Human Resources, Marketing, Strategy, Technology

Cheapest form of Marketing

Can you live without breathing in?

I know we can’t, but some companies try to do that.

Every company wants to increase revenue and cut costs, but then going ahead and cutting marketing is like stopping to breath to live longer. So, this post is for all those companies who want to cut costs without stopping to breath.

What is your cheapest source of marketing, you just have to look around. They are your employees, cheapest and best source of marketing. Best because the people they talk to and they will influence will rely on the information much more than any other source of marketing and cheapest because anything you spend to keep your employees happy is generating you multiple benefits i.e. human development, better products, better work efficiency and of-course marketing.

So you would want to know what are the ways in which employees can do marketing

1. The social space of employees is one area through which they reach out to hundreds and thousands of people. This space is their personal, but company can provide enough benefits and encouragement for employees to use their social network for comany’s benefit. Just one share of an employee reaches out to more than 10,000 people on linkedin and 25,000 people on facebook even for the less connected ones. Simple actions like liking company’s updates does greatly boost the reach of each of the company’s message.

2. Providing gift articles like t-shirt and bags do much more than just making the employee happy. They are your visual displays on the run. You can never imagine buying a movable display at such a cheap cost. So, provide the best messages on those gift articles so that whoever comes across those remembers them. When using this medium be careful of providing good quality as otherwise your employee will never use it or even worse, people will identify your brand with bad quality.

3. Providing referral bonuses to employees is another good way, so that, employee indirectly reaches out to his network of school and college alumni to make your brand presence felt everywhere. You can also be assured that he will say good things about the company more as he would want people to join.

Invest in your employees, the cheapest way of marketing.

 

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Marketing, Strategy

Not just Marketing – Create a trust based relationship

If somebody does a survey today on the rate of increase of companies versus the rate of increase of population, I guess everybody would know the answer to that. So, what is happening is that there are more and more businesses chasing a comparatively slower growing clientele. The thoughts of adding on more customers is on everybody’s mind and in the last couple of decades customer retention has also started moving up the top items to care about.

But what I am trying to point out here is something more than that, it is trust based marketing.

 

Generating trust might be one of the toughest things a company has to do. It is like you are trusting a person, even one wrong move can destroy that trust, but once you are in the good books there is nothing stopping you. You then don’t see your business just growing but actually booming, there are multiple companies who source 100% of their requirements from a single company if they are able to trust them.

It is those initial dealings with each customer which decide the fate of a relationship. It might be the person who initially deals with the customer or the website which you have created, invest in those and returns would be really spectacular. You can forgive small mistakes later on in a relationship, but don’t let the relationship start with hiccups.

So how does one continue building the trust that is once established?

  1. Setting up clear objectives: It is always better to set up clear expectations in relationship where you want to grow up trust. Define each of the outcomes you look forward to, whether you need support in other functions, your plans to grow the account would always be looked favorably.
  2. Communication: Make sure that thread of communication is never broken and your client does not hear you saying things behind their back. It will be end of most of such client relationships when that happens.
  3. Equality: A relationship should not become a one-sided affair, where one side always gives and other always receives. Such relationships cannot go strong, so keep that in mind when you look forward to take a lot from your client remember that you also need to give something.

Create Trust. Create Business.

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Politics, Public Issues

South Block (MEA) holding India back?

(South Block houses the Ministry of External Affairs)

When I look back and see if India should really have been like what it is today after 62 years of our freedom, I feel that we could certainly have done much better. We have shown progress on several fronts, both domestic and international, but a lot more needs to be done and a question that needs to be addressed is ‘Are India’s foreign policy makers holding India back?’

We Indians would never want to remember Nehru’s goof up on Kashmir and his complete misunderstanding of China in 1962 which left several bad memories for us and left India bleeding. India not only accepted the UN mediation on Kashmir (which provided it an international status, and has remained a headache for us since then) but also remained in deep slumber accepting the ‘ hindi-chini bhai-bhai’ formula. Here I study the relations we have fostered with some of the countries that matter us most.

China: – Till date we have no fixed policy to counter China’s claims on Tawang and Arunachal Pradesh and are bullied by the rising military and economic giant. If China can issue stapled visas for Kashmiri people, why can’t we render the same for Tibetans? Home Minister P Chidambaram accepts arms being illegally smuggled from China into India via Nepal (for the Naxals) but not a word of his signals action he plans to take. China also aims at encircling India by befriending our neighbors and continues to pursue its foreign policy aggressively, largely aimed against us. It continues to supply arms, ammunition and military know-how to Pakistan.

Pakistan: – This is the saddest and perhaps the most unfortunate story of our foreign policy. We have no answer to the proxy war our neighbor has waged against us for the past 25 years. We have missed every single opportunity to make Pakistan dance to our tunes. Why did not India ask Pakistan to recede from Kashmir when we had 90,000 Pakistani soldiers in our captivation in 1971? Not only this, India was shamed at the recent talks in Sharm el sheikh, where we entered the summit to deface Pakistan in front of the rest of the world but came out as guilty of sponsoring terrorism in Baluchistan! Pakistan has successfully deprived India of resource rich Central Asia and smuggles fake Indian currency to destabilize our economy.

US: – We have taken our relations with US on a new level with various agreements in military and mutual trade. We saw the nuclear deal go through. But still, we need to clearly lay down our strategy on issues like Iran if we want US to pursue pressure on Pakistan. Also, US continues to support Pakistan both financially and militarily which should be a cause of worry for India, specially with reports coming in from the West that Pakistan has modified US provided Harpoon missiles and aimed them against us.

Bangladesh: – I was really surprised when India kept mum few years back. The Bangladesh Border security force had massacred Indian soldiers and returned their mutilated bodies to us. When a small nation like Bangladesh who owes its freedom to us can commit such a heinous crime, we can gauge to what extent our foreign policy lacks teeth. Also, North-east insurgents operate their terror-training camps from Bangladesh soil.

Russia: – India has made a mockery of our time-tested relationship with the nation. The mutual trade stagnates at 4 billion $. Russia feels isolated as our relations get cozier with US. But can we stand to lose a friend that has supported us blind-folded at so many important international issues? I don’t think so.

Afghanistan: – India is helping the nation torn out from war in a big way! Certainly we don’t want it to become the fifth province of Pakistan. Stable Afghanistan is a big asset to India against Pakistan. What stops New Delhi to name Pakistan’s hand in bombings at Indian embassy, when Kabul can boldly blame Pakistan, its immediate neighbor? Why to beat around the bush and not clearly name Pakistan? Certainly, there are lessons for us to be learnt from the Afghan nation.

Nepal: – India has failed to keep Maoists at bay in the Himalayan state. While India sleeps, China has dug deep into the nation and aims at building up relations that certainly harm our interests. China is laying down highways, building hospitals, schools and assisting in big power projects. Certainly, India stands to lose.

Sri Lanka: – If there is any silver lining for us, it is Sri-Lanka. We continue to build strong relations and were successful in forcing the island country to cancel several arms deal with China and Pakistan. But China continues to play a spoil-sport here too. It has constructed several shipyards for refueling its naval fleet patrolling the Indian Ocean.

These are issues to be immediately addressed.

Why aren’t we still a permanent member of the Security Council? Why don’t we get a strong say at the WTO? Why have we not able to solve the Kashmir issue even after 60 years? Why do we give so much importance to Pakistan? Why do we lie dormant on issues that should concern us so much? Why do we just sit on things that require immediate attention? When will we learn from our mistakes? Certainly these issues govern our present and future. We need to do away with our old-aged and good for nothing policy of ‘Non-Alignment’ if we aspire to get support for our cause.

We need to sharpen our bureaucratic brass and train them to meet challenges of today’s world. You will agree with me that men who speak for the interests of a billion people have to properly polished. If we want the 20th century to be ours, it is high time that we get talking tough and dictate terms.

(The views expressed above are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect views of strat.in )

This post is written by Puneet Yadav. He is a student at IIT Delhi, pursuing graduation in Chemical Engineering. Involved in varied extracurricular activities, Puneet has great interest in history, political affairs, management and engineering. Recently,he has developed keen interest in Fuel Cell Technology.

Strat. In thanks Puneet for his article, wishes him all the best and hopes he writes another post with us soon. You can also write for strat. in . Check the Write a Post section to know more.

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Business

Only Businesses that THRILL win in the long term!

Around 80% of startups close down within their first year of operation. While some of these go down simply because of part time involvement of the founders, lack of persistence and fizzling out of passion, a large percentage go down during their transition from a Startup(Micro) phase to a Small Business phase. A business can aim for the long term only when the owners have vision and concentrate on building a value system based on THRILL – Trust, Honesty, Respect, Innovation, Loyalty and Love. Since most of these are subjective, many businesses don’t believe in writing them down or have policies to define the role of THRILL in their company. But a closer look at each of these factors tells us how important it is for each one of these to be a part of your day to day business activities if you are seriously looking at building a company that grows consistently.

Trust:
If your customers don’t trust you, they are going to buy from someone else – no matter how good you think you are. If your employees don’t trust you, they are going to treat your customers badly. If your vendors don’t trust you, they are not going to extend any credit to you. So trust is a factor that forms the basic foundation pillar of pretty much everything that is your business. So how does this trust develop?

Honesty:
If you , the owner of the business, think that you are going to get away with treating people with anything that is not totally honest, you will just be fooling yourself. Not being honest is sooner or later going to land you as the owner in the shoes of someone like Dick Fuld of Lehman Brothers, Ken Lay of Enron or Ramalinga Raju of Satyam Computers. If you don’t do what you said you will, you are going to shake up the integrity of the business. Sooner or later, your employees are going to follow suit and it is going to lead to nothing but degradation of the culture within the company. Honesty and fearlessness go hand in hand. A simple example of this is telling your client that you have not clearly understood the exact requirements for the second time in a row instead of feeling embarrassed to ask again and working with half an understanding. Or not letting your customer know that you are not going to be able to deliver in time. Committing fake product features. Sometimes, this may lead to some short term profit, but it is going to cost you heavily in the long term. Dishonest behavior is almost always going to create a communication gap, reduce trust and boost corruption Being diplomatic may seem to be a simpler affair most of the times, but it is honesty and straight forward attitude that’s going to hold the company together in the long run.

Respect:
To a certain extent, honest behavior can be embedded into the business through policies – but respect is one factor that is born within the organization and must seep through from the owners to the management and finally to the employees. You cannot treat your employees rudely and expect them to be sweet and caring to your customers. In your absence, your employees are going to treat customers just the way you treat them. You are going to command respect only if you give respect. And a culture of respect is born only when the owners lead with example. If you come across a company where the employees are frowning all the time, check their immediate bosses or the owners, most often than not, that’s where the root of the problem is going to be. Dedication and passion come from people who feel good about themselves and have a high level of self respect which comes from being treated with respect all the time. This also applies to the quality of the product/service you deliver. If the employees observe that you are sloppy and not worried about the quality of the final delivered product, they are going to nurture the same attitude.

Innovation:
Innovation is basically trying the same thing in a different and more efficient way for better results and a higher level of excellence. Anyone who says that this is the best way to do something and there is no need to look for alternatives, is giving an open invitation to competitors to come and screw their business. Change is essential because companies who don’t adopt change are going to be stagnant and are bound to be hit by competition. If you, as the owner are not prepared to adopt change and do not encourage people to go through some apparently unpleasant changes for the future of the company, you are just going to keep digging into unsuccessful rut for years. The entire American car industry had to learn this lesson of innovation the hard way when Japanese car makers started taking them apart. Businesses that show the willingness to embrace change during difficult times are the ones who are vibrant and show sustained growth. It is companies who are continuously finding better ways to market, manage HR, log in accounts, handle cash flow, and are striving hard to consistently achieve excellence in every aspect, who come through sailing smoothly through thick and thin. And for those who don’t believe in measuring and improving continuously, sooner or later, they are sure to go out of business or just stay a mediocre business that keeps dragging along for years.

Loyalty :
Loyalty is an automatic effect of the points discussed above and is the cause for amazing level of faith, increase in productivity and gain in competitive advantage. Loyalty within the company is going to lead to high levels of morale which naturally results in low absenteeism, higher levels of dedication and smoothening out of day to day operations. A growing business means that the owner has to move out of the day to day operations and concentrate on the business rather than stay in the business. Responsibilities can be easily delegated if the level of loyalty in the organization is high. Any owner caught up in the daily activities is just going to find himself doing a mundane job and not running a business. And unless loyalty is developed within the company, delegation is always going to be a tough task.

Love:
If we have a look at the most influential business leaders like Sam Walton of Walmart, Richard Branson of Virgin, Dhirubhai Ambani of Reliance Industries, Steve Jobs of Apple Inc (after his return to Apple), Narayan Murthy of Infosys etc., one thing that we observe is their ability to lead with love. They command so much love that there are people whom they have inspired to sacrifice their whole life for their mentor’s ideals. A more precise way to look at this is to look at so many smart people who don’t step ahead as influential leaders. You can be exceedingly smart, but unless the smartness is backed with the instinct of doing something good, you are going to be just momentarily impressive to people. Crude smartness starts to stink after a while unless it is backed with the willingness to do some good. And this is good for anyone who is running a company with 5 employees or 5Mn employees.

Anyone approaching employees, customers and vendors with anything that is less than the 6 points of THRILL is not looking forward to a long term relationship with either one of them. Try judging businesses on the scale of THRILL and you will find that the ones who score high are the ones who have the ability to achieve excellence and sustained growth and more importantly, higher levels of overall happiness throughout the business. After all, isn’t happiness what we all are seeking!

(This is another post by Rahul Rane. You can refer to his profile in his earlier post. He is currently based out of Melbourne and blogs at www.arerelax.blogspot.com – for politics,economy and gossip.)

(To write a guest-post on strat.in – Check up our Write-a-post section. )

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Business, Strategy, Technology

IBM : Big Blue goes Smart Green…

ibm-logo-greenInternational Business Machines is an organization that has seen the troughs and the crests of the computing industry right from its inception. The firm itself has undergone revival and has painfully learnt its lessons. One of those lessons has imbibed in it the spirit of always being ahead of the industry curve. In pursuit of such endeavors, it has come to define the next curve itself.

Through the past decade, purport of the IT firms has moved from just selling machines and programs to selling “solutions” that address the customers’ pain points. IBM’s Smarter Planet marketing initiative is on the same lines. The crux of the issue is that IBM is moving closer to solving the real problem and not just a part of the problem. The target list includes improving health care, environmental protection, energy consumption, and education.

To understand this let us look at how the offerings of the computing industry have evolved.

Digitization was the first step for the world. Machines loaded with number crunching code took over most of the work that humans undertook. Automation was the selling point for the computer industry. Softwares evolved to refine the efficiency of the processes.

The next wave was the distributed computing wave. In essence, it ushered in the wave of remote computing and with the impending Internet boom, software industry moved into a new phase. Outsourcing and consequently offshoring disrupted the world.

The client has all the machines it can possibly have, it has all the software it possibly can get, it has all the networks it possibly can set up.

Still, there are core issues left unaddressed. A few of them are :-

  • In distributed computing environments, up to 85% of computing capacity may sit idle.
  • On average, for every 100 units of energy piped into a data center, only three units are used for actual computing.
  • 40% – 70% of electrical energy is lost due to inefficiencies in the grid.

These are the problems that IBM aims to address. It plans to introduce new computing capabilities that can literally “reinvent” existing IT properties, making them leaner, flexible, resilient and smarter. The idea is not to reinvent the wheel, just to use it in a smarter way.

As an IBM white paper states – The world first became smaller. Then it became flatter. Now it is time to make it smarter.

A smarter way essentially is a new way that uses the same tools to cuts costs and improves margins. Whatever cuts costs actually reduces wastage and thus saves resources. Resources saved are resources conserved. Thus, IBM is looking at a smarter way to save the earth. Improve the IQ of IT to make the earth greener.

The marketing campaign – The Smart initiative with the Green effect- is sure gathering steam.  What remains to be seen is whether the campaign resonates with the clients.

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Business, Strategy, Technology, Web

Innovation and Twitter’s growing eco-system

Abhishek woke up around 9 this morning. He was rather tensed about his impending CREST quiz. I wished him best of luck for it. At 6pm I came to know that it didn’t go too well. Even though we are classmates at IIM Calcutta, I have not seen or spoken to him once in the last 2 weeks. So how do I know every detail of what he has been up to? The answer in one word is – Twitter.Twitter

Twitter has been labelled anything from a micro-blogging application to a continuous presence notifier to a viral, social instant messaging client. It is all of these and more. Twitter has exploited the comfort SMS created amongst the general tech-savvy populace in the usage of texting lingo. Its 140 character post limit encourages to-the-point communication, often supplemented by the compression conveniences of texting lingo like “c u l8er” (see you later) and “CAM” (Cannot agree more). It is sometimes described as the “SMS of the Internet” since the use of Twitter’s application programming interface for sending and receiving short text messages by other applications often eclipses the direct use of Twitter.

However, over the last 2 years or so, not a lot has changed at Twitter. The only modifications to Twitter’s interface have risen from the community before being adopted by the platform. The @reply method in Twitter was not created by them, users did it. Again, users created the # tag system as well, not Twitter. Twitter’s API (application programming interface) is what drives growth and change.  The API allows 3rd parties to create their own applications, and there are now hundreds – if not thousands – of Twitter tools, clients, and add-ons, and usage of the API is more than 20 times that of the actual site. To view the most creative innovations in Twitter from the last couple of years, one only needs to look outside the company, to related third-party applications or services that have cropped up using the Twitter platform.

TweetDeck is a desktop client for checking on a user’s Twitter stream during the day; it’s infinitely more efficient than the company’s own clunky site. Stock news can often be checked through StockTwits. Links can be shortened using bit.ly or another shortening service, which Twitter now uses to compress links into its 140 character scheme of things. Yet all these helpful innovations have emanated from outside Twitter’s confines.

In some ways, network effects for most software, as we see historically in the case of Microsoft’s Windows OS platform, are driven by getting others to work on tools that make more users dependent on a platform.

Twitter thrives on its ecosystem–the army of users and programmers and designers that are coming up with ways to make the Twitter experience more fulfilling. There is even a database at twitdom.com to document the list of Twitter applications. Here are a few of the most popular Twitter-based applications.

  • Twipic: an app that lets users share pictures on Twitter. Users can post pictures to TwitPic from their phone, Twipic’s API, or through the site itself.
  • Tweetdeck: is a Twitter app that streamlines notifications and tweets.
  • Digsby: an application that centralizes e-mail, IM and social networking accounts into one desktop program.
  • Twitterfeed: offers to automatically tweet posts published on a user’s blog using RSS.
  • Twitterholic: This application lists the top 100 users of Twitter (or hyper-Twitterers, as I call them), ranked by their number of “followers.”
  • Twhirl: is a desktop client for social software connecting to multiple accounts on different social networks
  • Twiturly: tracks and ranks what URLs people are talking about on Twitter.

Companies are changing the way people use Twitter too.  Brands have started using Twitter for marketing & promotions, market research, and customer service. Jet Blue was one of the first companies to adopt Twitter for commercial use, and in addition to using Twitter to market its service and promote deals, they use it as a market research tool to see what people are saying about their company via search.twitter.com, and then as a customer service tool by responding via @replies or direct messages to customers.  5 years ago if a customer had a complaint about an airline they would have to call or write to the company. This often involved long response time and shoddy service. With Twitter, a customer may no longer even need to reach out to the airline. He can simply post an update that includes a gripe about their experience, and minutes later a representative from the company would contact him and ask what the problem was and how they can help rectify it. Using Twitter this way not only has the potential to humanize the brand, it replaces worn-out methods of communication with a real-time exchange, and puts the initiative for contact in the hands of the company. Indeed a long way since Jack Dorsey posted “just setting up my twttr” 3 years ago in 2006!

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Marketing, Strategy, Web

Why Amazon Is Yet To Capture The Indian Market..and Mindset

Having reached the USA, one of the most visible things i saw in the first month here, was how much everyone relied on Amazon.
Professors buy books every week from Amazon.
Students buy books from Amazon.
Students buy used books from Amazon.

People shop on Amazon. For virtually all of their needs.

I was tempted to think of why its not the same in India. Why do we rarely hear students or professionals talk of buying from Amazon.
Ofcourse there is lack of widespread internet connectivity. A large fraction of the population still doesnt have access to a computer let alone the internet.

But even in urban areas, cities and universities where internet connectivity is at an all time high, ecommerce of the scale that Amazon promises…is yet to take off. Some reasons:

1) Large scale proliferation of used book vendors on the streets.
2) Lack of secure or trusted or reliable ecommerce payment channels.
3) Slow traction from partner banks in providing support to ecommerce payment products
4) Apathy to books: fundamentally, the Indian community has been built on a system of rote learning in the classroom. Students are happy to read their class-notes, and write exams. They get good grades. And they are happy. There is a lack of appetite for true and deep knowledge. And this shows in the lack of interest to actually search and buy books.
5) Lack of Indian retailers: Few bookshops in india have a full fledged web commerce presence. So most customers have to have the books/items shipped from global warehouses [ i am guessing that most r in usa]. This adds to high cost. So people would rather buy the books themselves.
6) Sharing: Indian mindsets are fundamentally built on the culture of sharing. Students share books/materials. And encourage reuse of books/materials by handing them over to their juniors once they use them. There is hardly any reaction to the editions getting old. Students just like to get the crux of the book.

Hmmm..something for Amazon to think about!
Over here in the usa, its A-Z and Amazon!!

Shantan

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Entertainment, IIM, Marketing, Sports, Strategy

Why did Ferrari go back to Michael Schumacher?


(We at Strat.in welcome our newest contributor, Arun KS. Arun is an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta, is a huge sports fan, specializing in EPL, UEFA and F1. His stay at IIM-C was marked by his attempts at Genocide during his stint as the Mess Representative of the Old Hostel, and winning several Marketing contests)

It is pretty stale news now that Michael Schumacher will be holding Felipe Massa’s seat in Ferrari until he is fit enough to race. So all those F1 fanatics and Schumacher supporters like me are ecstatic to see the maestro at work again and all those new F1 fanatics who have started following F1 in the past 2 years will get to see the maestro at work live.

Schumi

Schumi

After all the oohs and aahs the news has created there comes a question as to why did Ferrari go back to Schumacher and did not choose any other driver to replace Massa. I am trying to have my guess work at why Ferrari did that.

At the beginning of the season, the aim of Ferrari like most of the other teams was twofold.

1.    Win the Drivers Championship

2.    Win the Constructors Championship

In happier times

In happier times

After 10 races, their top driver, Massa is placed 7th, is injured and is not sure of racing again in the season. Their second driver Raikkonen is placed 9th and has no realistic chance of winning the drivers’ championship. Similarly, though they are placed 3rd in the Constructors championship, they are 74 points off the leaders and 58.5 points off the 2nd placed Red Bull.

The crew of the Enterprise accurately express the emotions at Ferrari

The crew of the Enterprise accurately express the emotions at Ferrari

So the only option they have now is to finish as high as possible in the constructors championship, which in turn burns down to holding on to their 3rd place. With the competitors like Toyota and McLaren breathing down their neck, it is a real tough task and for this they need both their drivers to

a.    finish

b.    finish as high as possible within the point scoring positions
For this they need their own machinery to be reliable and their drivers to be highly competitive and reliable. Their current drivers were competitive and reliable and thus they would have no complaints on that and no need to change the drivers next season. So keeping this in mind let us have a look at what the options were in front of the team to replace Massa

Desperate times - Desperate measures

Desperate times - Desperate measures

1. Marc Gene – The 35 year old test driver for Ferrari. He has had 36 starts in F1 though mostly with the 2 seasons he had with Minardi. His highest finish in F1 has been a 5th placed finish in the 2003 Italian Grand Prix when he replaced an injured Ralf Schumacher. He has scored a total of 5 points in his career and last driven an F1 car in the 2004 British Grand Prix. The most points he has scored in a season has been 4. This rules out Gene both on the count of a reliable point scoring driver and being highly competitive

2. Luca Badoer – Yet another test driver for Ferrari since 1997. He holds the dubious distinction of being the driver with most Grand Prix starts (48 starts) and not scoring a single point.  His highest ever finish has been 7th place in the San Marino Grand Prix (at that time they were giving points classification only for the first six drivers). His last race was 1999 Japanese Grand Prix. Though he has been a long time test driver, and probably the driver to have done the maximum number of miles in a Ferrari, he is ruled out because of the lack of reliability.

3. Robert Kubica – One of the many names linked to the empty seat in Ferrari. He is a rising star in the F1 circuit, though his current season is marred by an unreliable car. He has had 50 starts in F1 and has scored 122 points, winning the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix and finishing on the podium 8 times. He was leading the drivers’ championship at the half mark last year only to lose it off due to a reduced car performance. Thus he is a proven reliable driver who could get you the points and is highly competitive. He meets both the situation. But, he is under contract at BMW Sauber and being their top driver, the team would be reluctant to let him go to a rival in the middle of a season. Moreover, even Kubica might not like the idea of being a stop gap driver in the team, where he has to score points only to let the seat whenever Massa returns.

4. Fernando Alonso – The weirdest of the rumors was the one linking Alonso to the seat to replace Massa. Though there are rumors that he would be joining Ferrari in the next season, neither he nor Ferrari are ready to confirm the news. Moreover, being a 2 time world champion, why would he move into a team as a stop gap option?

5. Sebastian Bourdais – The 31 year old driver has had 27 starts and has scored 6 career championship points. He has been relieved of his contract with Torro Rosso at the end of German Grand Prix this year and he hasn’t proven his competitive spirit or the reliability to get the Ferrari seat, when it is so desperate to score points.

6.  Nico Hulkenberg – Yhis 22 year old reigning Formula Three Euro series champion is a rookie. The maximum level of F1 experience he has had was as a test driver at Williams. And the present situation is not a situation to put a rookie in.

A host of other drivers including David Coulthard were also linked to them. But either most of them are under contract with some team or the other, or they are not reliable or sometimes both. David Couldhard, although retired is still under contract with McLaren Mercedes. Moreover, he has not even driven a Ferrari on the race circuit till now.

So in the end it comes down to Michael Schumacher. A proven driver (the best race driver in history), reliable in scoring points (his 7 world championship titles are a testimony) and highly competitive (sometimes blamed for being over competitive too :P). He last raced in the 2006 season where he just missed the championship, and last drove the Ferrari car in April 2008 (he used to test drive the cars after retirement). He is known to be a keen fitness enthusiast who still keeps himself fighting fit, but of course he will have to undergo a battery of tests before he finally sits in the car because of his neck which he injured in an accident early this year. Though he hasn’t driven this year’s car and could not drive one till the practice session in European Grand Prix, he knows the Ferrari machine and the engine inside out after so many successful seasons with them. So, he can score those vital points needed by the team and can also easily leave the seat once Massa returns to go back to his role of consultant.

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Business, IIM, Planning, Politics, Public Issues, Strategy

Divide & Rule – A strategy lesson

The history books of India will always remember this phrase, the British policy of ‘divide & rule’ led to their colonization of India and ruling it for over 200 years. So everyone who has got his education in India should actually remember this strategy and understand its importance. In simple words the ‘Divide & Rule’ strategy means breaking up a combined entity into smaller units so that it is easier to conquer them. For a more concrete definition you can visit this article on Wikipedia.

indiapakistankargilHistorically in India the divide & rule strategy worked like a wonder for the British. They were able to divide the princely estates and were able to easily conquer each of them seperately. It is believed that the creation of states in India by the British was not because of ease of management but rather to divide the people accordingly. The division of India and Pakistan is still considered by many as a final divide and rule policy (in terms of world politics).

World Politics: It is said that one should always learn from the mistakes of others because one does not live long enough. Well countries in this world do not have this problem still it seems ironic to me how India and its neighbors still do not understand from their own mistakes. If we look at the world then it is moving away from being divided. The European Union un-divided themselves by uniting all their countries, their currencies, their economies. USA in itself stands for United States of America. Moreover all the countries in the world always move for better co-operation and peace. Yet in the Indian Sub-continent we are fighting since the past 50 years over Kashmir and Eastern India (Arunachal Pradesh) and will probably continue doing that. We have not learnt from our own mistakes of getting divided and getting ruled by others!

Indian Politics: Credit must be given to Indian politicians in this regard that though they might not have passed class 10th examination in India but the way they understand ‘divide & rule’ probably scholars in India don’t. The division of Indian society by classes, caste reservations, caste based parties, religion and other innumerable artificial divisions, keeps the people haggling over petty issues ignoring the main ones, and thus keeps these corrupt politicians in power. One of the most perfect examples of divide & rule according to me.

Companies & Monopoly: I believe the only place where someone has learn from divide & rule and its after effects is the capitalist companies. Companies understand that if they divide amongst themselves, play price wars and bring the tariffs down then ultimately they lose. Thus in most industries the competitors agree to minimum pricing and do not tend to cut costs below those levels, e.g. Coke and Pepsi, most cellular operators, multiplexes to name a few. By staying united (atleast on pricing) they are able to form a sort of monopoly and avoid being ruled by the consumer!

Application in science: The strategy is so practical that even science has accepted it and developed an algorithm on it called “Divide & Conquer” (don’t know why they could not just use divide & rule). The algorithm works on dividing a bigger problem into smaller problems till the smaller problem becomes really easy to solve! I remember using the algorithm in many courses at IIT Delhi. More details about the algorithm can be found on the Wikipedia article.

The IIMs: Last but not the least I think even IIMs have not completely learn this strategy. IIMs the best business schools of India have united in the admission process and thus able to make it a strong one, but by fighting with each other over Indian B-School rankings, placements and many other issues remove the unity of the institutes. The result being that even the IIMs as b-schools are divided and are not able to make the impact that they can make by being together.

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Planning, Strategy, Web

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.

images2 boxing_ring2 imagesms4

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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