Posted on 30-01-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS article

Natural spring water is a gift of nature; anybody can bring a container, and without struggle, collect water. What happens when the spring dries up? The demand-led global IT market has been the spring under which Indian IT services companies placed their buckets. Consequently, they grew phenomenally in the last two decades. With cost advantage, good management of large scale basic engineering and hard working English speaking manpower, they established the IT backend structures for developed country companies. But the Western market for such commoditized IT services is beginning to dry up; IT needs are shifting towards value led delivery. 

Offshore outsourcing is the uneasy gossip in the political climate of developed countries. The 11 million Americans who lost jobs during the recession are mostly still unemployed, and economic growth is miniscule. In this backdrop, only a case for business performance or value as measured by revenue, profit, customer satisfaction and market share justifies the significant, indispensable, recurring IT expenditure. Global IT and technology services buyers are contemplating how to de-risk IT investment. IT has become commoditized like paying for water supply or power. From operational cost cutting, IT is now assuming a business performance requirement, the only way for it to stay relevant.

Role change for CIOs: IT services are still pretty much a buyer’s market. The recession has increased the client’s price sensitivity. Ten years ago, a business driven CIO (chief information officer) in global companies was a rarity. Business now has no tolerance for CIOs who are only technologists. Although they still need IT understanding, new generation CIOs are compelled to sophisticatedly align technology for their company’s business value and performance. The pace of change dictates that they must be part of the executive team, lacking which they may be relegated in the organization.

How will Indian IT professionals, who are largely from technical backgrounds and horizontal services, fit here? Global IT brands establish client relationships at a business level with the CFO or COO, not necessarily targeting the CIO. So they are at a less competitive space; they get both high and low-end businesses. Indian origin IT firms are very strong at working reliably and technically only with CIOs or their reportees, They fight it out as commodity players in that competitive price zone. How can they re-orient and shift focus towards helping increase the client’s business? There’s some hype of IT companies appointing senior professionals from different industries to present to IT buying clients. But clients find such force fitting to be a gimmick, more like a façade to hide shortcomings of their knowhow. This move actually probably helps Indian companies to deliver better, rather than improve the customers’ business performance.

When technology is continuously advancing, clients no longer say, “Write this code.” What they ask is, “Help me optimize my supply chain efficiencies.” In a rapidly shifting economy, if Indian IT companies proactively delve deep into the client’s industry, they can find technology-enabled solutions that the client never thought of, and so increase the client’s business prospects. By crafting new services or tweaking current service offerings to be more efficient, Indian IT can display innovation and thought leadership.

Surprise the CEO client: How can you as an Indian origin IT company, make the difference? To be the client’s technology mentor or strategic partner vertically, you have to understand his industry and core processes from the board room down to the factory floor. From a service delivery point of view, how does the client interact with his clients or end-customers? Find out where that chain is broken or not aligned, and fill in some of those holes. To impress the CEO you have know the few things that a CEO can impact in his or her time in the organization, which are the market, resources, capital and service offerings. When you vertically, not horizontally, integrate inside the client’s business, you can find and fix those alignment problems to become his preferred strategic partner.

Coming in with a proposal that you can do everything even if it’s true, just doesn’t work. Most clients don’t want that, they seek focus. It is much better for organizations to re-invent themselves to specialize, have depth of service, be narrow, not wide.

Riding on the brand: The global IT companies use their branding on two axes, i.e. relevant solutions and delivery excellence. Accenture’s “High performance, delivered” is proactive and solution oriented, indicating that the firm is at the intersection of business (“performance”) and IT (“delivered”). IBM’s “Smarter planet” is again a business orientation. Global brands take that extra excellence in delivery, and marry it on the front-end with excellence in solutioning. To survive not being commoditized, Indian origin IT services companies need to proactively provide the client with an opportunity, a point of view of where the world and their business in it is going. For example, one global IT major has documented how cloud computing is going to impact different industries, how will it play out and how companies in that vertical should think about it. In essence, the domain point of view has been married with technology understanding. Now this global IT biggie is hammering home that it is different, cost competitive, and it dominates with verticals.

The business people still want technology execution probably more than CIOs do, but that is at a business level. When they want to connect the front end with the backend, Indian IT can provide the technology execution of business. But are Indian IT brands considered credible for entrusting high end jobs to? By acquiring and exposing industry expertise for the client’s business advantage, Indian IT can run delivery discipline through their go-to-market to give technology usage a business-like perspective. Aside from focus on vertical centricity, the areas crucial for Indian IT brands to address are relevant soft skills in every customer touch point, outstanding delivery execution with high technology skillset and seamless localization in their different countries of operation. With a central passion to increase the client’s business prospects, challenging them with market driven new ideas, Indian IT brands can make that paradigm shift to gain a positive image.

To download above article in PDF Disrupt IT for client biz tech solutions

Indian Express link : http://www.indianexpress.com/news/disrupt-it-for-client-biztech-solutions/743690/0

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Posted on 23-01-2011
Filed Under (TRENDS) by Shombit

The Financial EXPRESS article

Years ago, India’s famous music director SD Burman sang, “Dheere se jana khatian me, O Khatmal.” Its literal meaning is, “Bedbug, move unhurriedly on the bed (towards your stealthy purpose of sucking her blood” is implied). There was a lateral meaning too. In those days, romantically approaching a young girl was taboo. The song figuratively indicated that the man invisibly creeps slowly, like the bedbug that society doesn’t see, and bites her tactfully, but not get caught, the way you can never catch a bedbug.

But today’s bug mania is openly discussed, it’s digital, it’s the virus on your computer. American capitalism empowered the open economy, similarly, digital bugs have democratized society with multiple meanings, interpretations and options. What you’d analyze as bad could be good for me and her, what’s ugly for me is good for him, bad for another. Clearly the eclectic nature of digital technology delivers BUG mania, B for bad, U for ugly and G for good. The bug in your computer is an error, flaw, mistake, fault or failure in the system or software, but BUG mania is our obtuse digitalization of human foibles.

B=bad: Disturbs privacy. Earlier, you’d handle landline calls adroitly. If father received the call and suspected hanky-panky, the situation would roller-coaster into family chaos. The mobile phone has changed the privacy code. Is prostitution declining? No longer do hookers saunter the streets petulantly, lipstick and mirror in hand, obliquely keeping tabs at male movements behind them. Actually escort agencies have taken over, escort solicitations now secretly land on your handset, emails or print advertisements.

Grandmothers have lost happy moments of narrating fairy tales. On a click, the net takes children to unimaginable wonderlands, pornographic sites and violence videos. Does that make technology bad? Remote controlling their lives, tech-born kids visit virtual farms, clean animal pens, feed the goats everyday. They start blogs for their pet dogs, exchange cyber conversations with other dogs. They multi-task on the computer, take no phone calls they don’t recognize, send endless sms messages. If they write they expect automatic digital correction because, “Is spelling more important or the expression?” Is social networking bad for making us unsocial, giving us access to exploitation through pictures, negative propaganda?

Should the terminology for “adult at 18 years” be changed? With Freud’s Oedipus and Electra psychological complexes at the back of their minds, and hands gripping mobile phones, hide-and-seek about sex may have misplaced relevance for children. Notwithstanding amorous sexual depictions as religious culture in Khajuraho and Konark temples, Indian adults want to hide sex under the carpet or ignore its phenomenal impact on 12-year-old children upwards. This is not to criticize digitalization ruling our lives, but its analysis is not black or white.

U=ugly: Revolting political mudslinging on our liberalized electronic airwaves. The public is fed up with political debates with no code of conduct or ethics, screeching fights where nobody can understand anything. Take another technology-enabled ugly scene, the mms disclosing sexual intimacy between lovers. Cuckolded men or ditched boyfriends often, and quite disgracefully, take secret revenge on the woman by circulating such an mms on the mobile. Everyone enjoys this sharing point save the not-so-innocent victim. When a TV channel encourages people to send videos by mms of their instant newsy experiences for telecast, it uses such material to raise the channel’s TRP, and so encash more advertisements. But does it not also excite people to fabricate anti-social horrors? Remote Indian villagers buy higher GB SIM cards only to get blue film downloads integrated inside. Of course they’ll justify the higher spend on watching feature films or songs.

Insensitivity can be ugly, like a minister’s tweet on traveling cattle-class. Perhaps a playful aside of upper class arrogance, but it exposed how condescendingly politicians treat their innocent, under privileged electorate. It also exposed Twitter’s online power of disruption. Another “U” bug is haggling to buy sportsmen. “It’s not cricket” was an expression understood to mean unfair, non-gentlemanly practice. India’s IPL 20/20 has blown the lid off such sophisticated aspects of cricket. Reigning today is the mentality similar to commercial transactions with slaves, animals or women in ancient Middle Eastern bazaars. So Shah Rukh Khan has every right to invest in an appropriate player-purchase, but Kolkatans went crazy that their star item for sale fetched zilch. When that’s shown on TV, weren’t they devaluing their hero instead?

G=good: Digitalization has widened society’s mind-sphere. Sitting anywhere you can interface anything virtually, yet be personalized. It’s particularly thrilling when, after 40 years, you suddenly discover through internet social networking, a childhood woman friend whose face and name has changed after marriage. Ranjeet and Bonita subscribe to a matrimonial website to satisfy parents, but actually they use it to find dating partners. The obsession is for multiple options. Sometimes they meet only once, sometimes many times. Aside from aiding romance, technology enhances careers too, giving you the opportunity to quietly change jobs at the click of a keyboard.

Comfort and convenience are good in digitalization. It’s so easy to complain service deficiencies and get instant response, create awareness on critical issues, generate mass following for Save Tigers, Help Girl Child, or buy movie tickets. Twenty years down the line you’ll only have Kindles or iPads, no physical book library at home, the way vinyl records vanished, and cassettes, CDs fast disappearing. Digitalization enables global peace and harmony, people of all religions text each other on festivals. The banyan tree took hundreds of years to download its roots, but within nano-seconds the Internet creates a human banyan tree.

Digital technology established BUG mania, where bad, ugly and good aspects happen simultaneously. Today’s below 30 Zap generation absorbs and enjoys this incomparable BUG trend, but older generations segregate the bad, ugly and good. That’s where the chasm invisibly bites, like the bedbug, resulting in attrition at work, switching off from talking to parents at home. If you can cuddle into contemporary lifestyle and thinking, embrace BUG mania to feel young again, you may enlarge business too like L’Oreal did.

About 40 years ago when civilized society found Punks undesirable, L’Oreal took inspiration from Punks and created hair gel and color to drive the fashion revolution and make big business.

To download above article in PDF BUG mania

Link to article http://www.indianexpress.com/news/bug-mania/741114/0

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The Indian EXPRESS article

Cloud’s response to Chaplin: Western history’s last 100 years prove that they never approved of excessive human interface in business to avoid disparity in quality, human slavery and trade union problems. In the 1930s, filmmaker Charlie Chaplin highly criticized auto-mechanization and robotic human interface introduced in factories at that time. His film ‘Modern Times’ shows how factory workers remain stationary while repetitively performing a single function so the assembly line never stops. He illustrated automation for eating lunch. A machine is brought to the other side of the assembly line; its extended arm, aimed at the standing worker’s head height, puts food into his mouth so his hands can continue to perform his mechanical task. After taking a bite of food that touches no plate or cutlery, the rotisserie-like feeding machine rotates the food to facilitate his chomping the other side. This was the vision of a genius who was much ahead of his time. He mimicked the ridiculous, de-humanizing heights automation can be used for. Hence it was only natural that Western society found digital technology to cut excessive human interface in the business. Of course in its early stage it required lots of manpower, but cloud computing (in ways that Chaplin predicted with mechanization) is reducing human interface to the bare minimum.

Global IT brand kings may sandwich others with cloud:

India may be touting cloud computing as the next “in” thing without really considering where they stand in the pecking order of the industry. So it may sound absurd that new computing paradigms like cloud can radically diminish the profitability of India’s $60 billion IT industry. Sunset may be knocking on the door of the golden time when Indian-origin IT companies provided demand-led IT services to developed countries. At the macro level, globalization and digitalization are affecting all industries, at the micro level, cloud computing and social networking will impact all companies. Since the Industrial Revolution, Western nations have ruled the world’s markets using talent pool from their colonies. My thinking is that global brand IT biggies will colonize the IT world leveraging their brand worth and localizing in every country by ingeniously commanding business solutions using emerging technologies like cloud computing. Aside from several emerging technologies, they will command the powerful “cloud reservoir” to become the central hub monopolizing the IT eco-system of global companies. Majors like Accenture and IBM, among a few others, have tremendous clout as they already drive their clients’ IT strategy on investment, innovation, solutions and applications at the strategic CEO/CFO and Board level. They even manage their clients’ other IT application sub-contractors, including Indian vendors, so clients can sleep easy. Companies like Google and Microsoft, who are not big “service providers” in the Accenture, IBM sense, have access to almost every PC/Internet user in the world. They too will try and leverage their position to gain traction in the cloud world. I am sure emerging players like Facebook with 500+ million members are already working on devising strategies to have their play in the new world of cloud. Thus Indian IT majors are squeezed (or perhaps sandwiched) between the global IT biggies with their brand and customer trust on one hand, and players with deep pockets and reach like Google, Facebook and Microsoft on the other. A sandwich typically ends up being lunch. Recession has made global companies extremely price sensitive. Today’s chief information officers (CIOs) are compelled to focus on business beyond technical requirements, converting the IT function from a cost to profit centre. When technology is commoditizing yet advancing so rapidly, cloud computing may become the CIO’s cost effective solution to de-risk IT investment. Here shared resources are available on demand, the way we draw our electricity or water supply from a common grid effectively democratizing it and freeing it from rigid and insular silo-like structures. I foresee global brand IT majors inventively solving today’s cloud barriers such as security risk and 24/7 service availability. Capitalizing on their brand worth and reducing their own cost to be competitive, they will gain volume by delivering business value with strategic interface. They will use several IT companies, including Indian-origin IT, to run that marathon of providing commoditized services with huge employee numbers. Clients will naturally trust the global brand as intermediary to cut their cost, reduce the complexity of synchronizing several vendors, and advance their business growth.

Indian-origin IT getting ‘clouded’?

So will Indian-origin IT companies eventually lose their direct customer base? Will they become third party sub-contractors of global brand IT biggies? Historically Indian-origin tier 1 to tier 3 IT service has not paid attention to helping shape their client’s business strategy through technology solutions. With strong horizontal competence, Indian IT companies have successfully grown by fulfilling the vast IT demand-supply gap when manpower was scarce and expensive for clients. Providing low cost, basic technical services, they considered this advantage would always be theirs, and expected to continue growing volume and 30% bottomline annually. This is total misunderstanding of the Western world. It’s true that global companies cannot survive without IT support tomorrow, but moot point is whether India’s current IT service model will remain indispensable. Global clients have always associated Indian IT as cost advantage from diligent service providers having scale and cost advantages. They consider them ‘order takers’ rather than consultative approach vendors who enhance the client’s business. Indian IT’s current focus on global delivery model chases volume growth, scale, utilizing capacity resources to maxime market share from current leaders. In going after quantity, they fail to strategize and invest qualitatively in imbibing best practices for long-term sustainable brand worth for better growth and net worth. In working directly with clients when technology has become competitive and commoditized, a huge cost reduction is expected. Work volume could become very high, but bottomline will plummet to 5%.

Emphasize human intelligence in basic coding interface:

The days of 25 to 30% bottomline in this cloudy world may be a thing of the past. A dramatic mindset shift is required towards becoming client business centric. The only choice is vertical centricity, diving in-depth into the client’s industry to shape his business strategy with high quality IT execution. Eighty percent of India’s delivery execution people comprise the Zap generation, below 30 years. They don’t like to be software coders. After 3 to 5 coding years these IT professionals want to become managers who control teams. The IIMs have geared up MBA courses for them, but omit to teach how they can help enhance the client’s business in a global marketplace. So these engineering MBAs do not imbibe high quality technical skill or global marketing skills, eventually falling into the “order taker” trap. Indian-origin IT enterprises also need to emphasize on making their brand globally accepted as a value differentiator. They fail to engage at a strategic level because of soft skills deficiency among employees. All companies claim they have soft skill training. Unfortunately that’s an ISO-type certification that clients fail to perceive. A further gap is non-usage of best practices and their vast knowledge experience that already resides in the company to build a globally reputed brand. Scant attention is paid to collecting the company’s historical data and managing it for easy retrieval for usage when required. Indian managements give special consideration to the time employees spend at work rather than to productive quality. Just people numbers may not justify the man-hours a given subject requires. Western culture may rationalize these areas by taking the advantage of cloud computing among others.

Be sensitive to menu than thali: To localize solutions, Indian-origin IT companies may borrow a leaf from how big star restaurants in the West serve customers. Using same ingredients, different chefs create their brands by embellishing dishes differently to sell at different prices. Western cuisine does not mix food like we do in the Indian thali system. From pre-starter to starter, the main course, dessert and digestive, all are served separately by changing plates every time to restore each taste. My point is to understand cultural differences, not criticize either eating system. Indian-origin IT companies serve like the thali where everything can be mixed. This generic IT service with several service lines caters alike to different industries. It does not sharpen focus for specific business requirements of customers. Volume business with standardized basic technology is processed to benefit customers with reduced cost and people arbitrage. Such service is commoditized today, like our water or electricity requirements. All customer touch points that engage the customer professionally and psychologically, in marketing, sales, PR or delivery execution are in a thali today. Clients don’t care for sales and marketing people, or large service lines numbers. They just need to enslave technology in their own industry to grow their businesses better than their competitors.

Execution excellence dive will certainly recognize Indian IT as global brands:

Indian-origin IT enterprises will gain respect as global brands of IT intelligence if they drive this menu: 1) Exceptional localization in each country they operate in, from culture, business and resource perspectives 2) Seamless blend of different human races of the world at work. 3) Employees should be trained to become gold mines themselves, unlike the current transactional training for gold hunting. This global human capital practice ensures people stability. 4) Deep-down focus on the client’s business vertical with superior quality execution, the way Japanese and Koreans promoted their brands into new lands very successfully. They have globalized several brands with high execution quality, rather than claiming to innovate. This should be the grand route for Indian-origin IT; innovation and inventions are buzz words that the world is not yet ready to accept from them. Every effort of global clients is to build the worth of their own brands for gaining proximity of their products and services to their end-customers. Global IT biggies are totally in sync with that and cloud computing may be an accessory. Unless Indian IT thinking, execution excellence with human intelligence and interface are superbly relevant to their clients’ business growth, will you still find Indian IT millionaires tomorrow, or will they all become ‘clouded’?

Click here To download above article in PDF  Cloud computing

Link to article http://www.indianexpress.com/news/lessons-for-indian-it-in-the-world-of-cloud/738014/0

Link to e-paper :http://epaper.indianexpress.com/IE/IEH/2011/01/16/INDEX.SHTML

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Posted on 16-01-2011
Filed Under (TRENDS) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

The automobile is an adult’s ultimate aspirational toy. People use it to stamp their differentiation. Look at how musician John Lennon expressed his anti-war philosophy in 1965. He paid £2,000 to a Dutch team of gypsy artists to paint his thoughts in his Rolls Royce. The car turned out so psychedelic it made it to the Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not Museum. Automobiles have inspired several artist painters. Such expressions are normally visible in apparel fashion, but in the summit of painting their imagination, people extend fashion to the automobiles they possess. On the 100th birthday of the automobile in 1986, pop icon artist Andy Warhol was commissioned by DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Mercedes Benz and BMW to paint a series about cars. BMW also had artists Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Ernst Fuchs do art cars.

But an automobile is a big ticket item. How often can consumers get designer cars painted by famous artists or afford to change their cars? Yet everyone wants to be different. Newer kinds of spendthrifts have emerged like the below 30 Digital Zappers. This generation flits from product to product, their needs are many and a-changing, and they influence every purchase made in the home. Reshuffling change is their frenetic new habit which is driving industries out of breath.

The major perpetrator to disrupt market rules with recurrent newness is the mobile phone. It took the landline several decades to change functionality, design and aesthetics. Today’s tech-savvy mobile phone has not just minituarized itself, it has collapsed many industries into a single device in the palm of the consumer’s hand. You have anytime access to the camera, TV, banking, Internet, calculator, music system, dictionary, pen, paper, phone and many more functions. In the home, a refrigerator spent a good 40 years with you earlier, the music system at least 15 years, while the thought of discarding a TV set was unheard of. Then Japanese and Koreans arrived to topsy turvy our belief that electric and electronic appliances vacate the trend-wagon every 3 to 5 years. If home appliances could be changed so radically, why not the automobile?

In this backdrop, auto designers would do well to re-think about how to connect to consumers’ changing needs. Long work hours in developing countries are making working couples spend less time with each other. So adultery is on the rise, as are social stress and divorce. Grappling to find pressure busters, people are becoming more self-indulgent, and their high spend patterns getting into diverse new areas. In the auto industry, in spite of digitalization, consumers cannot change vehicles like they do mobile phones. Nor can the vehicle’s development time be squeezed to below 2 to 3 years.

Style your own car”: Regular-change auto remodeling accessories could be the auto industry’s quick solution to participate in the consumers’ frequent changing habit. Certain physical elements can be altered to change the car’s overall appearance, without disturbing its internal master engineering. These could be the bumper or steering wheel, bonnet, wheel cap, side mirror, gear holding, upholstery, among others. Remodeling accessories should never be considered as replacement of damaged features. Instead, the auto industry should promote “style your own car” as the contemporary new dimension that takes car owners into the quick changing paradigm.

Consumers generally keep a car for 3 years, which obliges them to stick to its original style. For today’s change mentality, that’s an eternity, total frustration creeps in. Remodeling their cars will definitely perk them up. Multiple visible looks can be generated for people to use different remodeling accessories on different occasions. They need not go for superficial accessories such as crazy horn sounds, music on reverse gear or stylish hubcaps, among others.

Easy-fix remodeling accessories can represent an India-centric trend: India represents only 3.5% of the global automobile market. Considering its 1.2 billion population, every auto manufacturer is focusing on capturing this throbbing potential. The scope for invention using India’s unique diversity of culture, social, language, food, geography is tremendous. With the economy on the boom trend, people are looking for personal identification, status or cultural difference. By testing and proving remodeling accessories in India, this new concept can open a new business horizon in the global market, and promote India’s unique multi-cultural aspect.

Easy-fix remodeling accessories can redefine the service station. Creating a new dimension of activities, it can become a new revenue stream and brand image enhancer for both manufacturer and dealer. Consumers glorify the brand that allows them to transplant their own personality into the vehicle during their period of ownership.

Remodeling accessories must be relevant to socio-behavioural clusters: Over the past decade, we’ve tracked Indian consumers and have identified 8 socio-behavioral consumer clusters in every income group. Society’s drivers are the clusters of Critical, Novelty seeker, Flamboyant, Techy and Gizmo lovers. Remodeling accessories for this group can be complex and exhibitionist, whereas for society followers, the Low key, Value seeker and Sober, they can be simple yet functional. A wide variety in each type will invite consumers of every socio-behavioural cluster to change to get out of boredom.

Auto manufacturers can consider offering easy-fix remodeling accessories for at least 10 features in the car. Each feature will have 4 choices each for the driver and follower groups; for example, 8 pieces of the rear view mirror feature. These should all flaunt widely different characters to connect to these different socio-behavioral clusters of consumers. Different packages can range from $200 to a maximum of $2000 for an automobile that costs about $12000.

Rapidfire change running across industries: Product planning for tomorrow’s vehicle can in-build design that allows easy fixing of remodeling accessories. This could start a new industry where quality, cost and aspiration at any price point are not compromised. Avoid marketing them as gadgets. Take a cue from Swatch, an oft-changing product, which was never marketed as a temporary doodad. Swatch is reputed as serious, low priced, highly aspirational, accompanying everyday lifestyle and the mood change driver of different people in the world. Remodelling accessories could be modeled after Swatch to change the automobile industry’s perception where all vehicles look more or less the same.

American automobiles have a Barbie doll image, Italians show off delicate women, the French ooze fashion and English cars are a royal experience. German cars reflect hardcore sophisticated engineering, the Swedes stress on safety, Japan on quality and cost efficiency, which Koreans diligently follow. This new idea showcasing diversity through remodelling accessories could acquire for India a futuristic image and be our contribution to the auto world.


To download above article in PDF Please Change your car ever so often


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Posted on 09-01-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

In childhood, for those of us born before 1980, we’d experienced our fathers, sometimes mother, doing the family’s shopping. Our parents were the influencers, buyers, and among consumers for all home requirement purchases. We accepted everything without questioning, be it food, clothing or pocket money, for fear of a reprimand. But showing good results in school was license to negotiate hard with mother for extra pocket money. We even managed a small Lakshmi Bhander (terracotta piggybank) in the hope that the Hindu goddess of wealth will always protect our savings.

Upto 1990, every father’s pocket was sealed, but today, it’s all become topsy-turvy. Lakshmi Bhandar potters may have lost their jobs because the Zap generation (Digital Zap: born in 1986 onwards: the span can go back to 1980 to all below 30 years, Compromise generation: born after 1965 upto 1980: 30 – 45 years, Retro generation: Born before 1965: 45+ years) does not save, they love to spend. Busy parents compensate guilt at denying quality time to children by becoming indulgent. The buyer, influencer and consumer are not the same person anymore. People from the age of 5 to 22 years make choices for all types of products for the family. From savings and frugal spending, the trend is to shop, shop and shop to overcome situations like boredom, depression or excitement at festivities.

Different living conditions: Tracking the impact of 1991 economic reforms, we’ve found India’s traditional joint family has broken into 7 living structures, especially in urban areas: 1) Young working boy or girl living independently when far from home. 2) Nuclear family where only the husband works. 3) Nuclear families where both husband and wife work pander to children’s demands. 4) Unmarried boy and girl living together. Acceptance of this relationship is an inverted situation for Compromise and Retro parents. Those who cannot accept pretend not to know anything. 5) Joint family, inside which are self-indulging goodies like expensive chocolates not shared outside the nuclear unit. According to income or family size, there could be different refrigerators in a joint family where cooking happens in one kitchen only. Let me elaborate on 6) Neo-joint family and 7) Retired couples.

Neo-joint family: All married brothers living under the same roof with separate kitchens adhere to the great SAM principle, “Solpa adjust madi” meaning “just adjust a bit” in Kannada. This reflects the accommodating, tolerant character of Indians. Family members meet periodically for lunch or dinner in the parents’ kitchen. In consumer homes I visited in Ludhiana during research for a real estate company, a neo-joint family member was elucidating the boons and dilemmas of family bonding. He wanted to buy a Mercedes, but his elder brother drove a Maruti. Socially the elder had to own a car of similar or higher status so he felt constrained. Although his elder brother didn’t mind, what would his parents think, or society say? Not to disturb family hierarchy he resorted to family PR and convinced his mother to speak to his elder brother to get everyone’s green signal.

Retired couple living alone: In a research trip to Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, I was taken aback talking with retired couples living in B class towns. Their vocabulary was “buck” driven, about exchange rate fluctuation with the dollar. The fact was that their children working in the IT sector in USA would send them monthly allowances with bonus on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day. These were not yesteryear’s old fashioned retired couples; bankers were lining up to woo them to get a bit of their “greenback” savings.

Business gains: Why is it necessary to know how people live? For consumer market business, it’s among the most important opportunities to enlarge their offer. This multi-complexity arising from India’s diverse culture, religion, language does not exist anywhere else in the world. The family size cues product quantity or size, and clarifies different packet sizes to be handled for efficient supply chain management. It indicates the price band, sharpens the inventory and gives an idea of what products to bundle as special offers. If manufacturers know family living conditions, they can provide high proximity to different family size buyers through retailers. A retail’s neighbourhood catchment also rationalizes the store’s space accordingly. Without addressing this fundamental business source, marketers often bring Western marketing culture, which undoubtedly is innovative, but only its localized application in India can bring success.

Influencer, buyer and consumer: Purchase behavior has radically changed even 60 kms from metros. A 35-year-old mother with Rs 25,000 per month household income says her 11-year-old daughter decides the lipstick she should wear. Even the father of a 15-year-old bemoans of his child’s interference in his dressing. Clearly, Zappers are influencing every family purchase today. Sometimes they become buyers and consumers too. Compromise and Retro buy as per commanding Zapper influence. For instance, parents depend on Zapper recommendation for styling, technology and trend in buying a car although the father is the more frequent user.

In contrast, Zappers feel discordant in the corporate world. They cannot influence decision-making as Compromise and Retro do not value their knowledge of society and trend. So they often switch off, and flirt with jobs outside to enrich their CVs. To win their loyalty, work passion and reduce attrition, industries need to drastically change their traditional outlook and contemporarize corporate culture. Zap influence will more easily connect products and services to the external world because at the end of the day, Zappers are society’s influencers.

To download above article in PDF Please who’s influencing your shopping

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Posted on 02-01-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

Different religions and cultures have different year-ending times, but when it comes to 31st December, it’s a unified, one-world global culture to ring in the New Year. What’s considered the best marketing job to date? To Christianity’s credit, their globalization of New Year is the clear winner. The world’s longest running, unique, uninterrupted, sustainable Government is vested in the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, of whom the first was St Peter, born in 1 BC, died in 67 AD. Today’s businesses, politics, kingdoms and governments have a huge lesson to learn from the incomparable Holy See, modern day Vatican. It has survived undisrupted as a sovereign entity for over 2000 years.

Sitting in India or non-Christian countries, people accept the Gregorian year-numbering system as the predominant international standard. This New Year celebration is actually of Hebrew origin to mark December 31 as the last day. Pope Gregory XIII calculated, froze, introduced and imposed a calendar named after him, signed by a papal decree on 24 February 1582, which has now become the global norm. The previous Julian calendar assumed the time between vernal equinoxes to be 365.25 days, when in fact it is about 11 minutes less, resulting in the equinox not being on a firm date. Since the equinox was tied to the celebration of Easter, the Roman Catholic Church considered this steady movement to be undesirable. Hence the Gregorian calendar, which continued the previous year-numbering system of Anno Domini that counts years from the traditional incarnation of Jesus, spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.

French and German speaking countries celebrate New Year’s Eve as Saint Sylvester’s Feast. Pope Sylvester I died in 335; it’s a coincidence that his Feast is celebrated on December 31, the day of his burial in the Priscilla Catacomb. We can therefore say that December 31 as the end of the year has been imposed by Christianity (Gregorian calendar). A century sounds very long, but since the Judeo Christian dictat, there’s been only 2011 New Years. Of course the Muslim’s first day of Muharram or Chinese Yuan Tan and Japanese Oshogatsu, among others, are unique New Years, but nobody could make it as universal as Christianity’s dominating power did. The Hindu way of life has several New Year dates based on harvests, language or regions such as Maharashtra’s Gudi Padwa, Karnataka’s Ugadi, Punjabi Baisakhi, Assamese Bihu or Bengali Poila Boishak in March/April and of course Diwali for all in October.

Through different eras of handmade goods to mechanical, electronic and digital technology, festivities surrounding 31st December and 1st January are intensifying. Western Christians and converts in their colonies used to have local merriment, but with subtle autocracy, Christian doctrines have unified all societies so people erroneously consider 31st December as devoid of religion. So happily everyone welcomes 1st January as their very own celebration.

Taking this forward, no other religion has a living god-like summit as the Pope. Notwithstanding scandals of homosexual prostitution rings, pedophilia among priests to Pope Benedict XVI a Nazi conscript, prohibition of condoms and women’s liberty for abortion, ‘Holy City’ Vatican remains recognized by international law for centrally governing the Catholic Church.

The current Pope, Joseph Ratzinger, joined the Hitler Youth in 1941. Drafted into the military, he was an anti-aircraft unit member protecting BMW’s aircraft engines factory that used slave labor from Dachau concentration camp. When transferred to Hungary, he set up tank traps and watched as Jews were rounded up for transport to death camps. Eventually he deserted and became a prisoner of war. He says he’d never participated in combat or fired a shot.

When I asked my friend Bernard Offen, an 80-year-old survivor of Nazi death camps, whose 51 family members were gassed to death among 6 million murdered Jews, whether there were any good Nazis, he said. “They were all cruel.” Hitler’s dream was 1000 years of Nazi power. Ratzinger says he’d resisted Hitler then; however, dissenters were then punished, he was never punished. His past is being questioned because he’s the head of Christendom. After satisfying papal politics, he became Pope Benedict XVI, and in 2007 went to pray in Poland’s Auschwitz concentration camp. This most horrific place was where Nazis publicly tortured, court marshaled and gunned down Jews and dissenters, and purged prisoners in gas chambers. Nobody can believe such brutality can be committed from reading about it from faraway lands.

Spreading afar its influence, Christianity’s 31st December celebration has delightfully gripped India’s newfound liberalized economy. Cabaret dancers are invited from places like Brazil, Russia, Philippines and Las Vegas to show their beautiful legs and other parts of the body. Five star hotels encourage the ‘vanishing trick glass’ where people compete for grand prizes on how quickly liquor-filled glasses can ‘vanish.’ Western disc jockeys surprise with huge collections, not forgetting to play Bhangra amid techno and hip-hop to localize their entertainment.

While living in homogenous Europe enjoying 31st December celebrations, it never occurred to me to think deeply about St Sylvester’s Day. I must confess I’m part of this brainwash too. But experiencing New Year’s Eve among a billion people whose culture, language, religions are so varied, I thought, let me ponder over it. I apologize for disappointing my friends by becoming the observer not the actor this year, and not hosting the 31st December bash we all enjoy.

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