Posts

Showing posts from 2011

Are We Hiring for the Right Reasons?

Image
Had a long chat with an entrepreneur friend yesterday.  He had set up a concept restaurant which was extremely successful and he wanted the business to grow for which he needed people. Was discussing with him on what he was looking for a person who would manage his operations. In what would have been a typically short "job description" defined role tuned out to much more that.
Which got me thinking.  When we hire personnel, are we being strait jacketed by the job profile? Are we not looking at attributes which signify an average regular professional rather than an excellent one? Are we more bothered about what the person has done before? Don't we reject persons for what they have done and not what they can do?  In a hurry to hire people who fit the job description we are not looking at people who can contribute much more. Here is a list of the criteria which I would look for in a person Positive Attitude - To me the most important factor i…

How the Nonsensical can be a Rage (Kolaveri Di)

Image
It was on November 21, 2012 when a Tamil sounding phrase started trending on Twitter - #kolaveridi. I had innumerable friends on Facebook share the link to this phrase/ sound - over 6 million shares!
I thought this was a new virus which was multiplying really fast and many were getting suckered into it.
Fast forward two weeks hence, more than 18 million views on You Tube from over 140 countries. This song was a rage. A frail looking man singing ' nonsense' as he called it himself, to a folksy beat! A song which had pretensions of being a Tamil song - but 90% of the lyrics were in English!
On a personal note, I thought it was a inane English song, with absolute illogical lyrics and the only saving grace was the Koothu ( a Tamil beat/ music) beat. See and hear it for yourself  - http://goo.gl/5mN2J

The numbers speak for themselves and to get so many people interested in a song takes something. Social media and other online devices are effective tools to communicate the song/ content…

What Modern Trade can Learn from Mom & Pop (Kirana)

Enough has been said about the FDI in retail (in India). And my views are very clear. I also strongly believe that the Indian players can stand the might of MNCs and infact capitalize on the efficiencies which these MNCs will bring to the table. For the uninitiated, kiranas are shops that cater to the regular needs of food, grocery and also products like paan, cigarettes etc. within a locality/catchment area. There are also others like the headload and pushcart vendors.
Globally, as modern trade expanded, both organised retail players and unorganised retail participants have co-existed. The Walmarts and Costcos have co existed with the mom and pop stores (in India these are  called kiranas). I do believe that there is no reason why it cannot co-exist here in India.
However there are a few factors apart from systemic deficiencies which have worked in the favor of kiranas or the local store owner/vendor. 
Personalized service
Personal/ social touchAshraff, the person who runs our neighbo…

Why is the Indian Consumer Being Shortchanged? - An Opinion on Retail FDI

Image
On November 24, the Union Cabinet decided to permit 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in single-brand outlets and 51% in multi-brand stores. The opposition as well as some allies of the UPA have been vehemently opposing the decision, saying it would affect the small shopkeepers (kiranas), demanding a reversal of decision.


India has been known as the nation of shopkeepers, for every 1000 people there are 11 shops, and these shops include the paanwallah, sabziwallah, the barber etc. Unlike other nations which have densities of around 5 (UK and USA), the Indians are serviced far better by the neighbourhood store. According to a study by industry body FICCI, the total retail trade in India was worth Rs 11,00,000 crore in 2003. Of the approximately 12 million retail shops, 96% occupy floor space of less than 500 sq ft.


With over 120 crore consumers India is a land of opportunity, modern trade has only tapped 5% of the business. This is just a start. 


The proliferation of the neighborhood s…

Copy Cats - Copying Can Be Cool

Image
There is an aura about innovation. To be called an innovator is a big ego boost. It creates a superiority complex and there is a rarefied air around the innovator.
On the flip side I wonder how many like being called Copy Cat or Not Original?Not very cool and certainly not a tag which you would like to have.
But if you look at successful companies and products there are a list of them which have been very very successful.

The dream of many - Apple had copied the Mouse and also the GUI ( Graphical User Interface from Xerox  PARC). Infact PARC did sue Apple but lost out to due some technicalities. The first Apple Macintosh was inspired by the GUI.
The list from Microsoft is huge.  MS Basic copied Tiny Basic. MS DOS copied CPM-86. Windows copied the early Mac OS. Word copied WordPerfect. Excel copied Lotus 1-2-3. Access copied FoxPro. Windows Server copied Novell Netware. Exchange copied Lotus Notes. Internet Explorer copied Netscape Navigator. C# and .net copied Java.
Rumour has to Google co…

I, Me, Myself - Personalization Will Drive Businesses of Tomorrow

Image
Couldn't help overhear a conversation between two mothers complaining about their children - " This is generation is so self centered, all they think about is themselves".

We had done a dipstick amongst our customers and asked them what merchandise they wanted in our cafes and many of them asked for personalized products - products which had their name, customized to suit their requirements.
The two examples are very significant of the orientation and inclination of customers across segments. Consumer behavior has changed from buying a product which was made for everybody to a product which made for 'me'. 
Actually the Internet is all about personalised experiences. We get information when we want it, at a time convenient to us and customized to a large extent.
Look at the way Internet products have evolved. First we had the general all encompassing portals like Yahoo; then came the language portals and specialized portals; following it came the messengers and chat;…

Humanoid Machines or Mechanized Humans

Image
The other day I was talking to a few friends from the retail business. They were mentioning the importance of processes and systems. It made life easier for the team on the shop floor and catered to nearly all situations. When one of their wives very innocently asked - ' But what about the human touch ?'.

Across all businesses we have been making efforts to streamline and remove variables arising out of the 'humanness' of service. The motto seems to be the same service wherever you go.


Was flipping through the pages of the newsletter from the robotics department of a large university and the objective there was to humanize the robots. Loads of time and energy have gone into research across many educational and research establishments. Imagine a machine which behaved just like a human!

What a strange conundrum!

We want humans to behave more and more like machines and on the other hand we want machines to behave more and more like humans.

Individually, each example I had …

Cut the Crap - How Brevity is in Fashion Now!

Image
Was in a meeting the other day with a client when he told me that since he did not have the time could I describe our proposition in 5 minutes. And to think we had prepared a presentation which detailed our offerings. And while he was interested; you see - he did not have the time!
It's the world of keeping it short, keeping it brief - brevity is the key!
You look around and you will see brevity touching our lives in more ways than one! A snapshot. Relationships -Kim Kardhashian may take the cake for her marital longevity (or shortness) but in the age of quick relationships and 'wham bham thank you ma'am' one night hook ups, relationships are fleeting and so is commitment. No wonder divorces and break ups are increasing. Partners change within days. Clothing -Dressing less. Skin is in. For both sexes. Cleavages are common and so is the decreasing hem line. The motto seems the lesser the better - the oomph factor aside!Communication -Look at any print ad. The copy if any i…

Marketing is an Ongoing Love Affair

Image
Why can't we have a commonsensical approach to business in general and marketing in particular? We have this habit of complicating things way beyond what is necessary. There are instances when marketing managers get into an intellectual masturbation by using data points, pie charts and cross tabs without there being any reason for it. Graphs and data are meant for clarity and not to confuse.

What is marketing? It is a relationship which you build with your customer through various means/ devices. And coming to think of it pretty muchlike a love affair!

Since I am experienced in these worldly matters let me explain.
You need to decide which girl is right for you. Some are good and some are not the match - Consumer Research 
Based on your thoughts you have an idea who she is. You decide to focus on her - Target Audience 
Then starts the huge task of wooing her. You ask her out for dates, meetings, etc. At every right moment you try to connect with her. You obviously show your best beha…

Learning from the Business of Crime

Image
(Note: I do not subscribe to criminal activities nor am I justifying them. Such activities are anathema to me.)
I was narrated a very interesting anecdote by my friend. An acquaintance of his was asked to consult with a man of questionable credentials (from a business perspective). While the acquaintance was deflecting the topic of working with the man, finally the man spoke up and actually said - “In my kind of work only one thing works and that is trust. Without trust we cannot survive".  The acquaintance was surprised and later took the assignment and it was to her, one of her best.
In a world of increasing competition between companies and between employees within these companies, business relationships are guarded and safe guarded by legalese. Reams of papers with clauses and sub clauses bind these relationships. On the other hand, crime and criminals are held together by the minimum of documents (for fear of being caught and providing fodder for prosecution). They are infact …

KISS - Keep it Simple Stupid! (The Complexity of Simplicity)

Image
When I was in school I remember my mom telling me to clear up my table which was always cluttered. Arrange your books, toys etc. It would be easy to search. Very simple straight forward thinking!

Imagine the plight when you cannot find what you want – it is physically and mentally exhausting. Where is it? Where else can it be? It is not surprising that someone has theorised that that clutter is actually emotionally exhausting too. As humans are constantly scanning their environment, the more the clutter the more the physical and mental power needed to process.
In the present day world how I wish everyone followed mom’s thinking. It’s greed. What the &%*$?  Humans want more and more. Be it money, be it food, be it gadgets or be it anything. And this thought has percolated into all parts of life. From the simple water tap to the technologically superior television. I have had instances where we had TVs with 200 channels but we do not use more than 30. I look at the TV remote and w…

What You Don't See is What You Want to See

Image
Sitting back at a favorite restaurant of mine, was wondering what appetizers do. Do they stimulate your appetite or do they create a setting for better food to come?

Actually they do both. And funnily enough they are related. The appetizers set the tone, the tone for better food and the main course which we would expect to be even better than the appetizers.

I am sure we would have all heard ' you can't imagine' how good it was'. This will get us thinking as to how good it was!

Imagine a extremely attractive girl (and I'm talking from a male's point of view). There are two scenarios, in one she was fully clothed and in one she was at her sexy best - mini skirt, an appropriate cleavage and a generous amount of skin show. There are no guesses for what will grab your attention - skin!

(Since I am not sexist) This is pretty much like a strip tease by men. The women are teased and teased and teased for the expected end result. The very act is exciting for many. Jus…

Blurring the Boundaries of Business

Image
The Amazon Kindle Fire just set fire to the tech world. The pricing is exciting and the features very good. But what is a online merchant/ retailer doing with an Ipad competitor?

A few years earlier a software/ hardware manufacturer Apple had turned the music industry on it head by creating a gadget (ipod) which is made listening easy but more important that turned the distribution of music on its head. If that was not enough, Apple extended the same innovative thinking into a phone. the question was then whats a HW/SW company doing with phone? I don't think that really warrants an answer now!

The IT space has seen a transformation of sorts. IBM is a software services firm. Dell transcends both hardware and software and HP is confused. Consulting major Accenture has IT services and BPO wings.

Starbucks faces its biggest competition not from Caribou or Costa but from McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts. Whats a burger company doing with coffee? McCafe and I am told that do make a goo…

Self Centered Personal Interest Drives Revolutions

Image
Nassim Taleb would be happy that the Black Swan Theory has shown its face in various parts of the world. Tunisia, Syria and closer home Nepal.

In a sign of increasing courage and confidence, people from various parts of the world and interestingly mostly the Arab world have been raising their opposition. There has been a surge of people power rising up against the rulers.

These rulers had treated the land as personal property with ad hoc and whimsical decisions which were warped and unjust. Fundamentally the rules they framed were biased and skewed to helping a certain minority.

The natural inherent behavior of humans is selfish & being self centered. The degree of which changes and varies with different people. When a situation is perceived as unfair, this creates dissonance in peoples minds. This dissonance has again various levels. An agglomeration of dissonances creates a huge cumulative dissonance or mass explosion. And that's how we have a revolution. I will not deny tha…