Saturday, 18 October 2014


Every once in a while we all look for a little inspiration and today was my day.

I was asked by my wife to join her for an appreciation activity called The [Sameness] Project which asks volunteers to help distribute water and handkerchiefs to those working out in the outdoors, whether it be construction workers, gardeners, garbage collection people or basically anyone who sits and toils in the heat to make life better for us in the UAE.

When thinking about those who we helped out today, it gave a chance to reflect upon what they do.  Often, we consider them to be poor but I don't think most of them would see themselves that way. Just because they accept a free meal, supplies, clothes or water from a complete stranger doesn't make them poor.  How many of us have accepted an invitation for a free meal?  Chances are, if you offer it, most people will accept it.

They have come here for different parts of the world to improve the life of their loved ones.  With the money they earn working in the UAE, they manage to build a house, educate their kids or help the wedding of a family member.  Many of these workers would know people who are poorer than them at home because they wouldn't have had to opportunity to do what these workers have done for their families.

What I liked about the The [Sameness] Project was that they encouraged you to hand out the bottles of water and handkerchiefs to the workers yourself and to make sure you personally thank them.  For many of them, it is a much needed impromptu break and to see the smiles on their faces helps you know you made their day a little better.  I never realized the value of a handkerchief till now as many of them were happier to receive this than the bottle of water.  I came home drenched in sweat and changed my t-shirt but all I did was hand out bottles of water.  These people work in the heat and humidity all day so a clean handkerchief was an unexpected surprise for them.

I'd encourage as many of you to get involved with the project.  I was able to pick up the bottles of water and handerchiefs at the Collegiate American School near Al Manara Road in Umm Suqiem on a Satuday morning at 10am but you could follow their social media links to find out if they are indeed available at more locations or times.  They distibuted about 10,000 bottles of water the day on the day I went and they have a chart that shows you where they need volunteers to deliver the bottles of water.

Follow them at the following places:
Facebook -
Twitter @samenessproject
E-mail -
Hashtag - #thesamenessproject or #shareyoursameness

Thursday, 24 July 2014

I refuse to accept despair

I normally listen to podcasts in my car while driving and started listening to one yesterday from the BBC Documentaries series called "No Destination" which is a recount of the journey of Satish Kumar, a Gandhian, who fifty years ago walked for peace from New Delhi to Moscow, Paris, London and Washington DC when the threat of nuclear tensions was at its highest.  Kumar's journey was that of peace and he went to convey that message to the respective heads of state of the four major capitals he visited.

Right at the end of the documentary though, there was an excerpt from a Martin Luther King Jr. speech that resonated with me in light of the current political climate.  Most of us have heard King's "I have a Dream" speech but his "I refuse to accept despair" speech is probably not as well known but read it (or listen to it if you can, I couldn't find a proper website that had it) and share this message of peace with those around you.  I hope it resonates as strongly with you as it did with me.

Image Source:
I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

"Face" up to Depression

A few weeks ago, many of us in the UAE came across a story that aroused all sorts of emotions.  It was the case of sixteen year old Abhimanyu Sadasivan's suicide.  Abhimanyu for those of you who are not aware of the case, was a student at the Indian High School in Dubai and lived in Sharjah.  On March 2, 2014, he jumped off his building's roof and took his own life.  What had stirred up even more emotions was the fact that he had written a suicide note when taking his chemistry exam on February 25, 2014.

There was uproar as many thought the school should have realized earlier.  There was uproar as many thought it was something that had happened in their school / community / city / country.  There was uproar because there was an underlying feeling of guilt most people probably felt but were too ashamed to talk about as they realized it could've happened in their own home.
Abhimanyu Sadasivan. Picture: The National.

Depression kills. 

It is as simple as that but it is something we as a society don't like to talk about.

I don't know Abhimanyu, his family, his friends or anyone who knew him personally but to blame the school solely is wrong.  The school has a part to play, but so does everyone know was associated with Abhimanyu as it seems he was depressed and with a support system, may have overcome his depression.

The uproar or guilty feeling many people felt in the aftermath of Abhimanyu's demise is related to the fact that most of us probably know someone who is depressed.  Most of us avoid bringing it up or talking about it because we are in a society that values "face" and the image of the "face."  I assume most of would rather be the person who saved a life than who preserved a "face" and as difficult as that may be a task to manage, it can start by talking a little emote openly about depression.

I'm not subject matter expert and I'm sure there are many people who could do a far better job in explaining the symptoms of depression, the types of depression and how to help someone deal with depression but we have to be receptive to educating ourselves about it.  To do that, we should have the courage to discuss depression.

To those of you in the media, I'd implore you to start writing more about it.  This editorial in the Guardian about the Elliot Rodger case should serves as a basis to start.  You have the power to educate us in saving or transforming a person's life.

To the rest of you, take a look around.  Guilt is something you feel after something tragic has happened, satisfaction is something you feel when you know you've done a job well.  If you see an opportunity to change a guilty moment into one of satisfaction for both yourself and those around you, why hesitate. 

It's sad when we lose young people in our community but instead of passing blame, let's see what are lessons learned that can avoid a tragedy like this from happening again.  In this particular, instance, let's talk depression and "face" up to the fact that we can defeat it.

Thank you Bindu Rai (@bindurai on Twitter) for your back and forth exchange on this topic with me when I had first posted the link about Abhimanyu's demise.  It helped clear my mind and create a the context for this post.  

The National had a series of articles on Abhimanyu and can be read at the links below.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Sony: Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go?

Ever felt like you've been at a party longer than you should've stayed?  There is that awkward feeling that creeps in and then you realize, you should have left much earlier but now that you're here, why don't you stay till the end?  Then you start thinking again and realize, actually, why do you need to stay till the end.

That's probably the question Sony should be asking themselves when it comes to their television business and this last paragraph from a Financial Times story, nails it!

Have a read if you can, it is worth it.

Amazon's Barriers to Entry in India, Middle East & China

It's been fascinating in the last few months to see how valuations for e-commerce sites have shot through the roof not only in developed markets like the United States and Europe but across emerging markets like India, the Middle East and China.

In India, we keep hearing about Flipkart, which this week raised US$ 210,000,000 after an investment vehicle owned Russian investor Yuri Milner reaffirmed their faith in India's burgeoning e-commerce market.  As Flipkart's CEO said in this Financial Times article, it is a "vote of confidence" as Milner was an early investor in Facebook, Twitter and Spotify.  We also heard this week of a merger in India between Flipkart and fashion e-tailer Myntra.

In the Middle East, has probably ruled the roost as far as headlines and funding has gone.  They are the largest e-commerce site based in the region and recently received US$ 75,000,000 in funding from South African investment house, Naspers (read more about it here).  Souq have invested in creating local logistics, warehousing, procurement and payment gateways across most of the Middle East and a few years ago, Souq swallowed up it's sister concern, fashion e-tailer, (again, you can read about this here).

China is another market that has taken a fair share of the headlines in the e-commerce space.  Names like Alibaba and Tencent are becoming more familiar outside of China and stories of the success that smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi have had with their online go to market route have had their fair share of coverage in the international press.  I don't know whether it is true to say that Alibaba has grabbed 80% of the e-commerce market in China as one headline claimed, but it is fair to say, the local e-commerce brands have prospered.

Which brings me back to the point raised in my headline.  Amazon has been the incumbent behemoth of the e-commerce trade.  We've heard and read about e-commerce crossing borders.  We've been told we're in a global marketplace.  However, for Amazon to say they want to grow, they need to be in markets like India, China and the Middle East in the long term.  At the moment, the only way for them to be anything more than a bit player is to make a significant acquisition in each of these regions as these are not easy markets to do business in and they're a little late to the party.  It can be argued that none of these e-commerce players other than Amazon are truly profitable but you get a sense they are all holding in for long term.

Amazon has received a fair amount of heat this week for their predatory practices  when they made it difficult to pre-order J.K. Rowling's new book due to a dispute with the publisher, but this is just a sign of things to come.  There seems to be no shortage of cash from investors at this stage and if we are to see a Walmart-type effect in the online arena, Amazon will probably have to dig deep, pay out to buy their piece of the action and then we could start to see the real predator in action.  

Monday, 16 December 2013

Time to start fueling the Expo fire

Dubai has done well to get the Expo 2020 but it irks me when I see people trying to take advantage of the situation with sensationalist headlines.  Case in point in a story that appeared on today about property developer Damac entitled "Apartments to serve Dubai Expo go on sale."

The Expo is a six-month event that will take a few years to plan.  These apartments are there for a much longer term one would assume but to make it sound like this is something that can be used and disposed in the headline only adds to the speculation that created the last recession we had in the UAE a few years ago.

The apartments are located near the new Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai World Central, where amongst many things, the Expo site will be.  The apartments will no doubt benefit those working on the Expo project but in the longer term will be of greater benefit to those working in Dubai World Central, the new airport or any of the other projects that will take shape in that part of town in the long term.

The Expo is great for Dubai but we need to think what else after the Expo.  There is a lot going for Dubai in the longer term and I just wish advertisers, media outlets, developers and anyone else involved would communicate that.  The only reason to advertise or publicize accommodation for the Expo would be if you're building labour camps for workers that you'll dismantle once the Expo is over but if you're only USP is the Expo, then you're not part of the solution, you're probably the reason for another recession.

Saturday, 16 November 2013


Modesty is a quality we don't see enough of today. Sachin Tendulkar has humbled us all over the years and did so once again.  It was action and not words that defined him.

Thank You Sachin for all you've done to inspire billions of people around the globe for over two decades and somewhere I hope we'll see another set of modest role models emerge because of you.