Sunday, March 22, 2009

Adventures in Healthcare Here in India

In the past 60 days, both Will and I have had runins with the medical industry here, me with hepatitis and Will in an altercation with a faulty window, necessitating around 25 stitches.

Overall, I have to say that the quality of care is quite good. Cleanliness may not be a primary concern, but the word "care" really is there. With my hepatitis, my first visit with the doctor was direct and forthcoming.

"Oh, my. You should be in hospital. You are really yellow."

I didn't want to go into a hospital, single parent, teenage child, fear of hospitals, all that. My doctor and I discussed my options and she agreed to let me come in daily for a six-hour multivitamin drip, check my blood levels and have a consult with her or a specialist as needed. Each day I would leave my house and and take a bike rickshaw ro the Sitaram Bhartia Clinic at Galleria Mall and would arrive at 9 AM. I would have three nurses fuss over me, watch my bottles of dextrose and multivitamins, check the speed of the drip, and chat. They would clean me up and rebandage my hand every afternoon and send me on my way. I got progressively better. The entire bill of care (so far) is around 15,000 rupees or about USD $300, including all my blood tests, and ultrasound, etc.

My son, on the other hand, was hanging with his friends on Holi, filling water balloons in one of the security guard restrooms on the gorund floor of our apartment complex. He was leaning against a glass window when it broke, shattering the glass and causing a spike to dig deeply into his foream. Apparently there was bllod everywhere, and as teens do everywhere, instead of telling me, they took Will to the hospital. Three hours later, I get a call, because the hospital wants money. Will's friends were great, by the way. They drove him to the hospital, stayed with him, came back for me and took me to the bank to get cash. (Thanks, Sunny and Saurabh - you rock.)

His doctor had to administer local anesthesia in order to give Will two sets of stitches, one set to the muscle inside his forearm, and a second set to his skin (which he told Will was plastic surgery to minimize his scar). The guy was a joke. First, I asked why no one called me at the hospital to get permission to perform any procedures on him. They gave him antibiotics, tetanus booster, anesthesia without my permission. I was PISSED. I had to ask five times what antibiotics they used. They wanted to keep him overnight to elevate his hand. I asked him if it would be placed in traction; they said no. I asked how much it would cost - 10,000 just for the bed overnight. I said no way. His total bill for emergency room visit, shots, sutures, X-ray, "plastic surgery", doctor's fees, etc. was a little over 3,000 rupees, or USD $60. You couldn't even walk into an emergency room in the States for $60, let alone expect any service. The people at the hospital were extremely rude and seemed more interested in getting us to pay the bill and adding more services. We left and Will kept his hand propped up on pillows all night, just as they intended to do at the hospital.

We went back to Sitaram Bhartia Clinic for followup on Will's forearm and tey weren't thrilled with the quality of the stitches, but Will thinks he'll have a "cool scar". As long as it heals well, it's okay.

Last year, I accompanies a friend to a visit with her doctor about a "woman's issue". She was prescribed birth control pills. I recognized the medication's generic name and asked directly, "Are these birth control pills?" and the doctor confirmed. Now, the doctor never asked the patient any lifestyle questions, whether she was over 30, smoked, drank, was sexually active... there really wasn't informed consent. She wasn't made aware of the side effects or the dangers associated with mixing her lifestile with the medication and I thought it bordered on malpractice to me. Doctor's make assumptions because of your gender and that's NEVER good.

Bottom line, our experience with Indian health care has been very, very good and affordable. The only caveat we've seen is to really OWN your health care, even more than you would back home. It's your body - make sure you ask a lot of questions because they simply won't tell you unless you ask. Also inquire about options. Not everything requires hospitalization, and medication (in fact, there is a much higher use of traditional medicines, i.e., ayurvedic - homeopathic remedies along with traditional medications). And the care, really is care. With nursing ratios unheard of in Western countries, you are looked after with skill, professionalism and affection. They have time to look after you, instead of filling out volumes of paperwork.

In case you're in Gurgaon or moving here, Sitaram Bhartia can be reached at:
Sitaram Bhartia Clinic
Galleria Mall
DLF City Phase IV
Gurgaon, Haryana 122001
telephone: 0124 4131111

Later. :-)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What I'm Up Against Part Deux

Passive aggression is a huge battle wherever you go, and when another team uses this behavior, it directly affects your ability to get projects done. Business owners who don't address it and implement accountability, particularly at points where teams interact, are bound to fail. Here's an example of a project that's failing.

Example IM discussing situation:
[staff]: hello mam
me: HI! Thanks for getting on GTalk. Can you update me on the stuff we asked [tech mgr] to do?
[staff]: ftp is still not working
me: Is [tech support] there?
[staff]: i called [tech mgr] and asked tech guy do rsolve it
but there are few service issues there
me: okay... It's been two hours.
[staff]: yes
me: Well?
[staff]: he can not resolve it
me: why not?
[staff]: [tech mgr] will do that
me: Why does [tech mgr] need to do it?
Can [tech mgr] do it now.
Have [tech support] call him.
[staff]: [tech support] has talked to [tech mgr] and [tech mgr] aware of that
me: aware is not done. Why isn't it done?
[staff]: [tech mgr] told he will take care of that
me: WHEN?
[staff]: let me call him again
i will let u know whether he could do it now or not
me: Thanks. What about the other points in the email?
[staff]: no reply from there
me: What about the other points in the email?
[staff]: [tech mgr] has told me he can not do that
only the owner has got the authority of doing that
me: Doing what?
[staff]: actually [tech mgr] was on leave today
and he has told me to do it today
me: Do what?
[staff]: mam he will talk to [managing director] and try to fill all requirements
he is saying
me: When? Why didn't he do it today?
One of the requests is over six weeks old.
[staff]: i am not getting any positive response from his end
we are help less till we get any support from tech. guys
u know it mam
i was coming in morning shifts as well to get the things done
but still we are having problems
let me call him again
me: is there anyway for you to set up new pages in DW in preparation for uploading?
[staff]: i can make pages
i think we are having static pages there
so its easy to do that
me: Great. Let's get the news section set up as a blog. If we can get something ready in WordPress, that would be great, but if we have to use Joomla, see if you can use the same CSS as the site and make the format and interface as similar as possible.
Set up a page for resources as well.
Can you get this done tonight?
At least the resources page...
[staff]: i will try
but how could i install wordpress widout having server acces
we need to install wordpress or joomla first there
me: Okay, but can we get the CSS out of the site? Put it all on the staging server. Prepare all the sections we need so that we can put it all together quickly once we have access?
me: The resources page won't need joomla or wordpress...
[staff]: hello mam
me: If we can have that ready, [tech support] can add it tomorrow.
me: I need to see it first before it goes to [tech support], though.
me: okay. So...
What can you get done tonight?
[staff]: i will do that using our staging server
me: Okay, great.
[staff]: will make a folder for resource and install wordpress there
me: I can see the work from here, yes?
[staff]: ys
me: Excellent. Can you email me when it is completed?
[staff]: ok
before leaving i will mail u
me: Great. Thanks.
[staff]: ok mam
i am going to download wordpress first
then will do rest of the things
me: Thank you, [staff].
[staff]: k

Reasons Project Will Fail Miserably:
1. No interaction with client - client never follows up. Without timely feedback from client, project milestones cannot be completed to client's satisfaction.
2. Due to shift differences, there is no face-to-face interaction between teams. Other teams do not respond to emailed requests.
3. Dependency on deliverables from other teams - if other teams do not meet milestones and there are no consequences for missing milestones or disregarding documented requests, there is no way to meet project targets for successful completion.

Suggestions for Working with Passive Aggressive Teams
1. Nail down EXACT dates and times for project milestones.
2. Have team stakeholders sign each date/time they've agreed to.
3. Get Executive/Client buy-in to project milestones.
4. Establish consequences for project delays. Make sure everyone understands the consequences.
5. Ping team leaders regularly for status updates. Make them accountable.
6. If working multiple shifts, meet regularly on all shift times so all involved staff are inconvenienced equally.
7. ENFORCE consequences and provide positive feedback for best performing staff.
8. Celebrate all major project milestones and report back to team stakeholders, executives and clients.

It's probably the toughest aspect of management (and relationships!) - dealing with passive aggressive people. Finding the "bait" that makes a passive aggressive person or team produce takes experimentation, but once you find it, either fear, coercion, bribes, kudos, whatever... you'll be much more successful in getting your projects accomplished.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Adventures in Apartment Rentals Part Deux

Today we met up with Sirendar, who had read my post on Yuni-Net requesting information on any fabulous apartments in Gurgaon. He had contacted me earlier in the week to let me know that the ground floor under his apartment was available.

Location is Sector 40. A little farther out than I'd expected, but with a car or scooter, fairly close to the malls and shopping. Much farther away from school. Very difficult to find if you don't know where you are going. It is located in Mohyal Colony across from a beautifully maintained park.

Apartment. Fully furnished, AC. Backup power. Satellite TV. Wireless internet connection. 3 bedroom, 2 bath, including a bathtub! Gas hookup in place, fridge, extremely high ceilings, cool... Furniture is all very indigenous Indian - dark, heavy, low and intricately carved. All this for 18,000/month with a security deposit of one month's rent (not a frickin 100,000 like I have now.) No agent to pay a month's rent to, either.

So, Will, Yu Yu and I looked at the place and seriously, there were few flaws to the place... mostly Will wanted to be closer to his friends (as usual), but that hasn't been the best thing so far here in Gurgaon. We'll need to be more organized about supplies since we can't just call and get something delivered, and we'll never be able to get pizza delivered again. We'll need to hang a mirror in Will's bath.

We could seriously party in this house. Host dinners... I could see us living there and making a life for ourselves... finally. We haven't seen anything else and the few others who contacted us initially never followed through. We made plans to meet up again the first week of April to sign a lease for May 1st. We'll try and post photos as soon as we can.

We'll be renting two apartments in May since we'll need to clean up and repaint the old place. This will give us time to move a few things at a time to the new place and we'll be able to do that even if we use bike rickshaws to transport us. I think that's really cool. :-)

We all breathed a sigh of relief today. It's the start of a new life, something we've all been waiting for and desperately needed. It's a sign that life is making a turn towards the better. :-)


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Monday, March 9, 2009

Adventures in Apartment Rentals

I gave my notice to the landlord I have at Princeton Estates. This building is an absolute disaster and my landlord is not much fun to deal with either.

Here's the gist. Samiksha, the HR professional at the office who made a lot of promises that were never kept, told me she would find me a very nice place to live if I took the job offer. She also promised me a car and driver, much better tax incentives that would significantly increase my take home pay, the ability to build my own team, etc., etc. None of which was true.

Akshay, actually, was the guy who arranged properties for me to look at. He's actually a great guy and I take his opinions seriously. Still do. He didn't like this apartment, but Samiksha did. There wasn't much to pick from, so I picked it.

Let me back up a little. In Kolkata, I dealt with Ravi Prasad, who tried to get 3 months rent as his brokerage fee (90K rupees). Then he tried to get more brokerage fees from the owner of the property, and threatened her sister when she refused. He had been hired by a guy at the office who was totally untrustworthy. I'm pretty sure they were working together on the deal. I have a lot more to say on this, but it's another post. Since then, I have no nice things to say about the apartment rental experience. I'm not looking forward to this at all.

I took the apartment, signed all the paperwork and THEN the landlord said that he didn't know that I had pets, even though I brought my dog with me to visit every space. He doubled my security deposit. I've been told not to expect to see my deposit again by Samiksha. This REALLY disturbs me. He has 1,00,000 rupees of my money and I'm not walking away without it. He's not getting my keys back and that's about all the recourse I have, since he lives in frickin Malaysia. I actually have no address for him because I had to give him post-dated checks to pay the rent. Getting things fixed, like leaking faucets and toilets, has been a nightmare - he thinks he's doing me a favor and I think I should be getting all the amenities in working order as part of the rental agreement. Funny thing is, he doesn't agree.

Okay, back to looking at properties. I need to move by the end of May. I posted a thread on Yuni-Net asking about properties in Gurgaon... Two areas I'm looking at are behind Sahara Mall and Iffco Chowk/DLF Phase II. I'm sick of paying exhorbitant prices for properties, so I'm stating that my rent budget is 7 - 15K/month. I saw one of my employees properties behind Sahara Mall and it's gorgeous. He's paying half what I pay for this sh**hole. I think I've gotten sophisticated enough now to understand that when I negotiate, I'm not even going to bother with landlords that a) are not local, b) ask for more than one month's deposit, c) require post-dated checks, and d) I'm buying my own damn furniture from now on.

I've gotten two calls already and will be looking at these properties on Saturday. I am really excited about this. Yu Yu is moving to Gurgaon, at least in the short term, while she's investigating funding options for her solar project in Burma, and that should be fun. I think this second year in Gurgaon will be MUCH better than the first. I'll continue posting on this project as things get updated.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

The May Report

While reading The May Report, an online business news source focused on Chicago, I found an interesting bit of information on where Obama placed his online media campaign dollars:

Top Recipients of Obama Campaign: Online Media Spending in 2008
Media Company = Estimated Amount Paid
Google = $7,500,000
Yahoo = $1,500,000
Centro = $1,300,000 = $947,000
Facebook = $643,000
Turner Broadcasting/ = $461,000
Microsoft = $405,000
AOL = $313,000
Interclick = $222,000
Pulse 360 = $222,000
Quigo = $195,000
Collective Media = $168,000
Politico = $151,000
Blogads = $149,000
Time = $147,000
BET Digital = $138,000
Pontiflex = $137,000
Washington Post = $125,000
Undertone Networks = $110,000
The Weather Channel = $108,000

Couple things are interesting about this list and I'd be interested in learning why some of the choices were made. I understand BET Digital, a niche targeting African-Americans, but why no Hispanic ad services, a group that many were concerned weren't going to vote for him? Quigo is a staid, conservative channel that includes Forbes, Fox News, and USA Today... what were they getting out of that? Was one of the other providers filling that niche? Why the Weather Channel? I would have liked to have seen what kind of performance each service got.

Another interesting piece of news served cold by Ron May, is that Centro (#3 on the list) is closing their doors and going out of business very soon. While I know they had an antiquated sales model involving ad men going "door-to-door" selling their service, but how can you run through 1.3 million in sales? I know margins have become razor thin and paying sales people a percentage is prohibitive, but seriously, they had to have had more than one client... This is pure Chicago, nothing risky, take existing business models and retrofit to fit new businesses... even if a new type of business requires a new type of business model. Go figure.

I miss Chicago, but not the deep freezing cold winters. I miss the deep bellowing voice of Ron as he walked into a room, and the collective shudder and search for the nearest exit by many attendees to functions in the Chicago area. I actually like Ron May and had many interesting conversations with him over the years I worked in Chicago. His email newsletter keeps me connected to the place and people of Chicago. :-)


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