The power of 35%

Its the mathematical magic of compounded growth.  35% growth, year-on-year, for 10 years – and your revenues are up 20 times from where you are today.  For a 5 cr company, it means that you’ll be reaching the coveted 100 Cr number.

Too often we get consumed by the magnitude of the target.  For a 5 Cr company, a 100 Cr number seems unattainable.  But if you look at it as 35% annual growth, it’s a little less intimidating (especially if you’re a start-up, or if you’re in a high growth market).

Simplify your life, focus on the 35%.

So what time is it there (infographic)?

Do you know what time it is in London right now? New York? Wouldn’t you want a simple way of finding out when you can schedule that pesky conference call? You’ve come to the right post. (6ampacific? That’s America-centric, it appears).

Harvard Business Review published a fantastic (and flawed, more on that later) infographic that I will shamelessly reproduce for your convenience. As you see, the big brother of the business world – time-wise – is Mumbai. At 1pm IST (assuming people have come back from lunch at the Samovar, and assuming they don’t stick to the popular definition of Stretchable time), there are more countries working with India@1pm than at any other time in any other country.

Except San Francisco. San Francisco is asleep at 1pm IST. So, if you did try my advice, please don’t try this at my home. Call your friends in Portugal instead. They’re open when India is.

If conference calls were trunk roads, India would be Rome.

PS: What’s wrong with this graphic is that Singapore and LA have less time shown on the chart than other places. I swear we west coasters work just as hard. Promise!

Time time ki baat hai

Watch it, Eh!

Superstar: The real deal!

No sooner had I written a post on “Superstars of the corporate world”, my favorite internet time-sink came out with a post on the Real Superstar- Rajinikanth. I am humbled by this. Rajini Saar knows everything, he does. He is making American ezine write about him. Very well Saar!

Saar has been introduced appropriately. Here is the actual quote.

This is Rajinikanth, and he is no mere actor—he is a force of nature. If a tiger had sex with a tornado and then their tiger-nado baby got married to an earthquake, their offspring would be Rajinikanth. Or, as his films are contractually obligated to credit him, “SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth!”

Vatch out Hollywood! Yindian movies are coming to a theater near you…and before you know it, your kultural monapaly will be demolished. Peepul all over the vorld vill be vatching yindian moviej. And singing yindian sawngs. Favorite greeting will be “Abey! Kuttey!”, and favorate gaali vill also be “Abey! Kuttey…main tera khoon pee jaounga”. Just vatch it! Eh!

More seriously, I think Indian movies are becoming slicker by the day, and with arguably better (!) storytelling than Hollywood. I have heard from friends that Indian movies are dubbed and sold in countries far beyond the reach of the expansive Indian diaspora. Obviously, if we can watch Hong Kong movies, they can watch Indian movies. The main problem used to be distribution reach into theaters. Once the Indian distributors figure that out, I am betting that Indian movies will do better than Hollywood in the long run. Indian movies are cheaper to make (the old Rupee-Dollar story), and can have themes more relevant to the developing world than standard American fare. As for the song and dance- well, audiences will have to get used to them! 😉 I’m looking forward to the time when Hollywood films start inserting in a gratuitous song/dance to show a couple romancing. World movie watchers…you are welcome!

I’m looking at you, PowerPoint!

Sometimes I feel that there are only two things people picked up from their MBA programs. Making 2x2s, and making presentations.

In the real world, of course, everything is not biaxial. There are some things that you can put into a 2×2, and then there are others that you can’t. Smart people know when then need to move from 2x2s to simple binary choices. Either you get it, or you don’t! 😉

But for today’s post, I’m looking at you, PowerPoint! PowerPoint presentations have become all the rage at the modern workplace. It’s a skill that takes time to master, but no time to fake. Most people fake it. Death by PowerPoint is the weapon of choice for the white collar crowd. Ask my friend, Dilbert!

Last week, there was a famous case of a US Army Colonel who was pulled up for airing his view on “Management by PowerPoint”. Tell me how your workplace differs from the US Army when it comes to the “battle rhythm” described below: (Article called “PowerPoints R’Us” here).

Each day is guided by the “battle rhythm,” which is a series of PowerPoint briefings and meetings with PowerPoint presentations. It doesn’t matter how inane or useless the briefing or meeting might be. Once it is part of the battle rhythm, it has the persistence of carbon 14.

And you can’t skip these events because they take roll — just like gym class.

The start and culmination of each day is the commander’s update assessment. Please ignore the fact that “update assessment” is redundant. Simply saying commander’s update doesn’t provide the possibility of creating a three-letter acronym. It also doesn’t matter that the commander never attends the CUA.

The CUA consists of a series of PowerPoint slides describing the events of the previous 12 hours. Briefers explain each slide by reading from a written statement in a tone not unlike that of a congressman caught in a tryst with an escort. The CUA slides only change when a new commander arrives or the war ends.

I want to see that note in presentation format in next class.

Mobile music

Universal just tied up with Reliance Communications for a music distribution deal.  Pretty straightforward logic.  Reliance has access to ~ 11 Cr subscribers, Universal has ~ 300K songs.  Physical sales in India have been on a terminal decline, while mobile sales continue to grow.

I wish one could get numbers on how well the deal works out for Universal though.  Reliance’s customer base is primarily SEC B/C, not necessarily downloaders of English music.  Apparently, even existing Indian music providers don’t make a whole lot of money from Reliance’s subscriber base.

Of course, the grip that mobile operators have over the music providers is not funny.  Being the dominant channel, they are able to corner anywhere between 50-80% of the total consumer spend on mobile music.  And that isn’t going to change anytime soon!

Poll: Returning to India-What factors are important?

Building on the response to my earlier post on “Mathematics and Thematics for NRIs“. Here’s a quick poll to check which factors are important to you. Click “View Results” at the bottom to see what people have said so far.

The Art of Choosing

Our batchmate Niranjana (featured on the blogroll on the right) has taken it upon herself to keep up the book reading averages for the entire MBA batch. On her fantastic site you can see her reviews of gazillion books. One that I’d like to point special attention to an interview she did with the author or The Art of Choosing, Sheena Iyengar.

Sheena was also featured in a recent NYTimes interview around the same book, and she has a few snazzy YouTube videos about her book as well. Niranjana’s interview can be found here, and is excerpted below:

If Sheena Iyengar’s name seems familiar, it’s probably because you read about her research on consumer choice work in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School, now has her own book out. The Art of Choosing deals with choice in all its aspects, across fields as varied as music, art, and medicine, and draws on everything from pop culture to brain imaging technology. Iyengar also mines her personal life for this book, and her choices — to study psychology at Stanford, to marry a man from outside her religion, to use sighted language although she is blind — are at least as fascinating as her research findings.

Can we really be choosy choosers when it comes to branding? You mention in your book, for instance, that Lancome’s Mousse Makeup and Maybelline’s Mousse Foundation are made in the same factory, are nearly identical in their composition, and that experts have detected no difference in their performance, but L’Oreal, which owns both brands, sells the first at $37 and the other at $8.99. You cite several such examples of nearly identical products being branded and priced very differently. All this almost suggests to me that we consumers are often the dupes of these large corporations.

Are companies trying to manipulate us? Yes. Companies use branding to create differentiation when there’s very little actual difference because the market is so crowded.

Should we worry about being manipulated? Only if it’s in a domain that’s important to us. You need to decide what’s important to you, and that list can’t be long. For those things, you really pull out everything, use your gut, reasoned analysis, gather information from other people. For other things, find the acceptable one. If that means you’re being manipulated, so be it.

But companies need to give a lot more thought to how they should be branding in a more honest way. It’s good for the customer and for them — they really don’t need to add irrelevant options. One of the things they can sell to the customer is that every choice we offer really counts, that it is meaningfully different from other choices.

Check out Niranjana’s other reviews at her blog.

The 9-to-5 model is fatally flawed

I’m back from my vacation, and trying to settle back into my work schedule. The harder I try, the more obvious it becomes that modern office hours are a crazy leftover of the industrial age. Somebody, do something.

When brain-work is involved, shift-work hours are plain useless. A bold statement like this calls for an explanation. Funny thing is, I’m in a gyan-giving mode this hour. So read on.

Modern office hours (“the eight hour day”) are a vestigial leftover of the Industrial Age. It was probably OK in a era when people were cogs in the wheel of an industrial machinery, and didn’t have to be “very” mentally alert.

Modern work is knowledge work or, taken at an extreme, often Creative work. Knowledge work requires an ability to think about diverse issues, hold multiple bits of data and weave together disparate loose threads. All of this requires the brain to be active…none of this could be done well with partial attention. All mental faculties have to be available to get the job done.

Early Birds, Late Birds: Not all people are alike. Some  people like to rise early, and are bright and motivated early in the morning. These are called “Larks”. Other people are late risers, and their body and brain are at their best much later in the day. These people are called “Owls”, for obvious reasons.

How do you feel about attending a meeting where half the people don’t show up to any of the meetings?

That’s how it is when you schedule a meeting at 9am, or 4pm. Half the audience has “checked out” because they are either early risers or late risers. Their brains are not able to process much information…even if you put them on a caffeine drip. Their contribution to the meeting is Zip. Zero. As Jim Morrison says, “Is everybody in? Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin!”

Well, Jim, how do I say it…not everybody is in! Should we start regardless?

There is new evidence that strongly supports afternoon naps. These are good for maintaining energy levels, as they are good at improving memory retention. Both are things you need more of, as a knowledge worker. Why wouldn’t modern workplaces recognize this, and make it easier for people to work at peak-performance? Instead, someone who indulges in a nap is thought of as being lazy! That’s crazy.

Why not try alternate work hours, which allow employees to function at peak mental levels. How about “Donut days”…with heavy activity in the morning and later afternoon, and a big hole in the middle? How about “come when your mind is open” days?

There’s not much data on this yet, but I am willing to bet that the mental performance ratio between peak performance and low mental performance, for the same person, would be a ratio of 5:1. That is, the same person would be five times more effective at the same task when their brain is open.

There is an anecdote about a famous mathematician- Paul Erdos (Google him, he’s really, really famous), who would often knock on his unsuspecting collaborators’ doors at odd hours and say, “My Brain is Open“, and then go on to write brilliant mathematical papers with said collaborator. Then he moved on to the next person and declare that his brain is open.

There are other things I can wring out of this story-line. But I’ll need a nap before that. Meanwhile, let me just ask you this…Is your brain open?

There! I have successfully combined Jim Morrison’s poetry with Paul Erdos’ math. My job here is done!

As Indian companies hire more global managers…

Now that Indian companies are becoming global with a vengeance, it’s becoming common for non-Indian managers to be hired into desi companies. This great inter-mingling of cultures is a reversal of the previous stereotype of desis joining western companies.

With this in mind, I was reminded of this hilarious sketch by the British-Asian team of “Goodness Gracious Me”. In this, a westerner joins a desi companies, and immediately runs into trouble for his “complicated English name”. The new guy- Jonathan- is told that his chances of progress in the company are limited unless he does something about his name.

Check it out!

Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai (Take a hike, and report back to work tmrw)

Here’s a great post by Basab Pradhan that talks about the recent troubles with large Chinese and Indian companies. The companies in China, Foxconn and Honda, both has labor trouble and have recently announced large pay hikes. Which, if you’re following the press, is similar to what the Indian IT services companies are doing too.

IT Services Companies Should Empower Middle Management.

Basab’s argument is that the middle management is not empowered enough, and is therefore not interested in arguing on behalf of the company anymore. This leads to labor unrest. The headline salary hike is, for the most, part, hiding deeper troubles in these companies.

But as the company grows, one degree of separation becomes two, three, four and more. Pretty soon what top management gets to hear is what they hear from their direct reports. What they have to say is said to a select few or to the media. How do you continue to build trust with your employees? You can’t do it yourself. So you must have your middle managers become interlocutors for you.

Very consistent with my earlier posts about Juggernautistic companies, and how they got that way.