Sep
25
Posted on 25-09-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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

Did you know that the housekeeping staff of most 5 star hotels in Mumbai lives in the slums? I didn’t believe it either, until I befriended a few of them in my different stays there and managed invitations to visit their homes.

No, it’s not high officials at corporate boardrooms or head offices who deliver a product or service. In any business domain, execution is always in the hands of the shop-floor. That’s habited by common people. High disparity in our socio-economic living context ensures that common people have little mindspace to understand quality excellence, and hence know little about it except what’s taught at workplace training sessions. Working classes earning a maximum of Rs 20,000 per month save for food, medical expenses and children’s education. From among them, an emerging new breed now spends Rs 500 for an outing two/three times a month. Their homes are mere covered shelters, TV is their entertainment source. All these workers deliver from Lux to Mercedes Benz, the way 5 star hotel housekeeping staff in Mumbai lives in slums, but delivers luxury lifestyles. The stark difference in hygiene of where they work and how they live is incredulous. I marvel at the superior training system of such hotels. They’ve made people who haven’t been entitled to minimum hygienic and civic comfort put in the effort to project society’s wealth.

Making and delivering outstanding quality in every sense of business can create a huge social impact. It can change India’s economy, industry, global reputation, making it a value led global hub of outsourcing in every domain. The common man’s way of living can change too, as also those with no understanding of the right parameter for global quality. The Government has taken no serious initiative to drive hygiene quality. No mass scale education system enlightens anyone of quality benchmarking systems. So willynilly it’s the organized industry that has the responsibility of inculcating quality sensitivity into ordinary people. It reminds me of the Sony Chairman’s determination after World War II. His vision was that Sony will be the first among Japanese companies to reverse Japan’s image of being the maker of low quality products. With fantastic, game-changing quality initiatives Sony has proved today that Japan rules the world in quality. Even Toyota says “Quality Revolution.”

Let me narrate how hygiene can lead to political victory in a developed country. Paris is the world’s most beautiful city, but Parisians, in the name of walking their dogs in the promenade, have an obsession of making their pets do their bio-business in front of the neighbour’s house. Jacques Chirac who twice served as the Prime Minister always harboured the ambition of becoming the President, but failed to get elected in 1981 and 1988. He finally won in 1996, before which he was Mayor of Paris. During this time he tried to prove his administrative ability to French citizens. Suddenly one day we started to see big, specially designed motorbikes with white-and-green uniformed riders reaching every corner of the city to perform a service. They operated a hand vacuum cleaner-like sucking system attached to a storage bin at the back. The bikes moved throughout the city and very elegantly “schwhoop! schwhoop! schwhoop!” sucked in every big or small pile of doggy poo on the road. He understood that asking Parisians to change their habit may make him lose his electorate, so it was better to find a proactive approach that innovatively kept Paris clean of dog shit. We used to call these bikes “motto merde” (shit bike). However, Mr Chirac became the President after Mr Mitterand’s death in 1995 upto 2007.

Every month I travel alone or with my team to underprivileged areas in India to understand the psychographics, living style, economic and social factors of the human ocean. The hygienic situation is pitiably different from my Parisian or European experience. When I present my research findings to gauge the market potential of my clients here in their sophisticated corporate meeting rooms, I wonder if the management understands the practical living condition of these low income people. Is a corporate house only for production, advertising and selling? In what condition does it sell?

Every company puts up quality messages as picture boards in the premises. Yes, quality training is imparted to scale up industrial production, but unless it’s extended to their personal living style, employees will never internalize quality sensitivity. Can industry raise the bar of our society’s living condition? I’m not talking of luxury living, but just habituating people to better hygienic and civic conditions. It’s not easy, but as an industrialist you need to do that to improve the perceptible quality of your deliverable. Perhaps the basis of the annual bonus can be the uplifted level of the worker’s living condition. Such an initiative can change the Indian paradigm of quality excellence. Your consumer will be benefited. They will not need to pay more to get 5 star quality in every purchase.

Can a beautiful Indian advertisement made abroad with a famous film star, a hullabaloo communication spend in all TV channels and cinema halls justify return on investment or define the quality parameter? Your product at the retail may still be in some horrible, unkempt condition. What’s the meaning of dogmatic ISO 9000-type cultures, unless the customer experiences real perceptible value in the product or service to be upgrading his quality of life? Making the working class highly sensitive to hygiene, civic and aesthetic sense will already boost quality. These three fundamental attributes combine to impact positively on people’s working delivery sensitivity. This should have happened before economic liberalization. Raising the consciousness of the masses can ignite them to demand better implementation of our hygienic system. Otherwise dirt will spread unabated like it is today, huge housing developments have drains with floating faeces, yet nobody cares.

To download above article in PDF Make quality inspirational and emotional

Financial Express link:http://www.financialexpress.com/news/make-quality-inspirational-&-emotional/851250/0

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Sep
18
Posted on 18-09-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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

Like extra marital sex, an organization’s flirtations with unrelated diversification, superficial repositioning and flavor-of-the-season diversifications provide only fleeting enjoyment. And trouble thereafter. Business needs a conjugal relationship. It has to strengthen itself with constant care and attention to always remain exciting and fulfilling. This is vital space, a concept I’ve developed to sensitize organizations to their regular cash cow business.

Vital space is about the base requirement. If an Indian is not satisfied with his vital need of rice or roti, he will never be able to appreciate soup. Similarly a European without bread won’t be able to appreciate caviar. Without crossing the base of food and sex, a person cannot leverage mental love. I’m not sure how effective platonic love would be in a marital relationship if the physical act between husband and wife were missing.

When the body’s vital need of blood is contaminated beyond repair, a person will not survive. The body’s natural urge is to rejuvenate its blood. As soon as blood does not flow, a blood clot forms. The vital space in business has the same characteristics like the fluidity of blood in the body. It is a real need that society nurtures. Just as man has to fulfill hunger before dreaming of sex, your business cannot graduate to the next pleasurable layer unless your current cash cow is renovated. This is your vital space, a combination of the survival and need layers of your business.

Very often business houses are impatient to enter the luxury layer of business without solidifying their survival factor. Here’s your typical scenario as a businessman: you’ve grown your base business year after year, but perhaps low profit demoralizes you now. Next door, an emerging business is witnessing high profit. That’s the temptation. In a quick, opportunity-grabbing temperament you may enter that business to earn higher profit in a shorter span of time than your current business. But wait! Before relegating your current business to the back burner, did you check whether it could deliver better if an alternative best practice is applied or delivery time altered? Perhaps your offer has to be radically renovated because some unrelated business is eating into your market, and you haven’t noticed.

If your customers have shifted away, it means you lack proactiveness. Is your business of obsolete technology? Or have the habits of people changed? You have to understand the interplay of your business in the competitive environment that’s both related or unrelated to your business. To revive an unprofitable business, you certainly need mental strength and a ‘creative business strategy.’ Business has borrowed the war term Strategy, but it’s not compatible. Wars are fought over a limited time, not indefinitely. But sustaining business at any given time is your most important factor. In traditional business strategy you are being generic; not practising anything better than your competitor. But the difference in creative business strategy, also useful at wartime, is that the stratagem is known only to the top brass. It’s a macro gambit to win the war at the critical moment.

Creative business strategy differentiates you from run-of-the-mill strategy planning. Bringing creativity into business supersedes benchmarking with the best, where quantitative data specifies how a comparable company became successful under similar market conditions. It’s dangerous to follow such an analogous path because your data may not be as complete or comprehensive, so the desired result may escape you.

Build your own ingredients and create your own weapons to analyze your company’s strengths, and assess your environment. You can consolidate your business by refining your ‘vital space,’ your existing market offer. This accounts for 40 to 60% of annual revenue, perhaps even 70%. This valuable business source, the company’s foundation, is connected to the market, trade and partners and customers. This vital space can become so mechanical that companies often remember just to milk it, not nurture it.

In hungering for topline growth, organizations indulge in superficial repositioning, diversifications that are either flavor-of-the-season or unrelated to its vital space. Such unreal growth just cannibalizes and compresses the vital space. A shrinking vital space increases the cost of complexity, weakens core competence. Essentially it creates roadblocks to profit, growth and intellectual goodwill to expand. Investor confidence subsequently reduces, and a crisis erupts to acquire high quality professional talent to manage the show. New people often get into new ventures that eat into the vital space, and contaminate it. Creative business strategy primarily concentrates on how to continuously address and visibly grow the vital space, that comfort zone that hypnotizes employees to perform.

Vital space activities invariably become everyday routine habits in the organization’s lifecycle. You may not want to disturb the vital space for fear of upsetting the apple-cart on its way to market. But by not touching it, you really can’t gauge how far back you are stepping. Your offer will soon be attacked or devoured by low price products or services, aggressive competitors, or unpredictable competition driven by modern technology. In business, vital space is the existing customers’ foothold. Without its continuous, meticulous observation and nurturing, you will never really know when and why your customers changed their mind and went away to other offers.

Indian companies appear very reluctant to create self struggle for reviving their existing business. Have they really comprehended the vast difference in being an assembler or trader, versus being an aspirational, core competence-driven, customer sensitive manufacturing company? For example, a courier service can simply have messengers, or establish a cocooning and elegant culture that talks about hard work to make the customer extremely happy. The renovation process can help make vital space powerful. A company’s strength sustains on its existing people, culture, products, their relation to the market, from retail animation to the product reaching the customer’s home. Harness the skill and experience of your employees. Your organizational delivery will flow smoothly to maintain what’s vital in your business. 

 

To download above article in PDF Nurture your vital space before flaunting money

Financial Express link:http://www.financialexpress.com/news/nurture-your-vital-space/848198/0

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Sep
11
Posted on 11-09-2011
Filed Under (TRENDS) by Shombit

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

Technology has given the world a new religious order, that of the code. In most activity domains, efficiency and perfection go through the filter of a technology chip. The last overwhelming change in people’s lives had come with the innovation of electricity. Night time and darkness are irrelevant in stopping anything. Technology’s pinpricks are introducing discomfort today, turning the world upside down inspite of people trying to protect their habits. When workplace automation was introduced, people just couldn’t sit on those discomfiting enemy pinpricks of technology in the fear they’d lose their jobs. In time technology created its own avenues, very much like nature’s storms and waves, proliferating into newer spaces. Who would have thought of technology in traditional areas like marriages? Weddings are conducted in cyberspace now, without the neighborhood priest’s help.

Indian consumers are exposed to discomfort from many quarters. A few years ago when I saw a newspaper displaying Madonna and Britney Spears kissing in a public concert I wondered how Indian women would perceive such an act. Men get disturbed seeing a physical homosexual act, but women in the West have generally accepted lesbianism. In Indian culture, women are taught never to be honest about their desires, to suppress them. Surprisingly, my different consumer interactions here have revealed that women could enjoy such a fantasy.

If consumers are accepting the discomfort of sexual expose, are Indian manufacturers keeping pace by addressing them with new understanding? Are they analyzing deeper psychological and sociological impact to inject it into business? Somehow I’ve found Indian organizations to always be in a questioning mode: Will it work? Has our Indian consumer advanced to this level? Do we have the capability to do that? Will everyone in the organization or trade unions support this? Will the trade accept it? By sadistically defending their inaction, Indian organizations avoid discomfort. The protected economy seems to have paralyzed our competitive killer instinct. In today’s competitive scenario when global companies are steadily overtaking market share in every category, making incremental improvement may not be adequate for a company. A radical transformation is required to upgrade intellectual human capital along with a working process that co-opts and drives the consumers’ latent trend.

There is no single way of driving discomfort into an organization’s culture. Western headquartered global organizations proactively play with discomfort as they experienced positive results when they’ve co-opted the demands and desires of society and the masses. When organizations change their culture to better serve consumers, they go through dramatic discomfort. But consumers are oblivious of this and it’s of little consequence to them. Just consider your wife/husband, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter as consumers, they expect and demand quality products and services, period.

Compared to the past, the West today is saturated of discomfort, and somehow snoozing in material comfort. People are preoccupied with social fracture, sex related disease, terrorism, their initiative to work is deteriorating, the avant-garde character is missing. I visualize tremendous pressure from the extreme right wing. If you look back at history, Nazism was born in the lap of German recession. The extreme right has always taken advantage of economic reasons like unemployment and recession to hook people through psychological rationale. Unemployment is growing, but poor productivity is making European countries hire immigrants to support labor-intensive work. That raises political issues, so the new method is to outsource to India and China. Yet they worry about how India and China will become future economic powers that will harm their economy. Even when no physical danger exists, Europeans somehow create discomfort in society as though it’s a need. Unfortunately, extreme economic pressure has made love and affection very artificial there. The fear of AIDS makes them feel vulnerable and insecure. In India where livelihood is the priority, a conjugal relationship may become mechanical. Discomfort can break the monotony of married life, re-vibrate a couple’s world of fantasy and re-ignite passion.

What’s the comfort zone? It’s continuous incremental improvement. The discomfort framework has seven requirements: (1) Be deliberately curious. This can be achieved by obliging people to dramatize things so as to see them differently. (2) Value lateral action. Apples always fall from trees, but one man, Newton, used this falling phenomenon to discover the laws of gravitation. (3) Make the unstated obvious. Penicillin is fungus. (4) Belief in commercial value. Diagonal reading makes you aware of the usage benefit and saves time. (5) Change work culture. Prioritize discipline to structure creativity that results in a process that facilitates mass scale change. (6) Work with a sense of urgency with every moment operating discipline (EMOD). This will result in continuous cycle time reduction. (7) Time bound. Be driven by the day you have to deliver, don’t count in weeks and months, but in days.

Let’s come back to your business. The basis of human evolution has always come from discomfort. Unless managements are deliberately pushed to dive into discomfort zone, it’ll remain a gossip metaphor, not serious action. Initially it would seem esoteric to go outside the routine, but you’ll soon realize you’ve become the actor rather than the audience. After a certain effort discomfort becomes your chronic link that delivers exceptional growth. Revive your strategic planning to deal with discomfort as a project. Create a task force that’s totally aligned with the consumers’ latent trend, with the clear objective, in a given timeframe, to surprise the market with a deliverable that disturbs the competition to make your product benefit higher than the competition. Discomfort is pinpricks in your backside, you cannot sit on it, you just cannot ignore it, you have to deal with it in a hurry to bring change into the world.

To download above article in PDF Pinpricks in your backside

Financial Express link :http://www.financialexpress.com/news/pinpricks-you-cant-ignore/844666/0

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Sep
04
Posted on 04-09-2011
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

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

The amazing customer perceptible quality that Japanese and Korean products display through COA was my subject last week. Outstanding delivery will happen though the COA factor: Curiosity leads to high quality Observation that results in differentiated Action. But can it end with high caliber craftsmanship alone? What’s the first experience when the customer takes that exceptional product home?

In my different consumer service experience research in home décor and purchase, I discovered a nightmarish example of installing a flat TV at home. It’s not like old times when you place the TV set and fix an antenna. Now the dealer brings the set, but not everything else. You have to wait for the company representative to bring the fixture to fix the TV set on the wall. Next the DTH service provider with his set-of-box has to come to connect you to different TV channels. Then you have to have your own electrician around also to set up wires for the surround sound speakers, amplifier and connect the DVD with the TV monitor. Guess who has to coordinate among these four sets of service people? You’re right! You have to take a couple of days off from work for this. You’ve just made an exorbitant full payment, yet there’s nobody taking responsibility for installation. The DTH has to match the TV output which has to match the DVD player and amplifier. And there you are stuck in the house waiting endlessly as nobody keeps the promised time. If you try to be clever, in advance plead with and juggle everyone’s time, fix appointments with them so they arrive together, you can be sure you’ll be outwitted. Two of them will arrive 2-3 hours late, another may not show up that day. Excuses will vary from traffic jams, motorcycle tyre puncture, rains flooding streets, public transport too crowded to take to too much work, the head office does not care for us, and so on.

The worst is yet to come; that’s shoddy craftsmanship. Each service provider will send two young people who are clever, but seem like trainees with raw behavioural skills. There’s hell to pay from wiring to programming to getting connection. The early comer can barely set up his system, but he’ll not touch the other service man’s area saying, “That’s not my job.” Then you wonder, “Should I have paid so much for a world class brand associated with so many service providers with no coordination?” To get good final output of clean installation, you Dear Customer, have to struggle. If you are not demanding, they can leave you a patch-up job.

The consumer electronics retailer should coordinate the way an automobile garage provides service after sales, managing different features from different vendors. TV brands promote hallucinating pictures in the showroom for the customer’s instant buying decision. Yet scant attention is paid to synchronizing among servicemen to make your installation hassle-free.

Japanese and Korean companies need to give rigorous training to build up their Indian servicemen’s knowledge. Otherwise customers somehow feel cheated. Apart from better entertainment, as an integral part of design and invention the flat TV has another purpose. It’s sleek, not a boxy equipment taking up space in the room, so the idea is to mount it on the wall like a moving painting. With craftsmanship and price so much higher than the old TV, isn’t it the TV maker’s responsibility to fit it in the customer’s house without messiness? The customer’s tolerance level is too high in India, so such hardware and software companies get away doing what they want. Every customer should revolt at this kind of unreliability. Only then will the industry change and craftsmanship grow. Global brands in India are eliciting consumerism, but they must refine and upgrade customer expectation in service too.

In developed countries, it’s the customer’s unlimited expectation that’s obliged industry to be inventive, sharpen craftsmanship, become highly competitive, and deliver on-time and sustaining value. If you don’t raise your expectation bar, industry will not raise the craftsmanship of delivery people. Let me narrate a personal experience in craftsmanship. When I was studying graphic design in Paris, Western calligraphy fascinated me. I learnt its grammar and alchemy, right from Gutenburg, under the tutorship of world famous Hungarian typographer Paul Gabor (1930-1992) who’d invented several fonts. He trained me to study not the black fonts but the white space of typography. This white balance harmonizes typography letter by letter, word by word, line by line and paragraph by paragraph. Gabor was a tough task master. Only 5 of us from the original class of 30 survived to learn that the width of words A to Z is not the same, the capital and small letters zigzag in a word. You need passion, desire and learning hunger to sustain with him. After 2 years he advised me to work in a type print shop where old-style steel letters were used before computers arrived. I worked for free for 3 hours 4 days a week for 6 months and achieved control over craftsmanship in spacing, lining and white balance in calligraphy and typesetting. Since then I could inspire my team in that all the brands we have created in the world have been hand designed. This is a proactive call, clients will never ask for it. But it protects the copyright of their brands so that their authenticity cannot be challenged.

As a Customer, everything is in your hands. Do you, for example, check the homogeneity in the floor tiles of the expensive apartment you’ve bought? Every joint section showcases craftsmanship of design. When customers increase their demand, service will improve and the selling proposition become of tension free quality and aesthetics. But you have to impose your requirement before making payment or you’ll achieve nothing. Don’t get convinced by the showroom salesman’s warm smile. Close the deal but pay after the work is done. Your exigency will alert the manufacturer.

To download above article in PDF Customer! Demand your due of craftsmanship

Financial Express link : http://www.financialexpress.com/news/demand-your-due-of-craftsmanship/841170/0

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