Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Converstaion plus Flat Rate Follow Up

There was a long chat on google with a student on THU evening 9:30-10:30 p.m. who was asking for N.S.S. support to some proposed activity in the campus. Besides the short notice period, the activity did not fit into N.S.S. mandate. The next evening, the student came to my office at about 7:00 p.m. and we had an interesting discussion with a ground rule that could not be anything better. We are entitled to have our own opinions while we respect each others'. We share what we learnt from our reading of life but no bulldozing of thoughts, giving time and space to each other to learn from one's own experience. Some of the points I raised were:

1. No blame game. A blames B, B blames C, .... the cycle goes on. Let us do what we can do and lead by examples. The more we do, the more is the increase in our capacity.

2. No policy, no welfare scheme, no manifesto is bad. All speak of upliftment of people. What is needed is proper execution. The execution is again done by people.

3. "Make men first. Everything else will be ready ..... we need man-making character building education", said Vivekananda. The more we empower people (through higher education etc.), the more is our responsibility to see that they come up as a better human being with love for fellow being (this power is to be used for the good of all).

4. The inverse of 2nd part of point 3 is also true. The more we feel ourselves responsible for the community, the more we should give effort to elevate ourselves to a position which helps us to deliver greater good. If I am a student, I should not be satisfied with a lower percentage of marks or a poor career.

5. If we address the symptoms and not the disease, then the problem will resurface in another form in another place. It is more like taking the dust from my door to my neighbour's door.

6. Means and end both should be noble. A noble end cannot be achieved by tricks or by means which is uncorrelated from the end. All prophets talked about imbibing spirit of service, sacrifice, following the path of truth and love.

7. All of us have the potential of becoming Buddha, Christ. Vivekananda says, "If you cannot become Buddha, Christ then they never existed."

8. We were and are never short of ideals in any era. There are always example before us - good people doing good deeds. We need to read those lives and draw inspiration, develop a positive attitude.

9. Again Vivekananda who says, "Purity, patience, perseverance are three essentials to success, and above all, love."

Today Economic Times (ET) ran a front page story on micro finance companies who started as NGO (not for profit), then converted to NBFC (for profit) where underprivileged were included through MBT (Mutual Benefit Trust) and finally elbowed out from the company which is now completely owned by promoters. This article is aptly titled 'Uplifting promoters in the name of downtrodden'.

It says, "An ET investigation shows 45,000 women who were shareholders in the country’s top three microfinance companies have missed out on the benefits of wealth creation—some due to transactions engineered by promoters, some due to the structure used to house shares owned by the poor. "

ET followed it up with a detailed report inside on three companies which is titled "The Poor as Puppets".

Excerpts from it goes like this.  "IN THE 2004-05 ANNUAL REPORT of Share Microfin, promoter and managing director M Udaia Kumar proudly declared: “Most of the shares are held by poor women who are part of the microfinance programme implemented by the company for poverty reduction and livelihood promotion, except the initial promoters and their relatives holding 0.97%. The company is striving to remain a community-based, mutual-benefit financial company.”
    Within two years of that proud declaration, there was little “community-based” or “mutual benefit” about Share Microfin. As on March 31, 2007, promoters, associates and employees, led by Kumar, owned 98%, having bought all the shares held by the poor women, which were housed in mutual benefit trusts, or MBTs (The story on Page 1 explains their working.)

   About the time the promoters finished taking control of the company also marked a breakout point for the business. Between 2006-07 and 2009-10, revenues of Share Microfin increased from Rs 62.9 crore to Rs 475.3 crore—a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 96%. Net profit increased from Rs 1 crore to 108.7 crore—a CAGR of 372%. In other words, the poor women bore the risk during the building phase of the business. But it was the promoters who reaped the rewards from the business taking off. "

An IIM-Ahmedabad faculty member helped in the research.

We had a discussion on this before at

One can find a correlation between first conversation and the flat rate story. It is time that we address the root cause and not play around the bushes.

Friday, January 28, 2011


We asked all the presenters to be available at 8:15 a.m., 15 min. before the actual class starts. This was the 4th Week of the Signals & Systems Course. The task was to develop a real-time voice based gender recognition system as a part of mini student projects. We had 12 systems ready for demo, 2 from girl students and 10 from boys - a ratio in favour of the girls compared to their presence in the class. Since it was a gender recognition system, I am trying to give a gender based performance stat. too. Hope to generate some competitive spirit!

We decided to put the same set of boys and girls for trial of each prototype. Since these were laptop based systems, its screen was made visible in a large screen format for the entire class of 90 students. What followed was a great experience! Six of the twelve systems got it 100 percent correct. Each time the developer got huge applause from fellow students. Whenever there was a failure, out came an 'Ohh!' from the class as if one Indian batsman got out in a crucial moment of a cricket match. The developers and the rest of the class as audience, all deserve appreciation. (pics of this great class of Signals & Systems ECE 2011 is attached : addition of a new pic at top - why should great ECE batch of 1990 be missed! I am somewhere there. This completes all characters of yesterday's class, me included and as a student like others...but who among that group of 29?)

There were moments of fun, too. Gopich... was getting frustrated when few consecutive trials in not-fully-perfect systems detected him as 'female'. Then he started submitting phrases like "I am male" or "Cheeka-Cheeeka". The prosody of Debolee...'s speech on some occasions (Hi [Developer], I am ..) was such that the developer would have not written another piece of code, if the system erred (I am joking!). Quite a few systems failed to recognize Pava... as human being, something developers decided to put as an output if input is anything but speech!!!

As a whole, it was a nice experience. For the statisticians, both the demo from girl students were 100 percent correct while 4 of the 10 demo from boys came unscathed. Does the same persist in other fields too? There is something positive for boys here, more number of them dared to come forward and subjected their systems (themselves ?) to trial which always had a probability of failure.

Never mind failures. It is important to make attempts and also to learn how to handle failures, if it is there. Fear of failure is something which needs to be overcome.

Level 2 description of the system level development task has been published. (i)To make this system robust against noise. For applications like gender based suggestion of content, one may not experience any attack. However, applications like automated voice based toilet (male / female) door lock system one has to consider impostor attacks (male trying to speak like female). (ii)Speech recognition based real-time application (limited vocabulary). Deadline is extended to 10th Feb. as asked by the students.

Took the opportunity to make a quick 5 min. presentation on IP generation, patent search, patent filing, patent defence. Gave one demo of a patent defence from our research group. This we had presented before experts the previous day and the PPT was at my desktop along with lecture slides. Wished that the students who have completed only 1.5 year here and 2.5 year (4-year program) / 3.5 year (5-year program) to go, can have some innovations in their portfolio when they leave IIT kharagpur.

Waiting for another round of fun-filled demo session and expect wider participation that time with larger number of students coming to the front as developers. Meanwhile theory, application, tutorial, MATLAB .... will continue.

Friday, January 21, 2011


"For the last 24 years every day, I have been busy thinking about what to do for Wipro tomorrow. Now I will have to start thinking about what to do for myself.” Thus says Girish Paranjpe, ousted joint-CEO of Wipro, a USD 6 billion company in DNA. None can miss in his statement, the hollowness created, due to sudden withdrawal of the responsibility. It also perhaps brings out emptiness of certain aspect of life which we consider even larger than life itself.

People were sceptical in the first place itself when Wipro floated two CEO theory 3 year back and experienced Girish was picked up as one of them. While TCS was ahead of the race, Infosys had already replaced Wipro in no. 2 position and was increasing the gap. The resignation (was not shown the door) of Vivek Paul made Premji, 80% share holder, double his role as Chairman and CEO for 3 years. Following this, he picked up two CEOs. Yesterday he announced that he is replacing 2 CEOs with a new single CEO. The reason cited : growth rate is much lower than peers. Analysts say, it is the threat of Cognizant replacing them as no. 3 in IT sector in near future. According to a theory, if one is not in top 3, then one is out.

My interest here in developments within Wipro is not from the point of an insignificantly small share holding I have in the company or as someone who had some initial discussion with them on one of our innovation and see scope of collaboration with its healthcare wing (you never know!); but as a reader of life who reads parting statement of an erstwhile CEO, making an unceremonious exit.

Like him, many of us are busy in pursuit of or caring certain things of life for days, weeks, months and years and not life itself. Incidents like these remind us the message Sri Ramakrishna left in some of his parables.

He asks us to lead life like a maid in a rich employer's house who raises up kids there; sings songs for them, even go up to tell "My XYZ (the employer's son) has done this today." But she knows very well that she has to go back at the end of the day to her own home and care her own children. That is her real state and this stay at employer's big house and in all luxury is all but temporary.

The image uploaded here can be zoomed for reading comfort. This is an inspiring speech by Wipro Chairman Azim Premji on his lessons in life. This is full of short anecdotes and leaves an enriching experience.

Together it strikes a balance. Passion and detachment. Intense activity in intense rest and intense rest in intense activity. The essence of Karmayoga .....
The following is taken from page 83 of "Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna" that can be found at

A certain traveller came to a large plain in the course of his travels. As he had been walking in the sun for many hours, he was thoroughly exhausted and heavily perspiring; so he sat down in the shade of a tree to rest a little. Presently he began to think what a comfort it would be if he could but get a soft bed there to sleep on. He was not aware that he was sitting under the celestial tree. As soon as the above thought rose in his mind, he found a nice bed by his side. He felt much astonished, but all the same stretched himself on it. Now he thought to himself, how pleasant it would be, were a young damsel to come there and gently stroke his legs. No sooner did the thought arise in his mind than he found a young damsel sitting at his feet and stroking his legs. The traveller felt supremely happy. Presently he felt hungry and thought: "I have got whatever I have wished for; could I not then get some food?" Instantly he found various kinds of delicious food spread before him. He at once fell to eating, and having helped himself to his heart's content, stretched himself again on his bed. He now began to revolve in his mind the events of the day. While thus occupied, he thought: "If a tiger should attack me all of a sudden!" In an instant a large tiger jumped on him and broke his neck and began to drink his blood. In this way the traveller lost his life.

Such is the fate of men in general. If during your meditation you pray for men or money or worldly honours, your desires will no doubt be satisfied to some extent; but, mind you, there is the dread of the tiger behind the gifts you get. Those tigers—disease, bereavements, loss of honour and wealth etc.,—are a thousand times more terrible than the live tiger.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


These days my eight years old daughter keep surprising me with startling expression and analysis. I often listen to her with a sense of dis-belief! Only a few days back I had to explain her almost everything, hundreds of those questions. How quickly a child grows and imperceptibly, while being in front of your eyes all the time!

Yesterday afternoon I saw another child surprising me standing up to many, many year seniors. It was the start of the afternoon session on Machine Intelligence & Pattern Recognition of IEEE TechSym 2011, a student symposium at IIT Kharagpur. As a session chair I also had the responsibility of introducing keynote speaker Dr. Ravi Kothari of IBM Research. I was having a talk with him in the sideline when Technical Program Committee Chair started introducing me to the participants. The standard stuffs - I did this and that in professional field and there I heard newest bullet in my resume 'active blogger'.

Frankly speaking, I was ready up to 'NSS Coordinator' as a lot of my colleagues, senior people in admin., students, guardians, alumni interact with me on that identity. A total of 14 officers, 900 student volunteers, many different activities round the year, not that unusual to be known by that.
(The recent updates from NSS IIT Kharagpur are here.
On 19th Jan. we are having concluding function of National Youth Week at Kalidas Auditorium where inter village school (13 of them) competition drawings will be displayed, prizes will be handed over to invited school teachers. Also there will be panel discussion, Address by dignitaries and cultural program by NSS volunteers.)

But the identity as an 'active blogger' and in a situation like that was a pack full of bewilderment. True that occasionally I get mail, comments on posts but that is too infrequent. It appears that there are silent readers, at least I did not expect TPC Chair of TechSym to have taken note of this space.

Thank you readers. Comments or no comments - it is great to feel that we strike a common chord somewhere.

Visited NIT Rourkella for the first time on 8-9th Jan., 2011 at Samit's call. Samit, my 2nd Ph.D. student is a faculty member there. Beautifully organized conference, in all aspect. Loved it. On 6th Jan., visited another conference at IEM, Kolkata and met many old pals. It was walking down the memory lane. A lot of people have moved. There was no dearth of love and affection from those who was still there. Prepared PhD Admission Test Q. Paper for some place the previous week but politely declined to visit that place as it was becoming too hectic. Expecting a Delhi visit for one project or the other soon. Vodafone project's quarterly review report was submitted yesterday. Finalizing the manuscript of a book chapter (edited volume on speech processing) with Sandipan, my first Ph.D. student who is the main author. Yesterday evening, organizer of a Tech Fest requested display of one of our prized (literally) innovation "Heart Sound Analyzer". In India Telecom Exhibition at Pragati Maidan, Delhi we displayed it in Dec., 2008. This time (Dec., 2010) there our speech group displayed "Automatic Speaker Recognition" working prototype. Patent filing of "Lung Sound Analyzer" is to be completed within 2 weeks. Got a letter from the publisher that they are contemplating on converting the published titles to ebook. In 2010, two books returned almost similar volume of 2009, about 40,000. Waiting for a call from the US parent on US edition. The bulk of the work is already done. Reviews of this new edition from US university Prof.s are very good. The remaining work is simple but tedious and time consuming. Need to devote a large percentage of time when that call comes. That is the update as of now. Yes, the new batch of 2nd year students in theory class appear to be serious. Enjoying the interaction. Need more time to develop an opinion about Lab. & Seminar classes.