Why We Need to Talk About Cambridge Analytica?

One of the things that I do as a part of my three-pronged preparation for interviews is to look up and gather insights about my interviewers from publicly available data on social and professional media. I’ve only given a handful of interviews in my life and hence it is difficult to ascertain whether this works, but it does give me a sense of control over a situation that otherwise – and generally – is uncertain and unknown. Looking up key stakeholders and interviewers on social and professional media becomes a great conversation enabler at times. But I digress… The whole point of this diatribe was to highlight the fact that a cornucopia of information and personal data exists and is readily available for individuals to mine. Now imagine a company that does this – collects and mines social media data – on a mass scale and uses that data to disperse targeted content in connivance with a social media giant, quite possibly influencing the outcome of an election. Scary? You bet! Continue reading

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The language of music is not Tamil. And it’s not Hindi either.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first A. R. Rahman concert – actually, my first concert ever – and after days of procrastinating, I’ve finally found the bandwidth to write this post. While the way the concert was organized itself is a different story, my partner and I got into a discussion as we entered the venue about the recent controversy surrounding the maestro’s London performance. Concertgoers were miffed as Rahman belted out a sizable number of his Tamil hits, which led to a whole lot of discussion (read: intellectual masturbation) on social media and the outrage could be broadly classified into the following two schools. As an artist – and a national icon – Rahman should have been more aware and cognizant of the cultural sensibilities that delineate his audience, and therefore played only Hindi songs. And then there was the argument that Rahman’s lineage and pedigree is Tamil, and that music knows no language. Continue reading

White Supremacy, Anti-diversity and Other Hogwash

In his book, Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari includes a chapter titled, ‘There’s No Justice In History,’ that identifies and talks about the hierarchies – whites and blacks, Brahmins and Shudras, rich and poor – that we as a species have created. The reason I write about this today – and I’m also going to include an excerpt from his book below – is because of events that have taken place at Google (the anti-diversity memo) and at Charlottesville (the white supremacist rally) over the duration of the last few weeks. This excerpt is going to be out-of-context and I would urge those reading this post to go ahead and read the whole book to understand where we come from and more importantly, recognize these imagined hierarchies that lack any kind of logical or biological basis. Continue reading

The Amazons of Retail

One of the dominant trends that we’ve been talking about and seeing for a while in the retail domain is the end of pure-play single-channel retail. Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is a giant step in that direction and a validation of the fact that omni-channel retail is the future. While many industry watchers were caught unaware, Amazon has been toying with the idea of brick-and-mortar retail for a while now. Its efforts in this space can be traced back to the launch of its Amazon Books stores and more recently, its futuristic checkout-counter free concept called Go. Continue reading