Indian E Commerce – Is the party over ?

I wrote a post on Linked in March 2016 which went viral and was trending as top posts from India on the Linked in Pulse platform on 15th March 2016. Here is the link :

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/indian-e-commerce-party-over-rajnish-kumar

Later it was published by other websites :

http://www.oneyearmba.co.in/is-amazon-profitable-is-flipkart-making-profit-e-commerce-profitable-industry-bubble-india-unit-economics-why-failing-customer-acquisition-high-cost-online-shopping-marketing-bleeding-retail-business/

Business Today carried the same cover story ( with exactly the same title ) the very next month in April 2016. It could very well be a coincidence but then it would be a very wonderful coincidence 🙂

हिंदी में बोलें तो बहुत हसीन इत्तेफ़ाक है ये !

Speed of the team….

A couple of days ago I read this wonderful quote in the Newspaper by Lee Iacocca – Speed of the boss is the speed of the team.

At the first instance it didn’t seem like much but as I pondered over it contrasting Mr. Lee’s wisdom with my own experiences over the last 17 years of corporate existence, I  discovered how deep and true was the meaning. Let us look at the word speed which comes twice in the sentence. Now speed could be either slow or fast which is obvious but at one level it also means alignment of goals and objectives along with the timelines  set for their achievement. I have seen many times that the goals set by the Bosses for Themselves are not communicated to the team and even if they are it is not necessary that the team believes in the value that they will bring to the individual or the organisation. An individual will always link the growth of the organisation to their own growth and if they cannot see this critical connect the ‘speed’ does not match, in direction and therefore not in velocity. The team feels that they are direction less and the Boss feels that the team is too slow. Ultimately it leads to friction and low motivation levels.

A classic case in point are the Indian elections. We have The BJP all aligned and motivated and running towards their goal of making Modi the PM, the congress slogging it out somehow, fearing the eminent defeat with little chance of victory and finally the AAP which is a congregation of headless chickens running in all directions not knowing why and where to?  While the BJP and its cadres are rejoicing in the sunshine they could have well been facing the heat as their counterparts are, had it not been for their Boss. Can you imagine if Advani was named the PM candidate ? Would BJP still be having the same drive jumping all over the rivals pumped up with their winning spirit ? Election results are due and we will have to wait and see if Modi was able to achieve the goal but at least the campaign was charged with energy and enthusiasm.

Going a step further in our analysis we would realise that it is the belief in the ability of the leader to win not only for himself but also for the team which makes all the difference.In a highly competitive environment this becomes paramount and the team looks up to a Boss who can show the way. The teams are pitched against each other and they know that the one which has not only got a great strategy but a plan to deliver effectively will win.The decision to make Modi their PM candidate was not an easy one but they were almost forced into it as he was the only one who had the vision, the capability and the plan for execution. And yes he also had credentials.  Rahul Gandhi had none of these and Kejriwal probably had the vision but is lost as far his execution plan is concerned. His Delhi exodus also put a big question mark on his credentials.

So much for the team…but let us also look at the Boss. Not every Boss is a Modi to be able to do some 1400 3 D rallies, travel 300000 Kms, work tirelessly for 18-20 hours and still have the energy to think and walk straight. Most bosses are not born leaders or supermen but are pushed up the hierarchy riding  on age and experience. It’s  quite possible therefore that the sparks of vision and creativity allude them or what they feel as the next big wave may just be a hump in the continuum.  They may lack the same energy level 24x7x365 and even suffer break down once in a while. What about Bosses alignment with their own Bosses ? They might have a great idea but it may not fit in well with the overall strategy of the company. While Modi played favourites and got away with it, not everyone would be lucky enough not to end up with a fractured group with small power centres within.

Can members on cross purpose achieve the same goal ?The resultant drag speed will certainly get compromised for the team and for the boss too. Managing aspirations within the team is a challenge as individual ego stems from self image as well as how others perceive you. Then there are comparisons made between grades, levels, remuneration where understandably most would not be willing to understand the Bosses point of view unless backed by impartial data and unwavering trust.

So while the statement made by Mr.Iaccoca  holds true in case of a great Boss and a good team to back him, it takes different dimensions when a gap exists and there are limitations. In my personal experience there are more gaps when we look around us than there are ‘ made for each other’ stories. I am not sure if a solution exists but I feel that if we replace the word speed with ‘pace’ things would get more sensible for lesser mortals like us.  While speed is about competition and keeping up with others, pace is about doing things that you believe and enjoying the journey more than constantly being anxious about the destination. Whether the pace will be gentle or  intense can be decided by the Boss and the team but one thing is sure they will be happy with the overall results.

 

 

 

 

 

www.mynesthome.com – online retail venture of my better half :-)

home-sweet-home1

 

Home, the spot of earth supremely blest,
a dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.
~Robert Montgomery

What is a home? A home is a space within four walls which has many connotations like an abode, a haven, a dwelling, a safe and secure cocoon and also a sound financial investment. There is nothing in the world as sweet as a home”. ‘East or West, home is the best’ as the saying goes. Home is the symbol of human togetherness- a place where all of us learn the first steps of life. For most people the very thought of home brings fond memories, nostalgic feeling and a gamut of emotions. Some say, “Home is not a place but a feeling”. For some ,” home is where the heart is “, while for some others it’s a place where you can relax and have a cup of coffee with Pablo Neruda and his verses for company.

A post on our facebook page www.facebook.com/mynesthome declares “ A home encourages day dreaming, protects the dreamer and allows one to dream in peace…..my home, my nest my dream machine !”

Another quote on the”mynesthome” Facebook page said, “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”

As famous poet Payne has opined,

 Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

While many people come back to their homes as a matter of habit and do not expect anything more than the comfort of home –cooked food and a soft pillow bed to rest their aches away, it is not unfair to say that a well- kept and stylish home is an unfulfilled dream for many of us. A large percentage of us would jump at the opportunity to add color and style to our homes at a reasonable budget without getting stuck in traffic jams or stepping in and out of shops spanning the length and breadth of the city!

A home is where your creativity can take wings and what better advisor and friend than www.mynesthome.com – the Ultimate Destination for all your home and Living needs. Whether you want to brighten up a dull nook of your house or revamp a whole room, you can do it at the click of a button.Our website offers a vista of products ranging from velvety kaleidoscopic cushions to balcony swings and other outdoor furniture to sturdy and stylish indoor furniture to kids furniture to kitchen essentials to bathroom towels and other styling accessories under one roof. Atwww.mynesthome.com you can shop for your needs while taking part in exciting quiz contests and writing witty captions on the Facebook page. People already love the site and have given feedback like” never seen such a good collection”. Says Neeraj Agarwal,”Seems like a nice collection they have…great shopping destination…” Vidushi Gupta says,” This will definitely be the best online shopping portal for our home. I’m dam sure… waiting 4 d same…”

The grand launch of the portal is being anticipated with bated breaths and eager fingers. Just as it is true that a home is not something that is made only of bricks and stones, it is also true that certain items in the house add to the warmth factor of the house and make everyone feel welcome and wanted. Household items sometimes substitute for or take on the role of family members. For e.g.: A child resting his head on a soft feather pillow listening to a bedtime story and mummy’s finger’s stroking his hair is assured of a good night’s sleep and wonderful sweet dreams .Similarly, your wife’s specialty cheese cake or gajar ka halwa will look even more tantalizing if it is served in a colorful Dessert plate .  Wouldn’t your morning cuppa energize you more if you had it on your balcony swing? At http://www.mynesthome .com what you want is what you see and what you see is what you get! So watch out for a grand launch to brighten up your New Year .

Log on to www.mynesthome.com and serenade into the world of home décor and living.

Swagatam!!

Lucknow Boy – Book review

Its been a while since I put up a book review on my blog. I was compelled by a feeling of utter disappointment to do this one. Lucknow Boy is a memoir of much celebrated Editor of Outlook Mr. Vinod Mehta to whom my alma mater Lucknow university bestowed the life time achievement award last year.

I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of Mr Mehta but nevertheless I have intently heard the debates on TV in which he is participating as I have felt that he is one of the few sane voices in a medium infested with the ‘ sound bite’ disease. Journalists today are the a bunch of ill informed megalomaniacs and psuedo intellectuals peddling their stale wares to an equally dumb franchisee. I thought Vinod was different till I read his memoir. I still hope that I am wrong and he was just ill advised by some of his media savvy friends in turning his observations of himself into a rant on Indian public life aka tamasha we all love to hate. What really put me off was that someone of Mr Mehta’s wit,stature and intelligence could not figure it out. The only excuse I can muster is that he himself did not bother to read the 500 odd pages from start to finish else he would have shared the disgust I was subjected to.

The book begins in Lucknow (obviously)  where the Young Vinod goes to La Martiniere  School. I must say that this was perhaps the most interesting part may be because till this time Mr Mehta was writing with a pen on his heart lost in the deep love,wonder  and nostalgia of childhood and youth. I could as would any other youngster of Lucknow identify with him perfectly. Lucknow is not only a city, it’s a character that grows on you until it becomes a part of how you Live,eat,pray and love. Lucknow Wallahs tend to create  a dream world of their own which has subtle humor, sarcasm, a laid back lifestyle, good food , great wine and lots of women ( mostly imagined). The world of a young Vinod along with the pranks and trials could be of anyone growing in a city that  defies all definition but remains charming in an odd way.

The story moves on as Mr. Mehta goes to England and is still readable and engrossing as you empathize with a small town boy finding a place in the big bad world full of intellectual Pseudisms   and societal pretensions. But this is where it was ‘ innocence lost’ and nothing gained for the young Mehta. The more He thought he found the world the more he started losing  himself.

Life is Mumbai and the stint with Debonair ( all of us grew up with it) was the last leg of the journey that warranted companionship.After this Mehta is on his own churning  a sagging tale of the various interactions he had with a milieu of corporate,business and political characters – some he won and some he lost but for the reader the plot started to dwindle to sorry little details of who drank what scotch and who screwed whom with all the soggy details thrown in.

By the time I was half away I  started skipping paragraphs.Since I did not find anything interesting especially in the context of a Memoir I will jump the details and highlight some of the stuff that Mr Mehta must take a note of. Being the Iconic editor that he is I am sure it will give him some pointers as to what went wrong :

1. Found it absolutely funny even out of place to see pages written about various celebrated personalities of India Sonia Gandhi dot dot : 4 pages, atal behari dot dot 4 Pages, Rahuil Gandhi !!!! who writes about Rahul Gandhi in his Memoir ??

The craziest thing was to try and belittle Amitabh Bachchan for his visits to temples for the good of his sons married life. Why did you do it ?? It was your memoir and I can promise you that Amitabh would never bother about a non entity like you in his Memoir. And by the way I bought the book to read about your journey not his.

I don’t know whether your wives – ex and current will bother to read what you have come up with but if they do they would be singularly disappointed to find a chapter about your Dog and not more than a line about either of them. Guess Dogs are more important than Soul mates.

Last but none the less the least and lowly was the bit about giving gyan on what to do to become a successful journalist and what not to do. Sir it is your life story not a Navneet ki Kunji for High school Exams. Passing out in third Division in arts stream from one of the most lowly ranked universities in the world If you could figure it out I can assure you that the future generations can as well do it – without your kind advice.

Agree  ?? My sincere suggestion is that you pull back all copies in circulation and rewrite the whole thing.This time all by yourself and strictly without the commercial advice of your publisher friends. You made your money, now make your mark….

Fortunately for me I picked up The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghssh on my return flight and was washed off from all my sins of the onward journey.

Six Men, Elephant and FDI in retail….

Watching the circus on TV  for the last two days since FDI in Retail has been announced I could not but help comoparing the situation to the famous parable of the elephant and six blind men. While each has its own opinion based on what part of the elephant they are holding ( like the opinions of our learned media,business men and politicians) , no one exactly knows what the animal ( in this case quite literally ! ) looks like. For someone like me who has worked closlely with the farmers as well as in retail for a long time the picture is quite clear. We are talking two different business models here : one is based on scale and the other is based on service and convenience. If you just look around : has a single mom and pop store closed down even when you have a number of so called organized big box retailers are all around them. Within a Km radius of my place in Bangalore I have a Big bazar super centre, a More Super centre and a number of Nilgiris, MK Retail,Reliance and others but I still order from the store next to my place or go and buy it from there for day to day needs : No ques therefore quick transaction or homedelivery that gets the store to your doorstep being my simple drivers.

For farmers there is absolutely no link between FDI and what they will get for the price of their produce. They sell to the mandis governed by APMC act today or just sell their produce to anyone that gives them a better price. On what basis are people debating that farmers will be adversly effected beats me completely.Typically in all economies with dominance of organized retail farmers realize 2/3 of the retail price of their produce vs. just 1/3 or lower in economies where such a mechanism does not exist.It’s quite simple if You know that at what price the retailer is going to sell what he buys from me and if all farmers know what price their produce sells in organized retail are they fools that they willl give it up to a Wal Mart just like that ?? It is this non transpareny that kills them today.When we are buying Onions at Rs50 a Kg the farmer is still getting just 5 Rs for it , so where does the Rs. 45 go ??No one knows or those who know are crying wolf wolf !! I don’t even want to go into the efficiencies in supply chain etc which will of course add a lot o value to consumers, producers and retailers alike. I have seen Wal Mart very closely and I know that it is one of the most hoenst, forthright and efficient companies in the world. What a lot of people say about Wal Mart is mostly out of ignorance or their own selfish interest. It’s a giant that competition is afraid of and fear always brings in insecurity.

Anyways you enjoy the poem and try to figure out which of the blind men is Politicians, Media, Businessmen, shopkeepers, farmers and general public :

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

So oft in theologic wars,

The disputants, I ween,

Rail on in utter ignorance

Of what each other mean,

And prate about an Elephant

Not one of them has seen!

For the complete version click here : http://www.wordfocus.com/word-act-blindmen.html

Let’s first see the elephant and then we can talk about it.

On Leadership…

Leadership has always fascinated me.I believed that I was a born to lead but the myth was broken as soon as I was put to test in the real world entrusted with the task of leading a real ‘team’.

I failed but I figured out a few things :

1.Its one thing to be great as an individual worker and it’s another to lead a team to greatness even to achieve desired results

2.In a corporate set up its not always that your management wants you to succeed and they can use your team to set you up. Dynamics of a corporate environment are no different from the social set up we live in and struggle for survival continues be a basic instinct.

3.Still as a leader  you don’t necessarily stop being your self and emerge as someone who is real and is able to inspire others

4.I learn’t that saying what you do and doing what you say is the simplest and most effective way to build trust.Sometime people do take time to understand your words an actions but they ultimately do.So you don’t need to explain your actions and do what is right.

Have since continued my efforts in the direction of learning more and more about leadership more from the standpoint of a scholar than from the view of a stakeholder or practitioner.

I just picked up a collection of  10 HBR essays on the subject of leadership.Here are some nuggets of wisdom :

1. Technical expertise or knowledge of subject matter is just a first level qualifier. It does not mean in any way that the folks who report into you directly or indirectly will look up to you as a leader.

2. Emotional intelligence is perhaps the most important ingredient of leadership and a leader just cannot survive without it.It must be learnt and developed consciously and with effort if required but there is no way you are going to the top being emotionally bankrupt.As a leader you are dealing with emotional beings who will stop at doing nothing or everything depending upon your emotional connect with them.The sooner you learn this the better.

3.The next big thing is social skills. Sounds cliched but you will be amazed how many top executives don’t even understand the meaning of the phrase.Social skills do not mean sending flowers on birthdays and wreaths when someone passes away but they imply a constant alertness about your day to day behavior.Again these are skills so they can be nurtured and cultivated but only if leaders realize that they lack them.

4.An important point that the book also makes is about why should people be led by you. As humans we are egoistic beings and our ego does not allow us to surrender ourselves at someones will very easily. For leaders to emerge they must demonstrate a superior ability to take decisions even tough ones when everyone else is not so sure.Leadership is all about change and change is always challenging – if there are no wars there will be no generals as they say.Regardless of one’s positions they will looked up as leaders if they provide a direction when there is none.If you can take a lead or initiative and prove that you have been able to steer the group to glory you can be accepted as the leader.

5.Leadership is not about holding the top positions.Leaders can emerge at all levels regardless of the hierarchy.In fact most leaders have very humble beginnings and while their superiors continue to languish they rise very fast through the ranks to surpass everyone else to the top.Leadership is not about surrender but about adulation, praise,acceptance and trust. Those who win these keep increasing their circle of influence until most of the organization falls under it.Again this influence is not about servility but about camaraderie and friendship. A friend whom you like and also look upto as a guide and a philosopher so to say.

6. One last phrase that struck me was about the difference of being a good a good manager versus being a great leader.

The book says that a manager deals with complexity to organize systems and processes so that the organization become people Independent and drives consistency. Leader deals with change to motivate and inspire people to not only accept and imbibe the change but also to innovate so that change is no longer a challenge but an opportunity.Believe me this is easier said than done. Where as a manager will try to kill creativity by streamlining ways of working a leader will do something exactly opposite – instill and nurture creativity to encourage people to come up with new ideas and ways of working. It may mean a higher risk but that’s what a leader is all about – taking chances, at best taking calculated chances.

Will keep adding to this piece as i highlight my notes and ponder and delve little more. Keep track if you want to be the CEO or the President of your place….