Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Convexity Theory of Salaries

I don’t think I would be surprised if someone comes up to me and throws a statistic which says that 74% of the productive time of a current generation salaried employee working in one of the Tier 1 cities is spent in mulling over his / her current salary package, and over future avenues of getting an incremental benefit in the same.

I put some more thought into the phenomenon, and came up with my “Convexity Theory of Salaries”. Apparently simple, the theory propounds my idea of a mutually convex satisfaction and effort curves with incremental salaries. The following figure explains the theory in some detail:

Any Tier 1 city employee can be classified into one of the three zones at various stages of his / her life. Different zones have been segregated based on salary ranges, and a creature falling in one zone has characteristics totally distinct from creatures in other zones. In addition, a creature in a lower zone would almost always strive / crib to jump to a higher one.

ZONE 1 – The Laggard Worker

Zone One incumbents spend a large chunk of their time in office. Their work includes mundane jobs, generally of a repetitive nature. They might attend late night calls (support work), verify and document processes (Ctrl + C/V work), spend time on Orkut, YouTube, Monster and Naukri, ensure that the coffee vending machines and smoking zones in the office reach their optimum utilization, and tweak something or the other in their CVs for a few minutes as a daily routine. They are good at narrating stories in their families about how their work at an MNC keeps them busy for more than 12 hours a day but because of a centrally air-conditioned office building and a personalized cubicle, at least the job is satisfactory. However, they are of the most unsatisfactory lot and are proud contributors to the largest bulk of CV movements across job consultancies in various cities. They spend at least one weekend per month participating in recruitment processes for jobs which might elevate them to Zone Two.

ZONE 2 – The Aspirant

Zone Two incumbents are of the ambitious lot. Their office timings become a comfortable 9 to 6 and their work generally involves low-value-add-to-the-company endeavors. They might write codes for small fragments of larger applications, search the net working as analysts sniffing for data, appear for certifications, or jugaado for onsite opportunities. A few towards the right (light green) portion of this zone might actually work on something which might positively contribute to company’s bottom-line and are the cause of envy for their peers on the last day of each month. With their sufficient income levels, Zone Two’ers can afford 2-BHK flats on a twin-sharing basis rather than those Paying Guest (PG) arrangements of Zone One mortals. They even pay the EMIs of their two-wheelers from their own salaries and are the largest contributors to the Friday night crowd at city pubs and restaurants. Some of them start fitness routines and Yoga for the purpose of telling about the same to office colleagues. Their CVs are normally stagnated and a majority of them start attending classes for management entrance examinations on weekends. Even though they are at the vertex of the satisfaction convex, their aspirations keep them cribbing for a slot in Zone Three without anticipating the disaster.

ZONE 3 – The Fallbacks

Zone Three incumbents are classic portrayals of grandma’s greed-is-a-dangerous-evil. They are the fallen back Zone Two’ers normally with a one or two year management education interspersed in between. They spend the maximum time in office working upon presentations which would eventually attract partners’ and clients’ brickbats, excel maintenance for resource allocation, team meetings etc. Their discussion topics amongst office colleagues witness a paradigm shift from Zone Two’ers talks about girls, boss-cribbings, PVR movies and new cellphones in the market to Zone Three thoughts on entrepreneurship and related gassings, plans for apartment purchases, investments etc. Their Orkut albums are replete with their international stints and other sweet memories of Zone Two days and usually a with-my-team snap from their first few days at Zone Three tragedy. Their working hours, stretching to the better portion of twenty four, put them towards the tail end of the satisfaction convex into a situation which their last-day of the month creditings in the bank cannot compensate. It’s already too late for them to get back to the previous two zones and quite a few of them, feeling retired towards their middle age itself, start watching fatso babas on dhaarmik TV channels giving gyaan about life.

Zone Two, according to the Convexity Theory is the Utopia of human existence. It does not take much effort for an average employee to enter this zone and enjoy weekend trips and Friday dinners. A slightly focused strategy can even place most of them towards the right end of this zone which offers comfortable salaries coupled with a relaxed lifestyle. However, the mere attraction to cross the boundary proves lethal.

“Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side.” Think before you play ping-pong within these zones.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008



Ended the first year of my Post Graduate Programme in Management. Won’t say that time passed away in a jiffy – it didn’t! Courses, with however little to learn from; projects, with however worthless endeavors; term papers, with however smart Googling; and exams, with however sleepless weeks – time crept slowly. Students’ Council work was a tough fun; joining the Council after two terms of a somewhat chill life at IIMK wasn’t an easily affordable luxury, I must admit.

An year at a B-School might not give someone much edge in the ‘science’ of management, but it surely gives a ‘feel’ of it. A sneak-peek into de-la-corporata; a feeler of work, life and related imbalance; an aptitude to pay utmost regards to the four sacred whole numbers – 23:59; and an acumen to perceive what can go wrong – guess that sums up the last nine months at college. The coming two months of summers at Hyderabad are going to be the first-hand trailers of the corporate oven.


The city has welcomed me with open arms ever since that wet morning in the early July of 2006 when I had first disembarked at the Kalasipalyam bus stop. I miss IBM, and work as well, the sole reason probably being the life at Bangalore. The city has never been too harsh – it provided me with ample opportunities of drenching in the rain, driving out in the night, and lazing around facing the winds in the office food-court after lunch. The mini-ISM Dhanbad at BTM Layout has lost very little of its sheen with a few defectants moving out. It still gives the luxuries of sitting in circles, talking the same language, drinking the same way, smoking the same brands, eating the same food, playing the same card-game – reliving the same times.

Experience this time was a feel-good as usual. Relieving the stress of exams in the past week was easy with just the smell of city air – was fed up with the purity of oxygen in my nostrils while living on the hills and needed a break. Home and food were relishing after mess and NC and spending time in cooking was awesome. Met a friend after quite a few months. Witnessing a cheerful face of the one who has seen almost all vagaries of life has been inspirational – guess her smile would keep me out of my fits of cribbing about life for quite some time. Missed getting back to those whose office addresses shifted to the northern and eastern ends of Bangalore, or to other cities altogether.


Travel back home this time was memorable than ever. Was lucky to get a 09:15 Jet Airways flight to Calcutta at a cheap price. Thankfully the airport hasn’t yet shifted to that no-man’s land 40Km away from Bangalore, and catching a morning flight after a ‘high’ night is still peaceful.

Apprehensions of missing the 14:10 train from Howrah due to the 30 minutes delay in departure from Bangalore were swept aside in a corner with the flying experience. The poignancy was accentuated because probably for the first time I didn’t fell asleep flying, and because the skies were crystal clear all the way from the source to the destination and one could actually ‘see’ the earth even at the flying altitude of around 10 Kms. The child in me always gets back during ascent, the houses becoming smaller and granularity gradually fading away. Witnessing a whole, a continuum, an equal world, a uniform patch where ‘humans’ live; provides probably the best semblance of equanimity.

Calcutta bound flights from Bangalore ‘break-off’ from land twice to fly above the sea, once somewhere along the Eastern Ghats in Tamilnadu or Andhra Pradesh to fly over the Bay of Bengal, and once again after crossing the Delta in West Bengal. The first break-point is wrapped in simplicity – the nature probably shying away innocently from showing off its might to the unaware soul wandering 10,000 mts above. A uniform patch of viridian green, a yellow-ochre streak of sand just a few centimeters in width, then an almost non-existent faint white probably suggesting that waves too exist there, followed with a plain, almost uniform expanse of cobalt blue. Looking from the window towards the front gives a glimpse of sky almost trying to establish the law of symmetry – matching itself in colour and form with the vast below. Nothing, not even the tiny Boeing 737 seems to disturb the tranquility of space.

The ‘re-entry’ zone of the aircraft offers a splendid view. The majestic area of the Ganges delta is magnificent for the uninitiated – while flying, one moves in the opposite direction of water flow, from the sea towards up north and the aircraft flies past through almost all colours of the spectrum. The visible land merges into the sea in an unidentifiable boundary – a burnt sienna amalgamation of land and water stretching across thousands of kilometers feebly demarcating the estuary. Followed by this black-brown span is the heavenly glimpse of numerous tributaries and distributaries of the Ganges forming strange shapes. Thousands of streams appear to be white, glittering snakes lazing in the sun fostered with each other at different places – an artist’s daydream with multitude of colours. A few minutes further, boundaries between the land and the water become clearer. Interspersed with black-brown patches of islands in different shapes (one almost looked like a giant pomphret fish and other like a dolphin) is the huge green-blue water mass, probably the Hooghly. The aircraft starts its descent by then and luckily, a few steamers (or ‘launches’ of Kolkata) might be visible as tiny dots followed by white streaks in the water.

There is yet another break-off point to the Bay of Bengal somewhere amongst this after which the descent to the visible land is more pronounced. Wet palm tree-tops extend a warm welcome to the humid Kolkata and one can almost see the moisture laden air of the city. Welcome to Netaji Subhash International Airport.


Irrespective of how much I detest the Bongs and associated ‘intricacies’, I have developed a somewhat penchant for the city Kolkata. The reason is probably my numerous transits in recent years through its antique streets and lanes and saranis every time I travel from the airport to the station. Kolkata offers the first smell of home – north India to be precise – it’s humid and somewhat stale air puts one back into the hot, populated India which ‘goes-on’. It’s strange how I feel more at home amongst the sweating crowd reeling under the hot sun rather than in a city full of air-conditioned cars.

Visual delights of the old-age Indian charm, buildings and shops with inscriptions saying they were built in that year (which is normally decades ago), people thronging all possible alleyways narrowed down with peddlers and hawkers, crowd with a mix of every possible income group in the budget announcement, from the worker carrying wheat bags on his back to the paunchy merchant chewing betel leaves outside his shop or office, trams still continuing sluggishly at a few places trying to find their way amidst the rogue taxi-wallahs edging their way past everyone with scant regard to those faint, almost grayed out colours at the signaling posts, people clutching the handle bars of the over-filled city buses, rickshaw-pullers perpetually ringing their small bells in desperate attempts to get the humans and animals away from their path, hand-rickshaw pullers still continuing in their plight with utmost tenacity trying to pull the triple-sized ladies with double-sized shopping bags, non-initiated-to-real-life teenage couples outside AC Markets and other areas probably whispering to each other that ‘life is beautiful’, hawkers selling everything from books prescribing home-treatment for all ailments, general knowledge and learn English to torches and belts and key rings having glowing LEDs – Kolkata offers the largest gamut of ‘Indian’ experience. It’s great to roam around the city observing life of all sorts trying to ‘live’ and the city moving on.

By the way, I didn’t miss my train from Howrah.


A very old television commercial of something started with an NRI girl returning home and exclaiming – “kuchh bhi to nahin badla” (nothing has changed). The same feeling comes back irrespective of the gap after which I visit Jamshedpur. The town continues the same, and so the people – local Hindi newspapers still continue with their decade old claim of the place becoming a ‘model town’ in the ‘near’ future, MPs and MLAs of different parties state the same thing year after year, people do not bother about what’s being said, written or done, but still continue with the faint hope that utopia for the town is just round the corner! Irregular constructions here and there have filled up the skyline of Jamshedpur but the cleanliness hasn’t been done away with completely as of yet. Stories at home about the entire locality pour in – that one’s husband went to Germany from Tata Steel, that one’s son has joined a hotel management course, that one’s brother was asking about your number to enquire about CAT, that relative’s daughter is getting married the next month there.

Food is great, visits to relatives’ places are too many, friends are too few but the relaxation is complete. Lazing around, surfing and waiting for my departure to Hyderabad. Signing off.