Category Archives: Corporate

The continuous change

“The only thing that is constant is change” – never before this statement of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus is true than today. The world has changed dramatically in last 10-20 years – and I am referring to the positive change, not the negativity surrounding the change (like inequality, extremism & radical views, etc). And we as professionals working in this world for last 10-15 years have actually experienced the change with our own lives. Further we can see further dramatic change in the near future as well – we don’t need to be a philosopher to predict this.

I believe the fundamental drivers behind this major change are two main reasons : 1) the rise of the so-called “third world” economies now often referred to as BRIC countries and 2) the rise and popularity of internet and ability to do business across the world almost seamlessly. And when I refer to internet, it is not the “conventional” desktop / laptop based internet, but the revolution that was triggered through the mobile technology (be it our smart phones or our tablets or a combination of the above).

The economic growth in the “third world” countries has helped in not only creation of wealth and “hunger” for materialistic goods, but also helped in drive huge “aspirations” to compete with the once-upon-a-time Goliath’s of the world.  Even the population of some of the BRIC countries (once perceived as total “curse”) has helped in bringing in that aspirational energy into life – that to some extent has become the “strengths” of the emerging countries. The average age of working people have reduced drastically in these countries. This has not only increased consumerism but also making available global pool of skilled resources that is challenging some of the foundations of the west.

The cheap availability of internet along with its capability to force business through has helped in driving more global optimisations within corporations. Hence, issues like supply chain optimisation across the globe is now possible – wherein you look for quality but cheaper supply chain catering to different market segments. While there will always a set of the market looking for the best of Ferrari, Apple; there will also be a big part of the market who are ready to accept a product having 60% of the features but at 40% price discount. All these potentially can be addressed through a global enterprise taking into account pockets of expertise – whether that comes from Taiwan in Asia or Netherlands in Europe or USA, it does not matter anymore. That is why for a given market, we have products sourced from various countries. I feel UK is the best example for that where in the supermarkets we have tomatoes from Spain, clothes from Bangladesh or India, chillies from Africa and nuts from Brazil. Just imagine driving the entire supply chain in such a scenario without internet – will drive you crazy I am sure!

Let me share some statistics that I found recently in the internet:

– 36% of global GDP is through movement of goods & services
– cross-border internet traffic has increased by 18 times in approximately last 7 years
– 38% of total cross-border movement of goods & services are coming from emerging economies
– since last 5-6 years, increase in cross-border calls through Skype has been over 500%
– globally more than 2/3rds of the population has mobile phones

The above scenario is a huge opportunity for all of us as individuals. We ideally are no longer restricted by local constraints – jobs / opportunities within our cities / countries. If we are rightly skilled (rather if we are “timely” skilled) and look forward to make the entire world out village, this is the time.

Opportunities are huge but as we enter into the broader world, the one thing we all need to keep in mind is “the only thing that is constant is change”—which to us means that if we do not adapt to “change” (in mind-sets, in updating our skills, in taking challenges, etc), we can also perish in this process.

We are really living in dynamic times!

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Innovation when commercialised…

Recently got a post from one of my Facebook friends which got me quite excited as this had the potential to serve the poor across the world. This was a great innovation where an advertising billboard was actually tapping the natural humidity to covert into pure & healthy drinking water. So this was a combination of commercial advertisement along with a service to serve mankind.

http://www.reshareable.tv/never-thought-a-billboard-could-be-used-this-way.html?h=1

If I think of countries like India, Bangladesh or any tropical countries where humidity comes free with soaring temperatures during summer and where a large population lives under such poverty that the availability of pure hygenic drinking water is often considered as a luxury in life; this kind of innovation has the potential to serve mankind big time !!

But what I  am afraid is that some corporations may see this as a way to mint more money. They may take patents to define monopoly of use & then probably ask for 80% to 90% profit margins when it is commercialised when people will request for these innovations to be put into use in the poorest of poor villages to serve the real downtrodden people. And yet the same corporations may claim service through their “corporate social responsibilities” into their marketing campaigns to pursue more customers & more profit!

Really hope that better sense prevails for such innovations & all organisations stands up to limit the lust for profits & serves humanity where small actions from big companies can really transform lives of millions for good…

The art of telling stories in 30 seconds

Is there an art of telling stories that will remain in your mind for months and years ? Of course yes. Now if I add a clause that this needs to be done in maximum 30 seconds, what will be the reaction – naaahhhh, very difficult, impossible !!! Well, that’s what advertising in television needs to achieve – isn’t it ? And how often we see this as a difficult task when we are just watching TV ? Most often, either we take a deep yawn or run to the loo for the long-awaited leak and run back for the match to restart ….

But the companies have that time slot to make a mark on our minds at least for a near future, if not more. That 30 second slot may be worth thousands of dollars and hence the cost per second is simply huge. And if you can’t make an impact in that duration, all those spent dollars gets down the drain. That is why, it is important that we have a great story to make that impression amongst the huge viewers.

Now, I had the privilege of staying in various cities, countries and cultures for last 7 / 8 years and obviously have had the opportunity to watch many TV commercials. What I have observed (now this my personal observation) is that the advertisements in the western world is more direct, goes straight into the product details or features and rarely tells a great story to remember by. Obviously, there are exceptions – but generally this is what I have felt over years. On the other hand, the eastern world advertisements, specially from India, tend to tell a complete story in 30 seconds and hence makes it more touching, more memorable.

As an example, let us take the case of Cadbury’s. The same multi national corporation has so different quality of advertisements when it comes to say UK and India. The UK ad here is quite direct whereas the Indian ad touches the emotions and make you smile at the end of the 30 second story. Maybe it is just me who feels this way, maybe it is a cultural issue here, but overall I find the average Indian advertisement much more touchy, memorable and enjoyable.

UK advertisement:

India advertisement:

And obviously, there are exceptions on both sides :-)

The modern era revolution ?

The world is going through a tough time with lot of potentially big issues that can destabilise the modern day society. The world is today integrated in a matter that did not exist so much even twenty years ago. The inter dependency of countries are intertwined through many channels – whether it is through import and export or through dependency of resources (both natural and human skills) or through political compulsions that trigger lot of funding across nations, the fact remains that we are all nodes of a huge interconnected network and we cannot build enough firewalls to insulate ourselves in times of disturbance and chaotic situations happening in some part of the network. I would tend to describe the entire world as a huge octopus with all countries being its tentacles, some big and some small; but if you prick any one of the tentacles, you will definitely feel the tremors and impact in all the other tentacles. Its as simple as that !

So, once we acknowledge the interdependency, we cannot ignore what is happening in a different part of the world with the thought that this will not effect me as a nation or as an individual. It is bound to touch us whether we like it or not.

Now comes the recent turbulent times which got triggered by the financial scams in the USA which even potentially led to the total collapse of the banking system of a lot of big countries. There might be so many reasons and analysis behind the collapse, but to me this was greed leading to corruption amongst big institutions. This has led to a situation where the world is yet to recover from the recession across the so called developed countries. But did that allow the smaller and developing countries to go through their predefined path of growth ? Don’t think so … As the growth rates inspite of being positive have come down. I know politicians will relate that to inflation, corruption, etc .. But the fact remains again that the growth rates are coming down.

The next big thing to me that has hit us is a real sense of people revolution facilitated by technology through social networks. Regimes that were thought to be untouchables came down like a pack of cards by simple pressure from the common people. Probably the era of the “people voice” has started in the modern era. The scales and the impact of this varied from country to country, from issue to issue. Even in my country I was really surprised by the spontaneity of the common people to come down heavily against corruption – the momentum might be hard to be maintained with the same pace it started with, but our beloved politicians just could not ignore the voices, which they had ignored for so many years in the past. Hence there was a flurry of parties trying to encash that by showing solidarity to the peoples voice, but when it came to the fact that people were targeting them as being the most corrupt, then their true nature came to the front, but that’s another story for future.

People have become so much frustrated with greed, corruption, some few people getting rich and the poor becoming poorer, that they have come up with amazing expressions in the streets of Delhi, Wall Street, London, etc. Again this is becoming a global phenomena that governments can hardly ignore.

This probably has now triggered the frustration of the people within the European Union that its very existence might be at stake. I am not an economic expert at all, but my common sense tells me that by simply taking austerity measures will not solve the problem. That can be a tactical move for a short term horizon, but you definitely need growth to remove the gloom hovering around Europe. And common people are not seeing any such measures being taken or being talked about …. And that has reflected in the election results in Greece and France. Spain, Portugal, Ireland are all under crisis and time will tell how the common people will voice their concerns.

People are relating this as return of socialism and communism and the end of capitalism. However I don’t look like that at all. To me, these incidents symbolises the frustration of the people which is shown by removing the current governments, does not matter what type they fall under. It is probably a coincidence that the current governments were more on the capitalist line, I am sure the same treatment would have been rolled out if they were socialist. The problem of economic inequality is a problem which will probably cause lot of headaches to the governments of various countries, unless they make a honest try to minimise that.

Net-net: the signals are ominous : the power of the people are growing and it will be foolish of anybody to ignore this.

The scene of “obscene” pricing

image

Very recently some of my friends, including myself, were debating on the topic of the prices of the expensive smart phones available in the market and one of the common conclusions being drawn was that the prices can be labelled as “obscene” to a common man. That led me to think what defines this definition of obscene pricing and whether the corporations have the right to go for this kind of obscene prices of products.

The basic philosophy of corporations is not only to make profits but to maximize the same at a minimum cost. This is because this will allow the companies to grow, make more profit and by that measure make the share holders happy. Hence in a free economy, any organisation has the right to price any of their products in a manner that will help then to make more profit and I personally believe that is not a crime. If they price a product insanely high resulting in people not buying it just because they don’t see the value in buying that product at that price, then obviously the company will not generate that amount of sales to create any profit and will soon be out of business. While pricing, they might definitely target a particular customer category which might make the other customer categories feel that the same product is “too costly” for them to afford it.

However if the economy is state controlled, then the scenario might be current as the government will feel the necessity to control the prices of the various products and hence to the consumer, they will feel that they are getting the prices as dictated by a bigger and powerful body. Obviously this will lead to the lack of options to the consumer and hence in the longer run the people living in that country will feel that they are deprived of the fundamental right of having a self determination of choosing a right product for his use and to his own liking. We have seen that happening in several countries in the 20th century.

In a free economy if a business is so lucrative that a company can afford to maintain an “obscene” pricing, then either the company has some unique technology to invent an unique product which no other company has; or they are the first entrants with that product in that market. But it will be a matter of time when the prices will be coming down with competition coming in to take a slice of that thriving market.  The best example we have seen in recent years in India is in the telecommunication sector wherein the prices of hardware as well as services 10 years ago was quite “oscene” and only a few selected people could afford that price. But now you will find a mobile in the hands of every person walking in the street. This is what a free economy can do to an obscene pricing.

Inventions or “first of a kind” products can afford to keep a very high price in the beginning, but the balancing power of a free economy will force the system to come to a price equilibrium. Till that comes, there might be instances when the prices looks “obscene” – but it will be the force of the competition which will bring down the insane prices to sanity !

Exploiting the technology addiction

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There has been a huge advancement in mobile technology in the last few years which will definitely change our lives – both our personal and professional worlds. People have realised the tremendous positive impact of the mobile and across the world, we have seen a lot of enthusiasm and excitement in embracing new technology and new devices. Needless to mention, this adoption is also taxing the common man’s wallet as most of the latest gadgets are quite costly if you have to keep in touch with the latest functionalities and the latest designs. But the enticement of the adoption of the positives are currently outweighing the burden on the wallet. Hence the generation who is excited on the big potential of the world of possibilities using mobiles and tablets are also getting addicted towards this technology. The seduction is obvious and we are also witnessing a huge number of technology addicts !

This is where the big corporates lick their lips with lot of glee and lot of lust to exploit these addicts. Let me give an example – let’s see the brief history of the phenomenon called iphone : the first version of the iphone came up in 2007 with features that will make the current generation laugh. In a span of 4 years, we are now into the version of 4G and probably waiting for another revolution called iphone-5. In-between came at least 4 to 5 models with varied capacities and functionalities to entice the consumers. I do not have the price charts but I am sure each of the launches were priced at around 350-400$. And if you try to find the price of the original version of the iphone which got launched in 2007, the chances are that you will get that version at the price of scrap!

PS: if you are interested to know the evolution of the iphone, suggest to go to the below site for a simple interactive description:
http://mashable.com/2011/10/04/iphone-history-so-far-infographic/

What does this mean to people like you or me ? If you have become technology addicts, you would have shelled out an amount of 2000$ on a device which will make your life exciting. Or if you manage to control the lust for the device, you will continue to stare at the devices every time you pass the retail store and everytime you have to take a deep breath to control that urge to bring out your wallet. Though I have no data points or have any proof, I have a feeling that the big corporations do not tend to bring the changing features in one shot by launching a model say every 2-3 years instead of launching devices with few delta functionalities every 8 months. This is because they can coerce money out of the consumers for each of the new models simply because the people have become addicts.

When you become an addict, you tend to be desperate to meet your requirements at any cost. For that you may even go for some expensive loans just to meet the price of an expensive device which you cannot afford to buy at that point of time. You then try to justify why you need that device – you will explain yourself that you need a blackberry for office use, iphone for personal use, ipad for general browsing, laptop for personal work, a smart tv for entertainment,  etc etc. The list simply grows and grows. Add to the fact that there are so many companies bringing out similar devices with little difference in the features. You will hear discussions that iphone has a better camera, HTC has an unique HTC sense, Samsung has a better screen display, etc etc. The choices are huge and hence the lure to buy several devices in a span of say six months is quite high.

I have actually seen lot of the younger generation spending big amounts on the latest models every three months just to be in touch with the latest happenings, irrespective of the fact whether they do really need the latest devices or not. It is upto us only to have that control and ask the question whether we really need an expensive device or not – otherwise we run the risk of spending a lot of our hard earned money on something that we could have lived without !

The balancing act

The recent but year-long (more than a year ?) crisis at Greece has the potential impact across the world – probably we are already looking at the early symptoms. The stock market in India is hovering around 16000 mark against a 19000 value not so long ago – and this is in a country which is still projected for a 7% growth where many of the other countries are under negative or zero growth. And what we are witnessing in Greece will probably be repeated across various countries if things just cascade down and across.

That brings out the question of the balancing act each government has to think and plan for – the balance between ‘profit’ and ‘work for society’. In blunt terms, whether a country needs to work like a CEO of a corporation where profit and growth are the only key words and where profit means excess funds for further investment; or whether the country needs to look to ‘serve’ the people, even if a majority of the people are not that much ‘productive’ (read as ‘poor’, ‘jobless’, etc) or do not earn a healthy value of revenue per person. Probably, that’s the dilemma each of the governments face – does not matter whether they follow capitalism or socialism. Even the so-called capitalist states like US, UK have so much socialism built within their social security system, that the so-called socialist or semi-socialist states like China or India will find hard to believe !

Even within an extended family, we will find family members having different levels of cash-flows – and unless the family shares the ‘burden’ amongst themselves, some of the members might be under debt and some might be using a 100 buck note to light a cigarette ! Again, here is the balancing act ….

If we extend this concept from a 15-20 member family to a nation of say 100 million, the problem becomes really complex – isn’t it ? And what happens if we extend this to a group of nations trying to follow a common philosophy and currency like that of the European Union ? The resolution to the problem becomes so much difficult, even when all the members say “we will all help each other to play the balancing act”. In case any member says “I am doing well myself and hence I am not in a position to help another one”, what happens ? You can guess !

So, basically we are playing the balancing act within our own spheres and so are the nations. This balancing act will never go – but hypothetically, if all the members are of “equal” prosperity and having no ‘inequality’, then there is no need of any balancing act – as balance needs to happen only when there is an inequality. But, I added the word ‘hypothetical’ as inequality will be always there in a practical world and equality is an utopian concept ….

Hence, let’s try learn the balancing act as much as possible – because we will all need that at some point of time (if not experienced already) …

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The world will be all mobile !

Mobile with virtual key board on any flat  surface

Mobile with virtual key board on any flat surface

If you see the above picture, this actually shows a fantastic innovation where from a device, you are getting a virtual key board appearing on any flat surface, which can communicate with a mobile and hence help in faster, easier usage just like a full-fledged QWERTY keyboard.

I personally believe that the definition of a “conventional” office is under threat – office can now mean any place in the world, whether you are at your home, or in a multiplex, or in a restaurant or even your toilet :-) All that is possible just because of the innovations like what is depicted in the picture and the huge advancement of technology in the mobile / smart phone arena.

I think the following parameters will transform how we define ‘work’ – whether in offices or even how we do our personal work :

– speedy access to internet with adequate bandwidth through 3G, 4G, 5G’s
– advancement of cloud usage, whether in private of public domain
– enhanced security issues surrounding internet access, specially from a cloud perspective
– growth of battery back-up innovations – smaller, lighter batteries with lot of back-up power
– finally the innovations as depicted in the picture which will ease usage of typing, editing, reviewing, presenting through virtual screens, keyboards, etc

The usage of smart-phones have increased many folds and that has made life quite easy and accessible. You can remain connected, write mails or posts (like what I am doing now) on the fly, video calls with friends, relatives, clients; doing online transactions – whether be it buying some stocks or transferring money from your bank account to your parents; buy tickets to the latest destination or the recent movie; play games and relax when you want to, chat with friends located thousands of miles away from you; check the latest score by watching live TV; checking on breaking news; etc, etc. You can do all this NOW !

With the maturity and innovative developments, I am sure very soon you can review complicated power point presentations or documents on a ‘big’ virtual screen with a full QWERTY ‘virtual’ keyboard even though your mobile screen is very very small. You should be able to perform video conferences with multiple people without worrying about speed, battery back-up. We are in the middle of this transformation and anyone who is working in mobile technology or others who are associated with anything that’s mobile (like me, as an user) are witness to a major global revolution !

The world will be all mobile ! And very soon …

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Understanding the market of inventories

In case you are wondering what is a market of inventory, where do I find that, etc – well, I was just referring to the Stock Market. I know some of you might immediately react that I am trying to achieve something that no one in the world has been able to do so far in the history of mankind. They also remind me that you cannot understand two things in the world – women and stock market – and both of them believe in keeping ‘stocks’ – one likes to keep ‘stock’ of unwanted things that they get through an exercise called ‘shopping’; the other also keeps ‘stock’ of how many people have gone bankrupt in chasing for excellence in this area.

Well, let me make an honest attempt – that too in public with a very high risk of failure; I am surely a brave man !

Today Sensex in India has dropped by 250+ points in a single day – in this process, eroding the wealth and happiness of many people. The reason behind this great fall is the rise of 50 points in the interest rates by Reserve Bank of India in order to control the uncontrollable inflation. See, I am surely understanding the dynamics behind the rise and fall of the market – well that’s an innocent claim ! Because when there was a similar increase in interest rates few months ago, there was a similar fall – but that was only for a day. The next day the market went up by 150+ points – is it that the impact of interest rate increase is only for a day ? Nooooooooo – but still the market defies logic for its ups and downs.

Petrol prices rose by Rs 5/- (around 8%) in a single day, the market fell – which was quite understandable, isn’t it ? However, when the diesel prices went up, the market did not fall as much it fell when petrol prices went up. And people say that diesel influences the common food, retail, transport and distribution markets more than petrol !

Many experts say that the market is ruled by the sentiment of the traders and retailers. What sentiment ? Does trading really depend on the mood of the individuals ? Then I am sure if all salaried people gets their yearly increment on a single day of a year, Sensex will reach the moon the very next day.

One of the reasons behind the Sensex movements is the amount of FDI that comes into the Indian market. Makes sense, definitely … but is there any way to anticipate that tomorrow FDI investment will be very high or low ? Don’t know – maybe the experts will be knowing that …

The legendary Mr. Buffet mentions that while investing in stocks, do not try to time the market. Go for the stocks of fundamentally good corporations, believe in their business model, product portfolio, management team – then go hard for those stocks, have a longer investment horizon, etc etc. Well, that is logical, makes sense and not rocket science stuff … but you know why everyone is not a Warren Buffet ? Because simple, basic stuff are always very very difficult to implement.

There was an article in Rediff few years ago which tried to link the performance of Sachin Tendulkar with the behaviour of stock market. It stated with some statistics that whenever Sachin scored a century or played very well, the market rose considerably the next day. Being a die-hard Sachin fan, I definitely approve that view ! And with that logic, I am sure we will all see quite a few number of days in the future when the markets will rise considerably !

No, I give up … will continue my unending quest to conquer the impossible goal … and while doing so, I will be giving free advice on this subject with the guarantee that there will be no guarantee of returns.

The choice for choices ?

It has been reported in Indian press that very soon, the Government of India will be allowing 51% FDI participation in Retail in India. This will be an occasion which will trigger of huge amount of debate amongst the people here with mixed opinion.
One one hand, we will have supporters of this decision as they want more options, more choice and more attractive prices amidst a free-for-all cut-throat competition. It is often stated by many people in US that Walmart is one of the factors that has helped America control her inflation. Whether this is the sole factor or not, I don’t know – but definitely cut-throat open market helps the consumers as they can go for multiple choices and get the best deal from the so many players in the market. However, critics say that the benefit is passed ONLY to the extreme end of the supply chain – the consumers, people like you and me.

 

The views on Walmart and it’s impact on the lives of people have been debated for long and will be debated in the future as well – one of such viewpoint is provided below:

 

Whether this will help the other end of the supply chain is a big question to be debated – specially in the Indian social context where you have poor farmers, distributors getting impacted by this process. The Indian market context is very much different from that of the developed nations like US, UK, Germany. Here, we have a big factor of un-organised retail, the “local” shop who caters to many consumers, knowing their likings by name and often passing on a credit-based business model. This chunk of population will be the most impacted – because the huge middle-class people having more purchasing power might shift loyalty from their “favourite” local shops and go for the big retailers. This is because they will enjoy the shopping experience, will enjoy the more choices and of course, will enjoy the prices more.

 

How this will impact India overall is something that time will only tell – however, there will be a lot of noise coming out from the Opposition within India and lot of talk will happen on “protecting” the weak and the poor players on the sourcing side of the supply chain. But I as an individual might be smiling soon !

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