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A dreamer to the core. A thinker. A writer. A marketer. A poet. A management guru in the making! A keen observer of business, organizations, leaders, society, economic environment, consumers, and innovation. A confirmed maverick who loves to turn conventional wisdom upside down!

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Monday, April 23, 2007

How Do You Treat Your Average And Low-skilled Personnel?

In a typical business organization, there are few star players and many average and low-skilled players, mostly in support functions. While star players are celebrated; the average and low-skilled ones seldom get noticed or appreciated. But the fact is that organizations don’t run because of their star players. Behind the success and charisma of star players, there lies an unending stream of efforts by the average and low-skilled ones. A collective effort of average and low-skilled personnel helps stars succeed.

The point is not that star players should not be celebrated. The point I am trying to make is that average players should not be ignored. From my experience in dealing with average and low skilled personnel, I have come to understand that what they crave most is appreciation, and acknowledgement that their efforts count in organization’s growth. They don’t expect celebrations in their name. They are aware of their limitations. What they want is a little bit of appreciation of their work from time to time.

But unfortunately, managers and leaders often overlook them thinking that they don’t matter much. They have a feeling that these employees are easily replaceable so there is no need to give extra attention to them. It is true that they are easily replaceable because of their low level of skills; but at the same time the organization doesn’t do itself a favour by keeping majority of its employees demoralized. It definitely affects overall productivity of the organization.

It has been my experience that if you treat these average and low-skilled personnel with love, respect, and appreciative words, they are willing to go extra miles when you ask them to. Whether it is staying at office till late to complete an urgent assignment or to take work home so that you don’t lose your face next day, they can make your life easy if you care for them. The rule is simple: you get what you give.

All you need to keep them happy and enthusiastic is to talk to them with smile, show them that their work counts, publicly appreciate their efforts when they do some task well, give small treat (chocolate, pizza, etc.) when they have really slogged hard for you. These small gestures don’t cost a fortune, but they go a long way in keeping your work environment in a vibrant mood that churns out the highest quality of productivity from all personnel.

Character of a man is judged by how he treats people who are below him in social, economic, or professional order. It is high time for leaders and managers to take some serious initiatives to bring character in their organizations!

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Mad and Maverick

I am reading "It Happened In India" by Kishore Biyani. Just read something interesting in the book that I must post on this blog. It's simply amazing and I relate well to it. It's about the difference between 'Mad' and 'Maverick'.

Kishore Biyani writes,
When one is young and tries to rewrite rules, he is called 'mad'. But when he is finally successful, because he dared to risk it, he is called a 'maverick'.
Being a confirmed mad myself, who is in the process of turning into a maverick, I can't agree more.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nuggets of Management Wisdom #14

It is important to start walking; refinement can happen during the walk.

People often get into a state of inertia trying to plan every little detail of their journey, be it the journey of life, journey of career, or journey of a business initiative, before they make a start. This delays the very start of the journey in the name of perfecting the plan of journey. But perfect plans have an uncanny tendency to go wrong. It is because there are no perfect plans. Plans are about future and future is unpredictable. Future is all about surprises on the way. Success or failure of a plan depends more on how these surprises are tackled on the way rather than how perfect and strong the initial plan was.

Nothing is perfect in this world. Perfection is chimera and an excuse for delaying things. It is more important to start the journey with a reasonable degree of planning rather than perfect planning. Improvements, refinement, and adjustments can happen on the way depending on what surprises are encountered and what kind of learning happens. Every success story is a process of incremental improvements based on continuous learning. It is important to be flexible rather than rigid. It is more important to have a willingness to learn and adapt.

It pays to keep the plans in a liquid state rather than a solid state. Liquid plans are capable of moving smoothly through any path or obstructions in the path by adapting their flow and merging with the path. On the other hand, solid plans have a tough time if the path visualized during their conception changes or throws up some nasty surprises!

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Indian Retail: A Nation of Shopkeepers By Design

We have the highest number of shops in world – 11 shops for every 1000 persons. I am slowly coming to a realization that this phenomenon is not by chance but has a well defined logic. This logic can also be responsible for the strong wicket on which kirana stores are playing. Indian kirana may not be the same as the mom-n-pop stores of the west and it may not meet the fate of its counterparts in other countries where organized retail flourished. The key lies in understanding the role of population density! A cursory look at countries (with significant population as well as area) where organized retail has garnered significant market share of total retail market will show that in a country with considerable area (say more than 500,000 Sq KM) organized retail flourishes when population density is low. USA has a population density of 31 person per Sq KM. Brazil has a density of 21 person per Sq KM. European Union has a population density of 112 people per Sq Km. Even China with a population much more than India has a density of 135 people per Sq Km. In India it is 332 persons per Sq KM!

What does low population density signify? It means three things:
  1. People are scattered.

  2. Mom-n-pop stores may not have enough business in the nearby areas to sustain resulting in low shop density.

  3. All needs of customers may not get fulfilled by the small base of mom-n-pop stores thereby creating a need to buy all items of need under one roof.
How is India different? The population density is very high. That means that people are concentrated almost everywhere thereby creating huge opportunities for goods and services of various kinds. This led to mushrooming of kirana and other small stores focused on local tastes and preferences. Since concentration of population meant more consumption opportunities, a cluster of small general stores developed to cater to the entire basket of consumer needs. The end result is – within an area of one square kilometer, there are approximately 40 small shops collectively capable of catering to 90% of consumer needs. This means another thing also. In a low income country like India, unlike countries with low population density, the concentration of population means enough business for these small shops to earn their livelihood. The omnipresence of small shops in the neighbourhood catering to virtually all needs makes the concept of buying everything under one roof redundant, unless there is an extraordinary cost benefit along with hassle free shopping as per the whims and fancies of the consumer.

This spread of kirana stores and other small shops and their stranglehold on the Indian retail market is like big banyan tree; it has entrenched its roots deep down the psyche of Indian consumer and it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to uproot this century old tree with thick trunk and deep roots.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Poverty Alleviation: The Starfish Way

Over 300 million Indians live in acute poverty. Can’t there be a way out of this circle of poverty? I just finished reading a remarkable book, “The Starfish and The Spider”, and a brain wave has hit me. Perhaps, the problem of poverty in India can be solved by initiating a social movement, having DNA of a starfish, that is based on principles of decentralization, community, collaboration, networks, a shared ideology, and the innate human desire to contribute and make a difference. This movement would be like Alcoholic Anonymous, Animal Liberation Front, and the likes. The ideology would be “NO POVERTY, SPREAD PROSPERITY”.

The problem of poverty doesn’t get solved in India because of three reasons:
  • All poverty alleviation programs are highly centralized with inherent inefficiencies and inflexibilities of the system.

  • All these programs focus on “giving a fish rather than teaching how to fish”. Hence, they are resource dependent rather than enterprise dependent. They create a mentality of dependence rather than a mentality of empowerment. They fail to create a virtuous cycle of enterprise, production, consumption, and wealth creation.

  • The delivery system designed to implement poverty alleviation programs consumes 80-85% of allocated resources thereby leaving just 15-20% for actual utilization for poverty alleviation. If we factor in rampant corruption, the actual amount left for fighting poverty would be less than 10% of allocated fund.
People living in acute poverty don’t need huge resources to take control of their life. This has been proved by magnificent success of micro-finance in some pockets of the country. What is basically needed is a little monetary input (sometimes as low as Rs 100) to start a micro enterprise, a little guidance, and lots of love and understanding. These 300 million people have huge potential to consume but are unable to because of lack of money. Once a little money starts circulating in this system, it can create a self sustaining economy of production and consumption.

But considering the size of our country and the complexities involved due to multiple languages and culture, centralized and top-down approaches are bound to meet disaster. In India, localization is the key to effectively solving social problems. That calls for a starfish-like approach with a networked and distributed nervous system having an inbuilt ability to rapidly multiply and proliferate with little or no external support.

We need a community of passionate individuals who share the ideology of “NO POVERTY, ONLY PROSPERITY”. We need thousands of self-managed, hierarchy-free, and independent chapters, each with a few people who spread the ideology and participate in the movement at ground zero in whatever way they can.

The key features of this movement would be:
  • Self-managed, hierarchy-less, and independent chapters.

  • No central leadership team, control, resource support, or guidance. Each individual chapter would be independent and free to manage itself as per the wishes of its members. The only thing common among various chapters would be the ideology.

  • No defined process, rules, and structure. Each chapter would be free to do whatever it may deem fit to spread the ideology and help in reduction of poverty.

  • Members become a part of the movement to contribute to the cause without any desire to derive personal gain.
Time has come for a social equivalent of Web 2.0 to tackle the menace of poverty!

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