Monday, November 30, 2009

Apple Overtakes Nokia

Apple overtakes Nokia. Ok, Apple hasn't really overtaken Nokia in terms of units sold. But I guess that was never Apple’s intention.

By now, Apple's success has been well recorded and written about by media, marketing gurus/analysts, bloggers and authors.

So, I may not have anything new to say. But am recording my thoughts anyway.

When Apple announced the launch of iPhone, one of my colleagues wondered if the company would ever succeed and be able to beat the existing players. Mobile phone market is extremely crowded. We could very well say that mobile technology is definitely in the Tornado phase. There are Gorillas, Chimps and Monkeys. Oh, wait a minute. Mobile industry is actually commoditized market, meaning the switching costs are lower. So, we have King (Nokia), Prince(s) (Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung...) and Serf(s) (anybody other than those previously mentioned).

It was a valid question. Apple, which has roots in computing, could be classified as Chimp in that industry. A specialist who could never win the battle against the IBM clones. But if there was one advantage that Apple had was its brand image. Apple was supposed to be cool. It was supposed to be a favorite brand of the famous. It was always aspirational. But because it defied the rules prescribed in Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm, it became a niche Chimp, trying hard to knock the pins in the alley.

But things were taking a different shape in the technology and consumer behavior. With the rapid innovations in the mobile handset and telecom industry, mobile phones were fast emerging, if not replacing PCs, as the mode for communication, computing and entertainment. Probably, it is the first true Convergence device. Today, there are more mobile-phones vis-à-vis the PCs and laptops.

Apple would have diminished and been wiped out if it had continued to stay in the PC industry. Despite bringing in newer technologies and being aspirational, lack of partners would have killed any chances of gaining dominance. And as it is said and shown in Pirates of Silicon Valley, Bill Gates and his Microsoft would have done a Fast Second.

I guess it was but natural for Apple to move into this space.

Oh btw, I very recently watched Pirates of the Silicon Valley. Do watch it, if you like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or the PC industry.

Then something happened after the mercurial Jobs was back at the helm of affairs at Apple. He changed the fortunes for the company and waged a battle that has become a legend. And his weapon in this war – Apple’s brand equity.

This brand image not only bailed it out but also catapulted Apple to a leader in the new areas. Like a phoenix, it rose. While, everything that Jobs touched turned gold.

But we cannot say that brand image was the only reason for Apple to succeed. Philips is the best example which despite being associated with electronics industry could not cut ice in the handset industry, but it is not the only one example.

I think Apple made a strategic (conscious or unconscious) decision of first releasing iPod. Or maybe iPod happened and it was extended to iPhone.

Or I could say iPod set first the rules of the game and received an overwhelming response to its initiative to transition from desk and laps to the palm. While, the software and the iTunes did its magic, it was the show value of iPod which won the hearts and thus the desire amongst targeted users. As Naru would say the value is captured by what is visible and iPod, a sleek device, did a fantastic job. Apple with a slew of variants from Nano to Shuffle not only demonstrated dominance but also expanded market share.

Until Apple’s iPod arrived, the ubiquitous MP3 songs were heard mostly on computer. And, maybe on mobile phones. iPod revolutionized listening to music, the same way as Sony’s Walkman did, ages ago. Ah yes, Sony took the cue around the same time and launched Walkman series of mobile phones which also became popular. Later, the same series was rechristened W Series.

iPod had its own challenges. Microsoft launched Zune but failed miserably. Poor Microsoft, it has become so big and has to fight battles on so very many fronts.

Of course, other formidable challengers were Mobile handset companies themselves. Almost all built strong music features within them. Then, of course, other electronic players like Transcend, Creative, Samsung, Sony, and Philips…who brought their own music players. And not to forget, the unorganized/unbranded products, which were shells sold for peanuts.

There is a rule in technology marketing which says that the market leader has to continuously challenge itself. Which Apple did, pretty well.

Finally, an Apple product which retained its desirability quotient but transitioned Apple from a niche PC maker to a mass-market premium music player.

And it was this success and acceptability, which laid the foundation for the launch of iPhone. Now who could have imagined that Apple’s reincarnation? The biggest achievement for iPod was that it made Apple’s software be used by a much larger audience, something which weighed heavily against it in the PC market. What is important, it became the leader and rewrote the rules.

Persistence pays! Investing in brand repays more!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 in 17 Official Indian languages

I do not approve of MNS' philosophy. Nor of any other party/organization which has similar outlook. Narrow patriotism has done enough harm. Please refer history.

But MNS' demand to have in Marathi is a good thought. Today, the site is available in Hindi, Gujarati and English. It would be great if every Indian (like Sachin Tendulkar) can get BSE site in his or her own language. To start with it should at least be in the 17 official languages.

But why should it stop with BSE's site. In fact, all Government sites should be published in these 17 languages. At least, Central Government sites should be. States might still be caught in linguistic patriotism.

This will ensure information democracy, in the first place. It will also mean that Governments are unbiased. Two, this will increase spending, which in turn is required to curb recession; at least in a small way. And finally, technology spending is always beneficial. Promotion of Indian languages over Internet is definitely the way forward.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Gandhi, My Father' & Maslow's Theory

Having been fed on Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, 'Gandhi, My Father' was not a flick I wanted to watch. I dismissed it to be another Gandhi film. Until, my parents watched and raved about it.

After a long time, I ordered it on DVD. I realized my parents were quite right about the movie. It was a poignant portrayal of the relationship between Father of our nation and his son, Haridas.

The film’s three main characters - Mahatma (Darshan Jariwala), Haridas (Akshaye Khanna) and Kasturba Gandhi (Shefali Shah) - have given a commendable performance. Kudos to producer Anil Kapoor and director Feroz Abbas Khan. Akshaye as an ambitious yet obedient son sparkles. Darshan's smile lingered in my mind long after the movie was over. In my opinion, he is the best 'Gandhi'. Shefali Shah has done a wonderful job of being a duty bound wife who adopts and follows the path of her husband while doing her best to protect the interests of her son in which unfortunately fails.

While we might know quite a bit about Mahatma from school and other sources, this movie captures the facet of Gandhi as a father. The movie is about the trials and tribulations of the family by the consequence of Gandhi dedicating to the cause of liberating India. While Mahatma wants his son to give up his dreams and join him in the 'war', Haridas wants to become a lawyer, like his father. The movie captures how Haridas transforms from being a subservient son to rebel who inflicts great pain on his father, probably without being aware of it. He falters, in life and character. Disowned by his family, Haridas meets his end as an orphan and in penury.

Why did this happen to Haridas? Was it because his safety, psychological and esteem needs weren’t met?

As Wikipedia says Maslow's theory is predetermined in order of needs important for human beings. It is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level. For instance, a businessman at the esteem level who is diagnosed with cancer will spend a great deal of time concentrating on his health (physiological needs), but will continue to value his work performance (esteem needs) and will likely return to work during periods of remission.

I am not sure if there is empirical data supporting this theory but it is very logical. Considering that it is an important concept taught to marketing students, it surely seems very relevant.

It would be interesting, if we apply Game Theory and imagine what could have happened if Mahatma had acted as a father and helped Haridas to fulfill his dreams. Would that have averted the tragic fate that Haridas met?

Gandhi stood for principles. Haridas would have gained his father but the nation could have lost Mahatma, if any compromises were made. Gandhi was an extraordinary man who took simple yet profound decisions. Was it because Gandhi had moved up the Maslow's triangle and his needs had been fulfilled that he could spurn the pleasures of life and devote himself for liberating his motherland? In that case, if his security, psychological and esteem needs had been met, would Haridas have followed footsteps of his father?

No one can say, now.