Posted on 26-06-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

After finishing a daylong corporate meeting in Chennai, I went to Marina beach to breathe the cool evening breeze. Suddenly, a huge Audi stopped. The driver emerged, next a khaki-unformed policeman-type man, then the 60-year-old owner wearing a lungi folded in half, followed by his big family tumbling out to the beach. In the West, the Audi is bought for the intangible of personal pleasure, to experience its power, technology finesse and craftsmanship skill. In India rich people buy the Audi, but a chauffeur drives it, proving that high status symbol is enjoyed even as intangibles escape them. Conflict arises here because lifestyles are moving towards aspiration and quality.

Aspiration and quality can be equated to human rights, while cost is like a religious sect that follows its own obligatory rules and regulations. If cost is the fulcrum of a deliverable, employees naturally focus on it, while paralyzing their knowledge and entrepreneurial business skills. This may satisfy promoters or shareholders, earn the employee a good appraisal, but it directly affects the brand, reducing it to a generic position.

Cost, Quality and Aspiration cannot be compromised in any selling proposition at any price point in today’s digital technology market. In seeking aspiration, the consumer takes quality for granted. No longer is she asking, ‘What’s the price?’ This was her query before 2000 when savings was her top-of-mind. Post 1991liberalization, international brands started entering the country. By 2002, new generation teenagers and the previously deprived-of-choice consumers became exposed to high quality international products. India formally agreed to Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights of WTO, by 2005 markets became flooded with foreign goods. Faced with vast choice, the consuming Indian’s standard became international quality and aspiration. Intense competition brought down price, making it a hygiene factor.

The West has always gone against nature’s given conditions, preferring control over nature through science and technology. This made them invent, irrespective of whether they destroyed the planet’s systems in doing so. The human comfort this brought gave rise to the free economy with economic power on one hand and understanding intangibles on the other. It’s possible that India never sought to change the universe as godmen have always eulogized the benefits of living with nature through systems like ayurveda and yoga. So if Indian brands are getting accepted in developed countries, it’s merely for cost advantage. This can be dangerous for sustainability. It indicates Indian industries do not understand how to create intangibles in a brand. Western brands justify high price by weaving in aspiration and quality that people accept to pay premium for. Even if they reduce price, aspiration and quality remain.

There’s no question about profitability being priority, but an organization’s sustainability demands continuous consumer bonding. If cost structuring as operational efficiency satisfies you, the consumer’s key aspiration and quality needs remain unaddressed. Quality becomes a mundane jargon manifested in quality policies hung on factory and office walls.

Volume brings down cost: Looking at the market through aspiration and quality, you’ll find volume decreases the cost factor. Developed countries in Europe did not factor in volume when they concentrated on aspiration and quality. Consequently products of aspiration and quality got aligned with high cost and became sophisticated premium luxury products. Americans introduced the concept of mass scale consumption of products. The Japanese and Koreans adopted that scale for mass consumption products, but injected it with aspiration as the priority, with quality inbuilt. Price was used for segmentation of the product category into different customer targets.

Toyota’s Oobeya: I hugely admire Toyota’s extreme sensitivity to cost, that’s never at the cost of aspiration and quality. Toyota is not the inventor of the automobile but has redefined the automobile’s connect to millions across the world. Let me share Oobeya with you, a new approach to planning and engineering that promotes more innovation, lower costs, higher quality, and fewer last-minute changes.

Corolla carries the Toyota DNA of quality, reliability and affordability while evoking consumer aspiration. In 1998, Toyota’s Chief Engineer Takeshi Yoshida took on the task of redesigning Corolla for a price under $15,000. Simultaneously the renovated design was to add high-tech options to win young drivers. Yoshida adopted Oobeya, which means big, open office in Japanese and stands for the power of open minds. It allowed Toyota to cut costs and boost quality. Cross functional teams from design, engineering, manufacturing, logistics and sales came together, tore down silos in engineering and manufacturing, and created more communication among people.

‘We had never looked at a car that way,’ said Yoshida. ‘In the past, each of us had a budget, and we were fine if we stayed under that.’ Subsequently, they realized savings in all areas, big and small. Toyota was making Corollas in North America and bringing the sunroofs from Canada. When logistics told manufacturing that transporting sunroof-equipped vehicles south from Canada cost $300 per car, executives revised the assembly process at a cost $600,000. This unexpected expenditure ended up saving millions for Toyota in the long run.

The under $15,000 Corolla was ready in March 2002 with first time right quality unheard of in the automobile industry. The design quality was so perfect that not a single change had to be made in reaching the car to the market. Explains Yoshida: ‘There are no taboos in Oobeya. Everyone is an expert… play a part in building the car…equally important to the process, so we don’t confine ourselves to just one way of thinking our way out of a problem.’

Design the cost: To get the best advantage on cost it is essential to try every method such as outsourcing, various types of negotiations and wisely managing vendors. In the 21st century, those who design their cost factoring in consumer aspiration and quality will become sustaining winners in the future. When you design the cost, you are obliged to design the total deliverable where aspiration and quality become integral. But when an organization engages only in cost cutting, it becomes like a butcher of consumer sensitivity. 


To download above article in PDF Aspiration at the fulcrum

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/aspiration-at-the-fulcrum/808669/0

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Posted on 19-06-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

The shopper’s mind and eye are always in a Yes/No mental wrestle. Have I made the right choice? Is the price right? Have I seen enough variety? Was my bargaining satisfactory? Is there something here that legitimately substitutes my bargaining temperament? Did I make a clever purchase?

For organized retail business to be viable, you need to enlarge the shopper’s eyeball space. Three types of competitors are trying to distract her: unorganized hawkers on the road or visiting homes, unorganized local traditional retails with no price consistency and small modern independent stores.

Organized modern retail business still has just 5% share of India’s Rs 22,50,000 crores retail size. Speculating with statistics, global consulting companies have created hype about the greenfield potential of India’s retail industry. Tapping this opportunity, Indian businessmen have taken the real estate route. They’ve set up large, plush, brick-and-mortar retail spaces. But have they gone through the shoppers’ sensitive core?

Like a rose, retail business is sensitive, fresh and fragile. It’s different from manufacturing companies that can multiply its distribution to sell products in different geographical areas at any given time. Retail business cannot be mobile like that. If you miss out on the expected average bill per square foot on an everyday basis, it means the retail is losing money. That’s why the shopper’s permanent addiction to the organized retail is the only solution for success.

The retail store management team needs to anticipate shopper psychographics in product involvement and purchase behavior. She can be serious, bored, snobby or showoff. She can be window shopping, romancing, perhaps love smitten, arrogant, speculative, impulsive or just a value seeker. By recognizing and addressing these moods you can expect an increase in the share of her wallet. Her shopper-centric retail experience means she gets what she wants and gets surprised to refresh her desires. A hypnotic retail façade and internal merchandize that cues shoppers to enter will attract footfall from both planned and impulse shoppers.

In-shop experience can change the metaphor of a brand. The shopper’s purchase act is linked to the type of outlet and its merchandize. It’s not the same in different types of outlets. Store plan and merchandizing creates the impact, the outlet type defines the merchandize, and the purchase act responds through the psychological parameter. The more hallucinating a store, the shopper returns to spend more. To retain her and make profits, the retailer must provide an unparalleled shopping experience. This will increase footfall, conversion, retention, repurchase and increased wallet share. Merchandize that’s unparalleled, coupled with the right price, can give you the power to sustain an ethical retail practice.

Seamless backend alignment.Proactive backend alignment is a retail’s key executional point for commercial success. Excellence in negotiating for purchase, brilliant selection, consistency of quality, speed and time management all need to be interlinked like a honeycomb. Unlike a manufacturing company where automatic systems can be exploited, the retail business has profuse human interventions. No manufacturing company will have such wide product variety that any retail has to manage. That’s why seamless coherence in every front and backend function is impotant, coupled with sensitive, microtone shopper catchment area.

Honeycomb backend coherence effectively drives shopper footfall, retention, repurchase and increase in wallet share. If a single honeycomb cell gets disconnected, the business will suffer. How should the staff ingrain this? A simple, fun way to understand the honeycomb culture is to compare backend support functions with some symbolic expression as aspirational element. Here’s how different animal characteristics can be activated in people.

A merchandizer/category management procurer should be like a cow, a holistic provider of the company. A procurer for private label should be smart like a chimpanzee, and be able to surprise shoppers with real alternatives. Consignment purchase/payment-after-sales person should be like a monkey, tricky and play around for a while. The concessionaire/shop-in-shop negotiator should like a swan, get classy products but also shout when things don’t go right. Warehousing personnel managing large spaces must be reliable like an elephant with a sharp memory and do correct bar coding. The store manager should be alert like a wolfbefore issues escalate. Department managers should handle all personnel and functions to create unique differentiation, just like every zebra’s black-and-white lines are unique. Support service has to be hardworking and diligent like ants working in teams to provide all necessary service. Like a trained German shepherd the securitymen should guard the premise and equipment with full loyalty. Housekeeping should be like the weaverbird, neat, meticulous, respecting time, and paying attention to details.

The most crucial Customer Care function should provide overwhelming service and assure shopper comfort like a sheep dog does. The strategic Marketing function should imitate a rabbit, multiply business by jumping towards growth and profitability. The sales associate should be opportunistic like a foxto close deals. MIS should be proactive, sensitive and provide silent yet effective networking like a spider. Like a goose,Human Resource should have extreme human sensitivity, ability to choose the right people to enable streamlining of all operations.Billing system/cashier should be smooth, fast and friendly, not succumb to pressure and be interactive like a cat. The entire backend attitude, behavior and action should be an interlinkedhoneycomb of extraordinary teamwork.

Within the next 10–15 years India will undoubtedly be the hub of the world’s organized retail business. As soon as FDI opens, fashion and fashion accessories organized retails will particularly face huge pressure of their brand worth. Global brands with strong brand image, quality and product sourcing competence will mesmerize India. These Indian brands will then be constrained to reduce price as they have not built aspiration beyond cut and fit.

Grass roots retail strategy is nothing more than a focus on how to occupy and maximize the shopper’s eye space. What addiction will you offer the shopper so they converge and occupy your organized modern retail space? To sustain business with reasonable profit, retailers will require patience and passion in plenty to understand the shopper’s sensitive areas.


To download above article in PDF Retail addiction.pdf

Financial Express link :http://www.indianexpress.com/news/retail-addiction/805665/0

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Posted on 12-06-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

Arithmetical number crunching in business always has limitations. Perhaps that’s why the first alphabet letter A looks blocked, sans a horizon. But the letter V opens wide into infinity, it drives unrestrained vision for achievement that is sustainable.

When an enterprise has the guts to put its product or service in the V-drive, intelligently weaving in end-customer driven innovative R&D, success becomes obvious. There could be lots of turbulence in that journey, but a win is certain. This is what happened to Apple since incorporation in 1977. The company remained coherent in the V-drive of innovation. Today Apple is the world’s largest technology firm selling consumer electronics, computer software and commercial servers, with annual revenues of over $60 billion. The iPod continues to addict different generations.

A sustainable vision is the winning character of a business. Business can have unlimited projections when the prospect is open in the V act. Of course execution can be done arithmetically in stages, with products getting improved in different generations. If corporate or product strategy is put into V-drive, you bring continuity into different generations of deliverables.

The two-finger V sign gesture was used to represent victory during World War II. In the 1960s counterculture protests against US involvement in the Vietnam War, “V” was adopted as a sign of peace which even John Lennon popularized on a poster and in song. But my adventures into different human dimensions culminate in an aspirational direction which makes you drive for vision achievement. In the clash of negatives and positives that neurons in your mind get stimulated with, you can win smoothly with a vision if you avoid mere number crunching.

The open-at-the-top letter V is powerful and visionary whereas A is for arithmetic, the oldest, most used, most elementary branch of mathematics. It can encompass advanced science and business calculations too. We cannot advance to the next level without “A” yet it’s symbolically constrained when you look up.

Using statistical information alone can give you a narrow “A” vision, either in professional or personal life. Take the concept of globalization which Pankaj Ghemawat of Spain’s IESE Business School says has surprisingly low global integration indicators. There are only 2% university students outside their home countries, just 3% people live outside their birth country, rice traded across borders is only 7% while foreigners as directors of S&P 500 companies is a mere 7% too. Of global GDP, only 20% is equivalent to exports. Vital for globalization are air travel and ocean shipping, but bilateral treaties and cartels restrict their free-flow operations.

In contrast, the V-act of globalization has unparalleled innovation, as happened in the West in the last century, from aircrafts to the Internet. Society went through exceptional turbulence as well. Was discomfort intentionally generated to create a hunger for innovation where the innovator gains as well as imposes his power? Innovations prove the strength of human intelligence to enhance living comfort. Toyota’s Corolla grew robust in V-drive since 1966, connecting to consumer trends by upgrading value. Placing corporate transformation or product design in the V-platform from inception can make you unique and take you far. Even in personal life if you continuously nurture stimuli in the victory mode, your intellectual capacity will build up to take you into leadership mode.

Living in France for over 35 years I’ve absorbed the unbeatable mechanism of the V-process, and have learnt that without putting the V-drive into action, V achievement gets left behind. Considered among the most cultured of societies, France uniquely incorporates innovation and philosophy, and nurtured intellectuals and inventors like Pascal, Pierre and Marie Curie and Pasteur. French innovations, such as Concorde and TGV in the 20th century have vastly contributed to the world’s progress. Yet, over centuries, very little of innovations emanating from France was converted to business to power world markets. Closeted parochially in their geographical hexagon, France does not engage in global public relations to publicize the country’s innovative power. Other countries have converted France’s innovative recipes into application and business.

Here’s an example: French inventors Joseph Nicephore Niepce and Louis Jacques Mande Adgurre ushered in modern photography in the 1820s. It was American John Wesley Hyatt who commercially used celluloid photography in 1868, and George Eastman invented dry photographic film for commercial use in the Kodak camera in 1888. In contrast, American inventor Thomas Alva Edison commercialized most of his innovations like the motion picture camera and the light bulb, and created one of the most successful corporations, General Electric.

Human innovative power resides in the ever-widening V-sphere which needs to action to make contributions to society. In any field, the maverick’s vision, knowledge and skill will always be ahead of its time. Society should always encourage deviant thinkers without conditions, so they can contribute by becoming more and more ground-breaking and victorious in their own specialized fields.

It’s about time that out-of-the-box innovations on the V-drive bypass the destructive ways of human beings and Nature, and cater to a higher level of human need and desire. The top ten 21st century innovation topics according to scientist Eugene S. Meieran at Intel, USA, are reminiscent of how to take society forward through Energy conservation, Resource protection, Food and water production and distribution, Waste management, Education and learning, Medicine and prolonging life, Security and counter-terrorism, New technology, Genetics and cloning and Global communication. A new type of struggle must emerge in this century so we drive V, achieve vision.

There is appalling imbalance on the innovative platform among people from different parts of the world. Caucasian Western society has been able to usurp superiority status upto now through inventions. If all emerging economy nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America dive into innovation, global power equations will change and a balanced power equation will result between the West and the rest of the world. How can this be done? Keep the A-platform for arithmetical number crunching, but make it subservient to the guiding V-drive. V-drive is for vision achievement that is endless.

To download above article in PDF Drive V achieve vision

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/drive-v-achieve-vision/802335/0

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Posted on 05-06-2011
Filed Under (WOMAN) by Shombit

From Discomfort Zone column by Shombit Sengupta in Financial Express and Indian Express

New age urban women Zappers below 30 years are truly liberated in living style, personal attitude. With terrific command they drive societal trends, harbor no taboos, and express themselves freely. There’s no evidence in them of submissiveness associated with Indian women.

A 24-year-old IT professional was narrating to me how she first negotiated for independence on being pressurized to get married. She accepted in exchange for the right to continue with her job. Within a month of marriage she was posted overseas. So for 9 months she “chilled out and enjoyed the novelty of a new culture.” She was lucky her husband and in-laws were broadminded. Failed marriages and divorce within the first year is becoming a new trend among working Zapper couples.

Working women of 35+ are in another league when divorced. They love to live alone. They value this independence after their broken marriage turmoil. Extreme loneliness of single living is preferable to dealing with expectations of subservience. Perhaps this loneliness leads the divorcee to the world of self-hedonism. When feeling down, she’s open to a relationship, but without commitment. In no hurry to make a “second mistake” of a second marriage, she finds a mature married man interesting. She can easily identify telltale signs of emotional gaps he’s facing, and having traversed that route herself, she knows how to fill that void. As neither of them want to break up his marriage, such a couple feels secure in their attainment of emotional and physical love.

The liberalized woman’s psychology is a new chapter in India. She’s not the traditional mistress. She wants her solitude, her space; she’s not dependent on his money to live her life. With no routine obligation, they respect each other’s privacy needs. She’s free to have a relationship with different men at the same time, and is comfortable doing so. It seems it’s not a matter of sexual desire. It’s to regain finer feelings post a wrecked marriage. Call this new trend "friend with benefit." They meet occasionally, surprise each other, revel in a non-materialistic companionship. Both understand and savor emotional and sexual love.

In his 1960s film Belle de Jour meaning Daylight Beauty, the incredible Spanish film maker Luis Bunuel drew the portrait of a newly-wed, sophisticated French noblewoman not ready to consummate her marriage. The couple was in love; her loving husband was patiently giving her space to mentally come to terms with physical love. One day she overheard conversation at a society gathering about private prostitution at a certain address. It aroused her curiosity. She secretly arrived at the address. Surprised to see this beautiful, high-class woman, the ‘Madam’ appointed her immediately. Hesitatingly she announced her availability on afternoons only, obviously when husband’s at work. Madam named her ‘Belle de Jour,’ the lily that blooms only in daylight, and sent her to service an aristocratic professor customer. Walking in, she found him standing with a whip. She took off her clothes. He was aghast; screeching for his familiar whore, he shooed her away. An agitated Madam and Belle de Jour peeped through the curtains and saw the regular prostitute stomp in, whip and command him to crawl, begging for sex. The masochist customer wallowed in the beatings, groveling for more. Madam realized Belle de Jour needed another kind of customer, and presented her to a young, rough-and-tough, small-time gangster with ugly, artificial teeth. In the film she fell in love with this low class brute. This story clearly established that not only do men have the choice of going to a brothel, but a bored, rich woman can experiment with prostitution for that extreme intemperance to liberate her being.

The profligacy of living on her own terms, not seeking society’s approval, is an alternative that the 35+ divorcee in India sometimes takes. To be in total control, she seeks an unattached man in his twenties with no marriage on his mind. Her attraction is to feel young and carefree once again. There’s excitement in the young man’s physical attention as he’s new to the relationship game. It’s a novel thrill for both partners. For her, it’s taking revenge for having endured the hardship of unreasonable demands that finally ruined her planned life.

In global corporate houses, it’s politically correct to showcase gender diversity. Here, a new phenomenon has emerged since India’s 1991 economic reforms. The 35+ unmarried women professionals have stormed male bastions through aggressive career building. They’ve gained stature by efficiently driving business, supporting parents, but they’re conscious about hiding emotions because, “If you display emotion, you’ll get no promotion.” Male chauvinism does block their careers though. Even in developed countries like the US, as per research by Catalyst, Corporate Library among others, women receive about 6 in 10 college degrees, yet progress is slow in reaching the top. In 2009, the publication USA Today saw only 13 women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, up from just 1 woman co-CEO in 1996 (Marion Sandler of Golden West Financial).

While conducting research, I find it extremely disturbing to hear heart-rending outpourings from women on how they’ve missed the marriage boat. A senior-level professional said she doesn’t know how to approach a man anymore, how to fall in love, to marry: “I don’t have words or the look to address a man emotionally.” Her demanding corporate role consumes her. Another 35-year-old skeptic said, “To match my age, only divorced or married men are available, and I hate the ‘second hand’ idea.” But one and all talk of having to ward off unwelcome sexual innuendoes and advances at both on and off the workplace.

To bond a brand with its consumers, I always dialogue with diverse people to capture and integrate their emotional aspects with the brand or corporate philosophy. When I experienced the genuine feelings and discomfiture of young women living alone, it froze me in my tracks. I wonder if lonely independence is what’s pushing the human borderline between sexual desire and the search for affection.

To download above article in PDF Lonely independence

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/lonely-independence/799417/0

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