Mazloom father’s mazloom daughter


Syed Zafar Mehdi

Whenever talk veers to Karbala, we are reminded of the tales of unflinching loyalty, unrivaled steadfastness and the exalted sacrifices. We are reminded of the sweltering heat, blazing desert and the intense thirst. We are reminded of the shifting sand dunes smeared with blood. We are reminded of the helpless father carrying his infant son to the battlefield. We are reminded of the brave young warrior crashing on the ground. We are reminded of the 13 year old orphan, whose small frame was reduced to pieces. We are reminded of the prostrate figure lying lifeless on the banks of Euphrates. We are reminded of two tender souls fighting like veteran combatants. We are reminded of the grief-stricken lady who saw her kith and kin being mowed down in cold blood. We are reminded of the ailing man wedged in heavy iron chains. We are reminded of a little girl clutching onto her dry water bag, crying and wailing inconsolably.

Bibi Sakeena(sa) was barely four year old when the caravan set out for Karbala from Madinah. She was the heartthrob of family. Imam Hussain(as) was often heard saying, “A house without Sakeena (sa) would not be worth living in”. The beloved daughter of Imam e Mazloom(as) witnessed the gory events at Karbala unfold before her eyes. She is one of the eyewitness reporters of Karbala and its aftermath. Let us listen to one piece of the story from her:

“I was in my tent when the enemies attacked it. They were so cruelly looking for whatever they could plunder, until one of them noticed the necklace that I was wearing. He attacked me, trying to grab it from my neck. I was escaping from him until he pulled off my scarf. I fell down unconscious and all I remember was that I awoke in the bosom of my aunt (Zainab).”

The tender soul watched in absolute horror as every male member of her family left for battlefield, never to come back. She watched in utter helplessness and dismay as Yazid’s large battalion of hoodlums pillaged the tents and ripped the earrings out of her ears. Her ears bled profusely and tears yelled from her eyes. She was not used to sleeping alone, but now there was no one left to tell her fairy tales and put her to sleep. She wandered around in the darkness of night to look for her father. Husain was lying lifeless in the pools of blood. Sakeena managed to find him, she hugged him tightly and slept. Zainab was worried for her brother’s beloved daughter. She came out to look for Sakeena, and found her asleep over the corpse of her father.

Bibi Sakeena (sa) shared a close bond with her uncle (Ammu) – Alamdar e Karbala Jenab Abbas (as). Abbas could not see the tears in Sakeena’s eyes. He could not see her in pain. But, Abbas was no more, and now, Sakeena’s feeble shoulders had to bear the brunt of heavy metal chains. She had sent her uncle to Euphrates to fetch some water for the inconsolable and thirsty children in tents. Abbas could not keep his promise, for the first and last time. Sakeena cried loudly. Her shrieks were deafening. She did not crave for water. She just wanted her uncle back.

Bibi Sakeena(sa) suffered from terrible fatigue and thirst on the forced march to Damascus, and later from cold and starvation in Yazid’s dark dungeon. She cried silently and inconsolably. But, the suffering and thirst of other children in caravan made her forget her own misery. She consoled her mother when the corpse of Ali Asghar(as) – her 6-month old brother – was brought back to tent, even as she struggled to hold back her own tears. On seeing any lady or child weeping, she would innocently put her little arms around them and pacify them.

Bibi Sakeena(sa) forgot to smile after Karbala. Kufa saw her as a little girl lost in thoughts. Quite often she would sit up at night and stare curiously at dark sky. “I just heard a baby cry? Is that Asghar? He must be calling out for me!,” she would often say and break into tears. But, she knew her weeping and wailing would upset her mother, so she would cry silently and quickly wipe away her tears. In the Damascus prison, she would stare at the flock of birds flying to their nests at sunset and innocently ask Bibi Zainab(s.a.), “Will Sakeena ever be going home like those free birds flying to their nests?”

Bibi, your tale of helplessness, patience and chivalry will continue to inspire us forever. May Allah bless everyone with a daughter like you. Aameen!

Ala La’anatul Laahi Alal Qoum e Zaalimeen!!!


Social media revolution


 By: Syed Zafar Mehdi

Earlier, companies used to advertise jobs in the newspapers, magazines, job boards or through word of mouth. Those traditional methods continue to exist, however with the advent of powerful social media tools, companies are increasingly adopting innovative social media strategies to survive in this highly competitive business environment. When Ford ran its 2011 Explorer launch on Facebook, it created flutter in the business circles, as it was the first time a major car company was opting for web unveiling. However, the gamble turned out to be extremely effective, prompting business leaders around the globe to stand up and take notice of the power and reach of social media. Howard Schlutz, CEO – Starbucks made pertinent remarks about the role of social media in an interview with Harvard Business Review. “Whether you are creating a brand, building one, or running a big one, you’d better understand social media, because there is a seismic shift in how people are gaining access to information and, as a result, how they are behaving,” he said.Social-media-for-public-relations1reduzido

The explosion of social media has been incredible. A paper Social Networks and their Impact on Records and Information Management by Arma International Educational Foundation states that social networks started as a means for people to have a social connection with other people with similar interests. “They were once considered a tool for youthful revolution, but over the course of the last seven years, social networks have been used both for social purposes as well as for conducting business by a variety of organisations and industries. Examples of industry sectors using social networks include private companies, non-profits, political organisations, government and education.”

It is a widely recognised fact that the future of recruiting is social, so both job providers and job seekers need to get social as well. In this globalised world, with great inter-connectivity, it has become critical to incorporate social media elements in HR function for myriad reasons. The interactive nature of social media allows HR professionals to reach out to prospective candidates and tap information about their background, experience and expectations. It helps in marketing and brand management and increases the opportunities for enterprises to understand the consumers and build instant connection with them. Wipro Limited conducted a seminal study Social Media: Impact and Relevance in Managing Human Resources in India to understand the impact and relevance of social media in Human Resources in year 2011–2012. “Majority of the organizations use social media in human resources. However, they also agree that it has not been tapped to the maximum. It is used disparately and inconsistently, however, organisations are confident that they will be using social media better in the future to be ahead of the competition,” said the report. It said the leadership in majority of the organisations has shown keen interest in usage of social media in the areas of internal branding, collaboration, communication, and hiring.

Two-thirds of the 21,000 companies who participated in a recent survey by Harvard Business Review Analytical Services said they are either currently using social media channels or have social media plans in the future. But many still say that it is an experiment, as they try to understand how to best use the different channels, gauge their effectiveness and integrate social media into their strategy. “While still searching for best practices and measurements, two-thirds of the companies surveyed are convinced their use of social media will grow, and many anticipate investing more in it next year, even as spending in traditional media declines,” says the report, The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action.

Generally, HR professionals are known to be late-adopters, but the world of possibilities thrown up by social media has led many HR professionals to it. However, HR is not the only function that is embracing social media, even marketing, operations and other functions in big companies are increasingly taking to it. Social media experts believe that it is high time for businesses to accept and recognise that social media is a positive tool they can use to their advantage, irrespective of whether or not the job deals with social media or the internet. According to a recent research report Social media and HR: how to stay ahead of curve by Sage by (UK) Limited, HR is lagging slightly behind other business functions such as sales and marketing in using social media to their advantage, however its value has started to be recognized. “It has a potentially game-changing role to play in recruitment and a significant role in creating a positive employer brand. It can also drive greater collaboration within organisations, and can help HR professionals to share best practices and learn from the experiences of their counterparts in other organisations,” reveals the report.

As the practice of social media picks up in HR function, there is still a disparity in different countries, as found out in a report Social Media and Resourcing: the impact of Social Media on Recruitment and HR in Asia Pacific by Australia-based Alexander Mann Solution and The Chapman Consulting Group. None of the Australian respondents say they used social media to vet or reject job applicants, while in Singapore, 17 per cent confess to have rejected a candidate based on information available on social media site and 29 per cent of recruiters in Hong Kong reveal they actively vet candidates online.

In big companies, social media plays important part in centralising the data sharing, by enabling employees at various locations to share information instantly. It also plays a crucial role in supporting and cultivating the corporate culture within an organisation by creatively engaging the employees to ensure higher productivity at work. Incorporating the engagement aspect in the social media strategy is important to create a corporate culture. In future, as the role and importance of social media becomes more defined in the business world, it is likely to extend to other aspects of business.Get-Hired-Fast-Social-Media-Job-Search-finger

According to Wikipedia, there are more than 200 active social networking sites, most prominent being LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and MySpace, besides Yahoo Groups, Google groups etc. Social networking has emerged as the preferred online activity of web users in India. According to a recent report by comScore – a global leader in measuring the digital world and preferred source of digital business analytics – social networking accounts for 25.2 per cent of the total time spent online in the month of June 2012, marking an increase of 0.8 per cent from the previous year.

Social media has emerged as a powerful way to recruit fresh talent, generate publicity, keep the workforce in good humour, and to ensure greater productivity and growth. However, it is important for HR professionals to understand which social media strategies or tools will work to their advantage. Bruce Tulgan in his book Finding roles for social-media tools in HR suggests nine ways in which HR can connect with the business using new social media tools such as podcasts, wikis and blogs. Ray Ponter in his book The Handbook of Online Social Media Research: Tools and Techniques enlists some important social media tools for the public sector, which includes online communities, online research communities, twitter, social networks like Facebook, blogs and public discussion forums, virtual worlds etc.

The tools are aplenty. HR professionals may use Twitter to stay updated with industry events and happenings. They may do blogging to spell out their business methodologies and practices. More popular platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn can help them engage with employees, both new and old. Staying in touch with the alumni network – an art perfected by many prominent consulting firms – can pay back when they recommened new hires. The effective use of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in recruiting people can eliminate the cost involved in hiring head-hunters, or paying consultancies or job sites.

The role of CEOs and top leadership is also critical. There is a growing trend of young CEOs upstaging older ones in many companies, and that means the disparity in terms of social media is also diminishing. Business leaders in the present scenario need to have firm grip over the intricacies of social media and its application to various aspects of business, be it recruiting, scouting, engaging, or brand building. A study by Wipro revealed that 63% of the CEOs’ use social media in their respective industries, though this is not indicative of the extent of usage and effectiveness. “Majority of the CEOs’ are in agreement with the fact that social media is relevant and the usage should be emphasized upon to gain maximum of it,” said the report.

As Arthur L Jue, Jackie Alcalde Marr, and Mary Ellen Kassotakis write in their book Social Media at Work: Networking Tools Propel Organisational Performance, “the social media wildfire rages on, fed by high winds of at least three converging forces: the nature of the business environment, changing workforce demographics, and rapid advancements in software technology that enable social connection.”


“PPP model can bring wonderful results in higher education”

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Mr. Ashok Mittal (Chancellor, Lovely Professional University) says involving private players means injecting the system with accountability, which naturally leads to higher efficiency in operations.

Q. There is a general perception that involving the private sector in higher education can improve performance through competition, accountability and autonomy. Do you agree?
Yes, we completely agree with the notion. The simple reason being the involvement of personal stake of one party in the shape of monetary investment, corporate credibility and a natural tendency to deliver in conformance with the organizational culture.

Involving private players means injecting the system with accountability, which naturally leads to higher efficiency in operations. Moreover, private players are more prone to take initiatives and infuse fresher and newer ideas; which is the need of the day to save the current higher education system to slip into complacency and obsolescence.

The rise of LPU in five years’ time to become the largest University in India, in terms of on campus students is a glaring example as to how private players can win faith of students on grounds of competition, accountability and autonomy.

Q. PPP model has the potential to transform the education landscape in India. How should it be implemented for maximum output?
Firstly, this has to be understood that at present the most urgent need confronting the Indian higher education sector is that of ploughing massive investment in augmenting its material and academic infrastructure. Without involving private partnership in the field; it is substantially tough to bring out a perceptible change in the existing set up.

Moreover, letting private players joining the bandwagon means opening the possibilities of seamless initiatives that will have a multiplicative effect in buttressing the quality of education through pioneering steps, which hitherto have remained conspicuous by their absence, in the case of public sector institutions.

So, what we are proposing is that there should be pooling of resources and ideas by both the parties in the PPP model of working; with considerable level of flexibility vis-à-vis operational and decision making aspects of administrating the institution; with assurance of delivery of quality output by both the partners, on their end.

Q. Many foundations like Vedanta Foundation, AzimPremji Foundation supported and funded by big corporate groups have taken a lead in PPP models of education. Do you think more corporate houses are likely to follow the suit now?
Yes, we are optimistic about the possibility of more corporate houses taking lead in PPP model of education. The reason being that in the last decade the corporate culture of the country has matured by appreciable degree, and the big corporate are more aware of the social responsibilities; than ever before.

Moreover, with the booming of economy the India Inc has deeper pockets than ever before, coupled with a desire to contribute to the social development of the country. With an array of corporate heads, with a philanthropic bent of mind; we can expect more of such examples where the companies have shown a vigorous interest in taking lead in PPP model of education.

Even LPU, which is the educational flagship of Lovely Group, is an example where corporate groups have ventured into educational domain.

Q. What are some of the major issues plaguing the public education in India and what practical solutions has private sector to offer?
The first and the foremost is the stagnancy with respect to trying anything new. Secondly, but very importantly, is the paucity of funds, which are required to meet the challenges that the requisite level of higher education demands. Thirdly, limited accountability with respect to the outcome of the inputs, which unconsciously leads to mediocrity in terms of gains, aspired from the operational undertakings. Last but not the least is the relative lack of uniform spread of quality faculty; which I feel applies to private players as well.

But the private players have the autonomy to get it arranged from abroad as well; as has been the case with LPU, where we have recruited faculty members from across the globe. For example: Our current Vice Chancellor, Dr. Rameshwar Kanwar spent 35 years of his stint at Iowa State University, USA before joining LPU.

As I have said earlier, the inclusion of private sector through the PPP route will usher in inventiveness; bring in much needed funds and hefty dose of professionalism in proficient endeavours. The PPP model has brought wonderful results in other sectors, and there is no reason why one should be apprehensive of its success in higher education also.

Q. There are concerns about the quality of education in private universities that have mushroomed across the country. What is your take?
To some extent, the notion may be accepted as true but at the same time, this cannot be generalized. There are exceptions, where private players in higher education are doing enviably well; and setting benchmarks to many counts, for others to follow.

For example, at LPU we have tried to provide good infrastructure coupled with enhanced pedagogy tools. We have also tried to be inventive, when it comes to designing curriculum; and this is having a demonstrating and percolating effect on to other players of the region. But there is no escaping from the fact that in last 3-4 years, many private players have mushroomed and who may not have the required infrastructure.

(First published in The Sunday Indian, The Human Factor and 4Ps)