Jinnah, Partition and freedom of Expression

It seems there is a high correlation between Jinnah and Partitions. After more than 60 years, the ‘demonized’ name ‘Jinnah’ causing a partition in BJP. Jaswant Singh, one of the front faces of BJP being expelled from party on account of differences his views and party ideology. To add more drama in the name of ‘confused’ ideology, Narendra Modi announces ban on the book “Jinnah–India, Partition, Independence” written by Jaswant Singh.

This incident raises few fundamental questions. Is a political ban supersedes our fundamental right of freedom of expression? In a democratic environment, who will decide presentation of history? And from a political point of view, what is ideology?

We have seen similar incidences in the name of religion several number of times. Especially in India, it’s become a fashion for political parties, to define religious sentiments and ideology for the mass. Still we claim that we are in a democracy. With such a decision, BJP shows confusion in their ideology. Advocating ‘Jinnah’ is not against India or against Hinduism. Demonizing ‘Jinnah’ will only prove ignoring participation of Muslim in independence. BJP will get into a confused territory as they have lost an opportunity to change their ‘Hindutva’ face into a ‘Secular’ one. The decision of Narendra Modi, who was once compared with L K Advani for prime ministerial candidature, shows that BJP has to do a lot more to become a real national party.

Jaswant Singh’s views could be a fact or just a theory; in any case it should be either respected or argued with counter theories. Ban on expression should not be a solution, at least in the largest democracy of the world.


Beauty of Full Moon

Have you ever observed beauty of full moon?

In Indian literature you can find a lot of writers and poets who has endorsed the beauty of moon as the best in the world. There are two assumptions, one the beauty is feminine in nature and other, though it is not spotless, still nothing is comparable. On feminine beauty of moon, Bollywood has its own stand in their typical romantic songs. Here again the beauty of moon is at top.

There is another fact that moon is also known for is ‘crazy behavior’. The word ‘Lunatic’ means the same. Is there any correlation between ‘Lunatic’ and ‘Beauty’?

You must have heard story of Tulasidas, the great poet writer of ‘Ramcharitmanas’, a Hindu holy book in which the character of Lord Ram is portrayed as the best in human mankind. Tulasidas had a beautiful wife named Ratnavali. He was so deeply attached with the beauty of Ratnavali that he could not afford to be without her even for a moment. Once, Ratnavali went to her fathers place for some day. During those days of separation, Tulasidas could not control his emotions and went to see her in very difficult weather. In those days, in India, even for a married couple, meeting openly used to be treated against mannerism. So, Tulasidas, thinking of Ratnavali, tried to get in her room without knowledge of anyone, through a window which was above the ground level. It is told that he could not even recognize a cobra on the wall and used the same assuming a rope to get into the room. It was embarrassing for Ratnavali, seeing her husband so crazy about her beauty; she scolded Tulasidas reminding his craziness and referred her body just as lump of flesh and blood. That incident changed Tulasidas for ever and he become ascetic.

There is no doubt that beauty attracts. When it involves your emotions we term same as love. But let us not attach love with beauty in this discussion. In the above story Tulasidas was crazily in love with beauty of Ratnavali and a small logic explained by her changed his emotions for ever.

Full moon, representing best of feminine beauty, or otherwise, if attracts our attention is natural. And like Tulasidas, if not for a longer time, even for a second, we become crazy while encountering beauty, it’s normal. By this logic love at first sight and being lunatic is no different. It can be assume that being in love needs a much more passion and emotion than what we can define with logic because with logic we can not understand love.

Coaching is an Art

All CMMi (Capability Maturity Model Integration) 5 level companies have institutionalized coaching and mentoring. There are scientific patterns defined just to follow and it will make you a successful coach or mentor. There is no doubt that such system gives an structured way to define profiles of employee which can be used for their future coarse of gains in the form of rewards or otherwise in the company. However; I am a strong believer that coaching is an art and it requires a lot more than system and procedures.

In old days people striving for knowledge, search for a ‘Guru’. ‘Guru’ is a Hindi word, which is now common in English too, meaning of which is tough to define in a single word. To understand the word ‘Guru’ you need to combine meaning of teacher, coach and mentor. These Gurus were great as they used to take ownership of their pupils for their evolution into the greatness in the life. They had their own style and no structural or defined rules. They had a purpose and an art in the form of their style, for instance, we can term those styles as coaching, mentoring or teaching or combination of all. Their approaches were very effective as they used to plan and execute a list of activities to eliminate the weaknesses of their pupils with or without their knowledge. We have examples of great achievers in various fields who dedicated their success to their respective Gurus.

In an organizational perspective, I mentioned four parameters required for motivation in any in one of my post. These four parameters are product, strategy, the role model and career (What Motivates You?). A coach or mentor in your role model can make you great in your approach to profession and life.

Two Concerns for Indian Market

Quick recovery of Indian stock market was driven by various factors including global recovery, an assurance of stable government and futuristic potential of Industrial growth in India. I do not have any doubt in longer term. In short run, i have two doubts which could affect performance of market.

The first is the poor monsoon, which was visible but MET has accepted and announced formally a little late. Stock market reacted and a downward pressure on prices can be seen in last three days of trade. Recently Godrej Industries chairman Mr Adi Godrej shared his view on the impact of poor monsoon on economy and estimated agricultural growth could be reduced by 5 % which means around 0.25% of overall reduction in GDP growth rate.
The second concern is, despite a good financial results in quarter one across industries, according to Crisil, India Inc’s planned capex expenditure will be dropped by 25% over next three years. Any guess on impact on GDP growth? Well when share prices of almost all industry recovered in a period no one would have expected, it will be interesting to see the the impact along with growth in production capacities of various industries in near future.

Positioning Through Neuromarketing

Recently I was surfing for term neuromarketing on the web. After a great deal of digging, I found simplest definition from Wikipedia.org to restate here:

Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing that studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. Researchers use technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure changes in activity in parts of the brain, electroencephalography (EEG) to measure activity in specific regional spectra of the brain response, and/or sensors to measure changes in one’s physiological state (heart rate, respiratory rate, galvanic skin response) to learn why consumers make the decisions they do, and what part of the brain is telling them to do it.

My next search was on to understand the use of neuromarketing beyond color of the packaging, the sound the box makes when shaken, lights used in the store and near display. The question in my mind was how neuromarketing sinks with positioning strategy of a brand. Or is it a merely sales conversion strategy at the moment of truth? And I found a beautiful article written by Anoothi Vishal in Business Standard on August 04, 2009; “Tweaked to please” on positioning strategy of Le Meridian Hotels in India. And I would love to restate some lines from the same article here before discussing positioning through neuromarketing:

When you step in to any of the eight Le Meridien hotels in India, indeed any in the world, you should be able to smell almost as soon as you step into the lobby — emerging through a portal, an art work usually, at the hotel entrance — a peculiar scent of old books and parchment in a library. The scent machines in the lobby, not always visible except to the most discerning of the guests, are there to get you in the “right frame of mind” in sync with the hotel chain’s positioning as a destination for “guests who seek out a new perspective and cultural discovery in their travel experience”.

This is a good example of neuromarketing activity which actually demonstrates the positioning of the brand directly to the target customer. Though this is the example of a hospitality industry, neuromarketing, if properly defined, will work in any kind of industry.

COST is a Strategy

Post financial crisis of 2008, followed by fear of sustained recession, most of the players across various industries have realized the importance of four letter word COST. I define COST as a strategy which has emerged out of recession. The startegic definition of COST is explained below.

C : Collaborative Operations

O : Optimization of Resources

S : System Thinking

T : Termination

Collaborative operations: Beyond manufacturing and integration of information, beyond outsourcing, I foresee the impact of globalization will give opportunity to collaborative operations in all areas of business like sourcing, logistics and services. We have examples of airline industry where companies made a cluster through code sharing. They did it after a lot of bleeding and at the time when they were at verge of survival and death. Functions like procurements, ticketing and operations, not only simplified with a significant reduction in cost but also given an opportunity to focus on brand building and consumer experience. The other industries need not to wait for situation to be worsened to consider collaboration. They should move proactively to chart out collaborative global sourcing, logistics and customer services.

Collaborative logistics: In India a big opportunity in on the way to shake all the industries is the implementation of GST by 2010. This can open the doors of collaborative transport, warehousing and distribution. All third party logistic companies have an opportunity to expand their services. Now few companies already started planning out such options. See the following quote of Mr Pradipta Mukherjee, GCPL Vice Chairman, in one of the interview given to business standard recently:

We would be looking at re-doing our supply chain and logistics costs once the goods and services tax (GST) is implemented from April 2010, and CST is phased out from 4 per cent to nil. We also intend to consolidate the FMCG companies in the Godrej Group, and so, post-GST implementation, we would be looking at how the group FMCG companies can get together to use common depots and supply chain. This would not only reduce cost of operations but also enable reduction of inventory levels”

Optimization of Resources: There is no end to the upper end of required resources for any task. All we need is adequate resource planning. Optimization of resources is nothing but defining just adequate numbers to all the direct cost like manpower and infrastructure. Remember all the adequate numbers can also be optimized. So it’s a continuous process. I say optimum and not the minimum as its not a cost reduction strategy, but its an strategy which will give maximum of all your manpower and infrastructure by challenging their capacity or output on a continuous basis.

System Thinking: I am a fan of Deming philosophy. So I believe that both success and failure are the outcome of good or bad systems and not the manpower. Investment in system actually reduces cost by enhancing the outcomes and efficiencies. The challenge here is not only implementation of world class practices but also how philosophy and strategy of a company can be inculcated in system itself.

Termination: This is law of nature that end of everything is certain. I suggest just deciding the end before nature does. So it will be a wise decision to get rid of not performing assets, business, and manpower as early as possible. This will reduce negative energy of the organization significantly to focus on performance and new opportunities.

Though ‘COST’ seems to be a strategy of recession manager, I feel its reliability even in better times.

Surprise the Expectation of Consumer Every Time

When we say we market is changing we should ask ourselves who is changing the market? If it is not you, changes done by your company will not yield significant gain.

I am going to discuss changes in market dynamics with respect to introduction of new products. If a company is not leading the product innovation in the market, company is bound to compromise on the bottom line. In such situation the new product will be new to the portfolio of the company only but not to the market. A real new product introduction means surprise to market.

In one of my earlier post I discussed the correlation between new product introduction and market share. I listed some variables like working capital of channel, rotation of working capital and pace of introduction of new products should be properly planned well before laying out the product road map. It seems theoretical but I convincingly suggest to focus on following parameters at the time of introducing a breakthrough product to make sure that the planed gains are intact:

1. Pace of introduction. It is a philosophy of a company’s strategy which defines dynamism and youthfulness. High risk with high returns. If executed properly, it will establish a product leadership image of the company. Every successful introduction will fetch a yield, during its life cycle, much more than the cost incurred in ten mediocre or failed introductions. When we say pace, it’s important to assume the competition will copy it in no time. Pace is introduction of real products in the market, consistently with a motto to surprise expectations of the customer every time. In competitive environment it will give you a first mover advantage with better sales realization and in monopolistic environment it will increase barriers on entry of competition. The pace of introduction can be decided based on the intensity of existing competition.

2. Working capital of channel. Only new product introduction may not give the desired growth. Think this in a way that if cumulative working capital of all the channel partners is constant, the retail will only replace the existing portfolio with new one. This may give better top line because of higher realization from new product but overall volume will remain constant. If a company’s thrust is to expand, the sales volume will increase only with increase of selling capacity of the channel. This can be done with penetration into untapped market. More distributors or more retailers means more working capital. If such distribution plans are in place the real volumetric growth of new products can be assessed.

3. Cycle time: Or the speed of rotation of working capital of selling channel. This is the area which any company in any industry will love to improve. This is also a measure of supply chain performance. With the proposed implementation of GST (in India) we will see a radical shift in collaborative supply chain management with better distribution at lower cost. A longer term strategy on depot and inventory planning in line with product road map and futuristic capacity planning is required.