Wednesday, June 07, 2006

IBM's Big Day

6/6/06 was one of the biggest day in IBM India's history. The annual IBM Global Briefings meet (a meeting with Wall Street and other top analysts) was held for the first time outside US of A / Europe. All the hotshots of the Big Blue and other major investors were in Blore for this 2 day mega fanfare and which would turnout to be the biggest employee event ever in Asia.

The event was broadcast simultaneously in all IBM India locations and webcast to about 340,000 IBMers world wide. It goes without saying that this event had great business significance for India (Sam Palmisano announced to invest $6 bln in the next 3 years), I would pen down those small things which no newspaper or T.V channel would cover. :-)

How my day began
I had gone to Sinhagarh fort on Sunday. It was built by Shivaji. What a beautiful fort it is but I wonder why on earth did Shivaji choose the highest mountain in that area! We had trekked 10kms on foot because we had taken a wrong route. So Monday was marked with blues all over. All the muscles, even those I never knew existed, were paining badly. The IBM event was to start at 9 am Tuesday and I was in no mood to get up so early. I had almost decided to forget the event but my kachrawala and maid servant had some other plans. The kacharawala comes at 6 am and maid at 7. Everyday the same old story! Tuesday was no different.

I am never on time on a normal day when I am supposed to reach at 10:30 am, so, obviously, I was late for 9 am deadline as well. The Ganesh Kala Kreeda bhawan, where the satellite broadcast was scheduled is a good 12 kms away. I covered the distance in 15 min. I must have set a record of some sorts - risking maximum lives while driving or something to that effect.

Who all were there.
Big Blue's top boss Chairman and CEO - Mr. Samuel J Palmisano, MD, IBM India - Mr Shankar Annaswamy apart from other members of IBM senior management. The Chief Guest was Honourable President of India - Shri A.P.J Abdul Kalam. Other dignitaries were CM and Governor of Karnataka, Mr Sunil Bharati Mittal to name a few.

The Beginning
Dia Mirza! The gorgeous beauty was emceeing the show. Personally, I never liked her much in movies. She looks like a plastic doll at times. But here she was looking very very graceful and cute (a colleagues' remark :-) ) in a red saree. But what amazed me most was the elan with which she conducted herself and the show. She remembered all the facts and figures correct and spoke with conviction. She had clearly done her homework well. Great job Dia!

Men of Honour
Innovation has become a buzz word within IBM. A handpicked leaders from India Inc were honoured by Mr. President for innovation in their respective fields. Mr Sunil Bharati Mittal was one of them. Then Mr Raghuraman from IBM was also honoured for filing as many as 15 patents in US of A, 2 of which have been granted! Then the team, which had worked so hard to help the Tsunami victims in Andaman and Nicobar islands and Tamil Nadu, was also awarded.

The Funny Man. 
Politics can be a seriously funny business at times. It was Honourable CM of Karnataka to don the funny man's role this time. He had decided to grace the occasion wearing an ordinary white cotton shirt and chappals when the occasion demanded a little more formal attire. Maybe he is a man of simple living and high thinking, which I should respect (but am unable to). Maybe he too is not used to getting up so early. If that is the case, I don't really blame him. I can understand.

But one would expect him to know, atleast, what he is saying - sorry, reading. We could all guess very easily that Mr. Kumaraswamy did not shine with grades in recitation exams in his primary school days. Maybe one rehersal would have been a really good idea. He mispronounced Sam's surname as Palmino (Darn, it was Sam's mistake! Could'nt he find a better surname for his trip to India!). Excused him for this, it might have been a malaprop. But then came the mother(and father) of all malaprops. IBM has been the highest patent filer for the 13th consecutive year. Mr CM acknowledged this by saying "IBM has numerous parents, errr patents filed..". And we in Pune were ROTFL. Man how did the Blore crowd control themselves. Finally when the laughter subsided, we heard him saying something about Infosys. Did he get the wrong speech? Was there a mess up? We dont know. But it was'nt possible to control the laughter any further. And the last we heard him say was "Jai Hind, Jai Karnataka!"

This was followed by a well read speech by Mr Governor. Nothing worth mentioning about his rendezvous with the mike.

The "Rocket" Man.
I don't have words to describe what pleasure it is to hear Mr. President. He talked about IBM, Watson Sr, Vikram Sarabhai, technology, future computing, creativity, leadership etc.etc. He is a big dreamer and achiever! It shows in his presentations and examples. He surely has learned the most essential lessons of life well - being humble is one of them. You dont feel like you are hearing a President speaking. He is a teacher and will always be that - whatever his portfolio be. And he is no short of humor as well. Like in the beginning he said that he will try his best to give a decent speech even if we all were more eager to hear Dia Mirza. Or how he took "three" last questions one after the other in the Q&A section. :-)

Wish there were some people like him in active politics as well.

Other speakers.
Mr Sunil Mittal spoke about the successful model of Airtel and his vision of Airtel to be the No 1 brand in India by 2010. Quite an achievable task considering the persona of Mr Mittal.

Then it was Mr. Palmisano's turn. Most of his talk centered on how well IBM India has been doing and how important India is for IBM's growth. Heard him for the first time after which it was time to sign off from Blore.

The traditional gaana and khana
All such events are supposed to be complimented by naach gana and khana is the unwritten rule in IBM. This time we had Kailash Kher performing live in Pune. It was the magic of his voice which made IBMers dance at 11 am. He sang all the hit nos- albela, teri diwani, mangal, toota toota ek parinda to name a few.

This was followed by a grand buffet. I hate luncheons so would not go on describing what all was there. I had daal bhaat after which I rushed back to office. Have about 5 tickets to work on, upload code to CM Synergy etc. Dont get confused. It hardly makes sense to me too.

Clearly one of the finest day in my 1.5 yrs with IBM. Hope to see some more such events soon.