Grants talk:APG/Proposals/2013-2014 round1/Wikimedia India/Staff proposal assessment

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WMIN Feedback[edit]

There are quite a few issues with this assessment. First of all, the current WMF staff responsible for the assessment and their immediate predecessor have not been able to fully grasp or understand the ground realities of volunteer-related activities in India over the years. This was largely evident in their decision to unilaterally impose the ill-conceived and supposedly innovation-oriented India Education Program that resulted in a large amount of disruption for Indian and international volunteer groups active on the project. The Indian community of volunteers is still reeling from the after-effects of the disruption and the net negative impact that a handful of external consultants wrecked on the quietly growing community in the country. The chapter, led and encouraged by the wide support of our community, has made a lot of progress and has demonstrated capacity as well as produced tangible results from our work on the ground even with the severe limitations of budget, as well as lack of professional staff since our inception, until very recently when we hired a part-time executive manager to support us with the administerial and program-oriented tasks.

To give you an example, at Vodafone, which is a major telecom company with operations around the world, in internal conferences the Indian CEO is given time the equivalent to the whole of Europe as the Indian CEO needs to report on 23 diverse ‘circles’ within India where Vodafone has a license to operate. There are 42 indic language Wikipedia’s in India inclusive of incubators in addition to a large English language community and we need to cater to the hopes of all these people.

Details of assessment flaws:

  1. "Proposed amount is too high for context, with an overly ambitious plan"
    • We have come up with a plan based on community input and after serious consideration of what our capabilities are. We feel that this is an unfair statement given the amounts granted directly and indirectly to India Programs/A2K without any community input.
  1. "Focus on conferences and other events may not yield high impact"
    • We need to continue focus on strengthening foundations and increasing visibility/ improving volunteer pool and we have found events as an extremely good way to do this. Please see first example of past program here for details.
  1. "Too large a portion of the budget for operational costs"
    • Less than 1/3rd the budget (minus one time expenditure counted separately) is the proposed operational cost. We understand that this is an acceptable amount by international NGO standards.
  1. "Governance and leadership challenges could impact decision-making and execution of plan"
    • We have had a stable leadership over time though there have been some instances of burnout. This is one reason why we seek more full time staff and intend to handover considerable responsibilities and duties along with powers to execute to staff whilst leaving an overall governance role for honorary board members.
  1. "The lack of public coordination and cooperation with a well-established organization like Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), which supported the chapter in its start-up phase, is surprising. WMIN’s plan does not address potential complementary work with CIS, which may be important given the complexity and scale of India."
    • The reason is explained here. We had several partners at our conference a couple of years ago. In recent months we have been coordinating with well established organisations such as UNESCO, Google, Open University UK etc. Within the Wikimedia universe too we have been coordinating with other entities such as Wikimedia UK. We have also become affiliates of Creative Commons, along with CIS and Acharya Narendra Dev College - the launch event hosted earlier this week was x5 times of any previous CIS event in Delhi. This was only possible due to coordination and cooperation between all three organisations and we will continue to work with other entities wherever our interests are the same. However we cannot allow the community or ourselves to be sidelined nor can we accept WMF staff imposing their will as per their convenience on us.
  1. The said report also has a possibility of COI as explained here.
  1. "In the past two years WMIN received about US$ 44,840 in WMF grants; this includes a 2013 grant of US$28,166."
    • This is an incorrect calculation. The correct calculation would be US $15,000 ([1]), US $ 40,000 ([2]), US $ 4981 ([3]) and US $ 24859 ( current - [4]). This would total to aprox US $84840 or nearly double of the staff calculation.
Hi there: I'd like to clarify why we did not include the conference grant. It was not included because it was considered a grant to the communities in Mumbai and Pune organizing the conference (including the chapter) and not a grant to the chapter. Cheers, KLove (WMF) (talk) 19:33, 15 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I have an email from WMF staff stating that the conference grant is counted as a WMIN grant for FDC purpose, so there seems to be confusion within WMF staff. I was Chair of the organising committee of the said event and I can confirm we got the grant as a chapter grant, both myself and my colleague who proposed it did so as chapter members. You will find WMIN mentioned as proposer and the grant filed under WMIN on meta. AroundTheGlobe (talk) 08:32, 16 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Dear AroundTheGlobe, yes, you are right in saying that WMF staff agreed to consider the WCI grant as "shared by WMIN" in order to support WMIN in becoming eligible for round 2 of the FDC last year, as that was originally when WMIN wanted to apply for the FDC.
However, do please note the full text of the approval: "Yes, we agree to consider the WCI, though a community undertaking and not a chapter initiative, a grant shared by WMIN, so that WMIN could become eligible for round 2 of the FDC this year." We have amended the staff assessment to include a reference to this grant. KLove (WMF) (talk) 00:55, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Well that would still be incorrect, it was a chapter undertaking based on community request, managed by the chapter and local community. I can confirm that as recipient. AroundTheGlobe (talk) 06:25, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
So it seems WMF staff are upto their usual tricks. There was a post-facto move long after the grant was completed, report submitted and accepted. See the history page and you will find the name was changed from "Grants:WM IN/WikiConference India 2011" to personal names on 1 February 2013 by WMF staff without our knowledge. This is inappropriate and unacceptable. Please also keep in mind, unlike other entities in India chapter is a community driven organisation, you cannot separate the two. AroundTheGlobe (talk) 08:24, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I take strong objection to renaming of the page for the WikiConference India 2011 grant. I was the point person for the process of the grant and was not informed of the change via any means - email, talk page or otherwise. It was for applying for this grant that I had to become a member of the chapter as well as sign a code of conduct with the Chapter. I operated the Chapter bank account as Treasurer of the Conference along with the President and two members of the Executive Committee of the WMIN Chapter. It was only after this that we wrote the grant request and we used the template provided for getting the grant as chapter and not as an individual. I think this made our intention behind applying the grant as a member of WMIN very clear. The renaming of the page not only seems to change the nature of the grant but also an important public record of an event in the past. Prad2609 (talk) 15:20, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  1. "For a chapter that is moving from an all-volunteer structure to some full-time staffing, this is too ambitious in scope and scale at this point in time."
    • We currently have one part time staffer, so we do not have an "all volunteer structure". The reason for hiring someone like Sowmyan was to help him settle down into the position and then start building a team. This is the next step in the plan set out more than a year ago, it has been well planned.
  1. "These events are high in cost and labor-intensive, and require high levels of volunteer energy and commitment, and do not have proven outcomes or impact on Wikimedia projects."
    • Each of the events taps into a different volunteer pool and would be supported by staff. For impact, refer to our proposal where we detailed impact of our previous national conference.
  1. "The chapter has acknowledged the risk of board and volunteer burnout, but the scope of this plan seems to increase the risks of such burnout."
    • On the contrary with additional staff, things should be much easier. Through this proposal we see staff playing a major day-to-day role in India.
  1. "For example, the EC discouraged a group of MediaWiki developers from becoming a Wikimedia User Group (as the group originally intended) at the global movement level. While the EC then suggested the group become a SIG, this has not happened so far"
    • This was nothing but an attempt by an indirect staffer to undermine the chapter - the ED of CIS personally apologised to us for the role played by the A2K staffer ([5]) who encouraged this. Our view was simple, we have SIG structure in place and we wanted the said volunteers to tell us what additional benefit they would have by going for a Mediawiki group over this structure which they were unable to do. Furthermore, we continued to encourage them to form a SIG, which they agreed to in a meeting with us but never followed up despite several reminders. Setting up two competing organizations can lead to ill-will and personal enmity between the functionaries. WMIN, a volunteer-driven organization, has always assumed good faith with anyone who has shown commitment towards the community, however the incidences of unnecessary disruptions by some paid employees of India Programs and later CIS-A2K created an unprecedented atmosphere for politicking and bickering, while at the same time there were no tangible results produced for the community by the heavily funded programs of India Programs.
Maybe the link you are posting is wrong? In the page you link there is only a blog post with the description of how the discussion about creating a MediaWiki User Group started and what the opportunities of having such a group would be. -- CristianCantoro (talk) 14:42, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Initially it was claimed on the mailing list that this was a community request and that they had nothing to do with it but the blog says something else - the writer is an A2K staffer who claimed to have proposed the formation of the Mediawiki group in the blog linked and was told that another WMF staffer had already proposed that prior to her. Whilst it was portrayed as something that came from the community that was clearly not true, atleast 2 staffers were involved in proposing that the community apply for a usergroup to the extent of 'helping' with the actual proposal. This is the type of staff interference in India that we do not like. At our meeting in February 2013 (WMIN Board and CIS), the ED of CIS personally apologised for the role played by this staffer. AroundTheGlobe (talk) 15:11, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Here is the link where the WMF staffer claimed "..Then Harsh, Yuvi and also Sucheta showed up proposing a MediaWiki Group India..", whereas the blog claimed it was WMF staff who proposed this. AroundTheGlobe (talk) 06:51, 19 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

  1. "The chapter has applied for funds after activities have been completed, without budgeting for these activities in advance. WMIN has also reallocated underspent project funds without it being approved in the grants, including in its hire of the executive manager; reallocation approval was sought only after the proactive urging of the Grants staff."
    • We have never reallocated underspent funds prior to approval - the said payment to the Executive Manager was made only *after* WMF approval, our bank statements are proof of this. The reallocation proposal was made within the required timeline as per the grants agreement so I find the words "reallocation approval was sought only after the proactive urging of the Grants staff" inappropriate and out of place. Furthermore, the employee was made aware that there would be a delay in salary payment at the time of appointment which he was agreeable to and worst case, we could have used our reserves had WMF denied funding. Yes, we have applied for grants retrospectively as we were comfortable with handling one grant request at a time. There are issues of voluntary time and regulatory issues that have delayed our grants considerably. This is one of the major reasons for applying for FDC, to make funding simpler, hire full time staff and concentrate on programs!
Please may you clarify if you hired the new EC before seeking the approval for the reallocation of funds or not? I think that the staff assessment is referring to the hiring, not the payment of the salary ... -- CristianCantoro (talk) 14:50, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I do not think we need permission from WMF to hire an employee, yes we did hire him without involving WMF and were later told that there was some confusion and that we would need permission before paying any salary from grant funds. That permission was sought and given in due course. As I said, we could have used our reserves had WMF refused, so it wasn't a situation where we hired someone without the ability to pay. AroundTheGlobe (talk) 15:11, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  1. "The governance challenges of the EC have implications for its own internal decision-making as well as its relationship with the community, which has been seeking transparency and openness. This may have impact on the overall execution of the plan."
    • We have been most transparent and open, there was community input before and after this proposal was made. This is an extremely mischievous statement. The transparency and openness sought relates to A2K which WMF staff have refused to make transparent or open. See "WMF and CIS agreement" thread on the mailing list ([6]). The WMF staff did not similarly reflect on the unilateral decisions it made since installing a team of highly-paid external consultants who hired even more external consultants while making no attempt at transparency or accountability and at the end of two years the program was scrapped. At the time of Barry's departure, there was another announcement of a grant awarded to a third organization without ANY consultation or discussion with the community or the chapter by an outgoing Chief Global Development Officer.
  1. "Serious concerns about leadership and governance include poor management of past grants, poor budgeting, ineffectiveness at working with other groups and their current response to governance and CoI concerns."
    • We have always provided reports on time for our grants which have been accepted by WMF, so where does "poor management of past grants" come from? Please ask WMF staff to point to one grant report on meta where the WMF staff has commented on our “poor management”.
    • "ineffectiveness at working with other groups" as explained above, we have proved ourselves contrary to this statement.
    • "current response to governance and CoI concerns" We answered the concerns and provided two concrete steps to mitigate this issue as per the email linked. We spoke to people inside and outside the movement who regularly deal with COI issues and found our response satisfactory.
    • "The plan is far too expensive given the costs of operating in India, the budget overemphasizes events and operational costs, budgeting for programs is not realistic." WMF has not disclosed the salary of its former India Director but it is rumoured to be US $100k+ or several times the proposed salary of our Executive Manager. Even the head of A2K is paid more than double of what we have proposed for our Executive Manager. One of their program officers is paid more than what we have proposed for the Executive Manager. Clearly these are double standards by WMF staff. Our Executive Manager has 40+ years of experience and has managed a team of 60+ employees, it is reasonable compensation for such a person.
  1. "Very poor record of budgetary management and compliance with respect to past grants."
    • Once again, everything has been on time, as per agreements signed and have been *accepted* by WMF, so where does this come from?
  1. "Poor track record with reporting regularly; uneven collaboration with other groups in their region (no mention of CIS in this proposal); weak in discussing challenges."
    • Reports have been made within deadlines and we work with several other organisations as explained above. Our focus is now on professionalisation, however we reject these accusations which seem post-facto. They weren't made earlier.

We do hope that the FDC committee will consider the above when they see the staff assessment of our proposal. This proposal is extremely vital for the future of WMIN and the hopes and aspirations of a chapter in a country of a billion people now rest on your positive response. AroundTheGlobe (talk) 14:30, 15 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Thank you for your detailed response to the Staff Assessment. I'll take your points in consideration during the deliberations on your proposal. Sydney Poore/FloNight (talk) 18:16, 15 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I'd also like to add to this thanks: Thank you to our colleagues at WMIN for their detailed response to the FDC staff assessment. KLove (WMF) (talk) 19:33, 15 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Comments from the Executive Manager[edit]

I find many remarks in the staff assessment very unfair. I have given my responses below:

  1. 1 A If any rationale is unclear, we would like to hear questions about them.
  2. 1 B Staff Comment: Significant investments in event expenditure is unlikely to impact global targets;
    1. We have not had a national conference since Nov 2011. We have had regional conferences related to language groups. We would like to host regional conferences that cover multiple regions or project related subjects. WMF has held international events, and I find Wikimedians coming back after attending these are significantly energised by the people they met, ideas they got, or motivation they received. If events in general are not expected to be effective, we should learn from them. Can we see an analysis report to this effect based on WMF organized conferences? I do not think there is any data to single out and say the specific programs proposed are unlikely to be effective.
  3. 1 C Appropriateness of Funding proposed to the context: Staff Comment: Amount proposed is too large to the context;
    1. An understanding of our context should bring out a balanced perception. We are entering our third year of operation. This is our first FDC. Our GAC grants in the past have been small. A relatively low past grants makes the new one look rather large.
    2. GAC does not provide for overheads and staff. FDC does. This is the first time we are applying for FDC. So our proposal contains one time costs, capital investment for training infrastructure by way of equipment and furniture, one time advance for the rented premises, and staff salaries. These are available only under FDC. They are bound to make the first year application to be a major jump. So these contexts explain why our growth looks apparently large.
  4. 2 D Ability to execute. Does the entity have volunteers, staff, and non staff to execute? Comment: There is an active and committed community, but staff and board do not have the capacity to execute.
    1. Which program do you think we can not execute? The reason should be shown as either lack of head count or skills for the execution. Notwithstanding the introduction of two additional staff, the community still has the same large number of "active and committed" Wikimedians whose presence has been acknowledged. Two of the Board members have organized WCI 11. We proposed video based initial training. I have experienced video production and webcasting. We proposed 'train the trainer' program. One of our Board members is actively supporting CIS in a similar program. We have many other seasoned trainers for the 'train the trainer' program. We proposed relations building with institutions. In the last week, we have reached a preliminary understanding with a Government department for a major pilot. We are already working on gaining access to national archival repositories. I have 40 plus years of corporate experience, though the small scale of operation at WMIN in the last 1 year does not showcase the scale of operations I can manage. New positions are yet to be filled pending the approval of this proposal, and we will have skills and experiences as appropriate. We have access to non-staff external agencies in India. How does this sum up to lack of capacity?
  5. 3 G efficient use of funds. Are funds requested reasonable given the proposed initiatives? Staff Comment: Plan is far too expensive given the costs of operating in India. Budget over emphasizes events and operational costs. Budgeting for programs is not realistic.
    1. This is the most uncharitable comment. The question was based on proposed initiatives. So if you think the emphasis (I guess implied by a certain proportion of cost) on events and operations was present, it does not make the basis for the estimation high. The comment 'the plan is expensive given the costs of operating in India' suggests the basic data with which this has been built up is highly inflated and it should be possible to get the same job done at far lower costs. I am here in India, and have spent time collecting market data to build this proposal with reasonable figures after checking with multiple sources. Please make specific references on where you find the costs to be too expensive given the costs of operating in India. I guess you can find an office space in a village 50 kms away from the city or some cheap low quality furniture for a bargain. The standards we have looked at are middle class, certainly not affluent by the standards of Indian Software companies, and we certainly do not want to create a poor impression.
  6. 3 H Does the entity have a record of using funds efficiently and staying within budget? Staff Comment: Very poor record of budgetary management and compliance with respect to past grants.
    1. There were 2 incidents with our first program grant period -executed a year ago - that seem to be influencing the comment. We are now in our third program grant. We did some cross category spending, because one expenditure went up due to unforeseen circumstances. When one management team changed to another, we had a 'handing over - taking over' session, where both teams had to be present. Given the old team was predominantly Bangalore based, and the new team was predominantly Mumbai based, additional travel that was not projected became a requirement. The second incident was my recruitment. I was paid one salary from the local funds. When we were briefed that GAC does not support staff salary, my engagement terms were changed. Had there been no agreement to treat me as a consultant and paid from GAC, I may have been paid from local funds, or asked to discontinue. As a senior citizen I was aware of the risks. The reason for this decision initiative may be because (i) the first program grant for the period 1 Apr 2012 to 31 Dec 2012, did not pose any specific conditions about variations in category wise spending. The clause 6.3 of our grant agreement said, "Neither Party shall have the power to direct or control the day-to-day activities of the other party. WMF does not control nor direct the use of the Grant or the actions of the Grantee other than to ensure the Grant is used in accordance with WMF's obligations as a 501 (3) (c)". This did not mean a line item variation under reasonable conditions can not be permitted by the Chapter management. Our second program grant agreement for the period 1st Jan 2013 to 31 March 2013, had an additional clause 3(c) added to it that requires, "Grantee will promptly notify WMF of any financial variation of 20% or more from any line item in Grantee's project proposal". Such an addition in the second program grant agreement is also an implicit acknowledgement that the clause was not present, and hence not capable of being inferred by the Chapter from the previous terms. So a clause that was not explicitly present, and acknowledged as an inadequacy in the agreement document, can not possibly be a source of violation. (ii) the managing team at that time had many senior executives (Vice President / Director) from the IT industry who had the maturity to handle millions of dollars worth of projects in their respective organizations, and exercised discretionary authority for any reasonable deviation of the order of a few thousands. Our first program grant was for about USD 12,500. We learnt that under GAC all deviations, however reasonable, need prior approval. Subsequent to this learning, I have personally been responsible for expense monitoring etc. We did not exceed our budget in both the completed program grants. We were marginally below budget. In the second program grant we had no cross category excess in spend. In subsequent reviews you should be able to see our responsiveness to findings and feedbacks. We are tracking our third program grant now, and will not cause any issues. If at all we have any need, we will consult WMF. So to be painted with a broad brush, as if there was a record of deviations and the record continues to be bad, is not fair. Please note this section highlights one category spend exceeding budget in terms of travel costs in the first program grant, that was not apparently prohibited by the agreement. The second incident quoted was also not a deviation, as I was paid from only from Local funds, and not from WMF grant, till a discussion with WMF enabled contractual engagement. TS-Sowmyan (talk) 11:04, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  7. 4 K Quality of proposed measures. Is the plan to track metrics feasible? Staff Comment: It may be challenging; Capacity not proven from past performance.
    1. Our activity levels have been low, given the low value of total funds we have worked with. I would like to emphasize 'not proven from past' is not same as 'not existing'. Thank you for the careful wording.Feasibility of a measure should perhaps be seen from a point of view if some thing is measurable at all. Newly introduced measures will also be 'unproven' the first time.
  8. 5 L Potential to add Knowledge to the movement. Can the successful initiatives be adapted elsewhere? Staff Comment: Focus on events is not innovative.
    1. We are at the 'bread and butter' stage. We may not have enough 'jam' yet. In our stage, we can easily attract all types of comments. If we use tried and tested methods, we may not be innovative. If we propose some thing innovative, we may not have proven experience. We do hope to come up with innovative ways in execution, if not in proposal.
  9. 5 M Is the entity ready to share lessons? Staff Comment: Uneven collaboration with other groups in their region. Weak in discussing challenges.
    1. We are a small entity in our initial years with a huge potential. The extent of activity so far has been very small. We perhaps have more to experience. We have described and discussed some challenges. I am not sure why these are not perceived as open discussions. We also look forward to some dialogue and discussion with WMF oriented towards sharing program related suggestions. We certainly have a lot to teach new chapters who may be coming up in the near future. As for CIS, we do have periodic internal meetings and many programs of the community are jointly supported. TS-Sowmyan (talk) 08:54, 16 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I have edited the contents a second time. As the utility power got disrupted, I did not have adequate time to check content during the last save. I saved them immediately and went out for some event support activity. I have now made minor edits to add clarity and signing again. TS-Sowmyan (talk) 16:27, 16 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Further to the list item number 8 above, I should admit I am not sure what was meant by 'the focus on events was not innovative'. When we included the events, we considered they should be different from the ones held in the past. In the past some language groups met among themselves. When we conducted a national meet in 2011, all language groups came together. In the proposal for regional meets, we wished to bring multiple language groups together. Alternately, we considered they should be project / category focussed events. This was different from the way we held them earlier. The other aspect of innovation was in a thought process of measuring collaboration level before and after the event, to establish effectiveness of such programs in quantitative terms. I am also a student of 'social network' courses in Coursera. I am interested in measuring network effectiveness and viral phenomenon. Though what may come out of my study and its application is not concrete at this stage, I am keen to study this phenomenon. If we consider doing any experiment on 'social networks' in an event, it does not mean the event itself is an experiment. TS-Sowmyan (talk) 16:53, 16 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

TS-Sowmyan, thanks for your detailed response. I'll take it into consideration when I deliberate on the proposal. Sydney Poore/FloNight (talk) 14:13, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you for your feedback on the staff assessment, TS-Sowmyan. Cheers, KLove (WMF) (talk) 23:48, 21 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

"The plan concentrates too strongly on events"[edit]

I'll note that this is not unusual, for instance WMF has organised two large technical events per year in Pune lately; the current one has a planned attendance of 19 WMF employees, so it probably costs as much as the whole WMIN proposed budget or more. So, speaking of impact, you could maybe ask the WMF organisers of Indian events how they judge it compared to the invested resources etc., even though the goals of WMF's and WMIN's events are probably different (is this an immutable given?). --Nemo 11:03, 16 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Comment on Financial summary[edit]

The current data under financial summary reads: |currentMR=Not confirmed. |proposedMR=11,054,802 INR |changeMR=Not confirmed. |currentbudget=1,744,843 INR |proposedbudget=1,763,648 INR |changebudget=788% |currentstaff=0.5 |proposedstaff=3 |changestaff=500%

This should be: |currentMR=1,720,545 INR |proposedMR=11,054,802 INR |changeMR=788% |currentbudget=1,776,982 INR |proposedbudget=13,467,069 INR |changebudget=658% |currentstaff=0.5 |proposedstaff=3 |changestaff=500% TS-Sowmyan (talk) 13:21, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]

comment on annual plan, strategic alignment, Bullet point 3[edit]

The strategy plan proposal document was approved internally. The proposal was posted on the web for reference of FDC and continued to show the same heading. Requesting my colleagues to note the approval in the talk page. TS-Sowmyan (talk) 13:28, 18 November 2013 (UTC)[reply]


The ppl who have done this assesmnt are clearly favoring dere chums at CIS. Nt only fomer direct colleagues, but dis person in charge here, Ms. Anasuya Sengupta was vry wel known to ppl at CIS b4 she got hired by Foundation so there is clear Conflict of Interst here. This COI has been undeclard and its unfair. Very surprising tat Foundation chose to hire someone close to grantee and not say it. Ms. Sengupta is systematically promoting CIS an stopping the India chapter deliberatly. Thanx, Sukanya.