My Talk on -> Talent to Skill – Good to Great

Recently, I got an invite to speak at United Health Group, Noida, as part of their TNS (Test Symposium) event at Noida. I was lucky to be offered the topics and I quickly picked the one which was not in the arena of ‘Software Testing’. How much so I love talking on ‘Software Testing’, and how much hard I try to not sound boring (or too academic), it gets very difficult to piece together a software testing talk which is interesting to listen to as well as valuable to apply. I have not done any non-software talk for a probably very long time so for this one, my topic was

“Talent to Skill – Good to Great’.

I made a short and light deck, and not too preachy. The talk went well with some very good questions, comments and observations by the ever enthusiastic software engineers of UHG. If I get to do this again, I must incorporate some bits of post-lecture learning back into the deck, to close the loop as they say. Since I spent some time on making these slides, I thought it would be a good use of a Sunday afternoon to share this with wider group.

Here are the slides and a brief descripto of my thoughts.

Continue reading “My Talk on -> Talent to Skill – Good to Great”

An apple a day

For most of my work life, I relied on Microsoft Windows and loved it eternally. Right from the days of Win 3.1 where the whole OS would come in a set of eight 3.5 inch floppy disks to Windows for Workgroups, then Win 95, Win ME (anyone remembers it) and so on. My first laptop was a Toshiba (it was the cheapest I could afford and I bought it in MN, USA in 2001) running Win ME or Windows Millennium. For 2 years when I worked at EMC, it was all Sun Solaris and Linux before I again came back to Windows in 2002 when I joined Adobe.

I loved all the short-cuts, how one can do almost everything using a keyboard and what not. I was growing super comfortable with MS and was using MS Win7 when it dawned on me that it is time to get out of comfort zone. In 2010 odd, I decided to give Win a go and moved to a Macbook. To make the transition real, I let go of all Windows machines so there was no way I could fall back on a windows box. It was damn tough in the beginning. Apple was on OS X by then so it was much much better than in past but Windows was still Windows. You could do any thing on Windows. On Mac, you didn’t know the plumbing much so it was very hard to tweak things in registry, difficult to remove program and all their files and what not. Even today there is no option in ‘Control Panel’ equivalent of Mac to do ‘Add/Remove Program’. If you want to remove something then go to ‘Programs’ folder and just delete. It is so simple. Over time, I started loving my Macbook and its been 3 years since then. I am a convert now.

Meanwhile MS came out with Win8 (and recently Win 8.1) and I have zero experience of working on them. I do plan to grab a MS Surface for a couple of months to at least see whats cooking there. I also moved to Apple Phone early this year and with an Apple tab at home, it sort of completes the loop. My wife also uses Apple Macbook and the only hard thing we have is when we have to teach our daughter computer lessons, it is difficult for her to relate to what she saw in her school computer lab.

Enough of Apple talk, the intention behind writing this is to share about the company behind these products and that is ‘Apple Inc’. Over last 5 years they have made this huge transition from another cutting edge company to a cult design company. iPod was successful but iPhone was a riot, to not stop there, iPad almost started a new stream of computing devices. Just like phone, Apple were not the first in Tabs area but after iPad, everyone began to take note of this new form factor and now there are tabs all around. Apple got so much success in its products that it could begin to drive (and decide) the deviations from certain well-established and well-respsected standards. Where it is Micro SIM (iPhone 4) or a Nano SIM (iPhone 5) , lightning port (instead of Ethernet/VGA) or to not give any USB outlet for its devices. MacBooks do not come with DVD drives or an ethernet port. The charging port of new iPhone is different so all the millions of accessories people created (charging docks, radio docks blabla) for iPhone 4 and before now needs an upgrade. Not only this, Apple decided to play hard for its ‘App Store’ and there has been numerous stories on how the certification process is not transparent and blabla. And of course everyone remembers about Flash Player and Apple Devices.

All of the above ensured that their customers get a controlled and high quality experience. No longer I need to blame an App maker for a crash on my iPhone because I know that if it is a bad quality it won’t even get a place in ‘Apple App Store’. Apple raked so much money and the only direction they could now go was to go down.

Unfortunately Steve Jobs, iconic leader of Apple, left in Oct 2011. Apple released the newer iPhone, an iPad-Mini (which Steve publicly never accepted as a right form factor) and the business went on as usual but the trend started to reverse. The acceleration was lower and the earnings (as well as profit) began to slide. For last 3 quarters, the slide continued. They got beaten on the stock market and so on. A lot of people have already begin to see them disappearing over next few years but here comes a surprise. In last quarter, Apple’s numbers sort of moved a bit up.

Apple reprted $37.5B in revenue, $7.5B in net profit representing $8.26 per share. That marks a year-over-year growth of 4.2 percent in revenue and 4.7 percent decline in EPS, with net profit down 8.6 percent year over year

Here’s a brilliant info-graphic I sourced from Techcrunch early today.

Apple Earnings Over time

When I read about above today, I thought that I would write a short note on my experience with Apple devices. It has been great and I often wonder that I should have moved to Apple sooner.

I am still not a Apple fanatic and I am up for a change when the time comes. My unsolicited advice to you is that you are too comfortable with Windows, then take a good break and move to a iOS device. It would be hard initially and that would do good for your ageing brain cells, challenge yourself and trust me, after the initially pangs are over, you would love the change. I am also now beginning to think of moving to something else. May be a MS Surface ? What do you guys think ?

Spending ten grand at Cashkaro

E-commerce is finally growing big in India or so it seems. Flipkart recently got another round of funding, about USD 160 Million and just a few month back investors had already committed USD 200 million dollar. Of course everyone knows about MMT and how they have scaled up, gobbling tons of bookings every second. So far everyone was bullish on travel-ecommerce and it was the only sector, which was getting all the investor’s attention, but over last 2-3 years so there is now a flood or e-commerce companies providing from daily groceries to high value smart phones. So when I was contacted by Cashkaro folks to write a story on how I would spend INR 10,000 it was an easy decision to spend all of that online from the comforts of my big window office.

The flexibility which one gets via online shopping is something which is almost impossibly for brick and mortar shops to match and then on top of it when you have access to services like cashkaro, it is a bonus. Cashkaro helps you to make cash while you shop and you can shop your favorite brands since cashkaro is a service built on top existing commerce platform.

So let me do some shopping now. I have been looking for a good phone for my father, a decent Android based phone which is not hard on pocket but has a big screen and would allow him to check emails, be on Facebook and whatsapp as well as get through household chores around bill payments, ticket bookings etc.

My first choice is Samsung and I find a brilliant deal – A Samsung Galaxy for about INR 18000 + a cash back of about 1%. I like the phone but probably I am looking for sub 15000 phone and the cash back is also not exciting.

Then I found Nokia Lumia ( , it available for INR 15069 (original price is INR 21,000) and on top of it I get a 7.5 % cash back. That is more than INR 1000, enough for my whole family for a decent dine-out.

So easy decision. I did spend more than 10,000 but I am happy with my decision.

I did find time to browse the site and it indeed has a rich collection of deals from all the major players of ecommerce. One interesting thing I noticed was this offer on hotel bookings done from

Now, as recent as this summer we booked our hotels in Brussels, Edinburgh, and York from since you mostly get a complete refund if the plans do not materialize. Now for a 10 night stay, at an average price of GBP 100, it comes to be GBP 1000. At 3% cash back, that is GBP 30 or INR 3000. I could have bought a nice Hidesign passport holder for that price, so do not ignore this exciting service and do give a try.

The above is part of a blogging request though I eagerly wait for the day when one can get discounts on Apple devices.

9 tips for writing a good road trip review

I love long distance road trips and if I can have my way, I would rather drive all the way to wherever I go. When we started Ghumakkar in 2007, writing a review on a road was not the first thing which occurred to us but it happened almost on the first month. So way back in July 2007, I wrote a review on ‘Delhi Nainital‘ and what a grand surprise we had in store. The blog post kept attracting comments all through. As I write this post, it has got in excess of 25,000 visits and has more than 170 comments. Later, Aditya wrote one on ‘Delhi Kanpur Lucknow‘ and that was a real winner. It gets comments even today, standing at 214 and have more than 40,000 visits. I wont be surprised to know that this single post has made a lot of first time riders on this route. The other road reviews at Ghumakkar are equally popular viz.

1. Delhi – Patna ( 21000 views, 115 comments)
2. Bangalore – Chennai ( 28,000 views, 54 comments)
3. Delhi – Goa ( 39000 view, 70 comments, its in 3 parts)
4. Delhi – Jaisalmer (9000 views, 17 comments)
5. Bangalore – Mumbai (5000 view, 17 comments)

and so on. I just picked the ones which I could remember. I am sure there are many more and all of them are categorized under ‘Roads’. Later I wrote few more and I try to comment back when I travel on some sector again which has already been covered by a Ghumakkar. Looking at the feedback and the positive response, we have got, I think it makes a lot of sense to write more of these. This post would try to help fellow Ghumakkars who want to write a road review and all these tips are from my personal experience which I gained based on the tremendous feedback on my road review posts. And that ‘9 tips’ is just a cheeky trick to get this post more views. I heard that ‘top ten’ kind of title sells better over regular titles. So here you go

1. Put a structure / Divide the route
Divide the entire journey into various sections and for each section have a basic template at the top. A suggested template is
Distance – 120 KM
Time Taken – 2 hours
Road Condition – Good to Average

While the rest of this section would have details around your actual travel.

2. Rate roads and define your ratings. Good for me may not be good for you. Define the ‘Good’.

Have a set of ratings and then define those rating. For example, you may have three ratings and their definitions as below

Excellant – Smooth tar, fit for high speeds of 120 KMPH, Double Carriageway, 3 lanes, expressway
Good – Smooth tar, fit for 80 – 100 KMPH. Single Lane. No traffic.
Average – Good tar, can drive around 60 KMPH.
Bad – Potholes, lot of traffic, single lane, countryside road

3. Always always put a route map. Google works best.

Giving a interactive road map is best. Go to, create a map and then get the ‘Embedd Code’ and send it to one of the editors at Ghumakkar and they would do the rest. If you are nice to them, they can even create the route map from Google. If getting a interactive map is not a possibility then at least have a ‘picture’ of route.

4. Mention actual distance / time howsoever unattractive it may be

This is tricky. Never ever mention the standard time which anyone would take. I have often met people who would tell me that Delhi-Jaipur can be done in 4 hours. Well, it can be but they never tell me that whether they have done it and how many times they have done it in under 4 hours. For long distance ( > 300 KMs) drives, an average of 50+ is very good. So stay away from the temptation and report actual time spent including break times. Always take point-to-point so if you are staying in heart of the city, mention that from the heart of the city to the down-town of my destination, it took me x hours.

5. Create a story so add non road details to keep the interest

Just data is very boring. Take folks alongside with you. Share your excitement when you got a better road or your patience during those long jams. Cherish each mile as you cover and remind them about the pending journey. Make them travel with you. Write things like…………. ‘ After Mubarkapur, we were not sure on whether we would be able to reach our destination before evening. It was almost 4 PM and we had a little over 1 hour before the winter Sun would leave us in custody of cooler Moon. The roads were good now and we could make good progress. After about 25 KMs, we had another surprise, a Railway Crossing. There were not many vehicles and we utilized the break to soak in some of the beautiful countryside we had all around us. There was a group of students returning after a game of cricket……”

6. Cover food stops, loo stops, fuel stops in detail

Pay extra attention to your break time and keep some notes on how those place were. Often, there is not enough reliable information on good fuel pumps and good places to take a break. Howsoever non-descript the place is, if you find it good, share the details.

8. Cover Toll charges

This point is for making the total points as 9. I do not see any great benefit in covering this except the fact that they can act as good milestones.

8. Pictures Pictures Pictures

Take pictures. There is always enough to shoot. If you are traveling in hills, stop for a moment and take few pics. If its the regular expressway, take photos of boards showing distances. If nothing else, take pictures of life around the road.

9. Respond to comments and build a community which keeps the post live even after many years
And once you are done and have published your story, do not forget to respond to comments. Request fellow visitors to update their experience as a comment and keep the records current.

I am sure the above is just a guiding document and each one of us would want to have their own bit to the concoction. So go out , take a road trip and write a road review at Ghumakkar. I am waiting for it.

My Mahindra Scorpio Trip Diary (2004 – 2013)

A close friend quipped, that it’s a ‘One Bed Room’ apartment that you have bought! This was right after we acquired our Mahindra Scorpio, in 2004. Vijayant Kohli was still young and declared that we should have used this money elsewhere. After all we were living in a 880 sq feet Noida Authority flat in Sec 62, next to a super-large slum township, Khora. Newly married (and barely getting over a rather close shave with our darling WagonR that eventually got a new body shell), it made more sense to put the money at the right places. You need to ignore the good advice from your loving friends and that is what we did.

001 Avinash's Marriage. The band would return, watch out
001: Avinash’s Wedding. The band would return, watch out!

It was Feb 15, 2004. We were at Jaipur, attending the wedding of close friend Avinash. Smita returned the very next morning and I stayed on till noon. The plan was to return home next evening along with Manish Syal and Manish Shekhawat, with a stopover at Nahargarh. Mahindra was dilly-dallying the delivery and it was hard to talk to either the folks at the Mahindra Dealership or anyone else at Mahindra but we knew that its is a good machine and we should not get disheartneded. On Feb 16, 2004 I got a call from Mahindra that my vehicle is ready and I can get the delivery today. Jaipur was a quick 5 hour away and NH8 was indeed a highway. Manesar at that time was like a regular far-away suburb and one could drive north of 100 KMPH easily.

Smita reached from her office, which was in Safdurjung Enclave. I withdrew the balance money (Yes, in 2004, you paid only when you get the car) and after the regular paperwork, we got our car. It was indeed a big car and neither Smita nor me, had any experience of driving this size, ever.

00 Scorpio
00 Scorpio

We were driving a Maruti WagonR during that time. My memory of the first drive was that it was pretty wide and I was driving on instinct all through. With great care, we drove the baby home with a halt at Noida Sec 16A where Deepender used to work. We parked it cautiously and slept well.

For the next 9+ years, Scorpio went far and wide and here is my humble attempt at capturing those trips. I have tired to identify pictures from those trips and would add some basic info. Hopefully 10 years down the line, reading this would kindle all these beautiful memories again.

Trip No. 1
When – March 2004
Where – Rajaji National Park, Haridwar, Uttrakhand
Who – Jogi and Mili, Henry and Rahul, Dhall and Jha
Continue reading “My Mahindra Scorpio Trip Diary (2004 – 2013)”