Thursday, January 10, 2008

A red-letter day

Today is a truly historic day. Never before has the world looked at Indian business with so much hope, awe and delight. Today TATA motors launched its famed ' 1 Lakh car'. Christened as 'Nano', this 33bhp hatchback with a 624cc engine, is priced half that of the current cheapest car in the market. According to information supplied by the company, Nano has a lower overall pollution level than two-wheelers made in India and the higher fuel efficiency (20 km/litre) ensured low carbon dioxide emissions.

Indian car sales are predicted to more than quadruple to $145bn by 2016. Tata will initially make about 250,000 Nanos and expects eventual annual demand of one million cars. This breakthrough product will surely find buyers in many other markets, including the developed markets for a higher version even if it were to cost $5000 - 6000. Coming to think of it, this fits exactly with the idea of how radical constraints can lead to breakthroughs in simplicity and entirely new solutions, which i had covered in my earlier post on Evan Williams

Are we therefore at times limited only by our thought? ...

My salute to everyone at Tata Motors who made this possible.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Emerging trends

Vinay Dixit from GM had recently asked this question on LinkedIn, and got responses that included the following interesting ones apart from the usual suspects:

1. Corporates exploiting social networks to a greater extent
2. Greater environmental consciousness and related opportunities like carbon trading
3. Re-birth of the family unit
4. Increasing co-creation of brand value by engaging consumers
5. Standardised global accounting standards
6. Expanded awareness horizons - global concerns competing with local / national issues
7. Collective intelligence e.g. blogs, wikipedia
8. Shorter product life cycles
9. Culture as a leveler over economics

The ones that i contributed were:

1. ‘Security’ will emerge as a strong human need – physical, psychological, emotional and social
2. Environmental consciousness amongst consumers will rise and this will benefit brands that advocate the cause
3. Education will emerge as a new big opportunity especially in countries like India and private businesses will join governments in driving this.
4. Simplicity and ease of use in case of technology products will become increasingly important as technology gets more complex.

How to be a better trend spotter?

Had recently asked this question on LinkedIn and got some interesting feedback. Toby Younis, President and Principal Consultant at B2B Marketing Pro based in Washington D.C., shared his approach which i thought was very systematic. Trendwatching site also has some tips for the interested.

There's a lot that one can learn in this area and i will come back with some more understanding.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The accidental innovator

Check out this interesting article on Economist online on Evan Williams, the founder of Blogger and Twitter. The article talks about how Evan stumbled upon both ideas. Evan believes that radical constraints can lead to breakthroughs in simplicity and entirely new things.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Market dominators

ET Brand Equity carried an article on how some brands like Amul, J&J, Nokia, Maruti etc. have been able to dominate the market for long in their respective categories.

The article says that most market dominators stay at the top for the simple reason that they continually work on putting distance between them and the competition through constant innovation.

The article goes on to cite Parachute as a good example of innovation. The brand it says is the leader because it has continually strived to raise the aspirational value of the category by making coconut oil contemporary and relevant to a younger set of consumers. I have a slightly different take on this. How long will hair oil remain contemporary is a challenge and therefore the brand has already started looking at the ‘next’ extensions – hair gel and cream. It’s more important that the younger consumers use ‘Parachute’, whether it's in the form of hair oil should be incidental.

There are plenty of examples of how even innovative companies have being overtaken by challengers not necessarily from their industry. Kodak was taken by surprise by the digital camera wave and then later by the camera phones. It did however try and still find a way to be relevant by literally ‘sleeping with the enemy’ – you can click on digital cameras or even cell phones and get them printed on a Kodak paper. But Google’s Picasa and Flicker still pose a threat as they make sharing pictures so easy without having to print them. Kodak should have owned photography but failed to see the change.

My sense is that it’s not just innovation but the ability to see the imminent change and its competitive implications that has served these brands better. It’s more about having a clear sense of how one can remain relevant despite the change, in fact a step further on how a brand can ride and exploit the change….or can it be the change?

We are like that only

Just finished reading a book by Rama Bijapurkar,‘We are like that only’. The author has some interesting observations about how companies in the past have faltered by overestimating the size of Indian middle class and considering it as a homogenous group. She therefore recommends constructing the picture of India based on your product class / industry and not going by the ‘one-size-fits-all’ estimates.

She also gives it a historical perspective by linking it to the addition of capacities in the mid 90’s and how by 2000, some of these hopes were squashed. She also emphasizes the ‘Great Indian rope trick of numbers’ – how even small percentages in the Indian context can mean large markets.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm back!

What a long break!

What was I doing all this while? Well, I changed job and relocated to the silicon valley of India – Bangalore, from Mumbai, which in fact is my first so far. Not just that, I have joined a new industry – FMCG, after a good 4 years in Financial Services. The transition so far has been good and very interesting. The experience of getting comprehension of an entirely new industry with its own dynamics and ways of operating is motivating.

So far so good. Hope to get down to business soon.