Sunday, July 31, 2005

Cricket - in stadia advertising

Its cricket time here again, this time a tri series between India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Take a closer look at the stadium beyond the match during this Indian Oil cup. What do you see? Billboards of brands we are familiar with. There is obviously Indian Oil and their various brands (I cant see the synergy here between petrol and a cricket cup, but...). Apart from them there is Standard Chartered, Videocon, Nokia, Idea, Ultra tech cement (even the boundary ropes are theirs), Hero Honda. The brands are all Indian, save one or two. This is just part of the story that makes Indian audiences the most lucrative in cricket stakes.

But, wasnt this series being played in Sri Lanka? So where are the Lankan brands?

I could see Dilmah tea on both the players uniforms and on a few isolated boards here and there. Dilmah, incidentally is one of the more visible Sri Lankan brands and has a high recall among most cricket fans. Dilmah is now being (smartly) marketed in India (with almost zero advertising), if I am not mistaken, through Dabur. If I were a person who enjoyed tea, I would have tried Dilmah ( it has some exotic flavours) long back. But few others are ever seen around the stadia (during telecast, I mean).

Then again, if the audience is Indian (as it would be since the telecaster is Ten Sports), why isnt Sri Lankan Tourism advertising to its Indian audience?

Cricket is as popular in the emerald isle as it is in India, but perhaps the stadia gets more money from Indian brands. Crickets declining popularity in the Windies can be seen from the fact that there are no Windies brands advertising out here. It was sometime in the late 80s that I observed a certain 'Chemmanur' (if I am not mistaken) jewellers splashed all over a Sharjah stadium and I was taken by surprise then. But then they knew who their audience was.

PS: After the Prudential world cup and Reliance world cup which were smart moves with branding a cup being a novel idea, nowadays who remembers which is the Pepsi cup and which is a Coca Cola cup? Or if its a Hero Honda cup or even a Lux cup? How many people would refer to the current series as the Indian Oil cup and how many would refer to it as the India Lanka Windies tri series? So, why do corporations spend tons of money on becoming a me too brand for a cricket cup? Any answers?

Bangalore definitions

Bangalore, (re)defined:

Oxymoron: "Bangalore infrastructure" is an oxymoron. There aint no such thing as Bangalore infrastructure. Theres Bangalore, theres infrastructure, but theres no intersection between the two.

Pathetic: Usually used in the context of roads. Congratulations! This means, you have a road. This means that you are driving on something that is mostly a potholed, breaking maze of asphalt punctuated by feetwide hillocks every few metres. These stretches are also known and regarded as highways by Bangalore drivers.

Speedbreakers: The smoothest part of a "pathetic" "road". (They are also hillocks on pathetic roads. See "pathetic")

Non existent: Again used in the context of roads. When vehicles drive over unsurfaced pathways of red mud, they are called non existent roads. There are infinite varieties of non existent roads in Bangalore. The kind that appear in advertisements for SUV's. (Factoid: Bangalore has the highest number of SUV testing going on at any point in time. Rumours have it that many new SUV plants are being set up here because they dont have to invest in testing tracks.)

Flyovers: Works of art that appear, usually over signals on busy roads. Traffic has been slowed down in these parts ( yes, slower than the already slow traffic in other parts of the city) so that people spend time appreciating the beauty of this art.

Potholes: Lakes that appear intermittently on some pathways (roads of the category pathetic and non existent). Some of the bigger potholes can be used for swimming and boating.

Rain: Anything that leaks from a car is rain. A glass of water can bring the city to a standstill. A glass of water (5 cms of rain) can cause traffic jams, power cuts and water logging.

Electricity: That thing which happens between two power cuts that causes fans to stop and start running, which were otherwise running peacefully on a diesel powered generator.

Greenery: Green paint seen on the outside of houses in civilian areas. Classified as moss, grass on walls and small plants in pots. There is a move to classify plastic plants as greenery (which could mutiply greenery here). On roads and military areas, greenery means lovely big shade offering trees. (Factoid: Udyan express (which runs between Bombay and Bangalore) might soon be renamed Concrete express)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Annual report, Reliance Industries

Annual reports make for pretty dull reading, but there can be interesting stuff hidden inside these tomes. RIL Annual report for the year 2004-05 is titled "Growth is life". Here are some interesting excerpts from it.

The annual report says that Reliance contributes:

7.7% of Indias total exports (including deemed exports). Incidentally, it is Indias largest exporter and exports to the tune of 5.837 billion USD.
7.9% of the Government of Indias indirect tax revenues.
4.5% of the total market capitalisation.

The net profit of Reliance is about 1.7 billion USD. To put it in perspective in terms of the size of Reliance, remember that Infy, Wipro and TCS have each crossed a billion dollars in turnover sometime over the last 2 years and all of them are under 2 billion USD.

Reliance would rank thus in Global Rankings:
Largest producer of polyester fibre and yarn
3rd largest producer of paraxylene
5th largest producer of mono ethylene glycol
6th and 7th for Purified terepthalic acid (PTA) and polypropylene (PP) respectively.

Thats how Indias first and only private sector company in the 2004 Global Fortune 500 list stacks up.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Weather

The Meterological department had no way of predicting that Mumbai would be facing a deluge on the 26th or so of July. Nobody seemed to have a clue and it was spread all over the blogosphere.

So, a friend of mine, decided to investigate as he usually does. So, our man inserted Mumbai into a certain website, familiar to those in the USA, weather.com and this is what he got. I recall that this site wouldnt work for Indian cities some time back, but now it does. Go to the home page, put Mumbai in the box and enter. Look at the amazing weather updates, including satellite pics (the kind we see in weather reports).

So, we did some more research for hourly weather reports on 26 June and this is what we got (ok, it doesnt say that there will be a deluge, but atleast it says something). Look at the data past 3.30 or so, and it says thunderstorms. Now, if only somebody put this out through FM or Railway station announcements or whatever, many people may have tried to reach their homes sooner, rather than get stuck in the deluge.

It is amazing that people (websites) outside our country know more than what we know or have access to, due to various reasons. In fact, my intrepid friend searched for Tezpur on the site and found weather on Tezpur. If Tezpur, is there, why not Cochin ( sure it does). If only our mobile service providers did something of this sort, free and added value to subscribers.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The call center debate

With the increase in outsourcing, more and more graduates in India find employment in call centers. There is a debate in India as to whether these jobs add any value to these youngsters, who many claim, are lured by the easy money (working often in odd hours, speaking a foreign tongue often and they call that easy!) that they get to make. Regardless of these debates, more and more graduates use the call center job as a stepping stone to their future and very few (if any) think that a call center is a long term career option. They fine tune their communication skills, get exposure to working in an international culture and move on. Most call centers have excellent infrastructure ( office buildings, work spaces etc.) which have led to an overall improvement in work environment in India. They also provide more than just job training to these youngsters. They are trained for various behavioural skills, personality development and the like as part of the job.

If it were not for good paying call center jobs, where would they be? Part of the frustrated jobless mass, the kind who would stand in line in the employment exchanges (captured in many Bollywood movies). Take out the call centers and where do you see these bright graduates being employed? I see them swelling the ranks of the unemployed. They wouldnt have given up seats in engineering to take up a call center job. Not one single engineering seat (save in the dingiest of colleges) goes empty in the country. Many of these call center "kids" go on to do part time courses that add value to their graduation and experience.

These young graduates who work in call centers today and make good money will pass on the benefit of higher education to their offspring. Ditto for the many side jobs that it creates for the not so privileged. The drivers, cooks, caterers, plumbers ( as part of maintenance staff), all of whom have a better chance of living a better life than their previous generations. So who benefits out of this? The country. Nobody understands this better than Tom Friedman (who I may add is probably the best ambassador offshoring has).

Coming back to a world without call centers. So where would these graduates be employed? Perhaps for a pittance in dingy ill ventilated cubbyholes that pass off as offices. The call center culture is partly responsible at the way our people look at offices in India. Office spaces are improving because of the call centers and the facilities they offer at the workplace. The call center revolution is a step ahead in the future of India.

40 years ago, clearing the SSC or matriculation in India was a big deal. Demand for Matriculate pass shorthand-typists, stenographers (as people who knew both shorthand and typing were known) was a great thing in those days. (Nobody asked if being a typist was a McJob. Far lesser asked if youngsters are being lured to become typists when they could become other "things".) Typing institutes mushroomed all over the place. Knowledge of typing became the norm for entry into the corporate world. Skills were in short supply (I am talking of the 60s) and qualified professionals were hard to find (Requirements of qualified professionals werent that great in any case). Much like the computer training institutes of the 90s, these institutes cashed in on the fact that knowledge of typing was a norm, nay, a skill.

So what am I trying to say? Many of those typists form the generation before us. If it were not for those typists, many of us would not have become engineers or doctors or even singers and actors. Likewise, those who work in call centers will move on, one way or another. In every boom era, there are jobs for the taking. In the 60s and 70s in India, it was a boom for typists and there were thousands of them. Today it is the call center, tomorrow it will be something else.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Internet nostalgia

Writing on VSNL brought back memories of the birth of the Internet in India. The Internet was a big thing when it was launched in India. If I am not mistaken, it was in 1996 or so (correct me if I am wrong). VSNL had two packages: a student account and a regular account. They were known as the shell account and a tcp/ip account.

The tcp/ip account was the regular internet that we are all familiar with, only a little slower. But the shell account was one amazing vintage internet, but it was available at a discounted package for students only.

It showed up in small black and white screens that looked like UNIX screens or mainframe screens and was a command driven interface! Every mail had to opened with commands, every file download happened through commands, uploads will still trickier; as geeky as they could get. Mail ids were something like user@giasbm1.vsnl.net.in (gias - gateway internet access service, bm for bombay and so on). To get this wonder of an internet, one had to get a proof of being enrolled in an educational institution as a full time student and go to their Prabhadevi office, stand in a queue and submit an application. Some time later, they would send (or did we have to collect, I am not so sure) the user name and password by snail mail. Getting connected seemed like a big thing!

Then, someone invented a program called Shellsock, which I guess was "not legal". If installed correctly, "converted" the shell account to a tcp/ip account (even slower). Successfully installing this gave us (me and my brother) a great kick. We tried to use this software for a few week until we finally upgraded to a regular internet service.

Ah, Internet nostalgia. We are still waiting for real broadband though!

Another Indian overseas acquisition

This time it is VSNL. VSNL, once used to be known as Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited and was a sleepy government organisation. ( It was a lot more responsive than other government departments). It was also the place that we went to and stood in line to get our student internet account (a shell account) that showed the internet sans graphics and was sold at a discount sometime in the late 90s. The real internet account (they called it the tcp/ip) was available at a higher price. (More internet nostalgia soon). Then, the TATAs brought it over and the sleepy VSNL is now a marauding telecom company.

VSNL is going to buy Teleglobe for about a 1000 crores. Here are snips from the piece on Businessline.

...Barely a month after it announced the closure of its acquisition of Tyco Global Network for $130 million (over Rs 550 crore), Videsh Sanchar Nigam has entered into an agreement to acquire Teleglobe International Holdings Ltd for $239 million (over Rs 1,000 crore)...

...The Tyco Global Networks (TGN) buy made VSNL the biggest supplier of submarine cable connectivity in the world. Teleglobe's wholesale voice/voice-over-Internet-protocol, and Global Tier-1 IP network can be overlaid on the TGN network to provide value-added services to enterprise customers across the globe, he said.

(Teleglobe made an important acquisition in VoIP-leader ITXC Corp in May last year.)

Teleglobe has an extensive global network that reaches more than 240 countries and territories with advanced voice, data and signalling capabilities and ownership interests or capacity in more than 80 sub-sea and terrestrial cables, said a statement from VSNL.

Through Teleglobe, VSNL will be able to access more than 200 direct and bilateral agreements with leading voice carriers, many of them incumbent carriers within their countries or large international wireless service providers. In addition, VSNL also gains an international workforce...

Reliance Infocomm is another of the telcos with big aspirations . They recently acquired FLAG telecom. With VSNL making its next step, we will see what Reliance comes up with.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Distance(d) education

Just how effective and value adding is distance learning? Does it do justice to a full time course? There are a whole host of institutions that offer distance learning facilities for a whole host of courses ranging from the mundane to the exotic. IGNOU is one. ICFAI is another. Direcway offers one of the newer type of distance learning courses. But, really, how much value do such courses add?

Most of us, have at some time or other contemplated addition of yet another qualification to our resume. The typical pattern is that a person graduates, takes up a job, hangs around for a year or so, feels he is not getting anywhere.

Now there are two routes. Try for a real MBA (which is the option for a large chunk of students), but that means losing two years of salary, which for many is not worth the return that an MBA can supposedly bring. The other option is to enrol in one of these distance type courses. (Somewhere along the way, the computer course bug could also bite, but thats for another day). The Cost Accountancy, CFA, CS are perhaps among the most preferred.

The "I want one more qualification on my resume to progress in life" bug bites and afflicts most of the one year olds. ( I too was a victim as have been many of my friends). So, they make a beeline to these courses. Initial excitement is at its peak. Tons of reading material arrive by post or courier. There is some more investment in books (logic: If I invest money, I will be motivated to do it). Some months go on, there is hardly any time and what time is left cannot be spent on mugging one more book. Slowly, but surely, the course enthusiasm dies a slow death. (The enrollment to drop out ratio of these courses would make interesting reading and many of them knowing this collect fees upfront). Many engineers do a financial courses, commerce students do technical courses, but does it add value to the work they do? Rarely. How much value a distance MBA can add? Shorn of the interactions with bright minds, which is the best part of an MBA, it reduces the MBA to mugging a of few concepts. Distance MCA and post graduations are no different. In a market like India, where the number of graduates runs into millions, post graduates a little lesser than that, its a craze to add yet another qualification to add "bite" to the resume or in some cases make the person more "attractive" in the "marriage market".

But the bug bites many individuals and they make a beeline to these institutes (some of them like ICWAI are quite reputed for course content and the market value of courses is quite high for initial recruitment), generation after generation. Some of them go on to complete them and add a line in their CVs, which beyond a small shaft of recognition during recruitment (or in cases of courses which go hand in hand), doesnt really matter during working life.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Weekend encounter: MLM specialist

I was walking down the road in my usual nonchalant manner, like an unsuspecting rabbit in the urban jungle, when I thought I was being spied by a nearby greyhound. A few blocks later, the greyhound exposed himself to me with a handshake. Shivering, I accepted it.

"Pssst", he said, "Do you want to make money without doing anything?". The answer, minus the drooling tongue, popping eyes was a "I was taught that there are no free lunches".
"I will come to your house and explain it to you". Greyhounds can be very persuasive when it comes to visiting rabbits houses.

"I am very busy... I am out of town... I am on a vow of silence for the next 233 days...I am too rich already... I have a wife and a job and they are not the same...". But to no avail.

"I will meet you in a few days"

Despite dribbling appointments as best as I could, there are situations, like in the game of football, where the ball somehow manages to find its way into the goal post. The ball of his appointment found its way into the goalpost of my calendar. Score 1: 0. Soon he arrived at my home with photographs and stories of smiling people and supportive families who made it big and built an empire of just by selling toothpaste, detergents and household items to the minions (despite all the odds, he said).

With the finesse of an old car, he tried his best to show me the door. (Not exactly Matrix ishtyle," I can only show you the door". He was ready to show me the door and shove me through it. ) The door, he said, was the path to make my dreams come true. All by selling toothpaste. I never knew there was gold, diamonds and other precious gems in toothpaste. The mechanics of his scheme were as follows. Toothpaste which is brought in a few grams measure, is cheaper by the kilo. I was told "This one kilo of toothpaste is worth 2 kilos of ordinary toothpaste. I wondered what I would do with 2 kilos of toothpaste in my mouth. I am not even sure if my teeth will survive till then."
"Its not you. You have to encourage your friends to buy this toothpaste. You can encourage them to seek out alternative uses for toothpastes. Dont limit yourself to a mental block of using toothpaste for teeth. One such idea is to use toothpaste for cleaning cars."

Since I was not convinced that keeping a years supply of toothpaste in case of a nuclear attack was such a great idea, detergents were brought in. 1 spoon of this detergent is equal to a mug of the ordinary detergent. But to get the full benefit of it, I had to buy a room full of it. To use so much detergent, I would have to make my clothes dirty. My rough calculations showed that I would have to quit my job, roll in dirt for 8 hours (plus overtime) each day and change as many clothes as the heroine of a B grade bollywood movie caught in a tropical shower.

That was not all. I could chose many other things. There were dishwashers sold in enormous quantity that would clean up a whole city; another option was to clean the dishes till the polish came off. There were shampoos that I could use long after my hair bid me goodbye (it really is a USP, he said). Since I was not convinced, I was offered free motivational tapes on "How to sell more toothpaste to elephants". I was now trapped. Guns (of toothpaste and detergent) were pointed at me from all directions. There was a tank of dishwashing liquid on the other side where I sought to make my escape.

The primal instincts of my genes long laid dormant due to sitting on chairs and travelling in vehicles and not having killed to eat for a few hundred generations, collectively rose together as a sixth sense. They began to think. This was quicksand. My two bedroom hall kitchen seemed all set to be converted into an SMCG (not FMCG) godown.

Suddenly, in a moment of inspired brilliance, something that would pass off as one of the best con jobs of history ( or as a last ball winning six in cricket, golden goal in the last second in a world cup final), in a flash of light, I told him I use only Neem sticks for my teeth, areca nut for bathing and use only banana leaves for eating my food and earthern vessels for cooking. He was not convinced, even as he rummaged through his product brochure for toothpaste, detergent and dishwashing options for nature and eco friendly people as me, but he had to leave because his diamond merchant friend was waiting to give him gyan on "How to sell even more toothpaste to toothless people".

I escaped at that moment. Two missed calls which were never picked up and the power of my cell to turn into a paperweight without any signals made sure that I could escape. For good measure, I changed my cellphone number.

Thankfully, my office bag still does not have toothpaste hidden in its folds that I whip up, Matrix style and sell it to an unsuspecting fellow countryman.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

India stock markets on a roll

Indias stock markets are on a roll. Irrational exuberance? Atleast the hordes of investors dont think so. The Sensex (Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index) closed above 7400, its all time high mark on 22nd July. The NSE (National Stock Exchange) Nifty, closed at a high too. Barring a few corrections, it has been an uphill ride all throughout 2005. In the last 6 months, the sensex has gained about a 1000 points. High inflation, crude oil prices have done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the market. They should have. Then what happened? Some stocks which contribute to the market index moved up so sharply that the entire market has moved with them. Chief among them has been the resolution of the split of the huge Reliance group among its two brothers (some analysis on how it appears to be two Reliances on the horizon in a few days time) and an huge inflow of FII funds.

According to Businessworld (Subscription/Registration required), the P/E is about 16.02 for the entire market at about this point in time. So what is the way from here? Sure there are positives. There is capacity addition on textiles (post quota), auto ancillaries are picking up with India becoming more and more of a hub for exports, Reliance appears to have got stronger with the split. But, if commodities fall, as they are expected to cool down due to the China effect or if monsoons fall driving down rural demand or if there are mid term elections, it could well go the other way round. According to Businessworld, FIIS invested about 23070 crore when the market was about 7000. Japanese FIIs have come in for a piece of the action this time around, through Fidelity, a giant in itself. More FIIs are interested in India. How does this compare with action around the world? About 6 months, back, Asian markets appeared to be overheated. The Indian markets cooled off only to take off again.

In the past 6 months, the Nikkei has moved up by about 8 percent, the Hang Seng has remained largely flat. The Korean markets have gone up by about 13 pct. Karachi (Pakistan), Phillipines and Sri Lanka markets have gone up by 20, 6 and 26 pct respectively. India (BSE and NSE) by contrast has gone up by about 7.5 percent since June of 2005 only and have gained about 1100 points in the last 3 months or so. (Thats about 15 percent).

Mutual fund subscriptions have gone up, though performance is another thing altogether (esp by the new ones). IPO (Initial Public Offers) too have boomed. Indias market has been rocked by scams in the past (Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parekh), but this time it seems to be a clean bull run.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rural development through companies

It is that time of the year in India when companies publish their financial results. Financial results means that I end up getting few annual reports. A glance through some of them, showed how companies are trying to be more than just a profit making venture. I mean the social activities of companies and how they are working to give back to society. I did some research on it and here is a broad picture. Infosys, has its Infosys foundation. Wipro works through the Azim Premji Foundation. ITC through its e-choupal and other schemes reaches out the villages. Amul (though not a listed entity) is known for its work in the villages. M&M, HLL, Tatas have all tried to better the lot of the villagers through various initiatives. Reliance, is also there as are the Navaratna PSU's like Indianoil, BHEL, and so on. This list is by no means exhaustive and I am sure there are many such projects.

Most successful companies seem, on the face of it atleast, to be giving back some measure of contribution to the society. I personally think that these companies would be a lot better in targetted spending that improves the lot of people holistically, than do most government ventures. Government funds today are routed through the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme MPLAD (which is being tightened these days) or through the bureaucracy, which is perhaps not the most leakproof method in our country known for corruption. Is there a way, then, that the government can involve these companies and improve the lot of rural underprivileged?

Snack away

Snacks or Namkeens are a big market. Any surprises here? No. The market will continue to grow. Many years ago, namkeens used to be made at home only. Now, in the cities atleast, there are very few who make their own snacks. It has long since been replaced by the Haldirams et al. (Actually, I cant think of anything other than Haldirams that have a pan India presence). There is also a significant marked served by local brands in cities/areas.

One recent innovation of Haldirams ( and some others) has been "packed" Bhelpuri. Everything that is required in a Bhelpuri, sans the vegetables, are available in this pack. All one needs to do is mix it together and voila, Bhelpuri is ready. It is not exactly Mumbai ishtyle but if you are really starved for Bhelpuri, try it. Also sold by Haldirams are the traditional favourites like Mathri, Murukkus which were "made at home" until a generation ago. Hiding in the snacks market is a health snacks segment with low oil content etc. (at affordable pricing) that is yet to make a mark.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

When the heavens touch the earth!

365 days of tourism for Kerala. In this piece here, check out how Kerala has converted its "off season" into "tourist season", with some Ayurveda thrown in. Monsoons are now being touted as the season "when the heavens touch the earth". (poetic!!)

Wow! That is one catchy slogan. If there is any place where the monsoon is a spectacle in itself, it is Kerala. The monsoon is thorougbred tropical monsoon. Rains that are not of the English (or Bangalore ) variety, but rain that comes down in torrents and sheets. Clouds that can darken the shade of day by a few shades of grey in a few minutes. Clouds, that can spell o-m-i-n-o-u-s as they arrive like an army in the sky. Tropical rain with thunder and lightning, the original sound and light show. When the rains subside, watch the fireflies perform in the dark. Oh, the thrill of monsoon....I could go on and on.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Garma Garam Georgia or Thanda?

Coke is trying to sell Garma Garam ( or Bisi Bisi), both meaning, literally, hot hot Georgia coffee in Bangalore. The hot coffee costs about 14 INR and the cold coffee is in the reaches of 20 bucks or so.

It is created out of a contraption that suspiciously looks like nothing more than a coffee vending machine. The outlets are like the fountain outlets where, really, there is no control on quality. So, for 14 rupees, I got a sugary watery concoction that passed off as coffee. The nearest thing that compares is the coffee one gets on long distance trains. Any more water and I would have to search for coffee in it. Other than this is the fact that the thousands of local Sagar restaurants offer authentic filter kaapi which is miles ahead of Georgia call it what you may, Golden roast or anything else. Therefore, if I want a quick coffee, I walk into the Sagars. The local Cafe Coffee Day and Baristas are there when you want to sit back and enjoy a cold coffee (among other things) in a cosy (almost) environment. It is also available at McD outlets, I guess, but unless the quality is significantly better, its not worth it.

So, why would I buy an outrageously priced, poor quality Georgia from a Georgia junction? Beats me.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Carbon credits

Carbon trading is the hottest thing in the Indian stock markets these days. Trading close to an all time high, stocks which are touted to start trading in carbon credits have run up to crazy levels. The hottest on or off the block has been Gujarat Fluorochem and SRF.

Todays Economic Times had a good piece on it. Here are some snips.

...
The ‘Kyoto Protocol’ requires industrialised country signatories to reduce their emissions by 5.2% below ’90 levels (base levels) during the ‘ commitment period’, i.e. ’08-12. ... The focus of the Kyoto Protocol, however, is on the reduction in the levels of the following six gases: Carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). ...But the Protocol will not apply to developing but signatory countries such as India, China and Brazil. They, however, are free to sell ‘carbon credits’ to other countries....

So thats the big deal for some companies in the Indian markets. The US and Australia are not signatories for this protocol, for various reasons.

...Any project which reduces the emission of greenhouse gases, are eligible for ‘carbon credits’. These projects can be broadly classified into the following categories/types: Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Fuel Switching, Waste To Energy and Industrial Process...

...
According to the Kyoto Protocol, all countries are required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from 1990 levels, by the year 2012, or shall have to pay a price to those who do it for them. The idea was to reward those countries that maintain discipline in this regard. Once the CERs are allotted to a project, the holder can trade in the same. Here, the buyer purchases ‘CERs Credits’ (also called ‘Carbon Credits’) generated by a project as one purchases any other goods & services. Carbon Credits are also traded at CO2E Exchange in UK, CDM Exchange in Europe andthe Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). However, as for most of the trades there is no standard contract for purchasing carbon, it is not easy to find out prices...

The piece also has info on Indias role, whos buying the carbon credit that these companies sell and so on. So, some people have made money on carbon credits already, whether or not global greenhouse emissions have reduced.



Ice cream stats

What is it about ice cream that makes our mouth water? Everything.
So heres a post on ice creams. Heres some dope on what ice cream is ( Your ice cream may never ice or cream in it. It could well be a mixture of edible oils), as usual from Wikipedia.

Check out these sites for more fundaes on ice cream manufacturing and its ingredients. Theres also some fundaes on ice cream classification in the US.

Coming to the Indian market, Amul, Indias highest milk producing co-operative is now almost a leader in the ice cream segment. Kwality Walls is perhaps a distant second, though it may be a leader in the so called "premium" segment. All because of a simple funda, "real milk" and here. This is how the Indian market seems to size up. Reports from Businessline and rediff here. Mouthwatering they are, for both the consumer and the company alike.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Piracy - why some of it is good.

Is piracy good. There are numerous arguments floating about how it is good or it is not good. Here is one more (?) perspective. Lets start with an example. A (say, Harry Potter and not the new one) book, would on an average cost about 250 INR (1 USD = about 42 INR). This is a substantial sum for any middle class family in India (or any developing nation). The point I make is that for a child in such a family, it would be impossible to ever read the book if it were not for piracy. There are no libraries, book lending clubs and chances are, that the school that the child goes to also does not have the resources to buy a new book.

Second lets take a look at DVD players. The cost of an original DVD would be anywhere in the reaches of 500 INR. The average, lower end player costs about 4000 odd INR. At this rate the player costs only about eight times the cost of an average DVD. For a little loss (barely discernible even in reasonably high end home theater systems) in quality, I can get 5 movies for 100 INR (pirated, obviously). If DVDs continued to be costly as they are today, DVD players would not get sold. Part of the reason DVD players itself get sold in places like India is because of piracy. (There is no research to prove this, but I have seen this in a substantial sample of reasonably well to do people).

So, coming to the argument as to why some piracy is good. This kind of low intensity piracy, creates a market where none existed before. It is true for both the child who wants to read a book and the DVD aficionado. They sample products that they would not have sampled, had the price been the original sticker price. The child grows up, reads about the evils of piracy and eventually buys a hard copy of the book. Most of the books on the roadside book shelves are usually best sellers at the best book stores as well and the clientele isnt the same. The DVD aficionado watches pirated movies and finally buys the original of those selected movies he likes. People who listen to mp3's, usually buy the original CDs of the better songs. It is not true of everybody everytime, but piracy does help introduce customers to a product and increases sampling. As people move up the income chain and education, they also realise that piracy is, well, not the right thing to do. Thus pirates and legitimate manufacturers cater to two distinct spectrum of customers with only a slight overlap. Within certain limits, pirates may actually be doing the manufacturer a good turn.

Again, duplication of, say, electronic goods, drugs or copying designs of cars to provide an inferior quality is a great thing to do. Copying a design cannot be excused and it is not an excuse for expanding the market, even though, in a broad sense they would still cater to two different ends of the market. That type of piracy, amounts to stealing. (So, am I saying stealing is a bad idea, but small leakages are permitted? Well, almost.)

In India local audio CDs used to cost about INR 300 when they were introduced. Piracy thrived. Price points went down slowly and now they usually cost about INR 99. A newly release audio casette would cost about 55 INR. More people today, tend to pick up the CD than the cassette. CDs of older movies (even hits) cost about INR 42 on an average. Lower priced editions of books are available for sale in India/Lanka/Nepal etc. This is the route to eliminate piracy. Fortune can be made at various levels in the pyramid. If companies dont, pirates will.

Therefore some types of piracy and some amount of it is actually good (not that it can be killed completely by any means, only organised piracy can be curbed to a certain extent, which it must). Besides if I can get DVDs for 20 rupees, why does the manufacturer need to sell it at a super premium rate? Ceteris Paribus, if a manufacturer sold a million CDs at 200 rupees each, he can sell a billion at 20 rupees each, cant he?

Update: Some traditional downloading myths are being challenged here in a new research. It says that

...The research clearly shows that music fans who break piracy laws are highly valuable customers," said Paul Brindley, director of The Leading Question.

"It also points out that they are eager to adopt legitimate music services in the future."

"There's a myth that all illegal downloaders are mercenaries hell-bent on breaking the law in pursuit of free music."

Thats some food for thought.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Accent virus

I came. I saw. I heard. I caught an accent. The accent virus (unlike the common cold virus) has finally been nailed.

Th virus affected more persons than a common cold. Affected persons were perfectly sane people who spoke Inglish. A visit to America and the accent would catch on. Inglish (the Indian way of speaking English) would give way to Americanese (yeah, the same thing). Words become gnarled on the tongue. Simple, straightforward "processes" become "processeees", "ands" would be preceded by a tarzanish eeaah. The bigger symptoms were that the infected persons R's were rolled and S's emanate d from somewhere lower down in the stomach, where stethoscopes could not reach. Three days was all it took to catch an accent. Accents are or were, I believe, contagious. They were also uncurable. Once caught, the victims lived with it. They were caught through (according to various research) food, water, air or by watching any foreign news channel. It found its way through the highest security. Accents were duplicated faster than duplicates. It was peculiar that the accent that the infected acquired was always a US or UK version. The African, West Indian, Japanese accent was never as infectious. Indeed a visit to these "non-infectious" nations sometimes created a similar symptoms of the Americanese kind. While researchers struggled over the causes, something happened.

The triple dose of the BPO vaccine and Channel V and cricket commentary have all but made the accent infra dig. The first one suddenly made the infection less potent since the BPO virus ensured that any call center associate would have a learned (and hence polished) accent that was far better than the infected accent. The second one of Channel V, "We are like this wonly" made us proud of "Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani". The third showed our very own Gavaskar, Harsha Bhogle hold their own against other accomplished commentators each of whom spoke with their own accent (Michaeal Holding being a prime example). Today, Inglish ( the accent, I mean) is a symbol of India and perhaps a symbol of national pride as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Of temple towns

Many Indians belive in faith and fate and ascribe everything that happens to faith or fate. Many of us believe (whatever we may say in public, there is always that shard within us which believes in the divine) in God, his (or her) various manifestations, forms, thank him (for simplicity) for anything that goes right, react when things go wrong, promise offerings when things go our favour. God is the beacon of hope. He provides the fuel to run the engine when the wheels are grounded in despair. In essence, life is a lifelong conversation and give and take with god. There are entire towns which has a temple as its centerpoint of economy. Tirupati, Guruvayoor, Sabarimalai, Vaishnodevi, Shirdi, Puri are just a few of the better known examples. Yet, facilities in most of these places is sub standard. Tirupati is organised (weekends are maddenning), Sabarimala can be crazy during festive times, Guruvayoor is a little less organised (Sundays are very bad), Puri is overrun with touts and I guess it keeps going down the list.

Pilgrimages once upon a time were undertaken for a variety of reasons. It was often a thanksgiving to god, often a promise to god (I will visit you for the next 25 years), sometimes the only outing for many people. Anything that happened during these pilgrimages was taken a sign of god. Thus, if a tyre burst on a trip to a temple, it was a sign that god wasnt too happy. If things, went well it was a sign that god was with "us". Therefore if facilities werent too good, it was never taken as a grouse since this was a visit to "god". Facilities at many of these temple towns can be abysmal. For the well heeled, it is slightly better, atleast in places like Tirupati or Shirdi. For the rest, it is just an extension of suffering in real life. They have to suffer lack of basic hygiene facilities, touts, sub standard food at "gods" prices, endless meandering queues that can be routinely bypassed by the right "contacts".

Of late, the visit to temples is less of a pilgrimage, than it is a weekend visit to a temple. Shirdi from Bombay was one of the earliest destinations, Vaishnodevi too was one such destination up north, as were perhaps others from their respective nearest cities. With faster travel, people from many other cities find they can reach (say)Tirupati. With its air, bus and rail connectivity, more and more modes of transport deposit ever increasing number of devotees to the temple. Weekends at Tirupati can be maddening. One can reach in the morning and get an appointment for darshan only the next day evening. Three day weekends are more crowded. Tirupati, is of course, a beautifully organised place (because of its darshan tickets) if one can bear the longish queues (all places are beautifully organised for the well heeled with the right connections). In most of the other place, organising means just barricades, sweaty queues,crowd control by attendants who can be "bribed" for people to break queues.

At the end of the sweaty ordeal what a devotee gets is a three second darshan of the lords form and pushed and shoved by rude attendants and police. I dont know how Vatican or Mecca manage their crowds, but I am sure something can be done for the mass of Indias pilgrims which have given Tirupati the second richest place of devotion in the world (after the Vatican). Sabarimalai ( it is open only for a few months a year), Vaishnodevi and Siddhivinayak are among the other richer temples.

P.S.Leaving all question of devotion aside, I still cannot understand what do people achieve by breaking queues (which is ethically wrong) when they come to visit a temple (which is the paragon of ethically right).

So what does a temple town economy thrive on? Temple towns' economy thrives on, simply put, the needs of the pilgrim ranging from boarding to lodging to other facilities. Do they satisfy the need of the pilgrim (devotee) fully? Usually not. Exorbitant prices, substandard services are usually the norm. In the land of gods, everybody is out to make a fast buck at the cost of the hapless devotee. Our temple towns desperately need a face lift and an alleviation of the suffering that devotees endure as part of the "darshan" process.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Not logo, but log (people)

Bank of Baroda has unveiled a new logo some time back. They call it the Baroda sun.

Bank of Baroda needs to do a lot more than just have a new logo. They need to focus on log (people in Hindi, euphemism here for customers). Our last visit to a branch of the bank had us almost closing the account (why we have an account is another story altogether). To compete with the private banks like ICICI bank, HDFC banks and the rest, Bank of Baroda needs more than just a logo. There are no dropboxes, the bank works only 5 days a week during very fixed hours (10 am to 2 pm or something like that). There is no online facility (atleast the manager wasnt aware of it) and it was like walking into a bank of 20 years back.

20 years back, walking into a bank was maddening. One had to stand in a queue for getting the pass book (which had details of transactions) updated (I dont even have a passbook these days). At first even this was manual, then they brought in the computers. The cashier/teller could be doing anything from painting her nails to combing his hair and you could do nothing. If you did, he could put a board saying "Out of order". The manager sat in his cabin sipping tea, awaiting retirement. For cash withdrawals, there was a token system and you would get your money once your token flashed (which you took after standing in another queue). They worked from from 10am to 2 pm and were off on all weekends and a system called "bank holidays" which was almost every other day. ATM's were unheard of. It was a journey from counter to counter and frustration and harassment. Thanks to the internet, most of today youngsters never have to go into a bank. In fact some like Citibank charge a fee for a visit to the bank. Online banking zindabad.

Amul - print ads design

While on Amul, I had to write about their ads, even though Desipundit did mention it . Their television ads have always (almost) managed to have catchy jingles (one from the film Manthan comes to mind) and the more recent "Taste of India". But this one is about their print ads, a set of ads which have been popular in India for as long as I can remember and continue to be so. The secret? Keep contemporary happenings in mind. They take digs at happenings (the recent reliance split), pay tributes to idols (Sunil dutt, Mehmood), congratulate achievers (Narain Karthikeyan, Sachin Tendulkar) all the while using the little girl as the mascot and keep in tune with contemporary events. They have billboards (I have seen them in Mumbai only) which keep changing almost on a weekly basis.

Amuls brand ambassadors have not been movie stars or sports persons, it has been the moppet itself. Yet their popularity of their ads and products have never diminished. The design of their ads is based on simplicity, some English (Hinglish is more like it) language puns, keeping in touch with contemporary happenings and just smart creativity. So easy to say, so difficult to execute in real life. Check out this link for more ads starting from 1976-77.
The ads of 2005 are here.
Heres the series of ads on events as diverse as the Boeing deal, Mallika Sherawat and Greg Chappels appointment as Indian cricket coach.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Amul - the taste of India

Amul, the milk conglomerate (actually they are a cooperative) is at it again. Amul is the leader in the butter segment, ice cream segment (if you want to split it into premium and low end, go ahead, their ice creams are better any which way) and is pretty much the last word as far as milk goes in India.

Checked out a chaas (spicy buttermilk) launched by them under the name of Masti. At 5 rupees for 200 ml, it is a brilliant price point, since any other fruit drink (loaded with sugar,flavour, whatnot, mind you) comes at no less than 10 rupees. The drink is available in a tetra pack ( and I am pretty sure the pack costs atleast 10 times more than the content inside) and tastes good. ( Some of my friends claim that the Nilgiri's (another brand) buttermilk is a shade better). This is part of how Amul has entered Indian households with its great brand name and is chipping away at all those things that used to be made at home. Buttermilk, I am sure, will still get made at home, but reaching out for buttermilk on a hot summer day, beats reaching out for expensive (relatively) Coke or Pepsi anytime.

While on Amul, let me go a bit further since Amul has always interested me with its strategy. Nobody gave Amul a chance when it launched ice creams. Kwality Walls (of HLL) which was the leader, now hides in a "premium" segment. All they used was the tagline "Real milk, real ice cream" since Kwality Walls used vegetable oil (of all things) to make ice cream. Lower price points, great distribution reach, good flavours and they were the leader.

Amul then launched pizzas, mozarella cheese and other variants and the analysts scoffed at them. Amul may not have set the market on fire with this idea, but here too they have made inroads into Indian homes. Spicy butter milk is just another of their "capturing the world of milk" (my comment) plan. They are also diversifying into various other categories like soups, sweets and so on. Amul, with its "Taste of India" (with brilliant ads always) is perhaps a great vehicle to introduce branded Indian dishes overseas. With their moppet mascot led simply great print ads (no expensive endorsements, no stars), they can endear to anybody.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Weekend thoughts

On a recent visit to Orissa, via West Bengal, I couldn't but think of how very similar these two states are to the big tourism story in India, Kerala. Blessed with a large coastline, an enormous lagoon of 1100 sq.km. (Chilika) and some fantastic old temples, Orissa is a great place to visit. Bengal is almost similar with its Sunderbans (an amazing swamp eco system), but tourism in both these places is nothing as compared to Kerala. Orissa can mint money with some smart marketing of its heritage.

In contrast during a stop over at Hyderabad, we happened to visit the NTR park. NTR park, apart from a memorial to the late chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, is nothing as compared to the heritage of Orissa. But beautiful packaging, branding, order and professional helpers make it a good place for families and kids alike.

Having visited some tourist sites abroad, Orissa can tap into its heritage like they do. Konark T-shirts, souvenirs, sound and light shows are just a part of the exercise that can be undertaken. But like other Indian heritages, they languish.

Which language to teach?

Bangalore, better known as the hub of technology outsourcing in the throes of a change. Caught between the transition from "halli" (village in Kannada, the local language) to a global village, it is the focal point of the painful transition that every city must undergo as part of change.

One facade of this is the glitzy campuses (initially modelled on their famous counterparts in the US and later on with an identity of their own) that employ almost a million tech workers who work while the United States (outsourcing's biggest market) sleeps. Bangalore, has always been a cosmopolitian city from its sleepy cantonment days when the British ruled India. Later on, it evolved into a defence and education hub and students from all over flocked to the city. The IISc, National Law School are examples of some very good institutions here. With the tech boom, the city is more cosmopolitian than ever. One can spot foreign nationals who have made Bangalore their home as well.

Amidst all this is a raging debate as to when English should be taught in schools. The dilemma posed is thus. Teach Kannada at the cost of English and the locals lose out in the job race. Teach English at the cost of Kannada and there is a danger of the local language being wiped out.For rural areas where the basic education is in the local language (even there everyone wants to learn English), the danger of losing in the education race is even higher. Activists, self styled intellectuals are involved in a debate over the decision that the administration should take. At stake is the future of students in a world that is overwhelmingly English. Electronic media is almost exclusively English, so falter in English and your future is sealed.

There are many systems of education that flourish in Bangalore. There is a system administered by the State government. There are two that are administered by the Central Government, available all over India, the CBSE and the ICSE. And there is also an International Baccaleurate. Only the first one would be affected by whatever decision the administration takes. Ironically, this is where most of the locals are educated. Any regressive step ( like "No English education till say, grade 5") will imply that they lose out in the process. The richer students are usually educated in the more prevalent ICSE and CBSE, so this debate is pointless for them.

English is a way of life in India ever since British rule. There have been numerous attempts by narrow minded regional chauvinists to reclaim their "heritage" by proclaiming English as"foreign". English is the passport to the global for Indians and pretty much the way of the world and India. Precious little gets done in the local language in business circles. Almost all documentation is in English with local translations. The trick during education is to not lose the glorious heritage of the local language and culture. The approach can be like the French who are in a race invent equivalents for English words or can be more open minded like in other societies where multiple languages have thrived in mutual benefit. It has been proved time and again in India that attempts to impose/teach one language at the cost of others, end in failure, yet the administration dithers while the future of lakhs of children hangs in balance.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Konark temple - thoughts


The magnificient view of the Konark temple as one enters the site. It is not apparent right away, but there are two structures in the picture, a dilapidated main temple and the garbagriha behind Posted by Picasa

Got a chance to visit the 12th century Sun temple at Konark. While the entire state of Orissa (golden triangle, Chilika lake and much much more) has amazing tourism potential, this one temple alone can rake in the moolah if tapped properly. There is always a clamour for funds for maintenance of our heritage sites, but I cant understand whey with some intelligent marketing, the sites itself cant be used to generate the funds required for their maintenance. This temple, one of the heritage sites is actually in slightly better surroundings (a lawn, some security guards. etc), unlike many other forgotten heritage sites in India. But so many things can be improved.

A model of the temple (based on how it would have looked if complete), for instance, with the movement of the sun to see where the shadows were cast would be a great education. Better souvenirs is another marketing idea waiting to be tapped. The place is teeming with small shops that sell pretty substandard stuff. A Konkark t-shirt, a konark model encased in glass would sell like hot cakes. There is also a museum nearby which nobody visits. So how about selling a combined ticket for the two together? How about having some "official" souvenirs?

The temple in itself is magnificient and words and one post on a blog can barely do justice to it.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Radio, great ads

As a self confessed ad maniac, I actually love watching/reading/hearing ads. The comeback of radio in its FM avataar has unleashed quite a few innovative ads. Since radio is sound sans visuals (surprise, surprise) the scope for creativity to engage the listeners attention is huge. The more engaging radio ads usually have lesser jingles and more of dialogues with some punchline.

One of the good ads being aired currently is Airtels ad for KBC-2. It is an entertaining one which features a random voice (amazing accent) interrupting the voice of a Guruji.
Then the HP ad of Gabbar Singh ('s voice) mouthing his famous "Kitne aadmi they" in English ("Children of a pig" is the best part of that dialogue) to get the point across on fake cartridges (something to the effect of only the original is a good one) is a surefire winner.
There was also an ad by Spice Telecom that used a mimicked voice over of ex PM AB Vajpayee, which delivered its point across ("take your time") very well.

Mimicking famous voices is not so much fun on TV, as it is on radio. The older crop of stars (ranging from Amitabh, Dev Anand, the late Raj Kumar to not so stars like the late Om Prakash, Asrani, Ajit) had distinctive styles of dialogue delivery and they are harnesses extensively for todays ads. Hinglish is also a big source of inspiration, as is tapori lingo (Munnabhai et al).

Enjoy your daily radio with ad-entertainment.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Aiming low

Two acquisitions over the last two weeks or thereabouts. Videocon acquired the CPT business of Thomson. Videocon also acquired the manufacturing facilities of Electrolux. It has taken over the Kelvinator brand on a 25 year lease.

I am not sure what the big idea is. Kelvinator is an old brand that had brand equity once upon a time. Then its chief competitor was (only) Godrej, a brand which is struggling today. Today it is the Samsungs, LG's that rule the roost. Does Videocon/Electrolux really think that Kelvinator will sell like hot cakes? That people at the lower end of the market will take to Kelvinator like Penguins to Antartic water? There have been attempts to revive the Kelvinator brand (see this piece of circa 2003) and nothing has come of it. With the explosion of cable TV, ruralites are as likely to buy the same brands (in consumer durables) that urbanites buy(this is my theory based on my experience with the rural people I know. Rural (or low income groups) people dont buy a brand just because it is available, they do a fair amount of peer research, especially when they are buying something like a consumer durable). Electrolux reportedly is looking at using India as its base for its global requirements.

Heres a snip

...Videocon is pushing its brand flanking strategy, which will help the group increase its volume in the market by marketing several brands. European companies have begun vacating the low end of the durables market owing to falling profit margins. Most of them are focusing on the high end of the market where the margins are much higher. Globally, durables companies are focusing on futuristic technology where there are higher profit margins....

This is not an isolated report. If I remove the brand name, there are many such stories. Two questions arise. Does this signal the movement of low end manufacturing slowly from China to India? This was what happened from manufacturing moved from Japan to China, notably of electronic goods. I think not. Acquisitions like these are deliberately aimed at the lower end of the market, where margins are lower. While there may be money there, selling at the low end will be difficult for a brand who caters only to that end, unless one is a supplier to any of the bigger brands which sell at lower price points too.

The other question that I often ask is "Why are we aiming for the lower end of the market?". The answer that I often get is that, we have to start somewhere. But in the case of televisions, there is no real similarity between high end televisions and low end televisions. Other appliances probably share the same core, but I am pretty sure that knowing how to craft a Maruti 800 will get us nowhere near creating a Merc.

This perhaps has a parallel with the direction our software industry is taking, but thats another story and is perhaps not as uni dimensional as it appears to be. Neither are all manufacturers aiming low (Bharat Forge for instance) and are actually thinking big. That is perhaps a better direction to take.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

India Aviation update

In the age of low cost airlines, value priced airlines, one airline is distinctly contrarian. Jet Airways with its service, including cold towel, breakfast (lunch/snacks/dinner) has not lowered its price yet. True, it has apex fares, but thats about it. With its penchant for punctuality, better service it is perhaps the most preferred by the corporate sector. Its food quality could do with some improvement though, as noted in 3 of my last 4 flights.

The race for the most preferred would have been won by either of Indian Airlines or Sahara, except that Sahara has been beset by pilot attrition. Yet, Sahara runs a nifty small jet service, the CRJ on the smaller sectors (like say, Bhubaneshwar-Hyderabad). These planes are spacious, small with leather seats giving a plush feel. They are far better and faster than ATRs. Saharas inflight auctions (donations) are innovative. This time on a Sahara flight, I was pleasantly surprised by Subway sandwiches, offered as lunch.

Even as the low cost carriers undercut on price, service innovations are coming from the regular airlines.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the big boys of Indian aviation are trying to erect entry barriers to prevent the low cost attack that is currently on in Indian skies.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Lenovo now, America tomorrow?

Writing about the jobs boom got me started into thinking about the next steps in global economics. A chance conversation also gave some insights into the IBM Lenovo deal. Apparently, Lenovos PCs and laptops will continue to bear the IBM ThinkCenter and ThinkPad logos in addition to the Lenovo brand. This led me to some history of Lenovo. How did Lenovo get to where it was? A simple search led me here. Take a glance through the timeline of the respective histories of IBM and Lenovo. Found some related articles here and here.

Lenovo, was a PC maker and a laptop maker and a market leader in China. It saw synergy in buying a big brands ready made business which was making losses for its parent company. Now it is the 3rd largest PC maker. How it will fare in future is a matter of business strategy and other dynamics.

Consider this. China has expertise manufacturing anything from safety pins to digital cameras. Many of the companies make profits making these items for various brands, which gives them decent cash in hand (even if they dont have, they could raise money). What if, they bid for an American brand like Lenovo did? What if many American brands actually end up being Chinese? (This is somewhat similar to how many of Americans current brands like Honda, Sony and some real American icons are Japanese.) Is this the Chinese takeover of American brands?

Cut to India. Indian IT and BPO companies have, over the last couple of years grown in scale and acquired a few companies around the world. The free cash they have in hand is not a small sum by any standards. Indian companies have, over the last many years, coded, tweaked, reengineered many processes for Fortune 500 companies downwards. They also handle entire IT and systems departments of a few of the biggies. What can they do next?

What if, and heres the big if, an Indian company, like Lenovo, bids for and acquires a service provider industry in the United States. Service providers would qualify as perhaps payroll outsourcing, data and analytics and many other candidates at the lower end and automobile design or drug design at the higher end. What if, taking that analogy a little further, an Indian IT company replicated the processes at (say) Airbus. Airbus may be a far fetched example, but acquisition of a small or a medium process oriened company is a distinct possibility in the roadmap of Indian IT industries search for growth. What have done so far (essentially, play safe), if history is anything to go by, this sort of a thing cannot happen.

If someone thinks out of box, perhaps it will. Some of the future brands of Brand America might well be Chinese (more likely) or even Indian. Thinking about it, the entire brand America seems to run through foreigners. Americas dollars (and hence economy) depend on Japanese and Chinese investments (among others). Its brands are owned, variously, by Japanese and Chinese (among others). Its manual workers come from Mexico while a lot of tech workers come from India. Foreign students subsidise the educational system. What exactly is brand America?