Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Cafeteria food

I rarely eat in my office cafeteria , but often observe what the others are being served. Of course on business trips and other location visits, I am often compelled to eat in the cafeteria. I have come to the conclusion that Cafeteria food sucks (In varying degrees) in all parts of the world. Also, they are quite pricey, considering that they have no capital expenditure (infrastructure is provided by the office), and lower operating expenditure.
Here are four of my points to investigate the economic reasons for the same. Please debate on the merits of my arguement, and suggest how this can be improved.

A. Cafeteria vending business is monopolistic as many of the offices have a single vendor. While the employees may have better options outside the office, often the cost of going out (In terms of time, weather conditions, etc... ) makes the employees decide in favor of the cafeteria. The monopolistic nature leads to lower quality at a higher price

B. The market for an office cafeteria vendor is captive. Since there is little opportunity to grow the focus is on profit maximisation.

C. The people who are in charge of managing the cafeteria vendor does not have an incentive to control the quality. On the contrary, the may have vested interest to side with the vendor in order to receive favors (best case) and a profit cut (extreme case)

D. Another type of economics work, in countries like India. While studying for my engineering degree I often had to visit factories. The food in the cafeteria, which are patronized by the labourers are excellent. Guess why! :-)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do Something You Love: Bad career advice ?

A few days back, I came across the article by Chrissy Scivicque : Bad Career Advice: Do Something You Love
I believe, that you should always make a career of what you love. To quote from a widely popular Indian Movie "Three Idiots": You should aspire from excellence, and success will follow suit. And it is obvious: excellence comes easily if you are doing what you love.
Let's go back to the fundamental question: what motivates an employee to make a meaningful career. I will refer to Maslow's hierarchy of needs as the starting point of this discussion. While there is some argument on the exact hierarchy of these needs, the needs still serve at great pointers of studying behavior of employees at work. I will club these needs in two levels - the first level being the "Physiological" and "Safety", and the next level being, "Love & Belonging", "Esteem" and "Self Actualization". The first level is basic, i.e. for most persons must be met before the other level even comes into picture. Once the first level is met, every person will have different priorities for the second level. I will establish through examples that whatever is the priority the subjects in my example is following their heart - doing what they love!
But first, let me start with the shocker! The case of an inventor, without whose the modern civilization would not be the same. I am talking of Charles Goodyear, who suffered extreme poverty and humiliation, just to make the process of vulcanizing rubber. To quote his exact words (thanks wikipedia). “Life should not be estimated exclusively by the standard of dollars and cents. I am not disposed to complain that I have planted and others have gathered the fruits. A man has cause for regret only when he sows and no one reaps.” Clearly he followed his dreams of "Self Actualization", even before his basic needs.
Another case study can be of Steve Jobs. He was fired from the Company he built (Apple). He founded "NeXT Computer", and bought "Pixar", companies who focused on excellence. He came back to an ailing Apple when the latter acquired NeXT Computers. The rest is history. iOS has a cult following with people proudly showing off their iPODs, iPhones and iPADs. He desired to follow his dream and the rest is history!
The last case I would like to put may be taken to be a pinch of salt, being a lot of hearsay. During my assignments in overseas locations, I often heard about an old man who was an independent consultant working with our client. I heard that he had started his career with Mr. Laxmi Narayan in Tata Consultancy Services. He took his career as a job and went independent which at the short term made a lot of money. Mr. Narayanan stayed on with Tata Consultancy services and later on, after a few career moves, is currently Vice-Chairman of Cognizant Technology Solutions! I leave the readers to come up with their own inferences!
Crissy talks about deadlines, bosses, commitments in order to prove that you would stop liking what you enjoy. I believe that it is taking a narrow view of things. Obligations would always be there. You should manage it effectivly, and apply your love in what you do. If you love something, the obligations will stop bothering you. There is a lot of new discussions on how millennial work. Look at them and see how they maintain a balance.
Also, on another note, let's assume that someone has a job, which he does professionally, and has a love outside his sphere of work. He will still have family commitment, clean the house, take the kid to school. If he cannot balance his love and commitments in office, can we expect him to maintain the same balance in his life? I would like to end this post with this question, and look forward to some more interesting debates.