Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Republic Day

Happy Republic Day!

Merriam Websters dictionary describes Republic as :- A government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law.

The officers and representatives are responsible and accountable to us. Often its the accountability which is lacking because they think these representatives are invincible and answerable to none.

A step is the right direction is increasing the efficiency of the Grievance Redress system. By bringing it online Government of India has made it easier for all citizens to file our grievances (Portal for Public Grievance - It does not become easier than this.
Also you can track the action status on your grievance and escalate in case the action taken is not satisfactory.

I am sure though, that the utilization of such portals will be very dismal. Well I guess apart from spreading the news about portal government has done its job. Now, we need to reciprocate.
So, lets help make this endeavor work. Please use the portal whenever you have any grievance against any government authority rather than shying away from hassles because now they are none. It believe we owe this much to our country.

I have updated the link in my bookmarks. Have you?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The show must go on

Apple reported strong quarter results that were driven by strong Mac sales and better-than-expected iPod sales. Apple beat analyst estimates and its guidance of last quarter but its outlook was short of analysts’ estimates. It has shown amazing resilience in an economy reeling badly under recession where consumer spending has taken a hit considering Apple's main customers are not corporates but end consumers.

Apple posted record revenue of $10.17 billion, a 5.8% growth, and net income grew 2% to $1.61 billion. Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.39 on sales of $9.76 billion. Apple had forecast revenue between $9 and 10 billion and EPS between $1.06 and $1.35. Gross margin was 34.7%, same as last quarter. Cash flow from operations was over $3.9 billion, and Apple ended the quarter with $28.1 billion in cash reserves.

But there is a certain incertitude looming around Apple's leadership that is a big concern right now. Though nobody knows the real picture, the five month long leave taken by Steve Jobs has shaken many in the industry and many fans. Well someday, Steve Jobs is bound to retire and when he comes back (which we all hope he does), he should be seriously thinking about whom the make responsible. He started this company and I am sure his final dream would be that Apple keeps surprising the world and changing it with or without him. That's what he stands for and I guess wants to be remembered for long after he is gone.

Though Apple will surely miss his crazy leadership style and make-a-dent-in-the-universe attitude, I am sure the very culture that makes Apples stand apart has sunk in deep into the senior management. The last thing we need is Apple choosing another John Sculley. We all know that Steve Jobs has softened a bit and has become much more diplomatic and shed the flippant image he had before he was fired from Apple but at the core he still remains a guy irreverent to the status quo, with an urge to change the world. Though most of the credit he got for turning around the company when he took over reins of Apple in 1997 goes to Gil Amelio (Apple's CEO before him), he was still instrumental in getting the act of Apple together and creating some revolutionary products and moving Apple from a me-too company to a follow-me company. Apple needs a leadership who understands this culture and takes it to another level.

So Steve - "Get Well Soon" and get back soon and find a worthy successor who can "Think Different" the way you and your team did. Because with or without you - The show must go on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Taare Zameen Par

Most of us have seen “Taare Zameen Par” this post was supposed to come out then but better late than never. The meaning the movie is trying to bring to the fore cannot be over emphasized. It has been my observation since the beginning, that we are really good at praising things but really bad at learning from them. Be it a great lecture by APJ Abul Kalam, an appeal from Dr. Manmohan Singh, an act of resilience by Medha Patkar, a movie of Shahrukh Khan or by Amir Khan. There is so much left to be desired with regards to this issue but I am afraid that all the reviews I get from my peers and others restrict themselves to the acting part and the emotional outburst they had. I fear the crux is getting lost somewhere amidst the laurels.

The movie shows how a child suffering from dyslexia is a genius in his own right. It deals with the problems the boy faces and how a school teacher helps him emerge. The movie emphasizes on how without the help of the teacher, the talent of the protagonist would have waned away into oblivion.
I think the scope of this problem is not confined to children who suffer from disorders like dyslexia but rather extends to all the children who are living their lives unnoticed and bogged down by the one track education system.

Give a thought to one of the most sought after trait in today’s world and the word comes screeching out – CREATIVITY a major part of which entails thinking differently.The problem is that there are not enough people who can think differently because our educational system does not churn out such people owing to its old-fashioned ways of teaching. If nothing changes, Nothing changes. The system teaches best how to maintain the status -quo, follow orders, how to do things conventional way.

Economically speaking, even children are a kind of resources and we will get the competitive advantage by utilizing the best of what we have. Just imagine if instead of the small group responsible for innovation, we facilitate more and more people to innovate, think differently and do what they love.

Instead what essentially we are doing is converting these amazing resources into a machine which can do things the way they are already happening. But moving forward we don’t need machines, we have enough of them and probably with high levels of automation these resources will become redundant. We need people who can be radical, can think unconventional. We need people whose mind has not been corrupted by things they don't want to learn but are learning anyways out of compulsion.

Each child has its own liking and his but still we shove up to them the same stuff thinking it is best for them. How can “one size fits all” strategy work in education. Sir Ken Robinson gave a
TED talk in which he has explained why today’s educational system will not work for what we will face in future. It is an amazing talk and highly recommended for everyone.

"Every child is special" and every child has some thing or the other to contribute towards the development of the country and mankind. Effectiveness of the educational system should be measured by the extent to which it facilitates this contribution and not by the number of graduates it churns out every year.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Customer Insights and Marketing Research

Seth Godin has published an amazing business insight his today's post. Its about how to make your product or service click with the customer. He argues that customers come to you either because they are in love with your product or its less annoying for them to use your product or service. Though counter intuitive these two are the two ends of the same spectrum. As you delve deeper you realise how simple the concept is and how true the application. And as illustrated in the post, the insight can help a lot in forming strategies for the future. He has explained the concept beautifully with some very good examples including that of FireFox, FedEx, post office etc.

The underlying idea of this post is to understand the approach and perspective of thinking and apply it to Market Research (used as MR subsequently). Whats interesting to know is that how Mr Godin must have reached this insight. He did not do any survey to find this out. He never asked any person to tell him what kind of services he is looking for and nor did he smother some random people and goad them into filling questionnaires of which nothing can be derived. He just went above the daily transactional data, saw the patterns, read between the lines and made meaning out of it. Its like peeling the onion layer by layer and getting to the core. Why can't this kind of in sighting become a part of MR and if it can why do they still teach you to make questionnaires and shove them upon people who are in the least receptive mind and who don't give a damn for your research.

Of course there will be some areas where you cant do away with lengthy questionnaires, but is this MR all about. I believe in this whole ballyhoo of MR its the key insights that get lost in the heaps of data which is of no value if you are just making a pie charts and histograms and running some complex statistical tests to state the obvious and keep the management happy. Then I don't need MR. If you are able to get beneath the issue and let me know how the customer will behave and how is he likely to act in the future, what is he thinking, what he needs in the future, then I am interested.

Here's the thing about MR –
1) The questions are not satisfying to the customer - instead they annoy him/her to the core because of the sheer length and stupidity of the questions.
2) The questions are not satisfying to the assessor either because
a) Authenticity of data is in question (given the annoying state of mind of the customer)
b) Assessors don't go till the core instead they just flirt with the initial layers and present the results with cooked up data just to prove something which management wants to hear.

I fail to understand why every time you have to start with a questionnaire to kick start your MR and even if you have to, why are the questions so annoying. Why cant the questions be totally done away with for a longer conversation instead. Why cant the whole process be made less annoying.

Well I am no expert in MR but my argument is anything which was working 10 years or even 5 years back need not work now. Look at the effectiveness of the whole exercise. Is the process giving you what you actually want to achieve and to what extent. If you are willing to pay enormous amounts of money to MR agencies just to hear what you want to hear, its sheer waste - you might as well burn that money. Instead question the process and its effectiveness.

Well in fact you can take a tip from Seth's article himself. If not something which people love, one can make the whole process much less annoying. :)

Back Again

Well, the last post was on December 5, 2007 and that too an old one which was written in July 2007. After that I pretty much lost touch with blogging which never got the right momentum from my side. No excuses....
But now since have much more time from the non value adding chores of an MBA college, I am back with more stuff - not just about me but also with other topics related to business, technology and life in general. In fact more of the latter part.
I hope you all like it.