No Money, only Mangoes 

I had gone to pick up mangoes from the bus stand with a friend whose father grows them at his farm in Andhra. He loads the delicious organic Himayati Mangoes in the village on a bus and we go to Majestic bus stand and pick them up. Pretty cool ! On our way we were chatting and I said even I have been thinking of growing some veggies and selling it to Healthy Buddha or Big Basket but it works out that no matter how I try I just can’t make money as size of my land holding is too small. My friend said Rajnish why do you think the farmers are revolting ? This year there has been an over supply of many crops including mango. Typically, farmers have been selling mangoes to agents as low as 10-15 Rs. Per Kg. In an acre on an average you can grow about a quintal in the 5th year.So if you have 2 acres of land the maximum money that you can make is Rs. 20 thousand for a crop which grows only once a year. 2 acres is important as that is the average land holding of farmers in India. You can do maths with other crops with different prices which vary drastically but there is no way a farmer can cross the threshold of 30 thousand per acre per year. Now you look at the cost of inputs which are easily 30-40 % fertilizers, pesticides, water, transportation, labor etc. The net available for the farmer is just 3 thousand per month. Remember this is when everything is normal – no draught or floods or untimely rain.

So who has failed – the government. In 70 years we have not been able to come up with a market mechanism to get a fair price for the produce. While the farmer gets Rs.2 per Kg we pay Rs. 20  for the same tomatoes. In the case of my friend the entire apartment is happy buying Organic Himayati Mangoes at Rs. 150 per Kg which his father would have otherwise sold to the agent at Rs. 15. Why do you think we went all the way to Majestic bus Stand in the morning 😊

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Not all who wander are lost..

All of us travel. And for most us travel is something joyous, something fulfilling, something to look forward to. But can we say the same thing when we travel for work ? If you are not sure then read on..

I for one, used to hate traveling for work. I used to balk at every opportunity that demanded me to pack my bags and be off to a foreign land. Then slowly I realized that it was not really the journey that tired or irritated me but it was my attitude. I had this notion that I must feel uncomfortable – long flights in coach class, stale airport food, no “Indian Vegetarian” meals, jet lag for days on end and so on.

As time elapsed, it became clear that there was no escaping this reality of my corporate existence so I decided to make peace with the situation. It did not come in a day and I had to train my mind to focus more on the positive aspects of travel than the ones that bothered me. I now enjoy my business day out and travel for me is a chore no more but a great friend, philosopher and guide. I have learnt that what travel can teach us in few days and sometimes in a few hours, it may take a whole lifetime to learn, to imbibe. Let me list few of the lessons I have learnt from my journeys. I will start from the physical and move towards the meta physical. 

1. Fear of the unknown – This is one of the most common impediments for anyone who wants to enjoy discovering new places and meeting new people. We are so used to our comfort zones that to step out is a challenge. Somehow our minds have been trained to the concept of “aliens” who are to be feared no matter how good or friendly they may turn out to be. We assume a lot of stuff and keep asking questions to which there can be no answers unless they actually happen. These are questions like – what will happen at the immigration? will I get a cab at the airport? will my baggage arrive safely? hope the hotel is good, I don’t even know the language and so on. I have figured out that the probability of everything working out just fine is quite high as things have been structured not to fail and even if they do there are mechanisms to take care of the eventuality. And just by the way, I am not the first traveler who arrived in a country. What ever happened to everyone else would happen to me as well as long as its not North Korea ! The joy comes when we decide to turn our anxiety into an adventure. That is what it makes it all so exciting. Isn’t it ?

2. Your body can endure much more than you can ever imagine – While this may be true for the mind it’s absolutely misleading for the body. One thing that all of us who are on the wrong side of 40 believe is that we are old now and our bodies are no more fit enough for 30 hour journeys. Not true at all. It’s all in the mind. Once you put your body to the endurance test you will realize that it has an amazing capacity to come back to its normal form in a short time. In fact if you practice Yoga or Meditation, Travel can be a very good time to relax. While on the plane you can perfect the Art of stillness, watch your breadth for hours, sit straight or practice Yoga postures while no one is looking. Once your meetings are done, you can go for long walks to explore the new environs, a different culture and even shop (something I never do willingly in India). I have walked for 15-20 Kms in a day on weekends and not felt tired at all ! No road is long enough if you can stop by to smell the flowers.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking newlandscapes, 
but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust, French novelist

3. People everywhere are all the same – Trust me on this one. Folks in Japan & Saudi Arabia are the same as those in Europe and America. They have their quirks but apart from looking different they feel, think, communicate from the same level of human intellect and understanding. Once you start getting the hang of it you will actually start enjoying the differences. Through years of experience for example I can tell from just the way a person is speaking English from which part of the world she belongs to. I may be wrong sometimes but then it’s like a quiz in which my chances of winning far outweigh my chance of losing. When I meet someone from another part of the world I try to guess their origin and if I am wrong I promptly offer an apology in their native language and they are so pleased to know that I tried. As long as you know how to say “I cant speak xyz. English please”, you will be able to make friends. Cab drivers can be your best buddies in case you are looking for unobtrusive company. My phone has numbers of cab drivers from all parts of the world 😉

4.At the end of it there are rich rewards – No matter which airport you transit from the duty free stores have the best collection of Whiskey, Wines and Chocolates. I usually transit through either Dubai or Doha and both airports have a great selection to offer. And the price they are available when compared to India, you really don’t have to think much before you swipe your credit card. Now, some may argue if these qualify for the meta physical as promised earlier in the article but for me they do. Single Malts, Wines and Chocolates represent the finest that the world has to offer to the human mind and palate. All the culture that you soak in on your trips to foreign lands can be distilled and made part of your eternal being once you are back home as you sit quietly nursing your drink and nibbling on the coco from Ivory Coast that traveled to Belgium or Switzerland just for you.

After all, ours are not the only journeys that there are and some business traveler like me would have made it possible through his own share of exploration, discovery and adventure…

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 !

Some African Wisdom..

The guy who came to drop me at the Cape Town airport owned a fleet of cars and dabbled in some other small businesses. As we chatted I came to know he had left his well paying managerial job to be on his own. Upon asking about his decision to “quit” while still in his early 40’s he had this profound wisdom to share :

“There comes a time in an organization when there are only two kinds of people left – the ambitious and thcabbiee insecure. Both are extremely dangerous. I know the organization has been there for past 50 years and it will still be there for the next 50 but the same is not true for me. My time on the planet with my kids, my family and my friends is limited. Yes, I don’t make that much money but I am my own boss. I took you guys out for sightseeing before the drop to the airport and nobody can ask me a question. What sort of value one can put to such freedom, such liberty ? If I consider small things like this I have more happiness, more fulfillment than I was ever having before.”

Usually I drink red wine on flights but this time it was double scotch on the rocks @#$$%&

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.