Thursday, June 25, 2009

Winning: Straight From the Gut

Jack Welch’s Winning was suggested to me by Sunil, my school pal. He said that if leaders follow what has been written in this book, Sathyam-like situation could have been averted.

I bought the book immediately.

Winning is unlike the books that I have read. It is a management and self-development book under one cover. The book is pulp of successful manager’s experience. It may not be well-researched but you can be rest assured that it is crude experience. It is a book for CEO, CXOs, Mangers, Supervisors, and, most importantly, for every employee.

Before reading this book, I always felt that Mission/Vision was an exercise of writing meaningless long and complex sentences. Jack Welch explains with real life examples and the appropriate ones as to how this exercise can align the entire organization towards goals.

Whether it is Candor or the 20-70-10 rule, this book touches upon every department of an organization. Jack Welch believes that every department is strategic and has an important role to play in Winning, be it Finance or HR.

As I said it is not a book written by a theorist but by a practitioner; and an honest one at it. As it is said “one learns more from his mistakes”, Jack Welch in this book shares many mistakes he has committed.

Winning by Jack Welch is not a book from the head; it is from the heart. Or better from the gut.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Social Networking: Problem of Plenty?

My interest in writing blogs with renewed vigor was with a post on Orkut. I was not sure if social networking sites were fad or would become part of our lives. A reflection on my behavior indicated that I was using Orkut to find out my existing contacts online and interact with them. I was not keen on newer friends, unless they were fairer variety. So, I felt social networking was at best an extension of Yahoo Groups. But, of course, social networking sites have grown on to became photo album, video album, birthday calendar, game parlor and many more such things.

When I thought Orkut was all that I needed, someone initiated me into Facebook. I opened an account and didn't use it actively, until recently. Then my mails were peppered with invitations to join WAYN and many others. I have resisted the temptation. When I thought going was fine, LinkedIn came along. It has become a must. It has become an essential for someone in the corporate world to be active on LinkedIn. It can get you partners, sales and jobs. So, I linked up. Now, the count is three.

And again I thought that this was enough. Then Twitter twittered into my life. The 140 word social networking, sms, microblogging tool has become very addictive. It’s four now.

A link shared on Twitter showed that while MySpace, Facebook and Orkut are the leading social networking sites in the world. There were many unheard local networking sites leading in different countries. Sonia’s research revealed that there are around 300. That is quite a bit considering the number of netizens in most countries, except for probably developed nations, is definitely low.

But I guess the need for people to network is far from being satiated. Once the number of internet users increase, the importance of such sites is likely to grow substantially. The survival of such sites itself will be interesting to watch out. While, Twitter doesn't have a revenue model, I guess Facebook, Orkut and the likes have or are developing revenue generation models.

On the differentiation front, I haven't used many sites to give my opinion but I think LinkedIn is the most differentiated for segmenting and going after the professionals. It has a well-differentiated offering. The other most differentiated social networking site is Twitter. Limited by 140 words, Twitter probably has a high adoption graph line compared to other social networking sites. It has real celebrities who Tweet real time. By the way, the part on why Internet, despite being a two-way media, still cannot solve the problem for celebrities in responding to fans is a good read, in Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody. While, one can do so many things in Facebook, Orkut…Twitter primarily acts as a message board.

Now, I have reconciled to the fact that I may for sure sign up for another social networking site if there is a different and attractive value proposition. I am not sure if I would need it, though. I have already started signing off TweetDeck for longer period.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I subscribed to Twitter Feed. Is it working, I don't know yet.

Monday, June 01, 2009

South Indian Restaurants or Multi-cuisine Coffee Shops?

Karaikudi, Anjappar, Aruppukottai, Arasappar. These names if uttered to a Chennaite will stimulate the bile and other gastric juices. These restaurants offer sumptuous spicy and delicious Chettinad food. The crowd never seems to die down in these outlets.

I was having dinner at Karaikudi couple of months back. It was quite late and I think I was down three drinks. Those who drink will agree that stomach prefers hot and spicy food after the walls become intoxicated by fermented and distilled juices.

Not that I hadn't noticed this earlier but guess under the influence of alcohol, my marketing mind started working over time. The menu seemed to irritate me. Why? It was the amount of Chinese and North Indian dishes that were peppered on a Chettinad restaurant’s menu. What's more, even the captain seemed to be suggesting fried rice and some Manchurian dish. Totally unacceptable!

My mind wandered and virtually explored the menu of various North Indian, Chinese and Continental restaurants. I was quite sure that those menu were unadulterated, unlike the liquor at TASMAC outlets and the Chettinad restaurant menu. The exception probably was Kumarakom restaurants that serve food from our neighboring restaurants - Kerala.

Well, I ordered Attu Kaal soup after which I neutralized alcohol with idlies and spicy fish curry. My favorite combo!

While, hunger subsided, the question lingered in my mind along with Chettinad spices.

Would I order Masala Dosa at Cascade? Will I order Naan and Paneer Butter Masala at Tangeriene? Or for that matter Spaghetti Nepolitaine at Dhabha?

Then maybe I thought it was an issue with Chettinad restaurants. But then I proved myself wrong. Saravana Bhavan, Sangeetha, Palimar which are renowned South Indian restaurants serving veg food also where in fact operating like multi cuisine restaurant. Oh by the way, Chettinad restaurants mostly serve non-vegetarian food.

Is it an interesting consumer behavior? Is there something wrong in positioning of these restaurants? Or is it a strategy by restaurants to gather more market share?

In my opinion it is all. First, I think it would be wrong to classify Saravana Bhavan, Sangeetha, Palimar, and the Chetti restaurants as South Indian. They classify better as coffee shops. Open almost round-the-clock. They serve all cuisines. These restaurants have used their brands to tap the market with their South Indian positioning while parallely expanding their servings that address the needs of the varied taste buds. They have successfully managed to get more customers and the eating-out business pie. Important to consider is the price points of these restaurants which necessitates them to focus on volume business.

The niche restaurants on the other hand are rather premium and attract a different set of customers. And as in any business, differentiation is the key for survival. Even in the niche restaurant market, there are differentiated player. Particularly, this is true in the North Indian or Punjabi restaurant segment.

On the consumer side, there was a time when eating out was a big deal. But with a booming economy, money to splurge and changing life style has changed our behavior towards eating out.

With the change in lifestyle and exposure, consumer palette has also become global.

It must be a no-brainer that the reason for eating out and the choice of restaurants has a strong relationship. Here I must mention that the children have a strong opinion nowadays on where to eat. They infact are decision makers in many cases. Now, that is a topic in itself.

Guess, what I would order next time at Karaikudi? May be, a Chicken Manchurian Tikka Masala Kal Dosa! Wow, maybe I should open a fusion food restaurant!