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………

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What Happens in Vegas …Stays in Vegas 😊

Jai Hind

Throwback- Gaadi Becho Duniya Dekho – Super Sunday – Weekly Blog

Six years ago, in October 2013, I was working as an Area Sales Manager with the automotive division of Mahindra. The auto industry had witnessed a muted first two quarters and the festive season of October November followed by a discount heavy December was the last hope left to salvage things.

The festive season ( Oct- Nov) in Indian retail sales is boom time for every consumer facing industry. Discounts, new launches clubbed with the typical Indian consumer sentiment of buying new products in an auspicious period make it a season to look forward to.  In 2013, all of us were hoping for the Festival of Lights to bring back something to cheer about in an otherwise gloomy year.

Mumbai Area Office, where I was working, was part of the West Zone. The previous festive season ( 2012),  West Zone had sold an all-time high of 16,000 vehicles in these two months. That year, the auto industry had recorded month-on-month double digit growth.  We were expecting a target at best of 21,000 vehicles for the Zone ( a 30% growth over last year – which itself was very steep considering the way the first two quarters had panned out).

In October,2013 a contest was launched for the Mahindra sales team and the dealer principals – Gaadi Becho Duniya Dekho. Based on targets achieved, winners could fly to Las Vegas , Rome and Singapore ( 100% + achievement was Vegas, 95 to 99 % – Rome, 91 to 94% – Singapore). While we were all looking forward to the contest and the thought of going to Vegas was mouth-watering, we also knew that this would not be easy as the targets would be extremely stretched.

When our West zone target was communicated – 25,000 vehicles for two months ( against 16,000 the previous year), we were all taken aback.  Unrealistic, unattainable, far fetched from ground reality. The motivation levels were low because of the dismal first two quaryers. One man though, was in a completely different state of mind. It was Jacob Varghese, then Zonal Head for West Zone. Jacob was highly regarded for his market knowledge, ability to get into the details and ruthless execution. Jacob also was extremely aware of the pulse of his team. He called all of his sales team for a 2 day program in Garudmaachi, a picturesque outbound venue on the outskirts of Pune.  The entire agenda of the two day program was to make us believe that the targets were achievable.  Jacob had his unique way of alignment. While all of us had individual Area Office targets, Jacob throughout was only harping on one number – Mission 25k for West Zone. He got in a speaker, Dinesh Nathani, who was an expert in conducting workshops which focused on mental beliefs, positive psychology and training the mind. Nathani had a half-day session which was focused on visualizing positive outcomes, letting go of negative thoughts and feeding positive energy off each other. Jacob also coined a name for the team – Western Warriors. All the departments – including HR and Finance , were made to participate in the program. A famous motivational video –“Inch by Inch’  by Al Pacino was played multiple times during the day. By the end of the two days, all of us were charged and focused to deliver Mission 25k.

For Jacob, it was not only about doing a two day program. Post that, he created a mail chain where people would continuously write about success stories, statistics and tracking of how we were inching closer each day. Jacob would also have his weekly con-calls and keep the motivation going. Jacob’s energy rubbed off on all of us including the dealer fraternity. We were out in the market for 5 days in a 6 day week trying to do everything possible to make the magical number.

For the first few weeks, the number looked a distant dream. But with each passing week, what looked improbable started coming to life. In those days, I used to handle the territories of Nashik and Jalgaon. The Jalgaon dealer, whose monthly average was 70, was chasing a steep monthly number of 200. There was a chart on which 1 to 200 was written in the backward order and with each vehicle sold, a number was crossed. I had accompanied a few sales executives to close some bookings .  Travelling to the interiors of the hinterland made me get a feel of rural India.  These folks had no clue about terms like recession, GDP , growth rate etc. For them, all that mattered was a good monsoon, which would get a good crop, leading to substantial income and the excess income would result in retail purchases. While the folks in the corporate would think of strategies to improve sales in rural area, at the ground, the factors involved were pretty simple. One of our prospects was a legislator, who wanted to replace his vehicle with a Scorpio. Sales thrives on relationship, especially in rural areas and because the Sales executive had  a great relationship and was continuously following up, he finally ended up booking the vehicle. The biggest learning for me was that Sales is not complex, yet difficult. The folks with strong follow-up and great relationship skills would invariably end up achieving their targets. Motivation was the key and there were various angles to this – the desire to be recognized, the need to earn the extra rewards and the feeling of being a winner. If the basics were taken care of, then results would follow. The Jalgaon dealer had announced a Goa trip to the entire team,if the overall target was achieved. The feeling of group-win gave that extra push and as a result, the entire team went over-drive to win in difficult conditions. The Jalgaon momentum rubbed off on neighbouring Nashik as well. We were not sure where we would end , but all of us knew that there would be no one who would question the efforts.

Likewise, in other parts of Mumbai AO and West Zone, success stories started emerging. After two months of hustle-bustle, the festive season came to a close. Jacob Varghese’s Western Warriors had achieved what seemed improbable two months ago. We had crossed 25,000 vehicles. While a strong monsoon had helped from  a macro-economic perspective, the biggest differentiator for me was a motivated unit and the power of the collective.  Accolades followed. West Zone had the highest %age of ASMs going to Las Vegas. Me and 5 other people from our Area Office went to Las Vegas. Gaadi Becho Duniya Dekho had brought about a fresh lease of life in a gloomy environment. For me personally, it was a defining moment in my career transition from HR to Sales and the thrill of achieving the near impossible.  I had doubts about moving from HR to Sales but Western Warriors and Gaadi Becho Duniya Dekho changed everything.

6 years have passed and Gaadi Becho Duniya Dekho continues to be one of my favorite memories in my sales career.

Cheers to hope, motivation, positivity, team work and focus. Hopefully, the current auto slowdown will end soon and there will be similar tales told by the current crop of auto sales folks.

Gaadi Becho Duniya Dekho

Jai Hind

Sachiin …. Sachiin : Birthday Specials – Blog series

On this day 45 years ago (the 24th of April, 1973), if someone had told you that a middle class Indian, a student of Sharadashram Vidyamandir School, would go on to become one of India’s greatest ever cricket inspirations, what would be your thoughts? Impossible, isn’t it? International cricket for a period of 23 years, from the age of 16, 50 plus scores in a one-day game every 3rd match, the only one to score 100 centuries in international cricket.. the list of records is endless. But Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is much more than records. For those born in the 80s and 90s , Sachin was fulfilling every middle class Indian’s dreams. Post liberalization in 91, a young and aspirational India wanted a middle-class hero, who could conquer the world and more importantly, our hearts. I don’t think a single cricketer in the 90s has generated as much discussion and debate as much as SRT. Because of him, Jonty Rhodes was a villain for many Indians for a controversial catch in Durban in a tri-series. Because of him, Steve Bucknor was a villain for bad umpiring decisions. Because of him, tonnes of electricity were consumed as well as saved depending on him getting out or otherwise. For a generation, he was the only hope. With each passing day, the hopes and expectations only increased, the debates only increased – did he choke in finals, was he not a finisher, could he not carry the team through in tense matches…

For a hardcore Sachin fan, it did not matter. Every time he was criticized, he let his bat do the talking. Some critics started saying that he plays only for his records and most centuries are in a losing cause. The job of a critic is to criticize, make a mountain out of a mole-hill. 15 Man of the Series awards, 62 Man of the match awards with 90% + Indian victories, Man of the Match award against every one of the ICC Full Members, a lunch with Sir Don Bradman. Unlike certain cricketers who had weaknesses in certain countries, Sachin conquered every country. The tougher the pitch, the more graceful the innings. Perth , Lords, Newlands, MCG, Manchester, Hamilton – name the ground, name the team – you would have SRT associated with it. While it’s easy to find faults, what people forget is the consistency amidst the weight of expectations. I can’t recollect a batsman who was so consistent in his era – an era dominated by Wasim, Waqar, Walsh, Ambrose, Warne, McGrath, Murali and Donald. The 90s had some of the most ferocious cricketers playing for their countries. And at the big stage, the World Cup, Sachin upped his game even more. Again, critics complained of his ability to come poor in semi-finals and finals. But what gets forgotten is the fact that he was majorly responsible for taking the country till that stage. For a decade, the country could not muster a batsman who was 50% close to his abilities. Despite that, India had a near invincible record at home and a miserable one away. Sourav and Rahul finally came on-board and then things started to change. Because of this man, a seemingly unknown injury known as “tennis elbow” got national importance. There was a time when he could do no wrong, on and off the field. He started being called as “God”.

God was quite a nickname for a cricketer. Initially, I didn’t understand what this God business was all about. My first Sachin memory was the 1996 world Cup. The stumping off Jayasuriya in the semi-final against Sri Lanka cost us the game. He had scored 60 odd in a total score of 130. Like the critics, I thought Sachin would never play in a big match. Then Desert Storm happened in Sharjah. Then came a Henry Olonga massacre. Then a 136 with a stiff back in Chepauk. That was the first time I cried after seeing India lose to Pakistan. With a stiff back and 270 to chase in the fourth innings, India was tottering at 82/5. I was waiting to switch off the TV but it was Sachin who prevented me. Nayan Mongia decided to give support and Sachin took India to 254/6. With 16 runs left, Sachin got out to Saqlain Mushtaq. Most Indians knew the match was over. The next three wickets fell in the space of 4 runs and India snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and lost by 12 runs. Sachin had lost the match but won a billion hearts.

But Sachin would hurt the Pakistanis 5 years later. He reserved his best for the 2003 World Cup battle with Pakistan at Centurion. Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib and co were punished duly. 98 off 75 balls but there was a game changing moment in the match. While on 32, Abdur Razzaq dropped Sachin off Wasim Akram. An exasperated Akram shouted “ Tujhe pata hai tu ney kiska catch choda hai?” That summed up the status of SRT in his heyday. By that time, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Kaif had arrived but Sachin was the big fish. It was my Maths exam the next day and most of my college mates, like me,decided to chuck the preparation and see the match. That was the power of Sachin and an Indo-Pak match.

When MS Dhoni arrived, he very rightly chose to do away with senior cricketers who were liabilities on the field. Sourav went first, followed by Anil and Rahul. But Sachin was in a different league. Till his last date, his fielding or batting was never a question. His commitment was 250%. That was the power of the man. Barring Glenn McGrath, I don’t think any bowler has “troubled” him per se. Warne was taken to the cleaners. Murali was out-batted. The others didn’t matter. Most people think Dhoni has invented the helicopter shot. But true Sachin fans have seen this shot in the Natwest Trophy 2003 against England where Sachin helicopters Darren Gough over midwicket. All these made me think Sachin was God.

But God has a way of showing mortals why God is God. The Ferrari car controversy where Sachin refused to pay some gift tax initially, the Rajya Sabha disaster, his failure as a captain twice were all God’s way of showing us that every human is fallible. Despite this, every Sachin fan hoped that he would be part of at least one World Cup winning team. That moment arrived in 2011 and Sachin should thank Gambhir and Dhoni for pulling India out of trouble. I guess God had smiled on him finally. It was only fitting that a young Virat Kohli carried Sachin on his shoulders that night at the Wankhede with the ever-familiar shouts of “Sachiiin… Sachiiin” That shout from the audience is much more than a shout. It means various things to various people – adulation, hope, inspiration, magic, glory, beauty, finesse, perfection, consistency, humility and idol worship. To say that his last international speech was emotional is an understatement. He couldn’t script his farewell with a century but he had done enough for a nation starved of sporting heroes in the 90s.

I can go on and on about this man but I have to stop. Stop because I am lucky to share my birthday with him and I must spend time with family on this special day. As I turn 32 and Sachin 45, I only hope that one day our paths will cross and I take a selfie with him. That is definitely high on my bucket-list. Even better if we both cut a cake jointly. I hope God fulfills my dream. Until then, I will keep staring daily at his portrait on my wall ( my wife gifted me a sketch by The Hindu where his 100 centuries are written as his face outline) and keep saying….

“Sachiiin.. Sachiiin”

SRT – thanks for the memories

Jai Hind

Baap Baap Hota Hai : Freaky Fridays weekly blog

Yesterday (27th Feb, 2019) was a Red Letter Day in my historic life. Our little bundle of joy , Miss Aaria Iyer , made a grand entry at 1:16 pm into this world. It was truly historic as it came a day after the Balakot air strikes. My friend Yosha asked me if we are keeping the child’s nickname as BALAKOT. While I loved his creativity, we already had a nickname – PEANUT. My creative wife had decided this name as soon as we figured out she got pregnant. Aaria was the size of a peanut in her first scan. Both me and wife are extremely impatient Indians in general and we like to keep things simple. We did not have the patience to think of another nickname and confuse the world. Our 4 year old niece Aiko had already started calling her Peanu. We were scared of her as she would ask a zillion questions and not stop till we gave a logically satisfying explanation as to why we changed Peanu’s name to Balakot. Both of us were too busy in the labor room since the past few days and if she asked any thing about Balakot, we were scared to say #Idon’tknow .Therefore ,we decided to continue with Peanu. This is a very strategically important decision for our family as it has serious implications on the geo-political climate in our family,relatives ,friends and other neighboring nation states. It would impact macro-economic parameters like inflation (of balloons as all future birthday parties may have a customized “peanut” written on it which increases cost) , cost of stationery purchased (a few pictures of a peanut would need to be pasted in diaries, books etc. when the kid asks what is peanut) , but we decided that it would stay this way come what may!!!

To provide some rock solid support, we had our amazing sister in law “Beat Yesterday Preethy” playing the “Dula” role throughout. A Dula is a mentor, counselor, physiotherapist, masseur, coach all rolled into one who will stand with the pregnant mom and ensure she has physical, mental and emotional support . The Western countries have a professional Dula. Due to tight finances, we decided that Beat Yesterday Preethy would be our makeshift Dula (like how Sehwag was made to open the batting in Tests despite never having played cricket before as an opener).

Like Sehwag, Beat Yesterday Preethy killed it in her new role as a Dula. I strongly feel she should stop doing what she does currently and make this her profession. She works as Director of a startup. We made her work from home.. Or rather work from cradle (cradle = Apollo Cradle). I had the privilege of listening to her superb con calls which she keeps having with her team. Yesterday, in a con call where in she had to give a monthly update to her bosses, she started off with an amazing one-liner.. “Starting with the update on our monthly newsletter..which has not been happening since last few months…

” I couldn’t stop laughing . Why give an update on something which doesn’t happen. These corporate updates I tell you…

Beat Yesterday Preethy has got her name because the sticker on her phone says “Beat Yesterday “. It’s an apt name for her as the look on her face always reads “Beat everybody.. Beat yesterday, beat today, beat Hari, beat Ashwin (husband), beat team, beat bosses “. But..Jo bhi Ho.. The delivery wouldn’t have been as smooth if not for my sister-in-law.

After looking at my sister-in-law’s dedicaton, I decided that I will do whatever it takes to be the best dad ever. One of my biggest weaknesses is I sleep like a log. When I sleep, I literally go deep into the deepest layers of the troposphere, stratosphere and ionosphere. And it’s difficult to wake me up easily. I promised my wife I will not allow this once Peanu is born.

So the first night, Peanu decided to sleep, I confidently told my wife – ” Baby, kuch bhi help chahiye toh bas ek baar mera naam Lena.. I will immediately wake up and help up” Saying this, I slept at 10 pm. In my first dream as a dad, I dreamt of me waking up at the first call, helping out and earning qaabil-e-taareef from my wife.

Suddenly , I woke up. I thought I had a bad dream as I could hear my wife shouting ” Hari !!! Hari !!!” When I woke up, I saw my wife staring at me furiously. There was a pillow lying next to me. The nurse was beside her. I was about to explain my dream to my wife but she cut me off “Hari, all this empty talk of waking up on calling your name won’t do any good if you don’t walk the talk. I called your name 10 times as I wanted the feeding pillow. I have thrown my pillow on your face but that also has had no effect. The nurse got scared that I was shrieking hysterically and she came and offered me the feeding pillow. Shame on you!!!”

I looked at the clock. It was 1.30 am. Sheepishly, a song started playing in my mind

” Dula ka role baap ke bas ki baat nahi,

Baap ka role side actor hi Sahi,

Bacche ki real lifeline maa hi hai,

Kyunki….

baap baap hota hai… baap baap hota hai ”

Jai Hind