tackle this problem on hand. I wasn’t overtly eager to power on my laptop. Wanted to be sure that when I do get to my emails, I must be 100% focused to ensure every email I must read, I must action and close out.

I did power up my machine as soon as I got to work but only started reading current emails. Few action items on them and I was done with it. Had a few meetings and, to be honest, they were nothing but excuses to further delay the inevitable. It was only late evening, when 90% of the office was empty, that I finally decided it was time.

It took me 4 hours uninterrupted to read, review and respond. And come to think of it, I took my time. But one blaring statistic stood out – I replied to ONLY 5% of the emails that I received during an entire week. Only 5% emails actually warranted a response. Now, I don’t count ‘OK’ or ‘Thanks’ as a response. So that got me thinking.

How efficient are we on emails? Or are we at all?

Emails have become the primary mode of formal communication at the workplace today. I really don’t need to get into detail about what kind of communication et al but my question is : Are we overdoing it? If only 5% of my emails needed my response, what about the remaining 95%? That gets me to my next question: Why was it sent to me then? And lastly to my most important point : how were these ‘useless’ emails affecting my productivity?

I hear stories about about how most highly productive (read: famous billionaires) people are very good at time management. They ensure there is a time of each task. And emails is one of them. But for us lesser mortals, who know nothing about time management, if an email hits your inbox, it needs to be dealt with right away. For if you don’t, then the cell phone starts ringing. And in a matter of minutes, it gets escalated. This is if you receive an email that requires your attention. But every once in a while, an email gets buried under a clutter of useless emails.

And this is where my question on productivity comes. Are we spending too much time sending and reading senseless emails? It took me 4 hours to go through one week’s emails, it took me about 30 min to compose and send my response. What about the 3.5 hours that I lost reading useless emails? How many such hours am I losing daily? And at the end of the day, I am left working late at work. Or working late at home after kids go to bed. Or working early in the morning before dawn.

It is a work culture to document anything and everything on email. I agree there are certain communications that absolutely need to be documented. What percentage of your work does that constitute? Differs with different people. I can safely say that it is about 20% for me. Rest 80% does not require any emails to be exchanged.

But force of habit, we send it anyway. By doing that, we are compromising on our productivity, our time and most importantly, our work-life balance.

I have vowed to better manage my email traffic. It starts with me.

Note to self: Stop sending useless emails.

A Decade of Working

As a 20-something, fresh out of B-school with a management degree in one hand and an offer letter in the other, who would have thought about the next 10 years? Honestly, not even the next 10 days. It was all about now. Live in the moment. Die by the moment.

But since the last couple of years, this milestone has been on my mind quite a bit. Not in a bad way but in a reflective manner. Last week, I completed 10 years at my job. Yes, a decade. An entire decade of working.

10 years is a very light word but a decade sounds a lot. Almost as long as a lifetime. And trust me, it feels like that too. Funny that is exactly how I felt when I completed 5 years!

I don’t remember too much about my first day at Oracle. I wish I had blogged about it back then. I remember it being a pleasant sunny day in Bangalore. There were 31 of us ‘new-bees’ who had joined one of the largest enterprise software companies in the world. That’s right. A select bunch of nobodies were now part of the big O. And none of us knew how to pronounce Oracle correctly!

I remember the induction being long and boring, but it kept us awake. Basic formalities and introductions followed by sessions from HR. And we had a welcome party in the evening. That was fun. Good way to unwind after a long day of power points. I don’t remember much about that night either.

The next few days were all about trainings, trainings and more trainings. Mock calls, role plays, sales pitches, listening in on sales calls, elevator pitches, attitude, swagger and the single biggest mantra of sales – close, close, close! A.B.C. Always Be Closing. It was all about visibility. Who heard you? Who sees you? Who saw through you! There was no room for complacency or hollowness. Either you had it in you or you did not. Period.

After a month of training, we finally got our postings. I was a BDC! Business Development Consultant. Yes, I know. Fancy job title of a new hire. My job was basically to find new business leads for Oracle. To reach out to potential customers, make the pitch and set them up for further followup with a sales rep. Sounds simple but trust me, I was terrified. All my training, management degree, projects and presentations on one side. A “live” customer on the other side was pretty much the end of the world. But I lived through it. Some good days. And some not so good. All in all, it did fine.

My first order was for a pharma company in CT. Now, ask me what I had for breakfast this morning, it may take me a while to recall. Chances are I won’t even recall. But ask me about my first order, my first WON deal for Oracle and I can tell you every single detail of that project. They say you never forget your first love. I say, you never “ever” forget your first order!

During my first year at Oracle, I went through severe highs and lows. Good thing was the lows came first. And then the highs. Eventually, I ended up getting nominated for a couple of sales awards that year. Sadly enough, I did not win. Getting nominated and recognized was good enough. But not for long. The following year, I bagged 5 more nominations and won 3 awards. I spend 2 years and 4 months with Oracle in Bangalore. During this time, I met some very good friends, worked under a manager who was less a manager and more a mentor. He taught me what I needed to know about selling. Not products. Not pricing. Not how to sell. But what is selling, really! Hand’s on. Sales is all about attitude and character. And this gentleman taught me what those words really mean.

And then it was time to find new pastures. I had lived in UAE all my life. My parents and family were still there so it was but natural for me to try and look for a job there. Nonetheless, God almighty was kind and I comfortably landed a position at the Oracle Dubai office. This time, it was direct sales. No more business development. This was in 2007.

And again, I remember everything about my first order as a sales guy in Dubai. This time it was a telco in Botswana (Africa). And what more, the pleasure of picking up that first sales comp. Absolute magic. And that’s where I spent the next 3 years of my life. Had 2 stellar years and my only bad year on record till date.

From the time I joined, roughly that was the time when Oracle had started acquiring companies to expand its footprint in the market. I was lucky enough to be part of 2 such projects where I was giving a brand new portfolio. First was when Siebel was acquired in 2006. And the next was in 2010 when Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems. This, my friends, was the turning phase. What I fondly refer to as ‘my true calling’.

Oracle has always been a software company. Always. But for the first time, it had ventured into hardware, where we started selling servers and storage machines. Real metal and iron. As luck would have it, things got going and I was offered a position to sell hardware for Oracle. It was only at this stage that I realised I was always a hardware guy.

The next 3 years were my best 3 years as a sales guy. Each year, I would exceed my target and raise the bar, and then exceed it again.




Awards, promotions, commissions – it was all happening. I started managing a team. 6 guys started reporting into me. Now, I was no longer just a sales guy. I was running a team. My next challenge and the most enjoyable one, I must add. Running your own show is one thing. Looking at it from a team’s perspective is completely different.

Things went well and on the backdrop of all this, I got the best break of my career. I was assigned to manage and run Oracle’s Distribution business in Middle East and North Africa.

And that’s what I do for a living today.

From being a nervous newbie scared to pick the phone and talk to a customer, to running a multimillion dollar regional distribution show, I think it’s been one hell of a ride.

A ex-sales leader at Oracle said this a few years back and has stuck with me, always. He said,

“Sell with Passion. Sell with Skill. Sell with Integrity”

This has been my sales mantra over the years. Golden words, really. In the most simplistic manner, he said so much.

I remember thinking of setting short and long-term goals to better manage my career. To assign a target and exceed it. To compete with myself and beat me to hell. To raise the bar and then raise it some more. Never to stop when someone says “good job”. My mentor always said “you are as good as your last sale”. Stop at nothing.

And I did not. I am, and will always remain, a sales guy.

Class of 99 reunion

It started 4 years back between 2 friends (one in India and other in Canada) discussing about getting together for a class reunion.

What transpired between those 4 years is impossible to account for. But the end result was better than expected.

I completed my schooling at Abu Dhabi Indian School (ADIS) passing out of Grade 12 in 1999. Thus the “Class of 99”. And this year, actually the last 3 days, we celebrated our 15 YEAR REUNION.

And what a reunion it was.

Maybe that’s the reason behind this sudden feeling of emptiness. I returned home couple of hours back, settled it, and a bout of nostalgia kicked in. Did I just spend the last 3 days with all my high school buddies? Did I just meet some of them after 15 years? And that’s when it hit me.

This was exactly how I felt when I left school in 1999.

A lot has changed since. Marriage. Job. Kids. Responsibilities. But the last 3 days was like a journey through time. To relive the madness of high school. And to see a room full of guys, and this time with wives and kids, was one hell of an experience. No matter what happens from here, I will be carrying a piece of this with me for the rest of my life.

What really stood out was some relations were still the same. In some cases, the same awkwardness. In other cases, the same openness. The same passion. The same friendships. Just bigger waistlines and lesser hair.

All in all, this reunion turned out far better than we all expected. And I think the timing was perfect. Had we met for our 10 year reunion, we all would still have been fighting and striving, trying to come to terms with our lives. With our failures and imperfections. But today, it really didn’t matter. I guess as time passes by, the lesser it does.

Tomorrow morning, I will be back to my life but rest assured, I can sleep tonight with a heart full of memories and feelings of emptiness at the same time. Maybe that’s the part of me that I left behind in 1999 today.


How NOT to Sell

I just got a call from a local bank (name withheld purposely) trying to sell a credit card. If I have to rank, this has to be right up there amongst one of the worst sales call ever. I wasn’t nasty. I took the call and gave him time. Gave him multiple opportunities to back off or move on. But it had to happen.

I will try my best to replay the conversation.

Agent: Hello, Good Morning, Sir. This is John Doe (name changed) from XYZ Bank. Can I talk to you for a minute?

Me: Hi John. Sure. What are you trying to sell me this morning? *jumping the gun*

Agent: *Chuckles* Do you have any relationship with our bank?

Me: No.

Agent: Great. Sir, we are offering you our best credit card. You have to pay annual fee of Dh 1000 but you get 35000 complimentary Etihad travel points which you can redeem for a return air ticket to India. Are you from India?

Me: Yes. *This card is not for me. Not interested*

Agent: Great. So that way, you won’t have to pay anything for the card. Along with that, we provide 2 complimentary lounge access and….

*I interrupt him”

Me: Hang on. But I already have lounge access through other credit cards. Why do you think this card is of any interest to me? *Giving him an opportunity to hook me”

Agent: Sir, because you are getting 35000 travel points and you can get a return air ticket to India with 25000 points. Then we are also giving you access to Marhaba lounge. Plus you can use the remaining 10000 points also.

Me: But I already told you I have lounge access through Priority Pass that gives me access to 700 airport lounges across the world. And I don’t fly Etihad. I fly Emirates. So I ask again: why is your card of any good to me? *Giving him one more chance to do the sell*

Agent: Sir, because you can travel for free.

Me: What do you mean by free? *Throwing him a rope*

Agent: Sir, with 25000 points, you can go and come back to India for free.

Me: But I don’t fly Etihad. I am a Skywards Gold member of Emirates. And I have to pay Dh 1000 to get those points. So how is it free for me? And not to forget, I have to pay Dh 1000 again next year and the year after. *Some more rope*

Agent: Sir but you can travel with those 25000 points for free so even if you pay 1000, you are getting free air ticket. So you are not losing any money.

Me: Well, I can get a return air ticket for less than Dh1000. *The rope is snapping*

Agent: No Sir. For any return ticket to India, you have to pay atleast Dh 1500 plus during season, the ticket price is even more. Other airlines will charge a lot. With the points, you can redeem ticket any time of the year. And you can fly Etihad, which is best airlines.

Me: Can I ask you a question? *That’s it, I’ve had enough*

Agent: Yes please.

Me: Are you a credit card agent or a travel agent? *SNAP*

Agent: *Silence*

Me: John, now listen to me very carefully because there are not too many of your customers who will give you this advice. Consider this as your 2 minute free career counselling that will change your life. Do you have 2 minutes?

Agent: Yes Sir.

Me: Now let me start from the beginning. You asked me for a minute. Keep an eye on the watch. As soon as you get to about 55 seconds, say that a minute is about to finish. Can I request for a few more minutes to discuss further? That’s being professional and helps in establishing Credibility. Moving on, you asked me if I had a relationship with your bank. When I said No, you said Great. What’s so “great” about it? If you are positioning your bank to me, you should not show that you are happy that I already don’t have a relationship with your bank. You should instead just say OK, and ask me for 30 seconds to tell me more about the bank and only if I say yes, give a brief pitch about XYZ Bank. No one says no to 30 seconds. That way, you are establishing Rapport with your customer. And you get to spend 30 seconds more with him to build that rapport.

Me: Now, when I asked you why should I take this card, you gave me a story on Etihad points and lounges etc. Fair enough. But when I said I already have lounge access and I do not travel that airline, you became a travel agent and tried to convince me to travel with Etihad. I replied saying I am a Gold Skywards member which means I travel only with Emirates. Now, anyone living in UAE knows that Emirates is a Dubai based airline while Etihad flies only out of Abu Dhabi. So why will I want to fly from Etihad?

Me: The minute you realised I am a Emirates frequent flyer and already have lounge access, many more than what your card offers, you should have backed off. A simple reply like “Makes sense. This card is probably not for you”. This establishes Trust. Instead you kept pushing the same card and the same feature over and over again, not really understanding if these features mean anything to me or not. A feature is only as good as its need. If I have no need, then that feature is useless to me. So before you push any feature of your product, make sure you map out your customer. If he/she tells your explicitly, like I did that I don’t travel Etihad, that’s your cue. Stop right there. Acknowledge the fact. Your customer is not an idiot. Make him feel the same about you. Establish some trust and credibility. Then if you have anything more to offer, go for it. Or else, position a different credit card. Normally, every bank has multiple types of cards. You can always pitch a cash-back offer or free-for-life offer. Whatever you want.

Me: I know you have pressure to sell and make those 60-70 calls a day. Trust me, I have done it all. Been selling for 10 years so I know what I am talking. I am a perfect client for you. I gave you time. I gave you info. I gave you an opportunity to sell to me. Which means, I wouldn’t mind spending Dh1000 as long as its worth something to me. You need to hook such clients. If you cannot sell, then establish credibility and hang up. Call back again in a week, and sell something else. He will listen to you again. But the way you handled this call, if you call me again and tell me its John Doe, chances are I will tell you I am in a critical meeting discussing the onset of a nuclear world war and cannot be disturbed, ever. Or I am on a space ship ready to take on a manned mission to Mars.

Me: So, Mr. John Doe, I hope you heard every word I said very very carefully. And use some of this for your future reference. Trust me when I tell you it works.

Agent: Thank you so much, Sir.

Me: Any time. OK, I am already late for a meeting. Talk to you later. *And I was back to sipping my latte and waiting for 44 more tokens to go at the Saudi visa consulate*