August 23, 2006

Loo, Labour Pains, and Sales

Posted by Bizaholic | 10:45 PM | with 0 comments »

What's common between loo, labour pains, and sales?

…PRESSURE.

While sharing a drive from office to home, I and a colleague were discussing some issues of sales management. At one point he said that his boss in his previous organization used to say that everything moved because of PRESSURE. My colleague further said that his ex-boss supported his theory of pressure by saying that in loo you would not be able to deliver without adequate pressure; a woman undergoing labour pains would not be able to deliver a baby without adequate pressure; and a sales guy would not be able to deliver optimal sales without adequate pressure. How true, yet so simple!

No pressure, no movement!

So all you guys and gals in sales get on your phone and apply some pressure on the keypad to dial the number of your sales reps and then apply some pressure on your tongues to deliver a pressure tirade to them so that they feel adequate pressure and deliver optimal sales. Hurry, only a week left in month closing!

August 19, 2006

Marketing To Indian Women

Posted by Bizaholic | 11:24 PM | , with 3 comments »

Marketing to Indian women – easy or tough? Well, it depends on how much one knows about the mental chemistry of Indian women. Marketing to Indian women is something of a magical art that has made or unmade many a career and company. If it works, it rains prosperity; if it fails, it brings misfortune. Frankly, it is a tough subject where one gets better with practice and patience. Here I have tried to formulate some simple rules of marketing to Indian women based on a few years of keen observation, experience, patience, and relentless pursuit of this esoteric art.

  1. Build warmth and trust first, sell later.
  2. Never throw all your cards at one go. Women love constant surprises. Small bites are preferable to a mouthful.
  3. Never fall in love with her. Let her fall in love with you. When she falls in love with you, she commits her mind, heart, and soul to the relationship and that's great news for any marketer. If you fall in love and she is hesitant, there are troubles ahead.
  4. Be patient. Let her tell you what she wants. Never guess what she wants. Trust me; a woman's mind is too complex for even a genius to unravel. Better option is to let them tell you. So facilitate the flow.
  5. No two women are same just as no two finger-prints are same. So stereotyping is fraught with danger. It is better to keep this truth at the back of the mind, always. Men will be men and majority of them will fit into one type or the other. But women are special creatures of God. Perhaps God hand crafted each woman while produced men at assembly line!
  6. Respect her. Don't fool around with her. Acknowledge her as an intelligent, loving, and caring individual.
  7. Emotions play an important role in her decisions. She is a bundle of immense emotional energy. Subtly play around it to your advantage without beating the drum about women being creatures of emotions. No woman loves being called a bundle of emotions. In fact, she hates it.
  8. Be chivalrous. Majority of women love chivalry. Behave like a gentleman whom she can take home to meet her mother.
  9. Speak less, listen more. Let women take charge of talking. They really know how to talk and love doing it. And the best part is that they frequently tell way too many things that a seasoned marketer is always looking for. So, look into her eyes, put a genuine smile on your face, and listen actively as she talks.
  10. Make her feel important, important, and important.

August 18, 2006

Here are 10 non-financial signs that I feel are indicators of some future troubles for any business organization:

  1. Immediate bosses are disregarded and subordinates frequently jump levels for guidance on operational issues. And no body is bothered by this!
  2. Meetings are badly conducted, are never ending, and don't reach any conclusion.
  3. Analysis till the last detail but extremely poor implementation becomes a norm. In other words, analysis rather than action becomes the end of everything.
  4. Rationalization rather than confrontation of the issues and realities becomes the order of the day even at higher echelons of management.
  5. Servility rather than professionalism becomes the rule of the day.
  6. Highest disregard for time of self and others becomes an open secret.
  7. Personal agenda starts getting priority over organizational or business agenda.
  8. Promotions become dependent on subjective rather than objective criteria.
  9. Average stay of employees hired from other organizations starts declining.
  10. E-mails remain unanswered by majority of employees.

August 12, 2006

Often I see some leaders and managers balking at the prospect of setting and chasing high growth targets. Very often ‘impossible’ is the word that comes on the tongue when high growth targets are mentioned. Perhaps the reason behind this is reference points. They often take last year’s patterns, or recent trends, or the obvious opportunities visible with naked eyes as the reference point. I refer to this phenomenon as “demand servicing” mentality.

But I feel that growth is a mind game. What is needed is a mind set of “demand creation” rather than a pure “demand servicing”. Of course, “demand servicing” is equally important for accelerated growth, the point is that it should not be the starting point. The starting point should be “demand creation” followed by putting up an excellent “demand servicing” mechanism in place.

The situation is particularly tricky in organizations which are at a fairly mature stage of their life cycle. In such cases, there is greater resistance to any talk of higher growth targets. But it does not mean that there is no scope for higher growth. Many people in such organizations cannot simply comprehend growing at a higher rate than the accepted rate of growth because the only thing they see is saturation. They feel whatever demand there is they are effectively servicing it and hence it is not possible for them to grow faster. They don’t give much thought to how to create new demand. Perhaps they are mentally too lazy to think innovatively and out-of-the-box. The point is that if we see and analyze the situation from an obvious perspective we will miss many hidden things.

And this mentality prevailing in the minds of many leaders and managers is responsible for slow growth of many organizations. So an organization might be growing by 12% and conventional wisdom will say that it is a good growth for that particular company. But it might be possible that this company is underperforming and it should be growing by 25%. Well, for this to happen unconventional thinking will be required that challenges the current assumptions, many of which might turn out to be false.

August 11, 2006

The pesticide monster is again rearing its head in front of Coca Cola and Pepsi. Since last few days I am witnessing hullabaloo about pesticide level being much more than prescribed level. So much so that many state governments banned the aerated drinks in schools, colleges, hospitals, and government canteens. An over zealous state with a communist government inflicted a blanket ban on production, distribution, and consumption of the fuzzy drink. Poor cola guys!

Well, to put it frankly the entire drama seems ludicrous to me. Not because I am some kind of a parasite who hates public health and well being, but because the whole thing smells of rat and appears childish.

First and the foremost, all this bashing and banning game is happening just because an NGO (Center for Science and Environment) did some tests and found the pesticide level higher than prescribed norms. How can I be sure that this NGO is not under the influence of some powerful anti-MNC lobby? Why should I believe that this Center for Science and Environment is a saint amid scoundrels? What about government tests? Has the various state governments conducted scientific tests to determine the pesticide level in the Coke and Pepsi circulating in their states?

Second, is the prescribed norm too little and impractical considering the Indian environmental practices? How many other food items and beverages have we tested for pesticides and what have been the results? I hear from some credible sources that the vegetables we eat have abnormal level of pesticide relative to the norms. Is it correct or just hearsay? Well, I would like the government and scientific institutions to do a pesticide test for the following items:

  1. Sugarcane juice hawked on roadside stalls.
  2. Various brands of bottled water available – both better known brands as well as Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati types found in smaller towns and cities.
  3. Vegetables from various mandis.
  4. Ice-creams – both branded and unbranded.
  5. Drinking water available at various taps on railway station – yes I am talking about sheetal jal.
  6. Tea from various roadside stalls.
  7. Drinking water available in various hotels – both big ones and small ones.
  8. Nimbu paani available on the streets of Delhi and Kolkata.
  9. Paani poori from road side stalls.
If the government heeds to my advice and tests the above mentioned items for pesticides, I am sure 75% of food and beverages will fail the tests as per existing norms and will be banned in India. Then what will we eat and drink? And that raises two important questions – Are we not taking enough care of our environment that pesticide and other such substances are seeping in virtually everything we eat and drink? Or, is our contamination norms too rigid considering Indian scenario?

By the way, I just noticed a wired logic on Center for Science and Environment website. On one of the articles on pesticide in colas, there is a question: Why the ‘apples have more pesticides’ chant of cola companies is dead wrong? The CSE answers this query in the following way:

You can't take the pesticides out of apples. But you can clean up colas….Fruits and vegetables have nutrition. They give us something in this poison-nutrition trade-off. We get nothing with colas. Just pesticides.

Great logic I must say. So if you can’t take out poison from apple then no harm in eating it. And if you have some nutritional intake then it doesn’t matter if you eat poison because poison by some miracle will be neutralized by the nutrients. Amazing! What will CSE say if I tell them that I drink a lot of cola and then eat a lot of nutritious food (rice, wheat, pulses, vegetables, fruits, juices, and milk). Will it not neutralize the impact of miniscule traces of pesticide in my cola?

By the way how are various state governments and central government faring on the goal of providing safe drinking water to all Indians?

There might be one more secret behind this pesticide drama. Is this selective and asymmetric play of pesticide in cola issue a handiwork of communists and Swadesi Bachao Aandolan, who are always on the look out for ways to embarrass, harass, and harm multi national companies? Considering their antecedents, this seems a likely cause. The promptness with which Kerala government acted in banning the production and sale of cola from their state gives credence to this theory. But if this is the case, and Indian government silently keeps watching, then something is really wrong with Indian government and its policies. All the talk of India as an exciting business destination and a land of future opportunities will fall flat if the Indian government remains silent thereby shaking the confidence of the industry and investors.

Government of India owes an answer to India Incorporated. Hope it comes soon.

P.S. – I am not an advocator of drinking aerated drinks. Personally, I feel aerated drinks are harmful for general health, not because they have pesticides level higher than prescribed norms but because they promote obesity, are addictive, have no nutritional ingredients, and may become cause of severe health problems. I discourage people from excessive consumption of aerated drinks. The above post is in support of cola companies because they are being selectively and wrongfully targeted on pesticide issue, and this does not seem to be a good business policy of the government. In case, any cola or beverages company is found to be slack on quality control leading to public health concerns, then it ought to be dealt with severely.

Some related writings on this issue:
1. Cola Con on Indian Economy Blog by Arjun Swarup
2. I want my DDT by Gautam John

August 9, 2006

Companies beware! Online community and blogosphere is watching you and your (mis)deeds. Increasingly, the adventures and misadventures of companies are being brought to light through the medium of internet. I feel a great movement of consumer protection is slowly gathering momentum with the potential to make or mar the prospects of many companies. The result could be a public relations nightmare for the guilty company.

Last week I happened to witness the naked public bathing of two companies – first a company which is part of one of the most admired business groups of India, and second a widely respected global company. To put it crystal clear, I am talking about Tata Indicom and British Airways.

A few days back, I received a forwarded mail from a friend with the subject “Beware of Tata Indicom (Suck more, Loot more)”. It consisted of the grievances of a customer who had applied for broadband connection. It consisted of attachment of all the communication made with the company officials in an effort to get an amicable solution. And it contained every bit of details of the nightmare. The mail had even the email ids of the company officials and there was a request at the end to forward it to friends to save many an Indian from the trauma being inflicted by Tata Indicom. Another request was there to put the email ids of company officials in the Cc field every time the mail was forwarded so that they can gauge the extent of damage being done to their reputation. The very next day, another customer at the receiving end of Tata Indicom replied to share his own plight. And I am sure this mail must have been forwarded to thousands of recipients by the forward lovers of email. As aptly put in the mail by someone, JRD Tata, the great visionary and founder of Tata group, must be turning in his grave.

I learned of the second story when I checked Atul’s blog yesterday. There is a great post on racism being perpetuated by some British Airways employees on flights as well as airports. Atul told a tale of an Indian lady and how she was humiliated on both in-bound and out-bound flight on British Airways. If it is true and gathers a critical mass of visibility on the internet and blogosphere, this issue can be a public relation nightmare for British Airways and may cost it big enough in terms of money and reputation.

Frankly speaking, this online lambasting of poor customer service is a good thing. If it gains momentum – I am sure it will – very soon companies will take notice of this phenomenon and strive hard to make their customer responsiveness and service world class. The motivating factor is simple – punishment is more painful than the pleasure of reward so it is better to avoid punishment.

This current trend of going online with all grievances against companies is going to make companies sit and take note. Complacency has no place in this networked world with free and super fast information. Either you are loved or you are hated but you cannot be left untouched. While this silent revolution is a boon for consumers, it is also likely to become a headache for companies. Companies now will have an additional front to manage to keep reputation intact.

Moreover, there is a dark side as well to this online lambasting of companies. It can also take the form of propaganda by people of malicious intent as well as dirty minded competitors. It is very likely that even good companies with excellent service get wrongly targeted and their names besmirched on internet and in blogosphere. How are companies going to ward this off? How are they going to manage the fallout of this kind of malicious propaganda? Companies will have to think of the ways to guard against any kind of false propaganda done against them.

One way out for companies who believe in excellence is to make their customer service transparent and online. This way everyone can see for themselves how good the company is on customer responsiveness and service front. Moreover, transparency and openness will ensure that propaganda of malicious people gets defeated at their own game. It will also act as builder and protector of company’s reputation as a caring company. But for that to happen, the company must first make its service and responsiveness world class and be confident of its abilities to deliver consistently. Otherwise it would be a bigger disaster if it is caught on wrong foot. Well, it is a double edged sword! And of course, it is not for smug companies who stay in the cocoon with their grand illusions of invincibility.

It's high time now for companies to give up their imperialistic attitudes and wake up to the new age realities.

August 8, 2006

Mr. Sales and Mrs. Marketing

Posted by Bizaholic | 11:36 PM | , with 5 comments »

Love-hate relationship between sales guys and marketing guys is perhaps as old as the existence of the corporation itself. But I am wondering something else. Is the relationship between Sales and Marketing more like a relationship between a husband and a wife? I feel it is. Hence, here is my little story about Mr. Sales and Mrs. Marketing that tries to interpret the inner wiring of this vital relationship. (Disclaimer: Without any ill will towards either sales or marketing. So take it easy!)

Mrs. Marketing, just like an over aggressive wife, keeps ranting about how little money Mr. Sales is bringing these days to home. She keeps saying it’s so tough to manage the affairs of the home with such a paltry sum. And Mr. Sales, already saddled with responsibilities and stress of his demanding job, keeps on telling Mrs. Marketing that money doesn’t grow on trees and making money and bringing them home is a tough job that she perhaps doesn’t understand well. Annoyed with Mr. Sales’ arrogant answer, Mrs. Marketing asks him to tell her what exactly he does all day. She says that may be if he tells her every detail of his work then she could give some constructive inputs to make some more money. This infuriates Mr. Sales so much that he blurts, “Honey, it’s fine to tell you what I do and how I earn and I am very much willing to tell you. But I am sure you don’t need a simple answer. What you are interested in is all the details of what I do day in and day out, even the minutest and mundane details. And I am afraid I cannot tell all these details day after day else I will be left with no time to earn the money to satiate your endless hunger.”

So it is fundamentally a situation of an ever nagging wife (at times loving too) and an annoyed husband who between them pack a lot of love amid a mountain load of bickering. And the eternal love-hate relationship of a charming couple continues…

August 6, 2006

Excellent technology and systems cannot be substitutes for poor quality of people.

There is a perception in minds of some managers as well as leaders that great technology can act as a substitute for poor quality of human resources. They think that if they can put a great technology in place then no matter how inadequate the quality of their people is, it can take care of all ills plaguing the company. It is sad that they don't understand that even super computer, or for that matter any other sophisticated technology, requires a fairly qualified human to run it. Technology doesn't work in a vacuum. Technology can play a complementary role or at best it can be an integrator.

On the other hand, if you can put together a great team of qualified people, you can be assured that your business will not be ruined even in the absence of great technology. These qualified people can decide what is necessary and important for an organization and accordingly decide the best and the most innovative way to get it with the limited resources at their disposal.

It sounds like commonsense but unfortunately in business, like other spheres of life, commonsense is not so common.