Saturday, 12 December 2009

Will the Great Indian Mobile Revolution Wind down?

Great stats and insights in this note from prof.Sadagopan... with the second largest mobile subscriber base in the planet, and the indian surefootedness in finding a million ways to provide services to customers thro this platform, we are on a fast tracked next dimension growth at the national level... i personally believe that the next "Google" in the mobile world will be from India.

However, a few flies in the ointment... consider

- all the operators now (the last few weeks) are on a bruising price war, which drives down ARPU and directly hits the bottomline- and all are doing it to build subscriber base- can the operators be healthy?

- Voice and SMS account for most of revenue (almost 95%), with VAS being a very small part of the game- how will we encourage GPRS and LBS, services to the 500 mm that will be a huge boost to the economy, with the millions of new business models that will bring

-are the operators mature enough to create a viable ecosystem? any provider of VAS services has to contend with the fact that for every rupee the consumer pays to the operator, a meagre 30 paise winds up with the provider who has to pay off content folks (typically 3rd party- eg bollywood), the aggregators and others, leaving them with a measly 5-10 paise on their TOPLINE.. not very appetising, is it?

i guess hope lies in competition- for instance Vodafone already does a great job of encouraging VAS, and with the entry of DOCOMO, which knows Japan, the most sophisticated market for VAS in the planet, i think there are a few new ways this market will head... eagerly watching this space...

in reference to:

"500 million phone subscribers in India today"
- 500 million phone subscribers in India today « Professor Sadagopan’s Weblog (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Stage fright with Social Media?

Interesting points Morgan makes about overcoming stage fright in starting out on social media.

I would add the following three points that may not have been thought about...

1-the biggest thing about these tools is that they allow for 2 way dialogue- which means, be prepared for all kinds of stuff to be written in response to what you write- including spam- which you can remove, negative comments -which you shouldnt remove... in particular, dont remove negative comments- thats a big turnoff

2- be prepared to be directly active- these tools are not about someone else writing your stuff for you- you have to be much more an author than you perhaps are now...

3-comment/ write on other people's stuff- there is an ecosystem out there, and everyone wants comments, feedback etc- not just you- so oblige a few, and they will perhaps oblige you...also this kind of a thing takes a while to build before folks start commenting...

happy joining the bandwagon...

in reference to:

"Overcoming social media stage-fright"
- Overcoming social media stage-fright - Morgan McLintic on PR (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, 23 October 2009

What does it take to get to the board?

Narayan has an interesting view, on what it would take to get into the board. Whilst Narayan specifically focuses on how the HR function can make it , i thought i would perhaps explore more generically what it takes to get to the board.

in my opinion, the functions that are closest to the money trail, have the natural advantage when it comes to being chosen to leadership roles in the company- typically money trail functions are Revenue generators (Sales or consulting), Revenue fulfillers (delivery/ production) and Finance. which is reflected in the fact that most CEOs are from these functions.

Other functions have had their successes- for instance, typical B2C marketing led companies (eg Colgate Palmolive/ Unilever) have a tendency to be marketing led in leadership- but this is because the marketing function typically owns the p&l - for example a brand manager at the age of 24, get to own the p&l of their brands (i was one) - hence get close to the money trail.

Finally, i hardly think HR has to lose hope- look at the following list of HR people who became global CEOs of F-500 companies :

-Tim Solso of Cummins
-Nigel Travis of Dunkin Donuts.
-Stan Askren, CEO of HON, HNI Corp (office furniture manufacturer in Iowa)
-Lisa Weber, HR Exec who became President of MetLife’s Individual Business unit
-Bill Stevens, the CEO of Motion Industries ($3B division of Genuine Parts)
-John Hofmeister, was EVP of Global HR for Shell Oil before President of Shell Oil (currently retired)
-Howard Stoeckel, CEO of Wawa ($5B convenience store company)
-Joe Frick, CEO, Independence Blue Cross ($10B insurance)
-Colleen Barrett, former President of Southwest Airlines

in reference to-- Talk » Blog Archive » HR and the Board (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, 16 October 2009

Mobile Applications- The Next Frontier

There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful about mobile applications . I for one, am particularly excited about the implications of the emerging trend of integrating information already available on the phone into the application- ref this article from Daniel Terdiman @ Cnet

My contention is that In nations such as India ,which, alongside China is amongst the worlds largest mobile phone markets, this trend will really be game-changing.

The 2012 Gaming app on the iphone, breaks new frontiers in terms of integrating information already on the phone into the gaming experience- with features like the ability to call 3 contacts for your "lifelines", a la Who Wants to be a Millionaire!

In my opinion, the integration of GPS, the contacts list, the Camera, and other data on the phone alongside the internet is already game changing in terms of where the future value in the mobile device can be unlocked, and gives rise to an entire new "aware" engagement in social situations- something that will explode in societies that are very socially active and mobile focused- and where data and voice access price-points are ridiculously cheap, eg India.

All, in all, a Trend to Watch!

in reference to:

"The future of iPhone games"
- The future of iPhone games | Geek Gestalt - CNET News (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, 5 October 2009

How to Brand Yourself Without Alienating Your Company

Good issue this- how to Brand yourself without Alienating your company.

I would perhaps like to separate two things- 1)your ability to create a profile of yourself on the web (using Linkedin for instance) and 2)your urge to comment or otherwise articulate your opinion (blogging, tweeting and commenting)

Whilst Linkedin and building up your profile, getting recommendations and connecting with a wide variety of people is fine, and is good branding, there is a challenge If you are articulating your opinion.

Apart from the lucky ones who "are" the company, it is rather difficult to get around the conflict between the personal brand and the organisation- this is true regardless of how much of an overlap there is between what you want to opine about and its direct relevance to the company you work for.

So, unless you use a pseudonym (which sort of defeats the purpose ), despite all your protestations about your view being yours only -the brand police will come after you. And larger the organisation, the more the difficulty

Hence, if you work with a large organisation, unless you have prior permission, and trust yourself not to make any boo-boos every time you blog, tweet or comment, i would suggest you prudently abstain, unless of course you want to give your competition an excuse to alert the brand police...

Of course, you always have the option of being your own boss, and opining all you want...

in reference to: How to Brand Yourself Without Alienating Your Company (view on Google Sidewiki)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Has Obama dropped the ball on Social Media?

I like the central idea of debate in this post, about whether Obama, who is seen as the most written about "success" in leveraging social media, is continuing to leverage it as well in presidency as he did getting to it...

Contrary to what this article articulates, i am not sure if he has entirely dropped the ball- there are many campaigns Obama continues to do on the social media side- there is plenty of action on that front and afterall, as the other comment from Jen points out- he is still #5 on the top social media brands- (

My take- the key issues Obama faces (healthcare, bailouts, financial markets, dealing with terrorism) are emotive issues with intense, entrenched and conflicting views- it would be very difficult to see "success" easily-which i define as everyone rallying around one perspective-i,e the magnitude of task is much bigger, social media or not...

that said, i think he can still do a lot more on getting the citizen to contribute to the viewpoint, on the "creation" side, rather than just on the "evangelisation" side where he has clearly seen more success...

in reference to: How Obama Dropped the Ball on His Social Media Strategy (view on Google Sidewiki)

Hardware acquires Services? tech industry shift!

In the Tech world, the hardware "box" manufacturers , who were thought to be squeezed between the chip makers (Intel) and the software folks (Msft, Oracle, etc) are getting their own back, with EDS (acquired by HP) and Perot (acquired by Dell), the hardware players are clearly moving into the "higher value added" services space... interesting dynamic for the industry...

in reference to: EDS brand is no more « Professor Sadagopan’s Weblog (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, 13 July 2009

Why the Community Game cannot only be an Online Game?

I have already made my penchant for putting community creation and management at the centre of an organisation thro' my blog post about a year ago, so this post is not about that.This post is to articulate the essentialness (if there is such a word) of a hybrid strategy, where you need a combination of both online and offline activities, combined seamlessly to engage and fulfil the community's needs for it to be successful.

I would like to challenge today's contention that the community game today is a very internet/ online focused experience, with the social networks and the social graphs being the presiding deities over this. Broadly, the guiding principles provided by the likes of Facebook, Orkut, Myspace, Meebo, LiveJournal, FriendFeed and Twitter, have created an alternative to the physical world- the virtual world.

And yet....

The physical world matters, perhaps more than we could imagine- almost all my friends on social networks are folks i met offline first, before we linked up, and even today, where i live, who i meet during my day and what i do has more influence over me than any of my immersive experiences on facebook etc.

However, the physical world is a world of limitations, of time, of space, of long traffic congestions to get to the coffee shops etc- and you do need the online "freedom" from constraints.

Hence my contention- that by design, the community's strength has to be based not only on online interactions, but include face to face, physical world interactions seamlessly built in...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

An Ode to TED- and why I still continue to be mesmerised, a month after attending the Long Beach event

Three cheers to my guardian angel, if there is one around somewhere. This agent of mine managed a coup for me when (s)he had me attending events across the globe as a part of my role. My favourites are TED and WEF Davos, and i wanted to articulate my impressions of TED, where i was at their LONG BEACH conference in Feb-2009

A quick attempt at trying to slot TED in the pantheon of events, and in particular, a quick comparison with WEF- Davos. TED to me is an ideas conference, where you are filled with two things- ideas from speakers that boggle the mind, and articulate conversations with very powerful intellects around you - you want to find the MIT types, you will find them here... The WEF, on the other hand is about power and influence, and the persons around you are likely to be folks that have achieved much, and have a huge amount of clout- think prime ministers, CEOs, bank governors etc...

There was another striking fact i found between Davos and TED this year. This year's DAVOS was an extremely pessimistic affair, with a lot of anxious and worried delegates trying to make sense of the doom and gloom in the economy. TED on the other hand, was an relatively more optimistic, and the future mattered more than the recession did. Interesting!

So, let me list the 10 things i found at TED that i personally found to be immensely stimulating, and had me really excited about the possibilities and the stories (to the extent possible i have tried to include their TED speech links, but some i couldn't find) :

  1. Bonnie Bassler, Professor at Princeton, who spoke eloquently about chemical language used by microbes to communicate, and about something called Quorum Sensing, which allowed the microbes to be dormant until they had reached critical mass- implications > think entirely new generation of pathogen inhibitors and drugs, including antibiotics
  2. Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter, which grew tenfold in 2008, who spoke about how celebrities, including NBA stars, and , of course, our very own Barack Obama extensively used Twitter. My moment-0f-truth was when after the 8 minute speech, there were 50 Tweets on his speech- talk about Instant feedback.
  3. Nathan Wolfe, epidemiologist, who rather terrifying speech was about the increased viral chatter and how viruses were jumping species (eg AIDS is a simian virus that has jumped into the human species), and how he is setting up a system that watches these jumps with intention of staving off global pandemics before they can happen. If there is one more reason to turn vegetarian, this is it.
  4. David Merill demoed his new concept called Siftables- which are "intelligent blocks" which can sense each other, sense motion , have a screen and a wireless radio, and are an example of tools that you can reach out and play with and manipulate and learn from- this is a fascinating demo, particularly the part that plays music(@ 4:30 on the video)
  5. Dickson Despommier, professor at Columbia, who spoke passionately about the need to create a Cradle to Cradle ecosystem which was a closed cycle loop, where there was no waste to dispose off, as compared to the current Cradle to Grave ecosystem, which left waste at the end of the ecosystem that needed disposing, and basically ran thro the natural resources and depleted them. Particularly fascinating were his concepts of Vertical farming- i really look forward to the day when all the food we consume will be grown on the walls of our buildings, and there will be no need for farmlands or farming...and we can think reforestation again. Also relevant is the concept of Hydroponics
  6. My absolute personal favourite, and the one that i would recommend you watch for sure- Willie Smits, and his incredibly moving and uplifting tale of how an experiment in reforestation in Indonesia has changed the ecosystem, and a ray of hope. this was an absolute eye opener–and the optimist in me believes we can bring the earth back from the brink, despite all the ravages we have perpetuated on all her species.
  7. Ueli Gegenschatz, the daredevil who spoke about his experiences with wingsuit flying, the closest i think humans have come to flying without contraptions- this uses airfoil technology. Careful though, there is invariably landing trouble J
  8. Barry Schwartz, and his incredible speech on the need for practical wisdom, and why rules and incentives do not even come close to helping define / enforce behaviour and how ethics cannot be compressed and taught in a 1 hr class.
  9. Bill Gates, who spoke about his uplifting work on the foundation side of the fence, and in specific, two areas, stopping Malaria where mosquito nets and DDT can cut deaths by 50%, but how newer resistant strains are coming up and also spoke about the incredible success of the KIPP program in school education - there is an interesting book Work Hard, Be Nice that talks about this program
  10. Finally we got treated to some great music, and my two personal favourites were Naturally7 listen to their "Wall of Sound" all human sounds, no instruments, and Jaime Cullum.

A fairly overwhelming experience, and i am still trying to come to terms with all the ideas that i was exposed to there... TED has its first India event scheduled in November-2009, to be hosted in the Infosys Mysore campus, and if you are interested in registering, you may want to click here, the homepage of TED India, by the way, has me speaking to a fellow Tedster- the 3rd photo from the top.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Lessons from Davos- the Emerging Post-Crisis World...

"Nothing is going to stop deleveraging; the economy has to reset," Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO said, as part of a joint interview with EMC CEO Joe Tucci on CNET.

I think we should pay particular attention to the words used- "the economy has to reset". My reading of what i saw last week in Switzerland at the WEF-Davos annual meeting corroborates this -what is going to emerge at the end of all of this is not the bounce back of same markets and a global economy, but a completely different looking global landscape- i.e., a RESET, after the continuing meltdown and deep distress.

In Formula1, there is an adage- that winning moves are made in the turns, not on the straights. Now, in this very sharp turn, is perhaps the time to think about what will be the new emerging landscape, and hence start to place bets/ realign focus and make some moves that take you forward.

So peering into the looking glass, what lies ahead? What is the that new global landscape going to look like? It would be impossible to predict the future accurately, however i offer the following points based on what i heard and saw at Davos:

  1. I think we have seen the end of the era for the financial services industry- for the last 25 odd years, this industry has been the dominant hotspot for the brightest talent, offered the most opportunities for growth and prosperity and has generally dictated terms to the rest of the economy. With the current crises of confidence, the reckless abandon with which this industry has forgotten that "risk" existed, and with the "state ownership" of this industry, i think it is going to be very difficult for this industry to claw its way back into the #1 spot again.
  2. A dramatic increase in influence of emerging markets, China in particular. 2009 will be the first year where ALL economic growth in the global economy (whatever is left of it, that is) is driven by emerging markets. As the Western consumer, the engine of global economy deleverages dramatically, new growth is going to be driven totally and completely by emerging economies, and the rest of the world will clamour to be there- accelerating the process of growth. Also, many of these economies, india in particular, have very limited exposure to the contagion, and have significant chunk of their growth being driven by home markets. All this is going to mean that these nations will increasingly play bigger and bigger roles in the global political landscape. In Davos, there was talk of the G2 (China and America) and what that meant for the rest of the world
  3. Tech avatar 3: As the world grapples with monumental problems, there is no sector that has the propensity to help as much as the technology sector- be it in automotive electronics, or clean tech, be it in regulatory compliance or in media, technology industry has perhaps the single biggest role to play in creating discontinuity- so watch out for a tech led surge in markets
  4. A dramatic undervaluing of the "bailout" economies: Much as i understand the need for these, Bailouts made –particularly if they are with borrowed money, are a bad thing- they spend today, and allow the burden of repayment to be shifted to generations to come in the form of increased taxes- not too different a concept from the poor loans that were behind the current credit crisis in the first place. These economies will be paying off their binge spending loans, for years to watch out, those with exposure to the $, £ etc.,

Lastly a small point- i had a very interesting chat with David Aikman, senior director of the WEF, and head of the YGL community. He mentions that unlike previous years, there has been unprecedented clamour to get into content sessions at the event and delegates were very keen to attend sessions-listening rather than speaking. Might i offer that one of the silver linings to this crisis is that it is teaching us a bit of humility, and increasing the value of those things that are valuable, eg Knowledge?