February 20, 2011
School of Engineering, Coimbatore
Perhaps you are wondering about your personal and professional roles in today’s rapidly evolving global environment.
“How can I update my knowledge and skills to be compatible with emerging technology and industry trends while maintaining an attitude of ethics, sustainability, universalness, and environmental consciousness?” you speculate.
Questions like this were addressed at the Anokha Technology Entertainment and Design (TEDx) Conference Feb. 9, where a platform of experts from various fields shared valuable information about adapting to and succeeding in a changing world.
TEDx programs aim to provide communities, organizations, and individuals a chance to exchange significant ideas through TED-like experiences at the local level.
These events, which are independently planned and coordinated on a community-by-community basis, include TEDTalks videos, meticulous, inspirational talks, demonstrations, and performances, and bias-free programming.
“In a unique way, this conference symbolizes a convergence of technology from many perspectives. Applications in entertainment, design, product, service—technology is pervasive. Any way different is a new technical application,” said Dr. Gurumurthy Kalyanaram, Dean of the Amrita School of Business (ASE), Coimbatore.
The all-day program witnessed an attendance of around 100 people, a small group of mostly MBA students. Throughout the day, each of the nine speakers was given 18 minutes to present.
In his lecture “Innovation in a Challenging World,” industrialist GD Rajkumar pointed out current economic problems in India, and offered advice on becoming a more productive member of society. He spoke of the nation’s difficulties in terms of its high inflation rate, unchecked greed, and rampant industrialization.
He used a personal dilemma to exemplify greed in the nation’s health care system. Mr. Rajkumar underwent minor laser therapy in Germany for a small health problem, and subsequently directed his cousin to a similar surgery.
“I called the doctor here in India and asked ‘Why can’t we start this in India?’ He said that health insurance will not pay for it, that it will cause the medical industry to lose business. This restriction is because of greed,” said Mr. Rajkumar.
The industrialist, who designs products according to customers’ needs, and interacts with customers five hours a day, asserted that products should be useful to society and reasonably priced. New commodities should be simple, with less moving parts. Also, one must humbly listen to the customer.
In her presentation “Diversity Challenges in a Global Virtual Working Environment,” Dr. Ella Roininen, a Finnish MBA and PhD professor who recently taught at ASE, discussed the many hurdles faced by professionals around the world working for the same company.
A global virtual work environment refers to a corporation with different departments located internationally that work together online. Although various countries may specialize in diverse areas, all work toward a common goal.
Communication technology has created a “remote working” environment that entails less face-to-face contact, and virtual teams that may never meet in person. Individuals face challenges with language (it is no longer local, need to speak English), and constantly evolving teams which create issues of security, loyalty, and friendship.
Managers must deal with the complexities of sharing knowledge with many at a distance, nurturing beneficial relationships, and an unclearness of which manager is the authority.
Cultural challenges such as dissimilar communication and work styles, and power issues between people, and diversity challenges like language, age, gender, education, and religion, also complicate remote work.
To succeed in an international virtual work environment, Dr. Ella suggested that individuals strive to see the sameness in others, and look outside their own culture.
“Don’t expect people to be like you; ask questions, listen, and support. One must have flexibility in location; work in one country for one year and then change location the next year,” said Dr. Ella.
In her talk “India Designz,” entrepreneur Ms. Nirmala Dinesh shared her experience in website designing.
She began her talk by saying “I’m not obsessed with being a woman or an entrepreneur. I will speak about setting up a business. Entrepreneurship is the realization of a dream.”
She likened an online business to a TED talk; it is moving every day, generating numerous online ideas, working with different languages. Social media promotion is important for a business’s prosperity, as well as close attention to customer details.
Ms. Nirmala said that most Indian websites do not reflect what a business does. Furthermore, the focus of Indian corporates lacks structure.
The entrepreneur’s “India Designz” websites are easy to read, and her business has become web partners with Asia Net. She maintained that an online ID matters; a business will be judged at least 50 to 60 percent by it.
“Speaking as a woman entrepreneur, forget that you are a woman when you are at your business, and forget you are in business when you are at home,” expressed Ms. Nirmala.
PhD candidate and Amrita alumnus, Krishnadas N., spoke on computer waste pollution in his discussion “Think About Sustainability the Green IT Way.” According to information Mr. Krishnadas discovered, every Google search uses enough energy to burn half a kettle of water.
To reduce pollution created by computers, the scholar suggested that we switch off monitors when stepping away from the desk, and use green routers. These routers are designed to protect the environment from harmful substances, facilitate energy conservation, and decrease waste by using recyclable packaging.
As a management researcher, Mr. Krishnadas endeavors to determine why public interest in innovations like green technology and grid computing is first strong, but then fades. He seeks answers to questions like “Are green technologies really green?” and “Is innovation possible?”
“Conduct research, start out young, experimenting is fun. You don’t remember your exams, but remember experiments,” said Mr. Krishnadas.
“We never got rid of viruses; we played with them, built a game with them. We learned about networking, went back to textbooks, and applied protocol to solve problems.”
Bhavani Bijlani, from the M.A. Math, advocated the Amala Bharatam Campaign (ABC) that began August 2004 when students in Kerala decided to clean up their surroundings.
“We are moving quickly, but have forgotten the core values that hold us together. We are like a man with a dream job who wets his bed,” said Ms. Bhavani.
She mentioned that children in India die due to poor sanitation. Also, the natural topsoil has been replaced by multiple layers of garbage (much of it plastic).
To attack this crisis, many students and others pledged on Chancellor Amma’s birthday Sept. 27, 2010 to do their part to clean India and build public toilets. Since then, one million have taken this pledge, 150 mass clean up drives with 15,000 participants have taken place, and five lakhs of handkerchiefs have been distributed.
The campaign has spread to Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Delhi. The M.A. Math has been pushing the government to set up a plant to convert plastic to petroleum.
Ms. Bhavani stressed the importance of and need for public health education. For example, school children too young to clean are doing awareness campaigns. She urged attendees to make time in their busy, productive schedules to practice composting.
Similarly, a period of time every week should be designated for growing vegetables. Ms. Bhavani’s talk concluded with the audience taking the ABC pledge.
Other notable TEDx presenters included: Arivind Gangaram Talekar, who spoke on the Dabbawalas of Mumbai, Korath V Mathew, who lectured on the prospects of e-governance in India, standup comedian Nitin Gupta, and Siddharth Nagarajan, India’s young drumming prodigy.
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