Creating surveys using SkyDrive and MS Excel

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The only option we had for simple free quick surveys was Google docs – Forms. There is very competitive alternative we have , especially that combines the power of Microsoft Excel. In case you want to use very fluid and easy survey creation tool which develops a very presentable survey page – then use SkyDrive Excel Surveys
SkyDrive Excel Surveys has some great features,
  • You can create and share your survey with anyone quickly.
  • The survey page looks modern and professional.
  • The best part is – you can see the survey responses added to the workbook in real time
  • The data is added to Excel in the backend, so easy to analyze.
Also you can use the full power of Microsoft Excel on the desktop to analyze and chart your new data once it’s all there.
For More details you can refer Excel Blog on the SkyDrive Excel Survey.  One of the most awaited feature in Office Web Apps and I loved using quick surveys. If you are looking at how to embed these surveys into web pages refer Excel Mashup.

Winning in India Market

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Just read a great interview by Ravi Venkatesan ( Ex-Chairman of Microsoft India). I would say this was a very well articulated interview by him which explains why companies need to invest in India. Below is an excerpt from the interview which I loved reading it.
If you stick with India, there are four important things you can learn:
A lean cost structure: I.B.M. has more employees in India than anywhere else. Honeywell has 20,000 people here. John Deere a third of its engineers in Pune. That’s adding several hundred basis points to the bottom line for them.
Second, Indian products are good for other markets: While I was with Cummins, we made a small generator here for India. Now I can go to Home Depot and buy their generator set, made in Pune. As southern Europe gets poorer, consumer products tailored for India are selling there – smaller size sachets of shampoo, for example. The Spanish and Greeks can no longer afford to buy what they could buy before.
Number three, you’ll find excellent talent:  a lot of Unilever or Procter & Gamble’s African business executives are from India, for example.
And fourth: Having operations in India will fundamentally change most overseas companies. For instance, in 1996, I came here to a troubled joint venture that Cummins had with the Tatas. Instead, we turned it around and now, Cummins has 55 joint ventures worldwide, and almost all of them are making money.  In many ways, Cummins learned how to manage difficult joint ventures in India.
I am waiting for his book to be published later this year - Conquering the Chaos: Win in India, Win Everywhere. I hope it would be as interesting as his interview was.

Two months are already over in the new year

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It is two months already into the new year, and lot of things have happened. This post is just a diary update for the last two months.

It looked like as if I had just posted my 2012 review, What was planned earlier this year took a big turn and it is going in a different direction. Life is always a suspense thriller, with only difference that all of us know what is the end of the movie. Sadhguru often says this statement – “Right from our birth, every step we take is to the grave”. I am already sounding too philosophical in this post.

I visited Sabarimala, in January. This is the first time I went alone with a new group, the last time I visited when I was 12 years old with my father. So this experience was totally mind blowing. If you are dominated by emotions, probably devotion is the best way to attain bliss. The whole perspective of life suddenly changes in a pilgrimage, all your problems becomes small. Sometimes we get over consumed with our problems, but when I saw more than a million people in those 4 days of walk in the forest to temple, my problems / things I feel great - all looked so small. There were new set of friends I met there and definitely enjoyed the overall experience of walking barefoot in the hills for the two days and staying overnight in the forest without much comfort we are used to. The 50 days mandala vratham I went through prior to this journey got my health back to a decent shape.

Late January I wanted to start on my running and cycling plan. I was all set for the Auroville marathon in first week of Feb. But the week before in one of the cricket matches in our office , my knee gave up and caused a severe swelling. So post diagnosis, it’s a ACL tear, so I would be not running at least 6-7 months till I recover. Feb month was mostly behind any of the screens - either my new HTC 8x phone or my new Asus Ultra book – both were given in office. I am really enjoying the Windows 8 and Windows phone 8 beautiful interface.

Mid Feb, went for Inner Engineering program organized by Sadguru himself close to the place I live. Nothing more I can ask, it was definitely worth the 3 days of time I spent in the course. Sadguru has a wonderful way of engaging the audience and there were sessions continuously without any break for about 4-5 hours, and I never looked at the watch – fully engrossed by his mesmerizing speech.

Just finished a book – Power of Habit, this book is definitely worth the money. The primary framework Charles Duhigg uses in the book – Every Habit has a Cue – Routine – Reward loops. Once that is formed, we don’t think too much when such a cue happened, we follow the loops. By his compulsive story telling he would have explained these concepts for individuals, organizations & societies. He does cover on how we can change habits, in a simple framework in the end of the book.

Also recently I started writing restaurant reviews in Zomato ( for now its only Hyderabad). Check out the reviews if you have time.

2012 A Review

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Happy New Year 2013. Its been more than 5 years now since I landed in my first job and this blog as well have been there for last 6 years. A lot of things have changed in the last one year. In this post I will cover what had happened in the areas I diligently follow. Though there has been a lot of ups and also downs in the professional & personal side in the last one year. I will talk about what happened in the 5 areas I spend most of the time outside work – Technology, Behavioral Economics, Health & Fitness, Personal Finance & Tamil movies. This is more of a reflection on what I really learnt last year.
Technology : We have actually moved out of PCs and every company is out with a Tablet / Smart Phone in the Market. The most sold devices in the holiday season was tablets & smartphones. When I did a pulse check in my college new hire day with about 300 participants  - almost 60% of the folks had smartphone. These are folks who are just out of the engineering college. The penetration of Smartphones is just getting deeper. Though Android and iOS leads the market, I have been happy using my HTC Mozart running Windows Phone 7.5. I have got so used to reading in my phone – all my feeds I read through my phone mostly. I do a ton of reading in my phone which is a huge shift personally for me in the last one year. That is why I am even more excited and waiting for my HTC 8X ( yes windows phone 8 ) yet to arrive – this has a stunning a display and gorgeous form factor. I witnessed the most hyped Facebook IPO and the disastrous fall below IPO price, but it did talk a lot about the long term potential. I also got my iPod 4th gen refurbished this year and with my JBL docking speakers great companion to listen to my favorite podcasts on all these areas. Also installed Windows 8 in my home laptop and my mother had to have a bit of learning curve but she has got a hang of it now. Still the charms bar access with mouse is a struggle for people like mother. Touch devices don’t have this problem. With a struggle for initial one day I got used to the new Windows 8 OS now.  Some new learning this year in Excel – Power Pivot – Spent a bit of time to understand BI functionalities in Excel. But this was quite a learning. Being with Microsoft helps a lot to follow this area very closely and had been to Microsoft’s global sales conference in Atlanta in July of 2012 – I should say a life time experience to witness this. So a good progress and will continue the same for the next year.
Behavioral Economics : I did read a few books,  but if I do a YoY comparison there was big dip in my reading habits. So around May – I deactivated my Facebook account and I did see a surge in my reading time – I did read regularly the articles and blogs I followed and a couple of books. Dan’s new book on Dishonesty was wonderful pick for me this year. A must read if you enjoy a bit of phycology. I attended a Train the Trainer program on Insights and got certified as a trainer. This training is built on Carl Jung's phenomenal work on Psychological types. Similar to MBTI / now discover your strengths this training talks about our basic preferences and using that to improve interpersonal awareness. A wonderful learning of last year, I did connect a lot of chord between this and behavioral economics. Facilitated this training to about 400 folks in about 15+ training programs last year. This helped a ton in improving my facilitation skills as well. I am yet to catch up a lot in this area and I hope 2013 I will do some serious reading.
Health & Fitness : More than just reading this involves a lot of physical training here. There was a significant drop in my fitness level with big shift in my eating habits till late October. I should say the last 2 months of the year is where I got back to a better control and have been really improved and back to starting point of the year. last year I completed the Mumbai half Marathon for the first time ( of course with a pathetic timing of 2 hours and 40 minutes). Also participated in my first triathlon, though I completed this with decent timing of 1 hour 50 minutes ( includes 20K cycle, 5K run and 1K Swim) but injured my knee by falling out of cycle during the race. I am yet to fully recover. So an injury prone and not much of progress in my improvement in timing in any of the three areas – Swim , Run & Cycle. I have registered for Auroville Half Marathon in Feb 2013, and hope to improve my performance in the coming year and I would focus big in this year. In terms of reading definitely did some serious reading in this space and really yet to use that though
Personal Finance : Became more passionate in this area. A revelation video I just found out last week – a must see for anyone yet to start planning for his retirement. Most of my reading and research time of last year was in this area and definitely improved my acumen in this area tremendously. I did take action last year – finally signed up for the term insurance and serious look on my financial planning to reach true finance independence. I would rate a positive movement in this area in terms of improving knowledge and also taking actions for last one year.
Tamil Movies : In 2012, of the Tamil movies released ( check out the link) 95% of the movies I have already seen Some great movies in the last one year. This coincides a lot with the Movie crow best of 2012 list also. My top 10 Picks (in no order) of 2012 :  Vazhakku En 18 / 9, Naan E, Saatai, Sundara Pandian, Pizza, Thuppaki, Kaadhalil Sodhapuvathu eppadi, Kalalakapu, Aravaan, & Kumki.
Some movies I did not pick up but worth mention–  Madhubanakadai, Naduvula konjam pakkatha Kanom and Neerparavai were really worth the watch and made the December month release really enjoyable.  Naan – though a good debut movie by Vijay Antony I some how did not like the message in the end and I would not recommend this at all. If I have a confused list of movies : Naan, Saguni and Attakathi would figure in that.Nanban (Since I did see 3 idiots already, did not enjoy a lot.). English Vinglish – Beautifully shot and most enjoyable but just a dub of the Hindi version except for Ajit in one scene.  And worst movie of the year was Billa II. Not worth the money at all. I enjoyed watching as well as following reviews of all the Tamil movies and maybe I should also add my 2 liner (twitter friendly) reviews in the next year.
Regarding my blogging frequency – yes only a very few posts last year. That was a reflection of 2012 , a lot more happened as expected and lot more unexpected as well (yeah else it is not life) and I just learnt to handle both better and will continue to learn. There is no end to learning and I will enjoy learning new things in the coming year as well.