US-India-relationship
Business, Finance, Politics, Public Issues

US and India Relations – A tale of two democracies

(One more guest article by Ankur Singh . You can read his previous article here. Ankur will soon start writing on Strat.in as a regular author. Do you want to write on Strat.in too? Read this for details )

US and India Relations – A tale of two democracies –

Democracy, as its meaning suggests, is all focused for the welfare of people. And its two most celebrated practitioners are India and the US. Both are the world’s largest democracies with plural societies tolerant of diversity. However, both of them are now bound on a journey that may twist the very fabric of this system.

The social and political conditions in both countries have never been amazingly similar as they are now. Both countries have witnessed a nation-wide public movement (Lokpal and Occupy Wall Street). Both the governments are struggling with economic and financial problems. Important elections are due next year in both countries. And finally, governments of both countries are entrapped in a mire of allegations and stalemates.

Let’s start with US. The government formed a super-committee that had representatives from both republican and democratic party who were expected to suggest a solution to the debt crisis of the country. It was also decided that the suggestions made would bypass the conventional rigmarole and would be implemented expeditiously. However, the committee tossed up its hands on 21st November and left millions of Americans disgusted.

Now let’s see the Indian scenario. A few days before, key industrialists like Mukesh Ambani & Ratan Tata emphasized on fast decision-making on the part of government. This statement was made in front of representatives from both Congress and BJP. However, our parliament seems unperturbed. The 1st two days of winter session of Parliament have been disrupted by opposition  with no significant output. Plethora of reforms (some good and some adequate) are lying in the pipeline. But neither our responsible government nor the constructive opposition have accomplished anything.

The reason for stalemate in both countries is the lack of social responsibility on the part of politicians. As the elections are close, the opposition parties could not let the government get their policies right. That could mean severe damage to the vote-banks. I am sure that similar thing will happen if the parties’ positions are swapped (ruling party becomes opposition and vice-versa). This vicious cycle may go on leading to delay in a number of welfare schemes over the decades. However, none of the parties are violating any rule of democracy. So, we can’t complain.

So did our constitution-framers made a mistake? Should we resort to system like that of China which is undemocratic and partially capitalist but has yielded much better growth results than both US and India? Perhaps not. Perhaps, the current events may just be once in a while scenarios. But the current situation definitely calls for some changes in the decision making. “What those changes could be” is an open question. Please express yourselves on this issue. Notes from the Editor: This is an article contributed by Ankur Singh – A guest strater. Ankur works as aStrategy and Operations Analyst with Deloitte Consulting and studied at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi earlier. The article serves as an eye opener about the value added by Engineering Entrance Exam coaching centers in the Indian Education Ecosystem. We look forward to more insights from Ankur in the coming months. Also, the views expressed are author’s own and Strat.in neither supports or opposes them. Strat.in is a forum for thought provoking discussions and will continue to remain so.

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Business, Entrepreneurship

Emerging business opportunities in rural Bihar

14bihar-pavilion-delhi-iitfHistory is proof of the fact that businessmen of all times have always been on the lookout for unsaturated markets. For past two decades Bihar was nearly untouched, be it by business or by development. In the present scenario, it takes no special effort to realize the fact that Bihar has become one such place where immense opportunities lie for business. With the 2nd highest GDP growth among Indian states this financial year, Bihar has already shown its mettle how it can utilize improved infrastructure and better governance.

Bihar has majorly been an agro-based economy with various small-scale industries supplementing it. Due to its highly fertile land and desired climatic conditions, there are varieties of agricultural produce which are cultivated here. Bihar has significant levels of production for the vegetables like Brinjal, Cauliflower and Ladyfinger and fruits like Mango, Guava and Pineapple. Litchi and Makhana (Foxnut) are two such products, 70 percent of whose national produce is supplied by the state. These facts indicate that there is a need to integrate the rural producers of these to the mainstream economy using food processing technology. Sudha dairy is already a shining example of how rural produce like milk can be marketed well with the aid of proper food processing technology.

Apart from its highly fertile soil, Bihar is also blessed to have sweet water ponds in its Mithila belt. Fishes of these ponds are considered to be of the best quality in the world. If cultured scientifically to increase the production level, it has the potential to be marketed in the international market at a premium price. Similarly, sugarcane also finds its commercial application in Sugar and Ethanol production. It is an immediate economic opportunity and also contributes to the government’s green agenda.

On commercial front telecom is one such domain which foresees a huge market in Bihar. With the falling ARPUs , telecom companies are looking towards rural market for next wave of growth. To pull the rural customer, the information VAS (value added services) can also be a major factor. Already IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd has created a platform to offer free daily voice updates on mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecast, rural health initiatives and fertilizer availability etc.

With the lower strata getting economically active, micro-finance has emerged as an inclusive business enterprise to ensure easy access of the credit to them for their entrepreneurial and social empowerment. There are various Microfinance institutions(MFIs) coming up in the region ( e.g. Saija, Bandhan, SKS just to name a few)and they are expected to be the propeller of much important inclusive and sustainable growth of the region.

Bihar is the next frontier for businesses in India both as an Investment destination and untapped market. Its high time that business enterprises take a leaf out of CK Prahlad’s theory of ‘fortune at bottom of pyramid’ and invest in land of boundless opportunities.

(This post has been written by Neelanjan Sinha, a ‘guest-strater’ – (a guest author on strat.in). Neelanjan is a 1st year management student at the Chandragupt Institute Of Management, Patna. Strat.in thanks Neelanjan for sharing his insights with our reader and looks forward to more from Neelanjan in future)

Do you want to write a post for strat.in as well? Check our Write a post section for how you can do so.

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Business, Entertainment, Marketing, Web

Business of Movie Trailers

As much as I like watching movies, I like to watch movie trailers too. Sometimes, unfortunately, the best part about a movie is the trailers that run before it. The main aim of the trailer is to raise the viewer’s interest in the movie. If the trailer is successful in garnering the viewer’s interest and pulling him towards watching the movie, its purpose is served. Teaser trailers which run for like 15-20 seconds generally pique the viewer’s interest. However the longer trailers, which usually run for 2-2 ½ minutes, tell much more about the movie. These should not give away too much lest it might ruin all the fun. Nor should it be so ordinary that it completely bores the person and he/she loses any interest in the movie.

A screenshot of the yahoo movies webpage

A screenshot of the yahoo movies webpage

Now-a-days movie makers exploit every way to market the trailers. In addition to them being shown in theaters, they are up on television as well as on internet. Recently YouTube launched a new channel just for movie trailers. Yahoo already has had one for a long time. So has Apple.

But the most effective place for trailers is the movie theater. That is where a trailer is first released. These trailers are sometimes released four five months before the actual movie. And there is a lot of background work gone behind showing these trailers. Which trailers are to be shown with which movie, when should they be shown before the movie starts…all is a part of a strategy.

Generally movie studios decide to release a movie trailer with their latest movies. But the final decision rests with the theater chains. In India, there are still large numbers of single screen theaters. But the multiplex culture has developed considerably in the cities. Most of the movie followers are well aware about the recent dispute between the movie makers and the multiplex owners about the share of profits. Aamir Khan and SRK came together on that issue to resolve the dispute. The clout that the theater owners and movie chains hold over the movie industry is quite evident from this. Mostly they also have control over what trailers will be shown in the theaters.

In Hollywood, with large number of movies and big studios backing them up, there is generally a very tough competition before it is decided which trailers will be shown. The theaters cant just show trailers for all the movies that the studios want advertised. Generally there is a deal between the studio and the theater chain about the trailers. Before a movie begins, different trailers are shown for at least around 10 minutes. The deals decide which trailers will be shown and when. Efforts are made to put the trailer just before the movie starts because that is the best time when it can reach maximum audience members. The trailers that run first probably aren’t seen that much as every viewer is still not in his seat.

Hollywood executives are reported to have paid a theater chain as much as $100,000 to make sure that a particular trailer runs just before a hit movie. Also if not done explicitly, there are other ways to make deals with theaters. Some include diverting the marketing costs which are listed under print ads. Or giving the chain a bigger share of the ticket sales.

However there is always some amount of distrust between the theater owners and the movie makers. Studios even hire private companies to check on whether they are getting their money’s worth. These companies send their reps to theaters and check on whether the trailer promised to be shown in the theater is actually running. The amount spent per month on this is at least about $10K. If found that a particular chain is not running the promised trailer, results may be dire. If the studio decides against showing any of its movies in that chain, instead opting for the competition, it can mean a loss of lot of money.

Another new strategy adapted by studios is exclusive screening of trailers in theaters. Recently James Cameron showed a peek at his new movie “Avatar”. As you all know, James Cameron is the maker of the highest grossing movie ever, The Titanic, and Avatar, his next venture, is eagerly awaited. So when 20th Century Fox and James Cameron showed 15 minutes of “Avatar” at a specially ticketed event in August, more than 100,000 viewers attended the screenings. Also while marketing “The Dark Knight,” Warner Brothers had showed a few minutes of its opening sequence in theaters with paid tickets.

It is obvious though that such tactics will work when the big studios or at least big directors are behind that movie. With more and more different means to advertise and market a movie, now it just remains to be seen what new and interesting ideas the marketing guys will come up with next.

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Business, Public Issues

Why India should agree to emission growth limits at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009

The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009 is a world meeting of nations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The purpose of the meet is to

Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009

arrive at a consensus regarding various issues related to Climate Change and put together a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. The main issue which the conference will deal with is the capping of carbon emissions. Agreeing upon who caps emissions at what levels has been a bone of contention, and has pitched the developed nations against emerging economies like India and China.

To quote directly from the official website of the Conference, the 4 areas on which an agreement should be reached in the conference are:

1. How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?

2. How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?

3. How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?

4. How is that money going to be managed?

Talking about emission cuts during a slowdown is a tricky issue, and with the world economy barely beginning to drag itself out of the economic recession, the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference could not have come at a better time to test the seriousness with which countries approach this issue.

India has taken a somewhat quixotic stand about the whole issue, saying that it wants an international agreement in Copenhagen, but cannot agree to binding emission cuts. While this may sound good, it does leave a lot of space open for future maneuvering, which is something the rest of the world is not going to be mighty pleased about. In effect, it is promising little.

Many developing nations, led by India and China, have opposed limits on growth of their emissions, and have flatly ruled out any caps on current levels. The stance taken by India is that while developed nations have already gained from unlimited emissions during their growth and maturity phases to attain very high standards of living, the same growth and living standards are being denied to the developing nations by asking them to cap emissions. While there is undoubtedly some element of truth in this, what is important is to look at the bigger picture.

The reality today is that we are running out of planet. As badly phrased as this sounds, this is the most apt way to put it. There is simply no way our planet can take our abuse any more, and this realization is dawning pretty rapidly on us in the form of climate change. Admittedly, climate change theory is almost entirely based on correlations, or what skeptics prefer to call coincidences; however, as a species, we simply cannot afford to take a chance. So the simple alternative to not accepting caps on emissions is taking a chance with our existence a few decades down the line. While this might sound extreme, what has to be understood is that large scale climate change occurs not gradually, but in cataclysmic forms after a certain tipping point is reached. A positive feedback loop is created after a particular level is cleared, and well, all hell will break loose after that.

Secondly, accepting caps is a give and take business. If the developing nations lobby refuses to accept limits, it is very likely that many developed nations, particularly those like the US who have been very reluctant in the past to be involved in any sort of emission control regulations, might back out. What we will then have is one hell of a mess to deal with, with nobody ready to agree to any kind of limits.

Third, if the developing nations do accept caps, it is very likely that the developed nations will accept cuts in their emissions. The difference here is significant. The developing nations have to agree on the extent of limiting the growth of their emissions, while the developed ones have to cut back and reduce them. Herein lines a business opportunity like never before for the developing nations, that of carbon trading. It is simply more cost-efficient to save emissions in developing nations than developed ones, and the benefits from this trading could far surpass those gained from economic and industrial growth achievable by allowing those extra emissions. The developed nations have also agreed to make available technology to achieve these emission reductions to developing nations.

The fourth point in this debate is slightly more philosophical. Do we really want to go the way the west has in the last 4 to 5 decades? Do we want to create a materialistic culture which breeds unhappiness and dissatisfaction despite having almost every material possession on earth? Do we want to wreck our natural heritage the way the west has? Can out indigenous peoples and our forests take this relentless assault on them, and do we want them to do that? Nobody questions the right to basic amenities to under-privileged sections of the society, but unbridled capitalism and a consumerist culture is not something we should equate with a ‘higher standard of living’.

India is a formidable player in the world scene due to its growing economic muscle. What it also needs to be is a mature player which thinks long-term, rather than seeing the whole scenario as an us versus them battle. The key phrase here is, again, limiting the growth of emissions, not the emissions itself. By keeping an open attitude, India can lead the way ahead in mitigating climate change. We need to agree to a figure for limiting emission growth at Copenhagen in December 2009. Undoubtedly, the road ahead will be tough. But there will be a road ahead. Which cannot be guaranteed if there is no agreement.

(PS: This is part of our View – Counterview series on strat.in . Harshad has presented the ‘for’ view, Gaurav will present the opposite side during the week)

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Business, Entertainment, Marketing, Strategy, Technology, Web

IBNLive.com – the good, the bad and the ugly

CNN IBN is one of the best news channels in Indian media. It gave great news, covered almost all important topics, presented both sides of the coin, and offered something for everyone. It covered  politics, technology, finance, business, religion, travel and many other diverse fields and that is what made it special.  When IBNLive.com was launched about 2 years back, it was really an amazing site! However a lot has changed over the past 2 years and this article will try to expand on IbnLive.com and some good and bad features of it.

ibnlive

The Good

  • The Content: I think emphasizes it a lot and whatever I will be writing here will be a repetition of the point made above. The various fields, indepth analysis, (mostly) unbiased views, and good journalism made IBN the first choice as a news channel. By putting almost all the content online IBNLive.com was able to provide amazing content to the internet.
  • Functionality: The site had amazing functionality as the video player was smooth, the bandwidth was great and the downloading did not take forever like with most Indian video providers. The experience was amazing with IBNLive.com
  • Mostly Ad-free: The videos did not really interrupt you too much. There was not too much advertising and it felt that IBNLive.com was being looked at as a way to make people aware about IBN the newschannel.

The Bad

  • The Over Advertising: Please note the red circles in the image above. It highlights 3 google adsense placements with a simple story on IBNLive.com, plus the whole page had a couple more of google ads. Sometimes this really makes me wonder how much money will IBN be geneating through IBNLive.com? Is it really worth diluting their content and the appearance of their website? Plus note the popup blocker gets activated! IBNLive.com is acting just like million other spam sites!
  • Equity Dilution through portals: IBNLive.com was an amazing site but then by launching multiple portals they have just diluted their equity. They have Tech2, CricketNext, Buzz18, Josh and god knows what all. They have moved them all into in.com domain but the dilution has had its effect.

The Ugly

The ugliness is something very apparent in the statistics. Just browsing through Alexa tells you the difference. IBNLive.com has an alexa rank in India of 3,478 and NDTV.com (a close competitior) is 89. Many startups and blogs have a much better ranking than IBNLive.com on the web in India.

I still believe that IBNLive.com has a great potential in front of it and it just needs to review its online strategy. People might say that India has such low internet penetration that companies really don’t care about web presence. Well see where the world is moving and see the potential of IBNLive.com and then decide whether it is worth it or not.

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Public Issues

Opinion 2.0 !

This is written by Shantanu Gangal. Read his first post here)

• All leading newspapers, on Monday 17th, carried advertisements on their very first page questioning the Reliance Industries (RIL) – Petroleum Ministry nexus. When the ADA group realized that the three way conflict might degenerate to the other 2 parties ganging up, it decided to go public – with a difference.
Another ad was released today (18th) on similar lines. The quarter page advertisement ends by asking the reader to send back comments using email or SMS.
• Earlier this year, Idea mobile carried a campaign with Abhishek Bachchan as a civil servant who involves the junta in decision-making – regarding bridges, SEZ and so on. Taking a lesson from this, the BMC sent out SMSes asking parents whether schools should be shut as a precautionary measure against swine-flu.

While it isn’t clear how the public’s response to either of the above was / will be used, it has definitely heralded a new paradigm in seeking to build / inveigle / gather opinion from the masses. The reaching across worlds will change advertising / marketing significantly.

Information (and hence, propaganda) flowed in a single direction, till recently. Channels through which opinions could flow against the above mentioned current were few and expensive. This led to movie after movie mouthing the “humari kaun sunega?” (Hindi for: Who will hear us out?). This gap is decidedly getting bridged.

Due to infrastructural developments of the last decade, communication between people separated by geographies and opportunities became feasible. As Tom Friedman put it, The world is now flat! It was possible for everyone to voice their opinions about any topic they wished.
With the advent of interactive media and social networking, not only are people saying things but also people who matter are hearing them. While I won’t dare to go as far as saying that the worlds of the rich and the not-rich, the worlds of those who do and those to whom things get done are real-ly meeting, it can be said that the virtual worlds are nearing. There is an increased possibility that someone who was earlier ‘outta my league’ might end up talking to me. Some reasons for this shift can be:
1. Ever since the internet became a storehouse of information and knowledge, the physical separation between the expert and his area of expertise increased. It is possible that good and damaging criticism of RIL may come from someone outside ADAG and if it does, (I think) Anil Ambani will not only read it, he will also quote it in public as a genuine national grievance.
The possibility that the best knowledge / analysis might be found in some remote town has increased and is now well accepted.
2. The web is also an interactive media. And its big business. Hence people need online personas. As Sean Diddy Combs put it,
“Before, it was just at live shows, now you have to be able to do a great live show, you have to be able to do a great online interview, you need to have a great Facebook page”.
Federer needs to show his twins off on Facebook. In the Indian context, Gul Panag, Priyanka Chopra etc. all are in virtual connect with their fans. So are Ministers like Shashi Tharoor and S M Krishna. If your tweet hits the right note, it echoes in the places that matter.

If recent trends are anything to go by, opportunities to express your opinion (biased or otherwise) at the highest level are here to stay. It’s a good age to be highly opinionated. 🙂 .

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Business, Entertainment

Rakhi and her dramatic Swayamvar: What sells in Indian Television

clip_image002

After much speculation and hysteria, the immensely popular show ,”Rakhi ka Swayamvar” finally came to an end with Indian actress Rakhi Sawant choosing Canadian based NRI Elesh Parujanwala as her groom to be.

The show needs no introduction. It was a reality show where the actress sought her life partner from 16 prospective grooms who were given tasks to try and woo her. From day of its launch ,the show was an instant success for NDTV Imagine, the channel on which it aired. The first episode saw a TRP of 4.5, the highest ever for Imagine. Ironically, though the show faced a lot of criticism, the TRPs of the show continued to increase. With Rakhi making comments like the comparison of her swayamvar to the mythological swayamvar of Sita in Ramayana, or wanting to be another mythological character Draupadi by wanting to marry all 16 of the contestants, the show was accused of making a mockery of the Indian institution of marriage, the Indian traditions and being just a publicity gimmick. The show however continued its successful run and the closing episode of the show broke all records, with a TRP of 6.3, the highest in any of the other nonfiction shows airing on TV. On the final day of the show, the euphoria gripping the nation was evident from the fact that Rakhi Sawant became trending topic no. 8 on twitter that night.

So why does a show that is so widely criticized gain such unprecedented success, and an audience of over 30 million viewers? It can largely be attributed to an Indian’s love for high drama content. The channel played well on it, and the show was filled with same.

The show was launched with the aim of finding a suitable groom for Rakhi, who would, to quote her, “love and take care of her and share her joys and sorrows”. She was looking for a companion who would be warm, affectionate, and respect her as a woman. The tasks given out judged the contestants on anything but these. To prove their mettle, the contestants had to arm wrestle, climb walls, write love letters, compose songs, and even walk on burning coal. Would anyone explain how these tasks tested the contestants on their personality, character or talent? The tasks were only as dramatic, and as filmy as they can get, seemingly set more with the aim of entertaining the audiences, rather than testing the groom.

The show also had a section where Rakhi could vent out her frustrations, and her experiences and insights on the grooms. And with dialogues like, “ Maine zindagi mein bahut dukh uthaye hain”, “ mere ishwar ko maine hamesha apne se pehle rakha hai, mere ishwar hamesha mere saath hain”, “ main aaj itihaas rachoongi”, it can easily be fathomed the drama queen tried to be as melodramatic as possible, something the Indian audiences are known to love.

It can be argued that the show brought out a new face of women, empowered them and gave them an equal standing in the utmost important decision of choosing a life partner. But the show would then be designed to allow Rakhi to know, question and understand her hand seekers, and for them to do the same and then make the right choice. The contestants here more seemed like puppets driven by whims and fancies of Rakhi. The final was coherent in its dramatic content with the rest of the show, with three grooms bringing separate baraats, all rituals being carried out with all the three participants, Rakhi denying making a choice until all told her to do so, and the audience cheering her on. During the last moments of suspense, while Rakhi made up her mind, the grooms could more be thought of as items put on display waiting for the buyer.

An interesting question now is if the two will actually tie a knot. The show started with promises of Rakhi marrying the winner at the end of the show, but the two decided to settle in for an engagement, with Rakhi saying she feels they need more time off camera to know each other, and Elesh quoting financial reasons. So is the show actually just a publicity stunt with which Imagine struck gold? Rakhi incidentally did quote at a point that she had decided to go for Swayamvar –II. And with Rakhi in the driving seat, and the new mantra of Indian television where TRPs rule all decisions, it may be quite possible.

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Strategy

About Porsche and Volkswagen

Europe’s biggest carmaker, Volkswagen, will soon takeover Porsche after the Porsche CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking, resigned from his position on Thursday. The takeover deal is supposed to be worth $11.3 Billion.

The surprising aspect in this deal is that for the past few years, it was Porsche who was steadily and strongly increasing its efforts to takeover Volkswagen even with Volkswagen being 16 times the size of Porsche.

images4Before the current mess that Porsche has ended in, the outgoing CEO, Wiedeking, was responsible for turning around Porsche’s fortunes and making it one of the most profitable automobile companies in the world. Wiedeking joined Porsche in 1983 and became its CEO in 1993. At that time Porsche was nearly bankrupt. However, Wiedeking through his business skills made the company immensely profitable. His aim was to merge VW and Porsche into a single giant automaker.

Slowly Wendelin Wiedeking and Porsche CFO Holger Härter started buying up VW stake. Around mid 2007, Porsche raised its stake in Volkswagen past 30%. According to the German law this necessitated that Porsche submit a bid to buy Volkswagen. The offer made was a bare minimum then and was rejected by Volkswagen anyway.

About a year later, Porsche raised its stake in Volkswagen from 31 percent to more than 50 percent. All the time the imagesvw1Porsche CEO and the CFO used sophisticated options-trading strategy. By late 2008, Porsche secretly raised its stake in VW to 75%. The hedge funds were however betting that the prize of VW shares would go down. When it was announced that the amount of VW shares bought by Porsche was as high as almost 75% of the total, the VW shares rallied to huge values, rising by up to 400%. For a brief period VW became the biggest company in the world by market value. Porsche ended up making huge profits while those who bet on the shares going down made immense losses.

However in the end, Porsche also amassed a debt of €10 billion ($14 billion) in its efforts to buy out Volkswagen. Under normal circumstances, Porsche would have no trouble financing that debt with all the profits it had made in hedge funds. However the credit crisis ruined Mr. Wiedeking’s plans. With the German government refusing to help, Wiedeking also tried to make a deal with a government owned company from Qatar for the much needed cash, but failed to reach any deal.

In this scene of crisis, Ferdinand Piëch, the head of Volkswagen, used the opportunity to turn the tables on Porsche and acquire the company. Pietch also wanted Mr. Wiedeking and Mr. Härter out before a final deal was settled. According to him the men were responsible for Porsche’s present financial position. VW’s labor unions also did not want the Porsche management, with Wiedeking being known as a pretty strict manager.

Now that Mr. Wiedking is out, Volkswagen will purchase a 49.9 percent stake in Porsche and at a later date acquire the rest. The Volkswagen group will now have 10 brands under it — Volkswagen, Lamborghini, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Audi, Scania, Seat and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles. With the merger, VW will raise the necessary money to pay off all the debts that Porsche had incurred over the past few years in its takeover hunt, but which ended with the hunter itself becoming the prey.

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Business from the cosmos

The author need not tell the readers what a solar eclipse is. There was one today (July 22nd, 2009) , with a 100% eclipse in the two most populous countries of the world (http://www.mydigitalfc.com/knowledge/solar-eclipses-history-and-science-844_)  The mentioning of the “populous country” concept was used not as much to strike a sense of grandeur as to evoke a sense of business strategy. From the most miniscule to the most exorbitant of  customer segments …. here is a product segmentation pyramid that attempts to explain the cosmic events becoming prospective business    (Read on to find out)

solar-eclipse

Take a look at the cost/ price pyramid above, featuring products/ services which are sold during an event as occasional as a total solar eclipse

These are business contingencies that sell on one / both of the two factors as below:

1. Selling Exclusivity

2. Selling Experience

The lowest layer in the pyramid represents that product set which serves to everyone and which everyone can buy. Usually it is often seen in a country like India or China ( Russell Peters would use the word “cheap people” ) that many enthusiasts just go for an experience as long as it looks like a “value-for-your-money” proposition!

Eclipse souvenirs include things which fascinate and provoke impulsive buying. Why would a rock fan shell out double the money for the memorabilia (read t-shirts, etc,) in a rock fest than he would shell out on a casual-shopping trip . Its the rarity of the stock and the limited editions of the memorabilia that creates exclusivity. Similar can be the case with eclipse souvenirs which are just nothing more than normal stuff, but with perhaps a solar eclipse picture on them.

The cheap experience selling comes in the case of stupid fraud glasses which are positioned as Eclipse-viewing glasses. They are unsafe, though obviously relatively cheaper. They play the dangling carrot to the rabbit-minded proletarian mentality. But of course the real eclipse-viewing equipment are at a higher cost level in terms of the cost.

Then of course the solar eclipse TV shows where channels are the customers and the scientists are the sellers, selling their expertise to give explanations on TV to starry-eyed, eclipse-viewing star-gazers. Perhaps in the future, when living standards rise and general public become more interested in science-oriented leisure, such shows might even become pay per view (which, the author suspects, is already the case in some rich developed countries)

Selling expertise reminds the author of something else. Educational tours for schools and colleges in observatories. Cases where planetariums cancel their usual recorded shows and use their equipments for highly priced tour-packages to students. A clear cut case of more returns since the payments from schools and colleges come from corporate machinery!And then, more expensive and cash-generating would be Tourist packages (In days when going to the moon is a tourist package , what is eclipse-viewing)

Of course the rich and those with money to splurge would definitely like to buy servies related to the eclipse . At the moment the author light heartedly would fancy mentioning that it is contemporarily cooler to talk about scientific inclinations than art at ‘Page 3′ parties!  Well! Which nouve’ rich lad wouldn’t like having a miniature version of the Hubble telescope (with eclipse viewing glasses et al)  in his living room …

And then in some places you have these crazy guys who worship/ abhor the eclipse linking it with religious orthodoxy or cult-like phenomena or just plain  old super-enthusiasm . Perhaps, selling to questionable intentions some kind of eclipse viewing tour packages gets you big bucks. Identifying these segments is tough but in cases where the service is  positoned well in their zone of visibilty, their hyper-passion would do the rest (read this … 81ooo INR for a flight ticket)

And so there fellas! The cosmos de-mystifed for a seller ….

~Touchwood

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Google v/s Microsoft: The Showdown Continues…….

Ding Ding Ding:

Round 1:
Microsoft and Google enter the ring. Microsoft has been the reigning heavyweight champ for years. But Google has grown in size and strength rapidly and has become one of the top rivals to Microsoft.
Microsoft needs to make a move. It tries to beat Google by taking over Yahoo’s search engine, but fails badly. Now it jabs at Google with its own search engine: Bing. Microsoft scores some points with that one, but the young and strong Google parries the blow and seems unaffected. Instead some competitors in the search engine business to both MS and Google are affected. Microsoft manages to gain some respect in this round but things largely remain unchanged.

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Round 2:
Google decides to get back. And boy it does. It lands a strong punch by declaring its intention to launch its own Operating System: Chrome OS. Microsoft has ruled the OS arena for years with Windows. Millions use it and prefer it to other Operating Systems, even to the free ones like Linux. But things are changing. Google, the king of the internet, is trying to lure the customers into its domain. Chrome OS is internet based, not desktop based. Why would you need desktop based applications when we provide you with everything online? Just open the browser (Chrome of course) and we provide all you need: email service, search engine, Google apps with Google Docs, photos with Picasa, music on YouTube, Google maps, you name it we have it and for free!!! Google wins round 2 hands down. Microsoft is shaken but tries to regroup.


Round 3:

Microsoft gets back at Google with a hook. To counter the free online applications like Google Docs and other software, it declares that the other weapon in its profit making arsenal, MS Office, will be free as part of Microsoft’s Windows Live service, which has more than 400 million users, when the new Office 2010 is launched next year. The public is not exactly sure whether Microsoft deserves any points for this. After all, it’s giving away its major revenue earner for free! Yes, there have been other free equivalents to Word, Excel and PowerPoint like Google apps, Zoho and SlideShare. But they have not created any dents to Microsoft’s market share. But Microsoft knows that there are an increasing number of users who are opting for these free online applications. Adobe and Cisco are also planning to provide online equivalents to MS Office. If MS does not act now, it will lose the edge. MS also makes it clear: Only the online Office 2010 versions will be free. You can use Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One-Note free online but to use it on the desktop, you need to buy it. And of course not all features will be available in the online version. These include ability to broadcast PowerPoint presentations over the web, edit video in PowerPoint and manipulate images in Word to name a few. Also in addition to revenue that will be earned through the sales of the full Office 2010 packages, MS will earn considerable money through advertising on its online applications. MS makes a good comeback. Its stocks go up. Round 3 goes to Microsoft. And the showdown continues……

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