Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The future of work?

Check out this piece from PSFK on the Otetsudai (via) network in Japan. The premise is simple. Mini cv's of members are circulated, as are jobs - on your cellphone and you pick and choose what you want to do that day or what you want to do next.

Once signed up to the service with a mini-cv illustrating skills and focus, they can take a daily GPS reading on their phone and just hang out waiting for offers. Businesses looking for immediate staffing or individuals lookingpicture-13.png for specific help can send a request to Otetsudai Networks and receive a list of available potential employees within the area alongside their qualifications and ratings from previous employers within minutes. Business themselves are rated on a per-manager basis for the potential workers to see how their peers have rated working for them, and the network even offers the chance for bargaining the pay-cheque!

Question: Isn't this a viable BoP idea? How about a low cost network for workers - manual skilled labourers - even plumbers, carpenters, drivers and others who are dependent on a job each day?

...this idea could have the potential to fill a very important gap not just for Japan but in the global workforce. Imagine if wherever you went you could offer your skills through the network for daily employment and eradicate the need for the current work structure?

This is an amazing idea with a lot of potential. Babajob is making a small beginning here...

Wireless revolution, a little too early

Businessweek picks (again via Contentsutra, nice post) up the story that went around a few weeks back on the "drop in internet usage" and "increase in mobile internet users".

I had blogged about this sometime back that the mobile internet is not yet happening in India. It surely will, but to say it is happening now is a little too early. My bet is on broadband at this point.

Make it available first

Got this from Content Sutras excellent post with a snippet of Fortune global forum, day 1. I particularly liked this one:

Rajjat Barjatya, MD of Rajshri Media: Every Indian film goes up on P2P networks the day it is released. There’s piracy at grocery stores in the US. We offered full movies for download online and got over 6500 downloads of Vivah at around $10 per movie, around 600 in Finland. We hit triple digit downloads for a Marathi film we released online recently. The way to tackle piracy is - first make is available legally to customers, and THEN go after the pirates. For a lot of new releases, 20 percent is from theatres and 80 percent from other revenue streams, so there’s an opportunity there.

This logic runs counter to what Bollywood does now - delay the DVD release and encourages the pirates. What he says here is perfect. I like so many songs but I cannot buy just one of them for a low price. Make it available legally - chances are many will buy. Once it is available, go after the pirates.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Brining the people to the internet

Yahoo launches Internet Cafes. Not in India, in Vietnam. But who knows, it may happen here too - not really required in the urban areas, but in the rural areas.

From SearchEngineJournal.

When you cannot bring the Internet to the people, bring the people to the Internet. Yahoo Vietnam’s Yahoo! powered Internet Cafes are opening around Vietnam’s Hanoi and Ho Chi Mihn City in an effort to bring Internet to people and effectively brand Yahoo services.

Good idea. Like the e-chaupals, Rural Business Hubs it will help get the people to the internet, and hopefully improve the quality of their lives. But the yahoo branding is what I am not convinced about.

But my question is, once you get them to the internet, will they be prevented from searching on Google? :)

Working from home

Here is IBMs experience on the same, from the Hindu Businessline.

IBM’s flexi work option for employees has bust three myths at one go: first, that one needs to work long and regular hours to be considered a ‘performer’; that flexi working shows ‘lesser commitment’ and could therefore jeopardise one’s career growth; thirdly, and perhaps the most interesting, that more women prefer to work from home than men.

What better way to beat traffic jams than to work from home. It really is a win win situation if handled correctly. For the employee, the commute frees up a couple of hours - and of course, you get to work without having to wear a tie. For the employer, it is a great idea because it helps retain people, reduce costs on infrastructure and quite a few other benefits. If utilized fully, this will help India retain its competitive edge in IT for a long time to come.

I also think that virtual work is the future of work for many jobs. I mean, accountants, auditors, designers can all collaborate virtually - of course thats assuming that broadband is available. Sure there are constraints, but I think it will start to happen slowly.

Menswear and womenswear

Me and wife got into a discussion on why meanswear overall, is better value for money while womenswear overall is plagued by ovepriced and bad quality stuff.

Here are my thoughts. The big reason I think this is perceived is because mens wear is more narrowly defined (in terms of variety and style). If you work at an office, you have a wear a shirt and a trouser. Finito. Come Friday and you will wear a jeans and some t- shirt (but thats 20%). Whatever you mix and match, thats all you can do. Women, well, start from salwar (and cuts and styles and mix and match) and end at formal wear - western or saree.

How many mens trouser colours can you find? Look around in your office and you will know. Shirts are basically blue. (Also, men dont mind seeing others wearing a similar design - it does not throw their shirts into the "use for wiping kitchen floor" category if they see someone who has a similar design.)

The same thing applies for womens formals - which is something that the manufacturers have caught on to and which is why this a great market to be in (formals for both genders). But then again women are finicky about styles, cuts etc., so marketing to them aint easy - so all the best for that.

The moment you look at non formal options, it is quite difficult to get good clothing for men as well as women. My experience with regular mens wear has been great - some of the shirts look new for a long long time - whereas a kurta is battered after a few washes (and this has nothing to do with the wash itself).

So, thats my reasoning. What say?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Manufacturing leaders

Here, John Elliot, in his blog, looks at a forecast made by Baba Kalyani of Bharat Forge, where the chief of Bharat Forge, alread the second largest forgings company in the world. Who could they be?

L&T, Suzlon, Tata Steel seem to be his favourite. Bharat Forge itself could overtake leader Thyssen Krupp soon. With the formation of Raksha Udyog Ratnas (RUR), there is another big avenue that can open up in defense.

Yes, it is possible that there are 8 to 10 manufacturing leaders from India in the next few years...

Friday, October 26, 2007

The new virus

Wired has a piece on a new type of computer virus, the 'storm' superworm. Some of its characteristics:

# ... A worm that attacks all the time is much easier to detect; a worm that attacks and then shuts off for a while hides much more easily.
# Storm is designed like an ant colony, with separation of duties. Only a small fraction of infected hosts spread the worm. A much smaller fraction are C2: command-and-control servers. The rest stand by to receive orders...

# Rather than having all hosts communicate to a central server or set of servers, Storm uses a peer-to-peer network for C2...... Storm doesn't have a centralized control point, and thus can't be shut down that way.
#Storm's delivery mechanism also changes regularly.

Doesn't this sound like the way a terror network operates?

P-notes versus common investor

Interestingly, until now, it is easier for P-note participants from dubious sources (terror, hot money, slush funds) to enter the Indian market than it is for the average Indian citizen.

A nice piece by R.Vaidyanathan in the Hindu Businessline.

Participatory Notes are a slap on the face of every citizen who is an investor. To invest in shares one has to fill up umpteen forms and provide proof of residence, PAN number, and so on. But for PN investors, the system is totally silent, even on basic information. Why not have confidence in the India story and realise that we can get funds with addresses without offering such anonymity...

So, while the spider web catches the flies, the sparrows and crow flies right through...

The situation gets better post the Sebi meeting yesterday.

Keyboard to candle stick

Congrats to Amit Varma for winning the Bastiat prize in journalism. (I am a little late me thinks, but better late than never...)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Think different

Future group plans to hire women working part-time, reports Hindu Businessline. So what, you may ask?

The IT industry and the retail industry are the new face of India - UP, Kerala and Bengal notwithstanding. Both these are dependent on the labour pool supply apart from other parameters. For both these industries, women, as a group, are an important part of the labour force and they are largely untapped. For many women, especially the kind who have moved into a housewife role after working for a while thanks to the commute and long work hours, working part time is an option they would love to have. If companies step in to provide these kind of options, they are tapping into a labour force that will be with them for a long time and help them reap benefits. This is a radical idea, one that has a lot of potential in it. IT companies are doing it and many offer work from home facilities (not just for women). BPO and call centers had potential to do it - temping and part time jobs and I am not sure they are doing it as well as they can. Retail can do it simply because of location and working hours and it looks like they have caught onto it.

Imagine someone lives near a Pantaloons outlet and they get to work there. Imagine you get to work when your kid is off at school for a few hours - without the drudgery of the morning commute and the evening late hours.

I think its a nice idea - though - a mindset (I am working in a store) has to be broken at both sides - at the hirers side and the employees side.

Here is Avtars website.
Related reading, Womenomics!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How to beat proximity?

Retail strategy in India seems to be mostly around proximity. Which means that if there is store near you (that is where the catch is), that is the store that you will go to when you want to buy stuff. Unless the store really blows it by cheating you or by offering poor customer service or not offering discounts you will keep going to that store. What happens if there are many such stores in a certain "catchment area"? Then, they compete to capture customers - either by discount pricing or by offering value added services. If they dont, they will fall into the trap of the commodity model.

But, what is a catchment area? You can catch customers near their homes, which is the obvious strategy.

But you can also catch customers at other areas - notably the internet. The internet delivery model, using the existing physical network has a lot of potential in India. It is barely being touched upon by the existing grocers, but it has the advantage of being able to ride on the existing proximity. So, a smart retailer could offer home delivery off the internet on all days except weekends when he could get more customers into his store anyway. Of course, there are a zillion ways of doing it, but this is a model that can help break through the clutter.

Then there are the offices and IT parks and campuses. Build a store there and you will have the officegoers buying their immediate needs atleast. How about parks? Temples? Old markets?

Expect more action in this space as catchment areas get redefined...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How to write for Indians...

So, what do Indians back home want to know about, if you are a correspondent abroad?

The answer to that is very simple. Repeat a hundred times. Of all the news in the world, the only thing your readers want to know is how are all the Indians who went abroad, especially UK or Europe doing. (We are a very envious society, you see, we keep wanting to know how everyone is doing as compared to us). You must leave no stone unturned to ferret out obscure information about them and write something about it in glorious terms.

Examples are when people of 1/12th Indian origin beat people of 1/15th Chinese origin in a Spellbee competition held in a school in the US. Especially focus on college professors who get labelled as sexy or someone who visits outer space. Governorship of a US state is a headline piece...

Fawn over them. If possible arrange an interview and get an interview from them on wide ranging topics like paratha, Kolkata and Bata. As a rule of thumb, if someone with 1/10th of Indian descent over 1782 generations does something, splash it on the first page. As the percentage of India in the person increases, try something better than the first page. If they do something incredibly stupid, include that also, but hide this in the inside pages. In any case, the preference is for spell bee competitions. Note the crucial difference between two; incredibly stupid things have to have a connection with Indian culture while the others necessarily must not.

If you a news channel or portal back in India, talk to their cobbler, barber and school teacher (preferably one who substituted for their regular teacher for half a day) and benchmates from 20 years back in that order. Ask all of them what they think of this person. Whatever they say, include, quiet, studious, brilliant and other adjectives.

Leave out Monty Panesar, Shivnarine Chanderpaul or Dinanath Ramnarine, please. Dont ask why.

Related post here on the Indian Space record.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Doing Business

Got this link from Tim Harfords blog, named, what else, The Undercover Economist.

This world bank funded site, aptly named Doing Business, is a guide for evaluating regulations that directly impact economic growth, underlying laws, making cross-country comparisons, and identifying good practice reforms.

The site has a lot of downloadable reports, interactive maps, ranking simulators etc. Check it out. The interactive map of India (and other countries) is quite informative.

(Crossposted on The Indian Economy Blog)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Calories equation in India has changed

Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi is on the money when she says this.

Yet, the awareness on this front has some way to go. India is fast developing an affinity lifestyle diseases- whatever the figure, it is a fact that you see on the ground around you - BP, diabetes are getting people at younger ages. As India develops, people expend less calories while their intake remains the same, as she says.

Awareness is increasing (look around you - the number of people who say no to a typical Pepsi/Coke is increasing) and we are perhaps lucky that the awareness is happening even as fast food consumption is picking up. So, we may yet land up being a little lucky in terms of overall health.

So, as she rightly says, it is an opportunity for these companies. The health food boom is happening even as we speak.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The end is near

for Indian IT services. Why?

The Wall Street Journal wrote on July 4 that firms such as Riya of San Mateo, Kana Software of Menlo Park and Teneros of Mountain Lakes have wound up their Indian operations and are moving engineers to the US, largely because of frustration over rising wages for Indian engineers and difficulties in retaining them.

That makes it 2 companies. Meanwhile,

On October 30, Cisco chairman John Chambers will be in Bangalore to unveil the San Jose-based company's $50 million campus that sprawls across 14 acres.

The integrated high-tech facility will be the new home for 3,000 Indian workers across R&D, IT, sales and customer support teams.

That is not counting the recruitment plans of IBM and other companies.

The glass is half empty or half full depending on how you look at it, but in this case, it is more full than empty. So, to postulate and ask will jobs move back to US based on the above data, is, I would suspect, a little tricky. Between captives and offshoring partners, there is no one answer.

Look at China in manufacturing. There are outsourcers and there are company owned factories and both models have their own features and benefits. Just because Apple does not design its stuff in China or because or Mattel recalled many toys, how many questions were asked on whether the manufacturing jobs would move to the US? The answer there too is that there is always some movement in both directions.

Trees may or may amount not to forests...See this slightly dated TED video by Chris Anderson...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Now, gender gap in B-schools

There is a report in ET on the gender gap in B-schools.

Heres an excerpt.

"I suspect the Common Admission Test for the IIMs is heavily biased towards engineers; mathematics constitutes a large portion of the test. Since the number of women opting for engineering is very low, the number of women who get into B-schools is also low," says Kidwai, the first Indian woman to pass out of Harvard Business School. Kidwai feels that B-schools should consider having a more diverse selection procedure. "After all, we don't want a company full of people who look the same," she adds.

That means, there, really, is a gender gap in Engineering (and by induction according to what is said above, non engineers cannot handle logic - the CAT is all about logic and speed, not third degree integration or calculus, right). And what do you do if the number of women who apply is lower? You scream, gender bias.

It's not just the number of women studying in management institutions that is low. The number of women applying to B-schools is also a lot less than the number of male applicants. "While 24% of the applicants this year were women, 32% of all students selected for the course were female," says Merchant.

I got it, the application forms are biased too...

On a more serious note, I think, overall most post graduate courses would have lower number of women, especially in non urban areas. This has nothing to do with the admission procedure and the answer has more to do with society than anything else.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Cutting the middleman

While all around the world, the middleman is finding his days are numbered, the railways is doing the most ridiculous thing. In the already crowded side seat, they are squeezing a third seat/berth.

Will the three passengers sit with their feet hanging in the corridors (I cant think of any other way), unlike now when they sit facing each other. As it is, anybody over 5 foot 4 inches will barely manage to squeeze in, so now the railways will have to allot seats based on height or perhaps it wont bother, it will just let the passengers manage that.

The other question being, in any case in most trains during peak time, there is an RAC passenger who hangs around; you might as well give a berth, but the question is at the cost of still lower passenger comfort? Now there are two seats and the third is sold as an RAC, seating only seat. So with the third seat now legitimate, does that mean that RAC is no longer available? Or will it make the cramped sleeper class more cramped by selling some more RAC tickets - after all revenue is boosted, is it not? This is another populist measure - you do not want to raise ticket prices because you think you will lose votes, so you squeeze more and more and make it so bad that the railways will slowly die into scrap heap.

To me this is an ill conceived move. Might as well stack passengers like chicken in a poultry truck. As passenger comfort increases in other modes of transport, the railways are going in another direction. Get ready to lose more passengers to airlines and buses...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Where IT pros make the most

Indian IT professionals among worst paid in the world, says this piece in ET based on a Mercer report.

Question: Most IT professionals think, rightly or wrongly, that they deserve to be paid better. Doomsdayers periodically tell us that the end is near and Indian IT's pay is touching the skies and will touch the moon soon and that this will be the beginning of the end.

While Indian IT managers stood fourth on the ten lowest paying countries with an average salary of $25,000, Vietnam topped the list with a meagre average salary of $15,470, followed by Bulgaria and Philippines averaging at $22,240 and $22,280 respectively. The other countries on the list were Indonesia at fifth with average wages of $31,720, followed by China (Shanghai) with earnings of $33,770, Malaysia ($35,260), Czech Republic ($35,880), China (Beijing) ($36,220) and Argentina ($43,180).

Hmm, so how will the IT industry disappear to China? The salaries are already higher there no? In any case, you can banish all hopes of your job getting migrated to Switzerland or Denmark.
In terms of the best IT salaries paying countries' Switzerland topped the list with an average annual remuneration of $1,40,960. The same job if taken in Denmark, second on the list, would pay $1,23,080, the survey said

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Making markets work for CSR

is the title of the speech by the ITC chairman, YC Deveshwars. The entire speech is worth a read, but heres an excerpt.

"pioneering e-choupal initiative today comprises 6400 choupals transforming the lives of over 3.5 million farmers in 38,500 villages in 9 states of India. We hope to reach out to 10 million farmers in 100,000 villages in the not too distant future."

In another section of its speech, ITC mentions how it is collaborating with the government of Rajasthan for an integrated watershed programme covering 5000 hectares, apart from social and farm forestry over 65,000 hectares of land and other watershed programmes.

Why put more money into NREG? ITC will do a better job, given its track record. The government, on the other hand, given its track record will pour it down a giant sink. I can hear the sound of money being poured down the drain - my money.

Also, at a recent event, I saw a poster by Reliance titled, "What is good for India is good for Reliance." I wish the government and ruling parties had this as their slogan, atleast slogan.

BPO health

A little late in the day I think, but over the past few days, I have been waking up late. So, heres the Nasscom snub for the health minister - who, wanted to bring about a legislation for the betterment of the BPO employees.

Oh, btw, the snub was for this sentence, Ramadoss had earlier generalised people working in the BPO sector as those who "want to make a fast buck", "party the rest of the time" after working "half the day" and indulge in "excessive smoking and drinking" -- comments that "deeply distressed" Nasscom.

Man, if BPO and call center and IT chaps get India a cool 36 billion dollars in revenue by making a fast buck, party the rest of the time, drinking and smoking excessively and work half a day, where would we be if they were saints and worked the entire day?

Note in the above linked piece there is a mention of skin problems. So, how about HRA, LRA and a new Skin Treatment Allowance? or we could call it the Boroline allowance? Or how about a rebate on companies that run BPOs without air condition?

So, where do we stop?

If you drive in Bangalore, you are in danger of being unhealthy because it is so polluted. If you dont drive, it is even worse. How about a legislation for traffic cops, rickshaw drivers and even drivers of airconditioned cars? And I have not yet spoken about water, adulterated food, pizza and deep fried chips.

The mail group that I was part of had a "healthy" exchange on this - so there need not be a policy on members of googlegroups and their health - thanks to unhealthy debates.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Job movement

Bangalore has been the epicenter of many kinds of growth in the past few years. Bangalore, in retrospect, has been part of almost every boom, though earlier, it was never counted. The only exception perhaps is the financial sector boom which was mostly concentrated in Mumbai and to a lesser extent in other areas.

When the PSUs were setting up shop, Bangalore was there and Bangalore surely got the creme de la creme of them.
The manufacturing boom that never happened, but Bangalore has a small manufacturing industry too - if you count Bangalore and Hosur yes. (Why count Hosur, you may ask - many a boom here has a significant participation from there and many a factory in Hosur has Bangalore employees.)
When the garment export boom happened, Bangalore was there. The top garment exporters of the country are located here.
Of course, the IT boom happened. No prizes for guessing.
The retail boom, incidentally, also has Bangalore pretty much in its eye.
There are few other booms like the nursing college boom - Bangalore is a part of it, but perhaps not in such a big manner. Teacher training, again, Bangalore is there in a small way.

I was talking to an associate in a retail store who works as a "home delivery" person. He works 7 days a week and his pay is cut even if he takes a day off. He actually quit his garment factory job to take this up. The difference in pay between the garment factory and this place is a 1000 bucks or so. So, why did he make the change? Simply put, in retail, the work is better. Garment factories work at a pretty breathtaking pace and thats an understatement. In retail, you work in an airconditioned store, the work is not so tough on you and so on.

So, it inevitable that jobs move from one place to another. When IT happened, many people moved from manufacturing into IT - even fromPSU's likeISRO, HAL and private manufacturing units. Now with the retail boom happening, people are moving, from, you guessed it - the garment factory. It is a two way boom. While many men are moving out of garment factory into retail, call center cab driving and security, that is creating more opportunity for women. Women in turn are moving both into and out of this industry - to work as maids, caretakers, nurses and even teachers - some of it happens the other way round. Its all about opportunity.

Shortage of a different kind

Back in the 80s, if you mentioned jobs, the only thing that came to anybodys mind was, job shortage.

Now in the year 2007, the moment you mention jobs, the thing that comes to your mind is, talent shortage!

Some paradigm shift that...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Think Flat(tered)

I have been meaning to post this for a while, but finally remembered it only today. The Endless Innovation blog, has a post titled, Thomas Friedman's favourite company? (The post is on the celebration of year one of Flat world)

That is because Toms book The world is Flat and the name that Infosys, incidentally (or not incidentally) has chosen for one of its websites - Think Flat are very close to each other. The site has blogs from employees and viewpoints from the company etc.

Random observations

On Copycats: If you want to see how to impersonate the great Harsha Bhogle ....check out the presenter in Neo sports.....almost a carbon copy...is he a mimic or what but then there can be only one "Amitabh Bachchan". Come on dude get your own style!! Copycats get only so far...

On Foreign money: On my return from an International destination, recently heard the announcement in the aircraft, "passengers carrying more than 5000$ please mention the same in your immigration form"...guess such regulations take a long time to change. Net FII Inflows has been around 4.7bn$ in India in one month alone!! Imagine the forms they filled or imagine the money that came (and comes) without any forms.

On the markets: Stock markets bull run just continues and sellers look silly (until the next fall)...Latest heard some grandmom's sitting in Delhi are trading in futures and options (the most riskiest in investing) and making money. If you are scared of heights it is the wrong place to be. To think the Sensex was 8000 not very long ago. Today it is touching 20, 000.

Latest in India Retail - Parking charges have been halved in some of the malls in Navi-Mumbai - near the Vashi railway station. With almost 5-6 malls coming up in a radius of 2kms the entry barrier of parking costs are now disappearing. Footfalls, carfalls. You might capture the cars come in and what better way to do it than lowering parking costs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hanung Toys

For a while, even I thought they were a Chinese company with a branch in India. It is a very Indian company.

Read on...

Mystery of Indias growth

is the title of a piece by Swami Aiyar, here in ET today.

For more than two decades, from 1980 to 2003, India’s GDP growth averaged around 6% per year. Reforms in 1990 produced no dramatic acceleration. Then, with no new policy impetus at all, GDP growth suddenly shot up after 2003 to average 8.6% in the next four years. How and why?

He looks at 4 theories doing the rounds:

  • Tipping point
  • Steady improvement followed by exogenous shocks
  • Manufacturing catching up
  • Global boom
I subscribe mostly to the Tipping point hypothesis with the "re-discovery of India thanks to offshoring" which led to a lot of other things happening. But what is interesting is the latter part of his article on what could spoil the party - do read it.

The one question that I have is that role of the parallel economy - unaccounted money. I think there is a strong role of the parallel economy to play in this whole thing - I am also not sure that the effect is entirely positive and good for the country. Real estate in many parts of the country still operates on a large black component. Hawala, terror funds all find their way in a boom period.

But one thing is for sure. As long as the boom lasts (and I am not saying just the stockmarket), this is the time for India. Its now or never.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Employment generation, Telecom

The TRAI report has a lot more components than the half percent drop in the internet subscriber base. One of them is employment generation. The private sector telecom companies employ about 63000 odd people while the public sector companies employ 3.6 lakh people.

Based on the number of subscribers, that translates into 193 subscribers per employee in the public sector and 2110 per employee for the private sector.

Similar to the Air India versus the other comparable airlines no?

Net on phone?

There has been a considerable debate on a half percent drop in the internet connections in India. That has been correlated to the fact that people are turning to access the net on their mobile phones in droves. Is that really so?

We all know how the mobile phone network is in India. To say the very least, it can get a lot better. In a day and age when call drops are common, do you think really think people are getting out of the net and moving onto the mobile phone? I dont think so. And charges for accessing the net - which is at best a flaky experience - is quite high (and quite user unfriendly).

True, postpaid ARPU has increased, but just a one percent increase in the minutes of use? So, if ARPU increases with minutes remaining nearly static, then charges have gone up. Indeed if there was a drastic shift into reading the web on the mobile phone, surely you would have seen a more drastic increase in the minutes used? (correct me if I am wrong here)

The TRAI report lists 31.3 (million users) in the last quarter to 38.02 in this quarter as wireless internet users. My take here is that these users do not necessarily access the net via phones, they access the net via a laptop and a wireless card - given by some service providers (Reliance for instance).

The half percent drop is just a manner of shake outs, imho. IT guys signing out for signing into their employers accounts (well, there goes productivity, but...). Also, many companies provide wireless internet for their laptop owning employees - and this number is increasing, and these people give up their earlier connections (connect with previous sentence/para).

The people who do move out of the internet, are, really connections moving out from a city/location to another city/location. That will perhaps be seen in the next report, as a sharp surge (speculation) - but no, I dont think the net is migrating to the phone in a hurry nor is this a real drop in the number of internet connections in India. The trend is to go toward broadband, where there is a growth of 3 odd percent, but expect this number to rise...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Great buy

If everything is a great buy, then why put it? That too as a permanent label, almost...

Fresh fish sold here?

Also, if you put up a permanent board that says "50% off", will customers believe you?

Much like Meals ready?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Future group: Head start?

While we are still some distance from the all out, no holds barred war in the retail landscape, it is evident that the Future group has a head start. And this is from just connecting some of my previous posts, visits and observations. I dont know too much about their flagship Pantaloons, but the rest, perhaps through my experiences, yes.

Big Bazaar is sitting on what is perceived as value by the Indian consumer. Okay, so the hifalutin crowd may not go there, but there is a significant chunk that is loyal to them and it is a crowd that seems to be getting them the moolah.

The Central type of mall is for the mall types, as I put it. It is sufficiently hip and is located in a strategic point in the city (Atleast Bangalores is).

E-zone is the place to go for electronic items. I was scouting for an mp3 player and one company dealer (I forget which one) suggested I go to e-zone - instead of recommending another of their own, saying, you will get a better deal there.

Brand Factory completed the offering for discounted stuff . It would be interesting to see how the emerging players take on the Future group. And if offline was not enough, futurebazaar.com is their online presence.

The latest which opened a couple of days back here is Hometown. Modelled on Home Depot presumably, the shop is amazing in the range it covers for furnishing your home. Starting from tools, modular kitchens, it goes the whole hog with tiles, furniture, bathrooms and even offers plumbers and painters on service. What is nice about the place is the kind of space they have put together to display concept bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms. (The home-office segment has been missed out, which they want to include.) The place was jampacked the time I went there, but it was nice to see a shop like this. DIY as a concept is yet to pick up in India, but this is a concept that has potential.

Coming back to the Future group, the formats that they have today are quite different. To copy them would be to become a me-too brand. There are glitches in each of these models, but ironing out is more experiential than anything else, so nobody will have the "perfect" model. My guess is the Futures group have a lot of fuel stored in their tanks. The newer guys may get their footfalls, but many of them will return to Big Bazaars and the like. The one thing that goes against Future group is its association with quality. Many Big Bazaar customers (including yours truly), would like a better watch on quality and this in turn makes the customer sceptical. If there is a Walmart-like model in India, is is this.

So far nobody has really taken on the Future group over their entire length and breadth. Most others, are, of course, new. Will the real Walmarts and the others take on this group or settle in different niches? Watch this space.

Lets protest retail

This time it is "Quit Retail". Read the report in BS. And laugh. Or cry. Read through it and you will find the usual suspects - the motley crowd consisting of hired protesters, communists and people with nothing better to do. I am surprised that the report made to the front page of the BS website.

There is one group missing - thats the customers and perhaps real farmers. But, the customers are voting with their feet (footfalls) into these stores.

Can you hear Mayawati thunder during the campaign for the national election, "I created thousands of jobs for vegetable hawkers by preventing Reliance Fresh from opening its stores in UP. I kept the monopoly of the traders on the markets and their strangehold over the farmers going. I ensured that these traders and their business stays out of the tax trap. I also ensured that making pushcarts and owning and renting them to poor vegetable sellers is big business. I ensured that customers will get a raw (pun intended) deal each them they venture out to shop. Now, vote for me so that I do the same for the rest of the country."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Digital divide

This post started off as comment here, but I guess it deserves more. The root piece is here.

Once upon a time in India (and that time is not too long ago) we were a licence raj- you needed a licence to live and to die or you died waiting for one. We had two (or three) car manufacturers, two (or three) bike manufacturers, two (or three) refrigerator manufacturers, two (or three) TV manufacturers. The government did everything for us, or atleast pretended to do and we in turn, as a populace pretended to be happy. We voted, once every five years or when governments fell, as a democracy should. Scarcity ruled the nation, if not anything else. Life for many of us, was an insufferable wait. Taking my own example, my dad waited 3 years to get a gas connection, 10 years for a telephone and in between a few months for procuring a licence to install an iron grill on our balcony (yes, there was one in existence), a licence to own a TV ora radio. To cut a long story short, since this is a long story everyone knows about there were few jobs.

Many good people began and ended their career as good typists did - at the typing machine. The scenario can be compared to a billion strong Truman show, as minions of the socialist machine, as grist to the mill. Fortunately air travel was not banned - they did their best to discourage flying, though through bad airplanes, bad airports, really complex visa and passport rules and finally bad autorickshaw drivers en route to the flight and bad roads. Yet some people found a way. Want a manufacturing job? Fly to the gulf as cheap labour and get screwed in the process, but if you kept your mouth shut long enough, you earned decent money. That this became a career option is itself indicative the mess we were in. Did anybody talk of a digital divide then? I dont remember hearing. There was no digital, only divide, and again, it was not a divide. It was just a multiplication, of have nots. Nobody had anything, so everybody was happy. A few did (and this had something to do with the colour of their money), but they wrote in the important papers that nobody had anything, so everybody lived in this delusion. One man broke the shackles and how!

Some 15 years later, in 2007, while the government slept, some private individuals created an industry out of nothing, they created about a million jobs (not counting the multiplier effect of about 4) - where there were none before and what is the most talked about topic at the speech of the body representing the industry? Sample these:

  • What's bothersome is the slow geographical spread of IT. (Ecophilo: IT started in the late 90s. The government, if I am not mistaken, started in about 1947. What is bothersome to me is the fast spread of governmental corruption, faster than any technology.)
  • The IITs of Kanpur and Kharagpur are almost non-existent on the IT map of India, proving that the IITs have had great global impact but their local impacts have not been commensurate with the hype that has come to surround them. (Ecophilo: why blame IT for it? IITs were around far longer than IT ever was, so why did it not lead to a manufacturing ecosystem around it? Clue: think government policy.)
  • The need now is to think of the under-served regions and areas. (Ecophilo: great idea, where were you for sixty odd years?)
  • Seventy-five per cent of our software industry is exports (Ecophilo: Give me one reason why that is wrong?)
Read the excerpts here...

Large Taxpayers unit

As you drive down the Ring road (thats what it is called, it is mostly a regular vehicle path, no highway) in Bangalore towards the Mysore road, on your left, appears a building that has the name, "Large Taxpayers unit" on a board in front. Oh yes, it is the Income Tax office that has this site, presumably for those pay "a large amount of taxes."

Now, how about a building for the "Never paid income tax" unit or one for "Never asked to pay income tax" unit?

Reliance Retail in UP

It is a little late to post on this, but a few days back, Reliance Retail was under attack in UP (and a couple of other places - Orissa). At that point, there were two options Reliance retail had, fight or flight. Knowing the current political dispensation in UP and knowing also that it is not entirely a friend of Reliance, Reliance decided to get out of UP. With it went a 1000 odd jobs. Of course, we dont know if this was what the UP government wanted, but Reliance decided to close shop.

Perhaps the government can launch UP fresh and the same goes for the other states, if they want to. Also, great, if they want their traders to continue their current monopoly, great, you will have the voters eating out of your hand.

If you dont want progress, you dont get it. A similar message has been sent to Orissa. Kerala, also will get the same message. Stew in your own juice. Of course, Reliance could have negotiated, bent and perhaps kow-towed to keep those shops open, but this is a smart move.

After all why must Reliance put life and limb at risk of its own employees (apart from investment in infrastructure), when the government couldnt care less? With Reliance exiting, do you think Big Bazaar and the rest of the retail crowd will touch UP? No. So, who loses?