World SME Conference and My Moments Around It!

प्रकाशित किया गया जनवरी 4, 2010 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: People

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It is not easy to find Dr Jagdish Sheth’s time, even if it is just one minute. On the sidelines of Milagrow World SME Conference,  I succeeded in getting more than a minute. Last I heard him was at Madras Management Association, couple of years back.

 

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Then I actually succeeded in persuading Prof Anil Gupta to pose for this picture. Those of us who have the propensity to use the term ‘innovation’ a dozen times a day would do well to listen to a lecture of Prof Gupta to figure out what innovation actually is. 

These are my jewel moments at the World SME Conference 2009, which I shall cherish for several years.

A unique idea goes into execution

प्रकाशित किया गया दिसम्बर 12, 2009 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: Uncategorized

A great conference shapes up, inch-by-inch, and reaches close to the D-Day. I am refering to Milagrow World SME Conference coming week in New Delhi ( Dec 16-17, 2009 actually). Incidentally, my alma-mater IMT Ghaziabad is an academic partner at this conference and we have done some amazing amount of work together at Milagrow IMT Ghaziabad MSME Center of Excellence. Makes me feel good.

 

Government representatives representing policy makers component of the MSME ecosystem, academicians who matter, and industry stalwarts who have seen it all. That, incidentally includes my CEO, Rajeev Karwal, who feels very strongly on MSME issues, and is always full of data and softer inputs in an argument that it is difficult to win from him! Besides, there is Anu Aga, Raman Roy, Rajesh Jain, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, SMB Nation’s Harry Brelsford, Prof Jagdish Sheth(I could’t take his autograph on his book in Chennai, let me try again!), Prof Anil Gupta of IIM A who is synonymous with the grassroots innovation movement in India. Besides, journalists such as Manvi Dhillon, Shereen Bhan, Chetan Sharma and so on.

My colleague Nishant put this presentation up on SlideShare. Should you be interested in knowing more about this conference, please feel free to the event microsite www.wsme.in – I rather feel you should – even if you are thousands of miles away from Delhi, where we are hosting this edition of the conference.

Never Tired of Reading about Social Media

प्रकाशित किया गया नवम्बर 28, 2009 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: Uncategorized

Especially, when it happens to be about how organisations are getting affected. This one is from McKinsey Quarterly and answers questions on social media that managements would like want to know about. And in line with the state of things, the ‘ground bottom’ of the organisations know much more about what is being spoken in this video and, neither even care about some of the points here. But if you are the ‘management’ layer, do hit the play button to listen to MIT’s Andrew McAfee.


Well, if you cannot see the video, sorry, I am doing what McKinsey asked me to do. So what if the result is not there!

Discounts Don’t Work …Always

प्रकाशित किया गया नवम्बर 20, 2009 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: Business

Just see the picture below and think if you ever saw a bigger discount before. I had not, till I saw this in Gurgaon few days back. This is one of the busy malls at MG Road. However, the large discount seem to attract no footfalls.

DSC00974 In fact, the attendants inside were busy chatting as there was no customer inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning: Never discount your brand like this, won’t get you any customers.

Pranav Mistry at TEDIndia: You rock!

प्रकाशित किया गया नवम्बर 20, 2009 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: Technology

Let me admit this – I never heard of Pranav Mistry before. However, the simplicity with which he presented his Sixth Sense technology at TEDIndia recently is an absolute stunner. Someone forwarded me this link and I watched this several times already. There are many people with several disruptive ideas and innovations, however, demonstrating their relevance to everyday touch-points is something to be truly seen and felt via this presentation. Due to Youtube duration limitations, the presentation is in two parts. Total duration is less than 15 minutes and you must watch this, even if you know nothing about technology.

 

The technology is called Sixth Sense, and in Pranav’s words, connects the real to the digital. It has some pretty amazing applications already.

 

Pranav, your presentation has left a promise.We wait for it to be fulfilled soon. And by the way, you rock!

How haughty can one get about competition

प्रकाशित किया गया नवम्बर 4, 2009 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: Marketing

It is daily that one finds car companies comparing their upcoming car and ‘any other thing on wheels’. It is also a common occurrence to find soap and shampoo manufacturers comparing their product and ‘any other ordinary’ product . People in my generation recall the ad with the line ‘adha kilo surf kisi aur sadharan powder ke ke ek kilo barabar hota hai’. Bike companies in India have long done feature-to-feature competition with competition products for ages.

It is one thing to call your competition as ‘any other’ or common (‘sadharan’ in Hindi). Basically the objective in such communications is three fold. One, to show product superiority. Two, to show that the competition as a commodity. Three, not to allow competition any visibility at your cost.

But to call your competition fake?! I find it rather strange that an purported original, which actually came into being (or purported prominence) after the purported original (rumoured or alleged), reportedly calls the purported fake as fake?! Leaves you clueless?

It is quite a known fact that Zoho is among the most promising and closely watched SAAS based service provider for desktop services(and elements of enterprise services, just a bit of it). It is also among those that came into being before even Google Docs was launched. But it is being called fake! The purported original, to the best of my understanding, largely existed in a much different form and shape, though at one level they do compete for the same space. How about calling the pizza fake because the corn exists! And Microsoft’s pizza, though fresh and nice smelling, came after Zoho’s office productivity suite had celebrated its birthdays. So it is what, a fake based on another fake’s success, or a fake based on the implied original?

Some someone invented a writing instrument, say, a pencil. And another one invented another, entirely different in concept and ideas, let’s say, a pen. So, by the above logic, the pen is a fake pencil. And the guy who invented the computer printer is an absolute thief!Wow!!

Sridhar Vembu of Zoho is understandably ballistic. And look at Zoho’s creative (and humorous response to Microsoft). FakeOffice.org.

Indian Railways is Part of Ministry of Civil Aviation

प्रकाशित किया गया अक्टूबर 26, 2009 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: General Jazz

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I normally do not read mundane notices, but this one somehow came in front of me couple of days back. There was a train accident near Mathura few days back, and I started reading this out of curiosity. Read this one carefully. This notification actually seems to suggest that the railways is part of Ministry of Civil Aviation.Ouch!

On another note, it also says how much of detail our official babudom can handle.

Book Recommendation: I love Outliers by Gladwell

प्रकाशित किया गया अगस्त 23, 2009 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: Business Books

In a long time, I came across a book that challenges the core of all that I have learned in my professional education as well as professional career. How how effortlessly so!

We are all taught to be trend gazers in numerous murder-by-presentation sessions. The bosslike figure will holler to a struggling deputy making the presentation  by saying, “don’t make hollow statement, show me the data”. A graph would come up, and a trendline identified and agreed. A few dots that fall far away from the trendline are laughed at and ignored. Action plans would be made based on the trendline. Sometimes these small far from trendline data points are also seen as bad data. In life, the exceptions are ignored, sometimes seen are crazy deviations. As a B-School student, anyone who went to bed early and woke up early were seen as outliers. Irregular and deviant. Ignore them.

As student of engineering, I learnt the term ‘outlier’. The literature suggested this is is out of line  data that can be ignored. I was also programmed to believe that by ignoring the outliers, the analysis quality would only become better. I held this belief all this years and this got further reinforced all these years.

outliers Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent piece of work ‘Outliers’ gave an electric  jolt to my established thoughts on what is relevant and what is not. It has challenged my deeply entrenched belief around these outliers and next time I see an exception to the rule, I would surely be quite respectful to the exception. The core message of the book is, one can ignore the outliers only because you do not know what to do with them. Your inability to understand these outliers does not become them irrelevant. In fact, these outliers bring in new  and strong behavioural elements to a system. You would realize that Einstein was what he was because he was not part of the trendline. While I am just about a third into this book, I am madly in love with it. I recommend this book to professionals, students, artists, scientists (and everyone else) alike. Even to those who don’t read books regularly. And while you are at it, don’t miss reading Blink as well as Tipping Point by the same author.

Organised retail or disorganised retail?

प्रकाशित किया गया अगस्त 22, 2009 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: Marketing

I have been wondering how to pick up the threads on this blog and today I got spurred by my shopping experience in Gurgaon.

In search of tea-bags and butter, I found myself at a store called Reliance Super in one of the many giant market complexes that dot the central area of Gurgaon. In Gurgaon, the term is mall. And it has to be pronounced as moll, as in gangster’s moll!

Call me biased if you wish to, but the thambis of Chennai are far quicker, squirm less when you seek assistance and run an amazingly well coordinated operation, whether it is a restaurant or any other store. The chokras of Mumbai are fairly quick too. In contrast, I feel a general disarray when I step out for shopping in Gurgaon.

They run a metal detector on you if you walk in by the main entrance. However, expect no such things in quite a few of Gurgaon malls if you park in the basement and take the elevator. Yes, they peep inside the car when you are about to enter the basement parking. And, the metal detector keeps beeping as people get inside, but I could not figure what they are trying to detect. Are they serious about security or serious about PR?

Coming back to Reliance Super. A reasonably spread out store in the basement and I locate tea-bags and few other things and head out for billing. No, there is no counter for ‘six items or less’, so I join a general queue. The lady ahead of me has come to do her monthly shopping and so her trolley is full. The billing assistant goes billing like this. Ten Amul Masti packs are run into the scanner one after another. Likewise, all pieces are scanned separately, even if they customer bought x number of the same item. Why apply brain to count?! Then, after scanning, he piles up whole trolleyful of stuff on the small table and tells the customer to take it. I could not fully understand, and I saw her putting everything in the trolley and heading for the exit.

Then comes my turn. I find that on the exit side of the billing counter, a one nine inch radius table is all the space on which the billing assistant can keep stuff after scanning (And I had heard that big chains get stores designed by experts!).  Thankfully, my things do not fall off that limited space. Then he helpfully tells me the amount payable, settles the cash and says, ‘le jaiye’. I asked him why he did not put my stuff in a carry bag. He said I need to buy paper bags, else he cannot help. Imagine, after billing, he tells me I need to buy carry bags. I did not see any text or visual notice to this effect which would warn my of such a possibility. I asked the billing assistant to cancel my billing and return my money. Instead, he suggested I see a counter at the exit called customer assistance desk and ‘maybe they can’ give me a carry bag. I felt I was not in India but landed in an alien land. Upon reaching the customer assistance desk,  I demanded a carry bag and I was given one, but no assistance was provided in putting the stuff inside the bag. The lady who was ahead of me at the billing counter was busy putting her stuff in multiple carry bags, since she had purchased a trolley full of stuff. Imagine, she had to do this business of putting and removing things on and from the trolley thrice, first time when she was doing her item selection along the shelves, second time when the billing clerk ran the scanner and let her stuff be strewn at the billing counter and told her to put it in the trolley and head for the customer desk and third, when the customer assistance guy lobbed some carry bags at her! Everyone had to do this thrice!!If this format of organised retailing was called ‘convenience stores’, where was the convenience? And what is ‘organised’ here? On my way back I was reflecting on the shopping experience – I had spent about thirty minutes inside the store, out of which twenty in the billing queue and beyond. The overall experience was awful.

However, I am not sure how much of it is Gurgaon issue and how much is by format design. The other day I was at Landmark outlet in Gurgaon where I wanted to buy Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘The Outliers’. The price is 399. The counter clerk wants me to tender exact change  since he has a change issue. I felt odd, how can I give an exact change of 99 when he cannot give me Re 1. Still, to  try to help, I search my wallet and tell him I did not have change either and ask him why he is running a store if he cannot does not have a one rupee coin with him ! A threat to cancel elicits the one rupee he had to give me!! And when he opens his secret stash of coins, I see he has plenty of coinage to take care of many customers such as me!!! Why, why????

A Google Operating System: Whaddaya mean?

प्रकाशित किया गया जुलाई 12, 2009 द्वारा Rajesh Kumar
श्रेणी: Marketing

Let’s face it. Bing has given it hard to Google. That’s why Google rush announced its OS initiative, though it still a year before the Google / Chrome OS becomes available. Quite unlike Google, which loves to do word-of-mouth and grapevine publicity of its products.

Recall the hype around Android, Chrome, Gmail and so on. Google has demonstrated that it knows how to use the crowd very successfully, and is a master of the grapevine mill. The best in the game, to put it one way. When it launched Gmail, it was by word-of-mouth and referral. It carried the beta tag for years for that added glamour of being an early user. In short, the Google style is to fire the grapevine, and then confirm it after a while, which could be months away. So it completely beat me why they chose to announce that they are working on an Operating System, that would be available a year from now. Simply put, this is not Google style of promotion. It appears quite knee jerk to be so.

Its quite surprising that they even chose to link it to a product (Chrome), which is perceived as less than resounding success. What’s more, Microsoft has given signs of delinking Internet Explorer with the O/S, at least in some geographies.

In my view, this could have something to do with the favourable reviews Windows 7 and its impending launch in the next few months. It could also be a sign that Bing continues to do well. So, is it a kick-for-a-kick? One only hopes this will have a downward impact on Windows 7 prices. Like Ratan Tata said while launching the Indica car – courtesy his company, people could now by a Maruti car cheaper!