What happens in Vegas – Super Sundays – Weekly Blog

My first international trip was to Las Vegas in November 2014. Never in my wildest of dreams did I imagine that I would be going to Vegas so early in my career, at the age of 27. I was one of the 30 Area Sales Managers from across the country who had qualified for this trip organized by Mahindra for exceeding sales targets. It was a week long trip to the U.S with 2 days in LA and 4 nights in Vegas. Till date, the memories of this trip are fresh in my mind.

Aerial View
With ex-colleagues from Mahindra Auto

Our stay in Vegas was organized at The Venetian. It was a resort cum casino. In Vegas, every place is a casino first. The ambience of all the casinos has been cleverly planned in such a way that you will never come to know the time of the day , once you get involved. The lighting stays the same all through. The noise outside is cut off, food and drinks are served at the table continuously. Everything is done to ensure that you don’t move out from the table once you are in. It is truly a different experience. When we first sat at one of the tables, we did not realize that five hours had passed by. Such is the lure and aura of the casinos in Vegas.

The Venetian , eponymously, has been modelled on Venice. There are a few artificial boatways connecting two parts of the resort. The experience at the resort was truly world-class , with easy access to all the major attractions. The Venetian is part of the Vegas Strip. The Vegas Strip is a strip of land where most of the must-see casinos and tourist attractions in Vegas are located. The Americans are gurus at marketing and it is amazing to see how a small area of land, situated amidst a desert, can generate so much income and money. It is one of the most expensive places in the world.

The Strip

Time is money in Vegas and we realized it the hard way. We want to visit one of the clubs and had asked the club for a pickup from our hotel at 9 pm. Typical Indian time of 9 pm means at least a delay of 15 to 20 minutes. When all of us had come down by 9:20 pm, the driver promptly gave us a mouthful saying time is money and refused to take us. He said he waited just to ensure he could convey this and also lodged a complaint with the club saying time was not honoured by us. From then onwards, we became careful and would only call taxis once we were all ready.

While Vegas is rightly called “ Sin City” because of its nightlife dominated by casinos and strip clubs along with related indulgences , there is another side to Vegas, which is not spoken of in the same breath. Vegas is also a great destination for families and kids (yes you are reading this correct) and there are enough activities to keep families and kids engaged. Every evening , there is an artificial volcanic eruption around 7 pm at The Strip and it is a sight to watch. There is a musical fountain which plays every hour in the night and crowds gather to watch this beautiful sight. The Strip also boasts of replicas of the likes of the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower. We had gone up 470 floors in a lift and watched the beautiful fountains from the top of the Eiffel Tower replica. Vegas also is a hotbed for arts and culture, hosting several popular plays, shows and concerts all round the year. The best in the business come and perform at the various theatres here. We had watched a show by an acrobatic troupe at the MGM Grand and it was a marvellous performance. The Strip also hosts a Harley Davidson café and a Madame Tussauds. For the adventure freaks, there is a casino called Stratosphere, which hosts a few thrilling rides on the topmost floor. For a few extra bucks, there is also a helicopter ride which will give an aerial view of the city. The Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam are a few hours drive from Vegas. We also rented a limousine ride and it was quite an experience.

The fountain.. viewed from the Eiffel Tower
The replica of the Statue of Liberty
The Harley Davidson Cafe

The highlight attraction is undoubtedly Fremont Street. This is a tiny street frequented by people of all ages all through the night. It is lively and always buzzing and has everything for everyone. There is a ride called SlotZilla where you can zip-line through from end of the street to the other. There are street performances daily and it is a unique experience and you can keep walking in and out of every shop. Clothing, accessories, souvenirs, food – you get everything you need to shop at every price point here. I was pleasantly surprised to see families enjoying themselves in hordes here.

With Wax Britney at Madame Tussaud’s Vegas

We spent 4 days in Vegas but this was not enough. This is true with most international locations but all the more with Vegas. A one-of-its kind destination, which everyone should experience at some point in their life. I must consider myself lucky that I got to experience this early and hopefully, will visit this place, once again at some point in time. I will not comment on the Sin City related experiences, because………

…………………………..

…………………………..

What Happens in Vegas …Stays in Vegas 😊

Jai Hind

Corporate Designations: Freaky Fridays – Weekly Blog

Folks, this Friday, let’s pay a tribute to some of the fancy corporate designations which exist and motivate employees to progress to the “next” level.

CEO: Chief Email Officer. Most people in the organization see this person only via e-mails. This person sends emails and expects everyone to read, remember everything mentioned but the same is not expected from him/her. S/he meets employees once in a blue-moon and people take selfies whenever this happens. Otherwise, to an ordinary employee, this person is an invisible hollow-man who f*cks people without their knowledge. Bas logon key dil mey hai…. aur subordinates key g**nd mey. S/he’s a pain in the ass for direct reports as most of their time is spent in going through his/her communications, planning travel and meetings, preparing presentations. In general, this person doesn’t have the balls to take his/her own decisions. S/he believes in two rules:

 #1 Success is due to self, Failure is due to subordinates’ failure

 #2 When in doubt, refer rule 1

CFO – Chindi Fakirchand Officer: In their previous birth, these finance folks would have been fakirs. They think a paisa spent is a paisa burnt. They only believe in signing off investment proposals which on an excel sheet gives returns greater than 18%. If life were so simple, then we wouldn’t have Microsoft excel and complex models like IRR, NPV for calculating returns. Most of these finance fakirs will have no idea of customers, sales, brands, operations but will have authority to sign-off or veto proposals in these areas. Most of these guys wanted to be in CID, but since they never made it, they will put their forensic skills to use by randomly checking travel bills, vendor bills. They think employees exist only to make a fool out of the organization. In their quest to save the little pennies, they ignore multi-crore scams.

Next comes the marketing genius – the CMO – Chief Masaledaar Officer : This person’s core job is to put mirch masala in anything given and make it sound out-of-the world. S/he believes every product, every ad created is out of the world and nothing can go wrong (until the product is launched) Like the CEO, this person takes credit for all the success of a product including the awards won. In case the product fails, s/he conveniently passes the blame on other functions like sales, production, quality etc. Mirch-masala leads to bitch-masala . S/he has all the typical qualities of a bahu in the “Saas-Bahu” series. The bitch-masala culture is ingrained into the entire marketing department. The BMs ( Brand Managers  Bhand Managers ) visit the market with the sales team in their quest to add value and only end up finding faults. “Process sucks, the sales team is not able to get things executed, initiatives are going down the drain” Obviously, in a country like India, with the kind of salaries we pay to the lowest rung, you cannot expect excellent execution. The bhand managers think they have opened the sales team’s eyes by stating the obvious. After their visit, they write a masaledaar report of how things are badly screwed up. The poor sales guy is taken to task for not able to cover up things. The marketing team lives happily ever after.

Then comes my favorite function – Sales.  The leader of this function (the CSO) is a “Continuously Stressed-out officer”. As the hierarchy in the sales function goes down, the stress levels in this function increase disproportionately ( NSM – Nationally Stressed out Manager, ZSM – Zonally Stressed Out, RSM – Regionally Stressed out and then comes the ASM – Always Stressed Out Manager  ( they think they are Area Sales Managers). They love their mobiles more than their spouses. The conference call facility has been created only to satisfy the libido of these folks. Whenever the senior most person wants to ejaculate, s/he calls for a con-call with his/her subordinates. Then like a network marketing scheme, each of the listeners adds his own frustration and ejaculates venomously with their direct reports. This chain continues till there is no body left at the bottom of the hierarchy. The folks at the bottom of the hierarchy think that the only way to get rid of this ejaculatory shit is to get promoted so that the shit falls on someone below. What they don’t realize is the shit doesn’t stop at the lowest level, it travels regionally, nationally and even globally sometimes. Chief Shit-Taking Officer in retrospect would be a better name for the leader of this function.

Generally, in life, you feel happy if you meet your targets but if you are in sales, you will feel stressed out that you have achieved it. You and your boss know that you have met your targets with great difficulty but shamelessly, you will get a target which is a minimum 20% higher than your highest ever target. No wonder this function has the highest attrition.

Last but not the least is THE ultimate corporate function – HR. The top boss of this department now-a-days is called CPO (Chief People Officer). To me, s/he’s a Chief Paper-Pushing Officer. This department reminds me of Maun-mohan singh. Without business alignment, they will do nothing on their own, not even push paper. They hate to admit that they are nothing but rubber-stamps in the hands of the business guys. Once-in-a-while, they try to call themselves HRBPs  (Business Partners), but in reality, they only increase the employee’s BP ( Blood Pressure). They are trained to say “I Hear You” These three words are the most useless words which the folks of this department use. “Sir, my appraisal was not fair” I hear you. “Ma’am, the canteen meals suck “ I hear you “ Sir, my id card has not yet been given “ I hear you “ Ma’am, my corporate credit card has not yet arrived “ I hear you. The best part is they only HEAR because they have got ears. After that nothing changes. In many organizations , the Fakirchands of finance do not allow separate admin, IT and HR so you will have employees asking all sorts of random questions to these paper pushers “Sir, my laptop is not working” “ Mam, my bathroom tap is not working . I need reimbursement” “Sir, I am not able to find a conference room “The response is the same “I Hear You”. There are a few people in HR who do not wish to be dummys. They challenge business, speak their mind, take concrete action but in most cases these folks are either transferred or asked to find greener pastures. The rest of the folks pride themselves in calling “facilitators” but they are in reality glorified post-men or “Yes Men/Women”. Anyone with or without a degree can get into this function as the only important skill required is to smile and say” I Hear You”

There are other functions worthy of a mention, but before I try to extend this blog further, my wife gives me a piece of her mind for leaving our new-born baby alone and coming to write this blog.

Guess what my simple response to her is.

……………

……………

……………

……………

“I Hear You”

Jai Hind

Bentota – Galle – Colombo – Sri Lanka Unplugged -Super Sundays – Weekly Blog

When I first visited Sri Lanka (2015), I never imagined in my wildest of dreams that I would be visiting every successive year. 3 times in 4 years, it was part of my organization’s conference/off-site. In Nov 2017, it was our first anniversary. I can easily pass of as a tour-guide here. I have the looks, experience of 4 visits and speak Tamil. For the first three years, God ensured that I visited the same places in the same order – Colombo, Bentota and Galle. We used to land in Colombo, drive to Bentota, head to Galle and then come back to Colombo. Car works best as it takes 3 hours between these cities.

We woke up to this view 🙂
Sri Lankan sunset

Sri Lanka is an inspiration. A war-ravaged nation, their GDP per capita (World bank data) is higher than India. A highly forward-looking country, Prius hybrid vehicles ply aplenty, thanks to a strong Electric Vehicle policy. A very clean nation – locals take great pride in cleanliness.  Tourism is their biggest bet to advance their economy. It’s a very safe country (A high volume of Europeans and Americans visit them all through the year) and a very affordable international destination. A lot of Indians feel it’s an extended version of Kerala due to the similarities in weather and culture. But beyond this, it’s a beautifully unique island nation.

Colombo can give any world class capital city a run for its money. Driving on the stunning Marine Drive coastline ( Indian Ocean) is quite an experience. With pristine beaches, Colombo also has a lot of casinos, an underrated but classy nightlife. A great culinary destination,  Mahela Jayawardene’s  Ministry of Crab is a foodie’s delight. Colombo is also home to a one-of-its kind Cricket Club Café, which was started by two Australians. Apart from amazing burgers, this resto-café also has a lot of cricket memorabilia like gloves, bats, hats used by greats like Gavaskar, Warne, Ranatunga and Bradman. Taj Samudra and Hilton Colombo can compete with any global 5 star property. One of the hidden gems is the Galle Face Hotel ( since 1864). We stayed there on our first anniversary and  having a lunch staring at the Indian Ocean made our anniversary extra special. Colombo has a unique sea-plane ride, which starts off from a lake and gives you a 20-minute birds eye view of the capital. Shopaholics can go to Odel for value-for-money clothing .

Galle Face Hotel, Colombo ( since 1864)

2 hours from Colombo is Bentota island. Going for a 4 hour boat safari through the backwaters is a soothing experience. Lucky Boat Safari, was truly lucky for us as for the first time in my life, as we felt that we had the whole backwaters to ourselves. We heard the echo of cuckoos chirping away, a-la tuning fork experiment and were spell-bound by the reflection of the trees in the crystal-clear waters. A tiny crocodile sat on my shoulder and I conquered my fear of baby crocodiles. Fish-therapy was one of the other attractions in this boat safari. Kumara, our host in a homestay, was one of the sweetest ever. Bentota also offers a lot of water sports. We were blown away by Centara Seysands. The entrance from the reception of this restaurant cum resort to the dining area is through a boat. Mind boggling !!! Bentota at its best..

With Kumara, our host at Riverside Inn Fuji, Bentota
Croc tales… with Lucky Boat Safari
With the Lucky man.. who proved to be our lucky charm.. Lucky Boat Safari, Bentota !!!
Our anniversary date night at the stunning Centara Seysands, Bentota… The boat ride from the reception to the restaurant made a special day extra special !!

From Bentota, another 2 to 3 hours away is Galle. On the way to Galle, lies Hikkaduwa. The Tsunami Education Centre, Museum and Memorial at Hikkudawa makes one accept the reality that there is no human force above Mother Nature. It’s a heart-wrenching experience. The way the Lankans have recovered is admirable.

The Tsunami Museum at Hikkaduwa
The Buddha statue at the tsunami affected site in Hikkaduwa, built to protect against future natural disasters

Galle is a beautiful city. In size, smaller than South Mumbai but in majesty, taller than many. A former Dutch colony with a jaw-dropping fort-cum-shopping centre-cum-food street overlooking the sea. It’s the perfect destination for people to just laze around, read a book, write a poem. Time passes by quickly, yet slowly depending on your mood. Some great sea-food joints and bakeries dot the small mini-coastline. The cricket stadium overlooking the sea is one of the most picturesque in the world. No wonder the Sri Lankan cricket team plays a flair filled brand of cricket !!!

View from the resto-bar , Galle sea face
The stone paved streets of Galle make you do this 🙂
There’s always light ( house)…even if there is no tunnel 🙂

In 3 of my 4 visits, my Sri Lanka itinerary was Colombo-Bentota-Galle. But I loved this as each time, there was something new to explore. For the 4th visit , I was hoping I could explore the beautiful greenery of Nuwara Elya, Kandy and Sigiriya. Basis our experience, my mother-in-law has already fixed a family Sri Lanka trip, which will be my 5th in 5 years and give me permanent tourist guide status!!! I wanted to visit the unexplored parts in my 4th visit, but I knew it was not in my hands as it was a company sponsored conference.

I had a pleasant surprise when the HR lady revealed the 3 night,4-day itinerary. It also strengthened my belief about destiny attracting you to the places you love. The HR lady told –“This time we are seeing 3 unique places in Sri Lanka..” I was secretly smiling that God had granted my secret wish of exploring the unexplored Nuware Elya, Kandy Belt. I guess HR has the last laugh in any organization as she announced  –“ Folks, we are going to visit 3 exciting places

…………

…………

…………

Colombo, Bentota and Galle”

I looked up towards God and said “Hey Bhagwaan….. Lanka Lag Gayi !!”

Jai Hind