Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dale Carnegie - inspirational words of wisdom

Stephen Covey: Four Assumptions

Stephen Covey: Indian Talking Stick

Stephen Covey: Story At Sea

Stephen Covey: Goals and Priorities

Strengthen the ‘bottom of the pyramid’

by Anand Kumar Jaiswal
19 December 2007

The bottom of the pyramid (BOP) has become one of the dominant ideas of discussion among practising managers, academicians and policymakers. Prof. C. K. Prahalad and other proponents of BOP argue that, instead of disregarding low-income consumers as inaccessible and unprofitable, multinational corporations (MNCs) should view them as an unexploited business opportunity. Moreover, through this, MNCs can help improve the living conditions of the world’s poorest population.
The first question which needs to be answered is whether there really is a ‘fortune’ at the bottom and how big is the BOP market. The oft-discussed BOP success stories are mainly from developing countries with relatively higher economic growth rate and/or high per capita income such as India, Brazil and Mexico.
The concept’s applicability in the poorest nations is questionable. About 2.4 billion people live in low-income countries; among them 751.8 million people live in least developed countries (LDCs).
The World Bank uses $1 and $2 per day as reference poverty lines. In 2001, 1.1 billion people were living on less than $1 a day. If we enlarge the base, 2.7 billion people lived on less than $2 a day. These 2.7-billion people living in acute poverty and struggling to meet even basic needs can by no means be viewed as a profitable market for large corporations.
HUL case study
Proponents of BOP point out Hindustan Unilever Limited’s (HUL’s) success with low-priced candy aimed at the BOP markets. However, in 2005, HUL actually pulled out of the confectionery business as it did not generate satisfactory financial results. Similarly, HUL’s innovation of transporting ice-creams in un-refrigerated vehicles and Annapurna iodised salt were quoted as examples of BOP success.
It is a different matter that, owing to continuous losses in ice-cream business, HUL later decided to focus only on economically better-off customers in select cities (Karnani, 2007). National salt brands, including Annapurna, are out of reach of most poor consumers. In 2002, national brands had a 45 per cent share of the iodised branded salt market while local brands held the remaining 55 per cent share.
Small isn’t beautiful
The proponents suggest several ways to MNCs to tap low-income markets. Use of sachets and low-unit packs is one such However, empirical evidence does not support this contention. An AC Nielsen study has shown that for products such as biscuit, jam, washing powder, sanitary napkin and milk powder, the smallest available packs are not the largest contributor to total volumes of product sold in rural areas (Dobhal and Das Munshi, 2005).
Shampoo is one exception where sachets have the highest share of total volumes sold. Another study by LG Healthcare in India questions the usefulness of sachets for marketers. The result has shown that, although sachets have helped in increased penetration, they have also caused a decrease in overall consumption. Also selling large volume packs enable companies to reduce the processing and transactions costs, not the other way round.
Factors overlooked
BOP work also overlooks the role of several factors, which are often invisible and which facilitate organisations to serve BOP markets on a sustainable and profitable basis. These factors can be in different forms such as support from other organisations, availability of workforce at a lower than market wage rate or availability of low cost or free advertising and communication support (Dixit and Sharan, 2007).
In the case of Aravind Eye Hospital (AEH), local business units, Lions Club, Rotary Club and Vivekananda Kendra organise eye camps and bear the associated costs, which were estimated to be over Rs 200 per patient more than a decade ago. Employees at organisations such as AEH and Amul are dedicated to the cause, hard working, productive and work for a pay which is far lower than that in most private organisations.
The proponents of BOP assert that poverty can be eradicated through BOP initiatives by 2020. Eliminating poverty in just 15 years may be nothing but wishful thinking. It is unclear how selling products such as candies, shampoos, soaps, detergents or refrigerators to the poor will eradicate poverty in just 15 years. The important issue is that BOP consumers cannot really buy more than they currently do because of little disposable income they have.
Raise income levels
To reduce poverty, the income level needs to be raised and for that the poor should be seen as producers and providers. Income of the poor can be increased by providing an efficient system to bring to the market their agriculture produce, handicraft and other products they manufacture. Models such as that of Amul and Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, which facilitate decentralised production by thousands of milk farmers and low-income women, contribute immensely to income generation by the poor. We cannot also totally disapprove viewing the poor as consumers as some argue (Karnani, 2007).
Selective consumption by the poor, which entails enabling or restricting the consumption based on the characteristics of goods to be consumed and the net effect on their well-being should be facilitated.
The private sector should avoid undesirable inclusion (marketing products that are not likely to enhance their wellbeing or products that are likely to be abused by them) and exclusion (not offering products that are likely to enhance their wellbeing) of the poor in target market selection decisions. The poor are more vulnerable to undesirable inclusion.
Disparities in income and differences in lifestyle add to a greater perceived relative deprivation. Intensive advertising and promotion of products may result in misplaced priorities in resource allocation.
These consumers may spend or overspend on non-essential goods while cutting down their expenditure on education, nutrition and health.
For instance, under the influence of an attractive advertising campaign, a rural woman may be induced to buy fairness cream or hair colorant. The problem with the consumerist-focused BOP movement is that it does not differentiate between priority and non-priority areas. Contrary to the impression one gets from BOP work, multinationals’ entry in BOP markets may actually create serious problems also. Examples such as Coca-Cola’s alleged involvement in groundwater depletion in Kerala or Nike’s sweatshops in developing countries show that multinationals’ BOP engagement can also be severely problematic.
A rather cautious approach on large corporations’ participation in low-income markets is needed. Managers working in MNCs should carefully formulate their BOP strategies so that they do not add any further woes to the already marginalised and vulnerable population.
From the perspective of policy making, there cannot be BOP miracles without improving the basics. Economic growth and improvement in quality of life are largely driven by investment in education and generation of large-scale employment. Poverty can be alleviated only through enhancing income generation of the poor and there cannot be BOP shortcuts

Enterprise 2.0 and Blue Ocean Strategy

In 2004, two professors from INSEAD, W. Chan Kim and RenĂ©e Mauborgne published an article in the Harvard Business Review, introducing the concept of “Blue Ocean Strategy”. A number of articles soon followed and a book was published in 2005. This approach has quickly become one of today’s more influential works on business strategy and the book has published over a million copies.
Blue Ocean Strategy is about creating new markets through the introduction of new products. The reference to “Blue Ocean” comes from the authors’ use of a metaphor of markets as oceans. They claim that most organsiations compete in Red Oceans, with essentially the same products against a shared core customer base. In this model, companies focus all their time and energy competing with each another: products become commodities and victories are pyrrhic. With all this fighting, the marketplace is bloody – a Red Ocean.
Blue Oceans are about creating product offerings that are so fundamentally different, they create a new market. The competitor is innovation, not a similar company. As is shown in the book, companies that have created Blue Oceans have been the big winners in the 20th century and the authors believe this trend with continue. Examples include Henry Ford with the automobile and Southwest Airlines with budget travel. Most case studies from the authors are not technology companies or even new companies.
The authors provide plenty of case studies that show that creating a Blue Ocean is not necessarily about technology. That said, I believe it is becoming increasingly difficult for an existing organisation to be innovative without good technology or at least simple technology – especially large companies. This is because their legacy systems are so complex and difficult to manage and their products so tied to this infrastructure that thinking beyond the current-state is extremely difficult.
Implementing systems based on Enterprise 2.0 principles of agility, collaboration and simplicity enables a much better way to innovate. It’s long journey for big company, but worth starting now. And sailing on the Blue Ocean gets a lot easier without a bunch of leaky boats. --(Fastforward)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Time management essential

Written plan aids in organizing and prioritizing daily tasks, allowing for better flow in business

One of the major stress factors in owning a small business is that there simply isn't enough time to accomplish all that needs to be done to keep your business running smoothly. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly faced with choices about how to spend your time. It is a valuable commodity and you can only make it go so far. Keep in mind that it is not just how much time you have, but what you do with it that counts. Time management really means managing yourself and your job responsibilities effectively. Small-business owners typically get bogged down for two reasons: poor planning and poor communication. Unless you have a written plan guiding your business, each decision requires too much time and you spend more time fixing past mistakes than planning for the future. Create a business plan to outline the fundamental goals and objectives of your business. With a plan in place, you can concentrate on implementation rather than rethinking each decision. Implementing the business plan also means putting processes in place that allow employees to execute according to plan. ''Process mapping'' will allow common exceptions to be resolved in a consistent and timely manner. This allows you to concentrate on major issues and better manage your time. Regarding communication, maintain an open-door policy for employees. Create an atmosphere that encourages employees to keep you informed about what is going on in your business. Employees are on the front lines and know your business almost as well as you do. They might know your customers better than you do. To make better use of your time, log appointments and major deadlines in a monthly calendar. Write down what must be done and the due dates for projects at key progress intervals. There are many time-management systems available. Everything from pocket calendars to various types of daytimers to electronic schedulers can help you control your time commitments and project obligations. Start each day with a planned schedule. Try to arrive at your office 15 minutes early. You can create an expectation that you have 15 extra minutes daily simply to organize before you begin the business of the day. Make a checklist of priority items and the amount of time you can dedicate to each. Integrate your daily appointments into the checklist. If you find that you are most productive in the morning, perhaps you want to work at your desk until noon and save sales calls for the afternoon. Adjust your calendar to your own personal style for maximum effectiveness. Make it your common practice to establish firm deadlines and meet them. Set deadlines for employees. They will look to you as an example of how things are accomplished within the business. If you routinely meet deadlines, employees will be more likely to meet their deadlines as well. - (