Wednesday, May 31, 2006

'Ji Huzur!' to 'Whats up dude?'

Its really amazing the kind amazing to see various work cultures existing in India and more interesting thing is they all exist in the same period of time.To give a clear idea image the following three scenes:

Scene 1: Government office, Erode, Tamilnadu
The government officer gets out of the car, a peon goes and opens his door. He is wearing a white color dress and says 'Vanakkam Aiya' (Ji Huzur) and bows his head towards his superior.He carries his suit case and leaves his superior at his room and stands behind him as a salve.Here the work culture is of '17th century' (British style)

Scene 2: Manufacturing firm, Chennnai
All employees come on time and made to work very hard. They hardly sit and work.They call their superious 'Sir' but no bowing head.Here the work culture is of '18th century' (Industrial revolution style)

Scene 3: Sofware firm, Bangalore
Engineer walks in jean and T-shirt and watches his manager is walking in the floor.This 25 year old guy says 'Whats up dude? Did you see Sensex is taking 250 points today?' and the manager replies 'Yep! All my Mid-caps are screwed'. Here is the work culture of 20th Century (Knowledge worker)

Based on my experience and talking to some of my friends we cannot see all these scenes happening in any country other than India.The question goes 'Why only in India?'.To explain let us take the example of two majort styles of work culture in the world.
  • Macro Management: This is introduced mainly by Americans. This is basically formed based on 'Managing by objective' where the organization and the employee believe and trust each other and they work in an informal,free environment. This is derived from the american society's principle 'Independence and Freedom'
  • Micro management: This is introduced mainly by Japanese's. This is created after the second world war when Japan was bombed. They wanted to build a country and wanted to work very hard.Since that era belonged to manufacturing they introduced tight and strict work culture.The result you can see 'Made in Japan' eveywhere today.

In the above mentioned theories you can see each style adopted a 'Theme' and designed the management principles based on their 'society' and 'culture'. That's the main reason irrespective of the styles both methods are successful in their own countries. If you try viceversa it will fail miserably cut to India. We are no-where in this case.None of the above mentioned scenes and the work culture prevailing them belong to ours.We derive pre-independence work culture from 'British',post-independence work culture from 'Japan' and post-reforms work culture from 'America'. At the same time because of our so called 'flexibility' and 'adaptability' all these scenes exist together and 'somehow' it works.And that's the very reason you cannot see 'Made in India' products anywhere.

Why we have been so adaptable? Which particular work culture will suite us? Can we design a work culture of our own and practice in all the scenes mentioned above? If it can be designed what will be the 'theme'? These are the questions that are lingering in my mind and I am in the process of finding an answer. I am half way through will post a separate blog for the same.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Books - My first love

I have fallen in deep love with books particularly in the past three and a half years. Had a discussion with one of my friends on book reading and posting that here..

My mother normally quotes "Books are windows to the world of wisdom".In the past 3.5 years I have been reading 'religiously' almost on a daily basis I don't read any particular day I feel something is missing in my life thinking how much amount of impact books reading makes in any individualism you put in simple mathematics, assume that anyone reads 6 pages a day for 3.5 years (365*3.5*6) it works out to be 7665pages.Even if you remember 10% of the knowledge and implement it is 766pages.What it actually means is, books provide you knowledge by which can intuitively predict the future eliminates the fact that you should have 'experience' to do anything in life you closely observable can make lot of sense out of what other elders sebaceous you gained a knowledge at a young age by reading they gained by their life time you are able to gain it from books. I also see in a globalization,knowledge world it is very important to readout's happening in the world gives you a 'connected' feeling see most of the successful people that I know of are passionate about reading and they are virtuous readers irrespective of their busy life.

Also I have personally seen some of merely-life role models have this habit of reading. In order to keep the reading habit going I have tried and formed the following habit and it works out wonderful.

  • Make book buying as a regular activity like you buy grocery book shops frequently helps to keep updated with latest books.
  • Read the "books review" section in famous magazines would help to get a review of books.
  • When special occasions (Like b'day,anniversary etc..) give and takebooks as gifts. I always ask my mother to buy me books on my b'days forthe past two years instead of dress or money. This keeps the ballrolling.
  • When you are reading the books try to change topics between twosuccessive books.My cycle is Business-->Philosophy-->Investing-->Technial-->Some comedy book and thenback to business book.This will help you not to get bored with same kindof books.
  • Start maintaining a learning log (I am maintaining one) in which you cannote down some 'top-learnings' from a particular book and keeprefreshing it as and when time permits.- Finally we are in the 'Information Age' where knowledge is power andbooks are very good source of providing knowledge.

Products from India: Myth or Reality ?

For quiet some time I was thinking of what does it take to build companies out of India I am passionate about this I thought about this and observed some of the happenings around me and I found the following:

Questions in my mind:

1. To get a feel of what does it take to build a company in India.
2. To get a feeling about how to attract domestic customers ?
3. To know more about what sort of products that sell in domestic markets?
4. All these days we have been doing good amount of 'Services' work from India. What about products? What does it take to build a another 'Product building' Infosys from India ?
5. What does it take to create a eco-system by which we can attract India's best talent and create shared wealth.
6. Contribute back to the society from the wealth we generate out of the business.

Here is what I found:

From the product angle:

1. The consumer market in India has got a very limited purchasing power. Whatever we see in cities like Bangalore is a very few % of the population. If you go to a place like my native place Erode even today people think to buy anything say Rs.100. So the only way to do anything in India is to do in it in 'Scale'. A typical example I would say the model what Reliance does in India. Especially if you take how they grow in the mobile space, they laid a fibre optic cable throughout India and then gave connection at a very less cost. In order to operate in a such a huge scale you need very high amount of money to initially invest in. If you price it high and try to go to the rural or semi-urban Indian he is less likely to buy the product.

2. Whereas if we see in the West, especially in the US people have got huge amount of purchasing power and they don't mind taking it in loan/dept. HP sells 45% of its digital cameras in Christmas time in the US. We can't even think of doing such things in domestic market in India.

3. One of the companies which tried out this 'Build-inside-sell-inside' is Texas Networks. They build optical fiber routers which is used in Indian railways website, BSNL etc. Event's they reached their 'Break-even' couple of years back, because of the less margin (Say in order of 5 croers) they are not able to make such a huge impact in the society in terms of wealth creation and employment creation.

4. According to me the best thing is 'Build-inside-sell-everywhere' model. We can very well 'build' a product in India with our engineering capabilities but the problem comes when we come to the 'selling' part. Now in order to sell the product we need someone sitting in the west or in very fast moving markets like Japan, Singapore who can 'Define' what needs to be done and do product promotion, marketing, sales etc.

From the services angle:

1. Yes. Services still a easily doable business in India. I am not talking about the typical "Bug" fixing services like what we do in Indian services companies but something what is called as 'Component ownership model' based services.

2. For example you can operate in a small segment of a product life-cycle and attach value added services along with that. For example companies like Sundaram fasteners, TVS group are doing the similar kind of work where they completely design a 'Component' right from definition, R & D, Engineering and then they sell that to Japanese automobile manufactures. Also Mindtree consulting has designed a small chip which will get into mobile phones. We can do such things which are pretty niche and have a pretty good potential instead of trying to build a whole car or mobile phone.

3. This kind of services will generate lot of employment (Because of the services nature) and also requires less capital to start with.

Now going forward:

Based on my experiences following are the ingredients which we require in order to build any business in India.

1. Raise our aspirations: This is the first and foremost important factor that is required. If we always have the 'Slavery' mentality we are never going to get anywhere. We should believe that we can build something on our own and raise our aspirations beyond Individuals. I think the email exchanges what we have itself shows we are there.

2. Access to venture capital: In order to start any company in a 'big' way we require idlest 4-5 Million dollars in India. I know couple of people running their company in Bangalore who are of our age finding very difficult to get funds because they lack 'Expertise & Experience' in their domain. Eventhough you have a very good idea with you, even in the west people have become very conservative to fund the company after the DOTCOM bubble. SO when we are good in both then funds will start flowing in. I always keep couple of companies as my role-models:

a. Mindtree consulting: This is started by all 'senior management' (Ashok Soota & co) people in Wipro. All these people worked in Wipro for 15 years and they came out and got the funding and built what I call as "Second generation services company" from India.
b. ITTIAM system: This is started again by "senior management" (Srini Rajam & co) from TI India. Their aim is to buid another TI from India. Again these people have spent 15+ years in TI Bangalore they they understand marketing to operations.
3. Like minded team: I don't have to say anything more in this regard :-)

Final note:

A famous poet in Tamil (Bharathiyar) wrote the following lines during our fight for Independece:

"Aggni kunjondru kanden Adhai kandadhum katrinil kondithai vaithen Vendhu thanindhadhu kaadu Kazhal verathil appendrum kunjendrum undo"

Which means "All that requires to put a whole forst into fire is a small spark. DO WE HAVE THAT SPARK IN US? "

I am back


After almost an year I am back to writing blogs. This time I am determined to continue blogging on my favorite areas.