September 22, 2008

Hiring additional manpower is a necessity in any growing organization. But often additional manpower is brought for all the wrong reasons. Instead of helping manage growth they turn out to be veils for protecting mediocrity. This is something to be wary about while taking decision to hire additional manpower. Very often optimization of the existing manpower would ensure that no immediate need for additional manpower is felt.

Always remember that quick-fix never works! Following are some of the situations (quick-fix temptations) which are not reasons for hiring additional manpower:
  • Having talented manpower but inability to get optimal use of them.

  • Incompetent manpower requiring additional hands.

  • Wrong person at the wrong place bringing in overall ineffectiveness.

  • Trying to find solutions for a business problem through additional manpower when the root cause is something else.
When should you bring additional manpower? Following situations may be the apt reason for hiring additional manpower
  • To manage growth and expansion in a rapidly growing (>40% growth) business.

  • If the existing manpower is over-burdened with genuine workload. A quick check would be to understand whether the current demand on existing manpower requires 120% of their energy. It is said that 100% effectiveness comes when someone's work demands 120% of his time (attributed to Azim Premji in the book GO KISS THE WORLD by Subroto Bagchi)

  • Changing business environment requiring additional skill set/ experience.
The next time you are thinking about hiring some additional manpower or creating some new profiles, ponder over the situations and try to figure out why exactly you want additional manpower. A little honest thinking would go a long way in maintaining the health of the business along with optimal use of all the resources.

September 11, 2008

"Why do we need to pay for making phone calls?" This was the question that came to my mind while I was glancing at my phone bill. Why the phone calls can't be completely free, I thought. Well, it is indeed possible, at least in India!

Telephone tariff has significantly come down. Rs. 1 per minute call charge is routine. The question is how to make it completely free – no call charges; no rentals.

The key to free telephony is advertisement revenue. This is one area which most of the telecom service providers have ignored till now. The blind focus on increasing ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) has hardly bore fruits. A paradigm shift and rechristening of ARPU as Advertising Revenue Per User may open a goldmine.

It will work on these lines. The more a telecom consumer talks, the more advertising she hears (fixed number of seconds per minute of talk time), and the more money an advertiser pays to the telecom service provider.

Here are some of the options to generate advertising revenue sufficient enough to make telephony free.
  • Caller tunes to turn into 10 second advertisement. When someone makes a call, instead to hearing some song, he gets to hear an AD till the time the recipient receives the call.

  • When the call gets started, first 10 seconds of every minute are advertising time. Balance 50 seconds are talk time. Advertising and talk time cycle continues till the time call ends.

  • Every SMS that is sent has a footer advertisement of 25 characters.

  • At the end of every call, the caller and the receiver receive an advertising SMS.

  • Balance inquiry SMS has a footer having a 25 character advertisement.
Will consumers mind being exposed to so much advertisement?
Every sane individual knows that there is no such thing as free lunch. When a consumer is not being charged a penny to talk endlessly, she has to give something back. In this case, this something is 10 seconds to hear annoying advertisements for every 50 seconds of her talk time. Any rational human being like me would accept this fact of life even if she gets annoyed by the frequent intrusion of advertisement. We all are habituated of hearing rubbish all the time – at home, office, street, TV and where not. Does it make a big difference if we are forced to hear 1 minute of advertisement for 5 minute of free talk on phone? In India, only a fool will let pass this opportunity for free unlimited telephony! In any case, those who don't want to listen to the advertisement can always opt for the paid telephony option.

Will telecom provider find enough advertisers for profitable operation?
Of course yes. There are two compelling reasons for advertisers to opt for this new advertising medium. First, there can't be more apt medium for highly targeted advertisement. Telecom providers maintain excellent database of their customers which includes personal details. In any case, when offering free telephony, telecom service providers can always ask for more personal information from their customers to help the companies find right target audience for advertisement exposure. Second, it's a medium where the consumer can't shift channels to ignore advertisement. They are forced to hear it all, actively or passively, as they are still on line with the other person. These two reasons will not only fetch advertisement revenue for telecom service providers but will also help them in asking for a premium over other advertising mediums.

What it means for advertising industry?
It's a sweet-n-sour deal for them. On one hand it will open a new source of revenue; on the other hand it will demand high level of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to survive in this medium. In this new medium, only 10-second ads are possible to ensure that the operation runs with least glitches. So telling all stories for all brands in 10 seconds flat would be the norm making the whole process extremely demanding.

A caveat for telecom service providers
This free telephony would result in quantum jump in talk time volume leading to acute network congestion. So strengthening of telecom infrastructure to cope multiplication of call volume is a necessity. Without extraordinary infrastructure, the concept of free telephony cannot take-off.

Isn't the idea of free telephony in India an idea that can change the world of millions? I feel it is. Will someone say, "What an idea sir jee?"