Xenophobia, Humility & softer aspects in a merger

So, when two companies merge, the inter-personal dynamics of leaders – level 1, 2,3 is one of the major make-or-break factors for the success (or lack of) of the Merger. Are the leaders engaged in a turf war ? Is someone thinking that the more the info one shares, the more vulnerable will one become ? Are leaders thinking that if I don’t fight hard, my people will think that the other group is walking over their boss ? Post-right-sizing, is some leader still thinking that if he quickly builds up his empire, he will be safe from another round of right-sizing ?

The Top Leadership team needs to allay fears such as above, and step in on a continuous basis to ensure that Level 2/3 leaders don’t fall into any of the above traps. For this, the Senior Leaders will have to over-communicate with and counsel teams on the basics of “natural xenophobia” and humility. By natural xenophobia, I am referring to the notion that many (in fact, most of) the leaders have that whatever we were doing on this side of the merger was the only way to do this thing right…the other party has swung from a tree and come to the meeting room…all collective IQ of the world resides in my team, and we will whack the other team, with our hands tied behind our backs, and blind-folded…hopping on one leg! (OK, I concede…stretched things a bit too far:)).

This brings me to the surprising (for some) element in the mix to making mergers successful, and that is Humility. The Top Leadership Team needs to continuously coach their Level 2/3 leaders on the virtues of humility. It is very easy to sound arrogant, appear to be stone-walling the other side during the early days of the merger. Some of this may arise due to the xenophobia that I mentioned earlier. Some of this may arise from the feeling of “our side is better” syndrome. Most of the times I have noticed that people on both sides are inherently nice, but the initial behaviour is not friendly. This is mistaken for arrogance, high-handedness, and may lead to non-co-operation if not checked in time. Establishing oneself as the bigger leader many times leads to over-stating ones’ achievements, and may reek of hubris.

What should / could the Top Management do to avoid such a situation ?
• They need to monitor interactions in the sub-task-forces set up for post-merger integration. Any signs of “implied arrogance” have to be nipped in the bud.
• Should share CVs / linkedin profiles of function heads, sub-unit heads with each other, so as to introduce them to each other quicker – everyone has done some great work in the past to have reached this stage of life
• Should share personal profiles – extra-curricular interests, family details, hobbies, favourite music, achievements with each other, so as to build out the human sides of the Unit heads
• Sanction Unit-wise additional budgets for merged leadership teams to go out for dinner and drinks
• Send to leaders from each side Reports and Articles developed by the other side, to firmly establish intellectual capabilities of the other side
• Get co-branded gifts developed (bags, caps, T-shirts) for all leaders from both sides
• Send letters to families of leaders, bringing out the might of the joint entity, and thanking them for their support.

The sooner people realise that everyone around the table is nice and are “people like us” only, the sooner the walls of pretences, artificial barriers and snooty behaviour can be brought down…and people can get on with the merged business…and after having made new friends!! It’s all in the collective minds of the teams…but sometimes, this has to be shepherded and brought out by the top management team. After all, it’s a merger of minds, a merger of hearts…numbers and results will follow on their own !!

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“The Golden Tap – Indian Start-ups…” – a quick review

So, completed one of my first non-fictional “un-put-downable” books last weekend, “The Golden Tap – The Inside story of Hyper-funded Indian Start-ups”. Written by Kashyap Deorah, a self-made serial entrepreneur (there’s a parallel entrepreneur explained also in the book :) ), an IIT Bombay grad, and quite obviously a man of unusual perspective.

While the title is a mouthful, the entrepreneur-author has hit a sixer with this book, almost serving as a compendium, a reference book of Indian Start-up scene (while simultaneously covering Silicon valley Unicorns and Chinese Unicorns too). Inter-mingling the above with his own “entrepreneurial autobiography” is a master-stroke, doubling his target audience at one go J.

Dividing the post-1994 era into three distinct waves – the Internet Wave (1994-2002), Globalization Wave (2003-09) and the Smartphone Wave (2010 onwards) makes it easy to understand the drivers behind the various companies founded and funded in these phases. That “Funding is sometimes more important than Founding” has been dealt with an element of disdain by the author, who easily is not impressed by the VC community too much.

The strategies of big Funds– Tiger Global, SoftBank, Yuri Milner’s DST, Rocket Internet, Naspers, along with prominent VCs – Accel, SAIF, Sequoia have been brought out in sufficient detail. “Out-funding competition” seems to be the common thought in this phase of the start-up scene.

The author describes two types of start-ups : one which take the game from 0 to 1, and the others which take it from 1 to n. The 0 to 1 are the game-changers, and the 1 to n could become the scale-changers. He bets on the 0 to 1 types as the multi-baggers.

That only three start-ups in India have gone for an IPO successfully – Naukri, Justdial and Make-my-trip bears testimony to the fact that the jury’s still out on the long-term sustainability of the thousands of start-ups that have mushroomed in India (4000-odd in the past few years, if I recall an article in ET or Mint). These three successful companies got funded in a slim window of 2006-07 at the peak of the Globalization wave, revealing the relative nascent condition of the start-up market in India.   

The stories of Amazon, JD.com, Facebook, Alibaba, Uber are great to read through. Comparing them with those of our current Indian unicorns leaves a bit of an uneasy feeling in our stomach on the lack of depth of Indian markets, and the over-valuation of current Indian companies. The author in fact, takes a bet on the international giants prevailing in India in the long run L.

Similarly, the regulatory arbitrage that killed the e-commerce forays of brick-n-mortar retail companies leaves an odd feeling – wonder why the indigenous “offline retailers” did not raise a sufficient hue and cry on the lack of a level playing field. Another regulatory arbitrage mentioned is how China protected its start-ups by not allowing American biggies to come in for the longest time, while Indian opened its arms to international enterprises and Funds. The “liberal and reformist” path that we chose couple of decades ago forced us not to think of any other way we could have done this.

The IIT / Stanford / Wharton common thread running across the start-up scene has been brilliantly brought out. Some of his observations were downright funny – Lee Fixel liked founders with single or worst double digit JEE ranks and preferably North Indian Marwaris / Baniyas – was priceless!

The author of course carries his (single) JEE rank through a couple of occasions in the book. But then what the heck, he’s earned that!

The golden embossing on the hardback cover (“THE GOLDEN TAP”) is fading away after a couple of weeks in my hands – quality of Indian printing may have some way to go. But the quality of the content is top-notch :) . Waiting for a Part II from the author in 2020!!

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India’s Most Respected Companies…

…are mostly not Indian L. 4 of Top 6 Most respected companies are Indian subsidiaries of global non-Indian companies – Google India being No. 1, Microsoft No. 4, BMW India No. 5, Merc-Benz is No. 6. Only the two Indian IT stalwarts, Infosys and TCS grab the Ranks 2 and 3 respectively. In the Top 25 companies, 9 are Indian subsidiaries (IBM, Amazon, Honda, Samsung, Coke being the remaining 5), 5 are PSUs. Of the remaining 11 in the Top 25, I am counting HUL, ITC, L&T as Indian companies!! 3 of the 8 Indian-Indian companies are Tata group companies – TCS, Steel, Motors. Rest being Infy, Sun Pharma, HDFC Bank, Apollo Hospitals and Raymond.

This are the findings of a Survey of Most respected Companies in the latest Business World.

Coming to the methodology of measuring “Respect” : 350 companies were selected across 20 Sectors based on financial strength. >500 expert respondents in senior management positions across multiple companies (not necessarily working in these companies) rated companies OF THEIR SECTOR on 8 parameters (more on these below) to select 107 companies. These 107 companies were presented to the respondents again in Phase 2, and each selected Top 10 companies – for his selected Top 10 companies, the respondent rated again on the 8 parameters. Hence, each company had a Base of people who decided that this company was in his Top 10. And then an average rating for each of the 10 parameters (on scale of 0-10). Total of the average ratings was the RESPECT SCORE for that company.

So, the survey suffers from being based on perception of Respondents, and not on hard data as some other surveys are based on. Further, it’s tough to discern whether the Base is more important or the Average Rating (number of people who thought that the company was in top 10 vs Average rating itself).

Break-down of components of Respect : The eight parameters which are supposed to comprise Respect are as follows :

  • Innovativeness
  • Quality & depth of Top Management
  • Financial Return to shareholders
  • Ethics and Transparency
  • Quality of Products and Services
  • People Practices / Talent Management
  • Global Competitiveness
  • Technological Prowess.

I would have liked inclusion of a few more parameters – “Environmental contribution”, “social / societal impact”.

Returning to a few more of the findings :

  • When 500 people were asked for Top-of-mind “Most Respected Company”, TCS was No. 1, followed by Infosys, Google India.
  • Similarly, Least Respected companies were Kingfisher Airlines and Sahara Group (some confusion about RIL being in both Lists).
  • In Ethics and Transparency, 3 of top 5 companies were Tata companies. Infosys is No. 1 in Quality & depth of top mgt. Rest, on all other 7 parameters, Google India is No. 1.
  • Sectoral Toppers were (based on Total Base of people terming it as Top 10) are : Raymond in Apparel, Maruti Suzuki, Jet Airways, HDFC Bank, Samsung India, NIIT, Flipkart, HUL, Apollo Hospitals, ITC Hotels, L&T, Tata Steel, LIC Housing Finance, RIL, Sun Pharma, DLF, Shoppers’ Stop, Infosys, Airtel.

So obviously, Respect has to be earned, and it is a tough job. Indian companies have to work harder to do that. All the best, and kudos to all winners…

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What Indian Start-ups may learn from Established Indian companies and from HBR-Top CEOs

Recently, I came across two sets of articles in two different publications, which I felt imposed on me a moral & intellectual duty to juxtapose, summarise and analyse :) .

One article was in Sunday Economic Times which compared leaders of start-up companies like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola, PayTM with leaders of established companies like Reliance, Airtel, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Infosys, Tata Group. The other article was an HBR article which had tracked CEOs of S&P 1200 companies on various financial measures and ESG metrics (Environmental, Social, Governance), in a bid to identify common factors behind winning companies.

Being 43+ yrs of age, having worked in Airtel and Reliance, and now working in the decision-making layer of an online start-up, I would like to think of myself being in a coveted position to at least pontificate on these comparisons :) .

• The median age of “Old school” CEOs in India was 58 yrs vs 37 for New Age ones (a bit surprising for me – I expected it to be in early thirties).
• Over-arching common emotions linked with Old Age CEOs was Inspiration and Leadership. Vs “Success and Pride” for the Newbies.
• Old Age CEOs acknowledged for being Visionaries vs Newbies for being Innovators
• In People Management, the Visionaries (term used henceforth in this piece for old-age CEOs) had a positive vibe of 1.30 (1 being neutral) to a negative vibe of 0.46 of the Newbies. Hiring and firing at frequent intervals in start-ups has not made them dear to people. (please read my 2012 blog on Responsible Capitalism on same / similar topic http://www.sunilmishra.in/2012/03/07/responsible-capitalism-taking-care-of-employees-partners-clients-in-tough-times/ )
• 64% of conversations on start-ups originate in metros, 46% for Older leaders start in Metros.

• It’s a bit unfair to compare the two sets of people, because of change in environmental situation. The emergence of Mobile Internet is itself a game-changer. The best way for a fair comparison would be to imagine a young Sunil Mittal or Dhirubhai Ambani or Mukesh Ambani or Uday Kotak starting a business TODAY. That thought itself is “entrepreneurially romantic”. These people were huge visionaries with very high level of risk appetite. They could have used the Mobile Internet as the proverbial Archimedes’ Lever…to move the Earth!
• Most of the Old Age leaders put in their own money, borrowed through banks by collateralising their homes & property. Easy Finance through Venture Capitalists has made jobs of Newbies much easier.
• A flip side of VC funding is that most Newbie leaders may own single to low double digit %age stakes in their own companies. Hence, personal wealth building will always be capped for them. They may end up making some VCs really wealthy though (that most VCs are foreign funded is another topic for another day).
• India itself has become richer in past twenty years and safety net is becoming easier to build for entrepreneurs. Hence, they can “play on the front foot” with greater panache.
• However, on the other hand, most of the Newbies are running “ethically clean” businesses with no rent being paid to any Govt functionaries. Morals and Values of all employees in such companies will be better than in older companies who were forced to operate in semi-licence raaj, and hence took the easy (read sleazy) way out.
• (Thanks to the Internet), chances are very high for Newbie companies to become Globally competitive and globally relevant in terms of size, something which not many of the Old-Age companies could successfully do.

Of course, I should end this part by revealing that the Methodology for the survey above was to crunch Big Data on Internet – i.e., by analysing conversations happening on social media sites, and gleaning information from this. This is called Conversational Methodology by the firm, MavenMagnet. They analysed 7000 conversations among 6500 individuals around the 20 leaders (top 10 leaders from each camp) to arrive at the above conclusions. To that extent, the findings may be a bit biased in that people being online and talking about such leaders may naturally be more inclined towards the start-up companies, won’t they ?

Moving onto the HBR ARTICLE ON BEST LEADERS OF TODAY, HBR used non-financial metrics for the first time in such a ranking. 80% weightage was given to financial metrics – industry-adjusted ROCE, country-adjusted ROCE and absolute $mn change in market capitalisation (equal weightage to these three within the financial block). And 20% to ESG – environmental, social and governance.

Amazon was 6th ranked on Financial metrics, but went to 87 when ESG ratings were included. Novo Nordisk, a Danish-American company, in the field of Diabetes cure, turned out to be No. 1 on weighted rankings.

When I double-clicked on Causal factors (or at least common factors) behind the rankings of the 100 companies, I could glean a few factors :
• 18 CEOs out of the Top 25 CEOs were NOT MBAs!! So much so for the much-touted business degree, supposed to be necessary but not sufficient for some time.
• 19 of the CEOs in top 25 companies rose from within (could be from the ranks or at least from 1-2 levels below the CEO). Only 6 were parachuted into the company.
• CEOs in 9 out of top 25 companies have been CEOs since pre-2000, ie for more than 15 years now! Only 2 of the top 25 CEOs have joined in past 5 years (after 2010). Hence, there is no short-cut to success :) . 14 joined in 2000-2010.
• Only 8 out of top 25 companies are from USA; 2 each from UK, France, Spain & Belgium, 3 from Germany, 4 from Scandinavian countries, one each from Japan, Brazil. S&P 1200 being the base, Chinese and Indian companies were conspicuous by their absence. Might be interesting to see ESG rankings of those though.
• Novo Nordsik, the No. 1 company was 6th in financial metrics and 15th on ESG rankings.
• Cisco at No. 2 was 7th in financial metrics and 69th on ESG rankings
• 5 out of the top 25 companies are in each Financial Services & Consumer Goods/Services, 3 each in IT, Automobile & Retail, 2 each in Health Care & Industrials and one each in Telecoms and Materials.
• “Big brands” among top 25 are : Cisco (2), Seagate (6th), Telenor (7th), Canon (10th), Starbucks, Henkel, Volkswagen, Nike.

So, SCANNING ACROSS THE TWO STUDIES, looks like “Being Visionary, entering into uncharted spaces, having stable leadership at the top, being consistent, worrying about ESG factors” are some things that Start-ups can learn from Old-age companies – in India and abroad. To be able to last the long haul of survival and then onto excellence.

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The Land of the Rising Scion

So, I started and finished The Scion of Ikshvaku today, living a lazy Sunday existence. Amish continues to deliver un-put-downables, riding on the great Indian mythological sources. He almost takes off from where he left with the Meluha trilogy, except this time with the more popular Lord Ram set of stories. It could be a double-edged sword this time, with many people knowing their own brand of Ramayana, and hence possibly having high expectations set up from the modified / tweaked stories that Amish can deliver.
I personally was impressed with the tweaks by Amish to the brand of Ramayana we grew up with.
• When Dashrath fell in battle, to be helped by Kaikeyi, who got the two Boons later on, he was fighting none other than Raavan, the commander-in-chief of Kuber from Lanka.
• Ram was shunned and thought of as inauspicious from infancy till he turned 20
• Manthara being a Business-woman (she was just a maid of Kaikeyi in the real story)
• Combining Sita Swayamwar and Draupadi Swayamwar stories by making the suitor lift the Pinaka and shoot the fish in the eye too – this one threw me off a bit – what will Amish do when he reaches the Mahabharata trilogy ? 

Of course, bringing the Nirbhaya episode into the story was something between being cheeky and too overtly trying to make some topical connect. That the main perpetrator of the crime was a juvenile was a bit too much to digest. Of course, hopefully there’s no learning from the gruesome death he is put to eventually.

Amish’s love with the layouts of ancient cities continues with his indulgent description of Mithila, in the similar vein of the Meluhan layouts, which itself was a lift-off from the description of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa civilisations in our history text books.

The discussions between Vashishta and the royal princes on a masculine vs feminine societies, following each other in a cyclical fashion was good philosophy. Somehow, they reminded us of current discussions between a Democratic vs Autocratic / Oligarchic systems. And how a benevolent dictator could be what the doctor ordered for countries like India….for some time.

If you do not think too much, do not remember too much and if you want to enjoy a cool, breezy read, then go ahead and spend 5-6 hours with the Scion (pronounced as Sion, as in Sion station…or Saa-yawn, for non-Mumbaikars). Ikshvaku was the great ancestor of Ram – Ram, Dashrath, Aja, Raghu, Dilip…Ikshvaku!!

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Why I moved back from Mac Air to Windows Lenovo ?

I am writing this blog article at the risk of being called uncool by majority of the young crowd today, and potentially, not being considered “a fit” by many online tech companies. But I would like to give forth my honest views about the most talked about ultrabook and its associated Operating System, from a normal Business user’s perspective.
When I started with my new assignment at the online company I work for, after twenty years with brick-n-mortar businesses (mobile telephony, Internet investing, Mgt consulting, wealth management), I grabbed the opportunity to take the Mac Air assigned to me (or for which I was “eligible”). I spent 50 days with the Mac Air, and have returned to a Lenovo X250 i7 with Windows 8 and Office 2013 suite. And boy, am I glad!
The list of issues I had with the Mac Air were as follows :
• MS-Office suite is 80% as powerful that on a windows-based system
• MS-Office suite is 80% as powerful that on a windows-based system
• MS-Office suite is 80% as powerful that on a windows-based system (OK, more about this coming below later)
• There is no delete key on the keyboard. The Delete key is…well, a Backspace key
• There is no Page Down and Page Up key on the key board
• There is no “Home” and “End” key
• The Command Key and Control Key confuse the mickeys out of me – don’t know which one works when
• The “right-click” tab on the keyboard is a pain – two fingers ? two fingers ?
• The charger with magnetic latch-on is superb, but when fixed in, crowds out the USB port next to it, and prevents some devices from going into the USB port.

Coming to the MS Office suite features :
• There is no F4 functionality to repeat action (I mean wow!!!). Hence, if I insert a row in Excel once, I have to repeat the steps again – yes, steps…
• There is no F2 in Excel which would take me in the formula and to the right-end of the formula, and I could start editing the formula. When I kept on hitting F2, the screen went on becoming brighter.
• There is no F4 functionality while writing a formula in excel, which puts $ on the formula and fixes it. There is “Command T” of course which simulates the same functionality.
• There is no “paste special” short-cuts through key board. You have to press command and shift and V together, which takes you to the “paste special” window, but there is no short-cut to go to “format”, “formula”, “value”
• If you want to insert a new slide in powerpoint, all the best. There is no Alt Insert “n”
• Alt-Tab is a pain again – works some times, doesn’t work some time
• By chance if you hit Ctrl and up key, all windows seem to go away somewhere
• The Finder instead of the Windows Explorer is not a Finder – it is a Hider. Opening multiple windows is a pain, and copy-pasting files across windows is a night-mare. Collapsing sub-directories under a directory is arduous.
• I also lost some of my emails in Outlook once, but am not sure if it was an Apple issue or an Outlook issue.
• Sob, sob (the crying noises, I mean…not meaning disrespect of the other kind)

Of course, there are many benefits of the Mac Air, but none which would make a serious MS-Office suite person like me move anywhere close to a Mac Air. It has one of the sleekest looking designs and finishes (though, after 50 days, there were some dirt-marks on the exterior which refuse to go). The light weight is a killer benefit. The display is to kill for.
I think the Apple laptop Mac Air and the OS are good devices for people who don’t use MS Office suite extensively, and those who want to show presentations, designs etc. But for those in regular business / corporate life, and who use Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, you should avoid it by a wide margin. Some wise people told me that the 2016 version of the OS will address many of these issues. But till you start thinking with the Office-suite user at the centre of your design, I don’t think you are going to get it right!! So, improvement won’t do, a re-engineering is required.

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Waking up the Malala in us

On the occasion of Malala getting the Nobel Prize for Peace (albeit a year later than deserved), am posting a poem that I had written last year on Malala’s life, for my daughter, Adviti to recite at school…is meant for children, but possibly can be enjoyed by all!!


In the tough region of Swat
Where there was no food or television,
This brave girl started fighting
Asking for Children’s Education.

“How dare you ?” asked the Clergy
And members of Taliban
Girls need to cook, get married
This is the teaching of Quraan.

Not one to give up easy
The girl read the Holy Book
And found respect for women
Not only wash, clean and cook.

The Girl put forth this learnings
To Family, Teachers and Friends
People started understanding
Children following her trends.

The Taiban got furious
To show her what they got
One day as she went to school
They had the poor Girl shot.

Battling for life for days and nights
Millions prayed for her good health
“God, please help this brave Girl
She’s your own – your true wealth”.

She recovered, thanks to the prayers
And addressed the United Nations
And spoke to children of the world
On virtue, love, peace and patience.

She had no ill-will for her shooters
Passed to them her best wishes
Praying that their children too
Learnt well, not cleaning streets & dishes.

This is the great Malala
Who was put to the toughest test
We all have a Malala in us
Let’s wake up, do our best !

The best for the ill and the poor
Wiping away tears of the needy
To make this world a glorious place
I know It has to start with Me !!

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Fortune Global 500 – a changing world order

Picked up a copy of the Fortune at the airport and here’s a quick summary / analysis of the ranking of the Top 500 companies in the world (by revenues) – 2013.

Wal-mart leads the List with a revenue of USD 476bn (almost a quarter of GDP of large countries like India)!! The top 10 companies comprise 2 from the USA (Exxon being the other), 3 from China, 1 each from UK, Germany, Netherlands, Japan and Switzerland. 7 out of the top 10 are from Petroleum/Oil/Gas/Mining sector (called “Energy” in this piece), Wal-mart the Retail giant, Volkswagen and Toyota from the automobile sector.

Samsung, Apple and Philips lead the tech charge by claiming the 13th, 15th, 19th spots. Berkshire and AXA bring in the Financial services/conglomerate presence at 14th and 16th positions. Rest of the 11th-20th positions are again from the Retail (Total), Automobile (Daimler) and the Energy sectors (Gazprom, E.ON, Chevron).

The “smallest” company in the list of 500 has revenues of USD24bn. The 100th company has 80bn!

Wal-mart is also the largest employer with 2.2mn people working for it, the next 5 companies being Chinese, employing about 5.5mn between them. SBI with 300,000 employees was the only Indian company in the Top 50 employers.

On profits, there are 2 interesting companies at the top with USD 84bn and 49bn, the “protagonists” of the 2008 melt-down, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac themselves !!! Talk about resurgence! Of course, I am not counting Vodafone at the top which has more profits than revenues, thereby making me conclude (without validation) that there is some huge one-time item there.

Going by country, the Top 500 comprises ~130 companies from the USA, 100 from China, 60 from Japan, 30 each from UK, Germany, France. South Korea increased the count for Asian tigers by coming in next with 17 – they are not only Samsung, LG, Hyundai – the growth there has been wider (9 of the 17 are not from one of these 3 Chaebols). Of the non-China BRICs, all 3 – Brazil, India and Russia had 7-8 companies. Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy and Australia also came in the 8-12 bracket.

The Indian giants remained roughly the same as in the last couple of decades now since I started following this list. IOC, Reliance, BPCL, HPCL, Tata Motors, SBI, ONGC and Tata Steel – in order of their ranks. Starting at USD81bn for IOC (rank 96) to USD 73bn for Reliance (rank 114), the two biggies to Tata Steel at the end with USD25bn (rank 486) with all others between USD 28bn and 44bn.

With the largest companies belonging to Energy, Automobile and Retailing, it would be interesting to see if other Indian companies Essar, Jindal, Tata Motors, M&M, Future Group, Reliance Retail can come into these ranks at some point. Going through the Capital-Line List of listed large Indian companies, the following companies currently figure after the Big 8 of the Fortune Global 500 List) :
• Essar Oil Ltd
• Mangalore Refinery And Petrochemicals Ltd
• NTPC Ltd
• Larsen & Toubro Ltd
• Tata Consultancy Services Ltd
• Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd
• GAIL (India) Ltd
• Bharti Airtel Ltd
• Steel Authority of India Ltd.

TCS and Airtel are of course the new-age companies in the Wait List above…hoping to see more e-commerce, Pharma and NBFCs in the list in the coming years…

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Pre-Obit of the Tablet

Was somewhat excited with the WSJ-Mint article this week on sluggish worldwide sales of Tablets, across brands. “Excited” because I have been grappling with the intended uses of a tablet for the past 3-4 years, and wondering as to how can I replace either the phone or the laptop with the tablet? Have been unsuccessful in doing that, thought have been sheepish enough not to admit that openly. I was having a feeling of getting old too soon – by not confessing that I cannot live with only a tablet (without my phone or laptop), I was trying to pretend to be part of the young crowd. If tablets were going to revolutionise the way we accessed computing and the Internet, then of course, I was going to flow with the change!!

But thank god, the WSJ-Mint article today brings me back to normal – I can stop pretending, and confess that I cannot complete my office and personal work without my laptop and smartphone (don’t get me wrong here – I use the iphone5 for the past 2 years and this piece is not against any one company)… I cannot survive with ONLY a tablet!!

Coming to the WSJ article (and a a few other ones in the recent past), looks like tablets are getting sandwiched between smartphones getting smarter & bigger from the below, and laptops becoming thinner and “tableter” from the above. This is the similar “sandwiched” trend that Blackberry felt by the iphone & Android-phones from the top, and by the economy USD50 handsets from the below. Sales of tablets have fallen in 2014 for both Apple and Samsung, after having hit 200mn units annually within 4 years of launch (something that PCs took 40 years to achieve).

Having said the above, Tablets have gone through an interesting journey in their short lives. I am collating below MY tweets on tablets and ipads which I have sent over the past 3 years. Gives an idea of the journey of the Tablet (and of me vis-a-vis the Tablet). I had done a mini-confession on July 20, 2011 that I could not find too many uses of the ipad. And on May 22, 2011 about inability to move office work to ipad. But with passing time, and with increasing number of ipads at home, I learnt to grin & go with the flow. The June 2014 Tweet on “Microsoft working on Office for ipads and Windows for tablets” might only suggest that Microsoft woke upto the Tablet move pretty late, but there could be a blessing in disguise in the long run, if the Tablet decline continues!! Anyways, while it is too early to call this an Obit of the Tablet, but going back to Kotler – Products addressing genuine needs of customers are the ones most likely to survive and succeed!! And till those needs are met by some smarter product!!

My Tweets over the past 3 years on Tablets, ipad etc
22-05-2011 Read review of ipad2 in Businessworld. 50pc lighter than iPad. Article said that as device becomes lighter, usage increases 2-3x. Amazing.
22-05-2011 Ipad2. Read that people are moving mainstream computing from laptop to iPad. yet to figure how to move my files to iPad. & no MS-office?
20-07-2011 Am planning to write an article on ‘meaningful uses of ipad. Going to be a very short article. Hmmm…there…finished. Angry Birds.
14-08-2011 Trying to figure out how to copy movies from brick-n-mortar DVDs to ipad. If Apple will have a bane, it will be lack of smooth transfers.
10-09-2011 Anyone using the iPad effectively for their direct sales force ? Intuitively, this could be a power-tool in their hands.
29-09-2011 Airport security check – is Ipad a laptop ? What about smaller tabs ? Time we got a technology to let devices go in with bags. Mobiles do go in.
16-10-2011 Knowledge about FB, Chats, Ipad/pod will become pre-requisite for urban nannies soon. ‘Could you please help the kid with that app ?’.
09-12-2011 So it happened today. The kid wants her own ipad now.
11-12-2011 So, I tell my daughter to scribble down the list. And she hunts for my mobile or ipad. When I remind her about paper, she goes ‘oh, yes…’
25-10-2012 Most exciting time for Device Freaks. MS Surface, iPad Mini, Ultrabooks, Convertible Ultras, Samsung Note. Too much happening.
16-06-2013 So now we have Ipad4 for the kid, old iPad for wife and iPhone for me. This is Family 2020 – i.e., we will speak to each other next in 2020.
07-02-2014 My mom-n-pop real estate broker showing details of all properties on his iPad with a flourish! Developers will have apps soon! @AnujPuriJLL
06-04-2014 @satyanadella ‘s moves in Office for iPad and free Windows for tablets/ smartphones are the biggest twin moves in the Industry for some time.

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A Bangalore vacation of a Mumbaikar

So, the quintessential summer vacation with the kid is done. This time in and around Bangalore (Bengaluru for the puritans). This time around, I got a chance to have a real look at the city, where I have been flying in and out a zillion times on day-trips for business, not to mention a 2-year b-schooling about 20 years back. The recent business trips have recorded in my memory traffic snarls, long airport drives and an easier work routine among people as compared to that in Mumbai (OK, I know this is a controversial statement already). However this time, since we spent 7-8 days roaming along the Bangalore streets, I did manage to note more interesting things about the Garden City or now, the IT City.
• Of the 9mn population in Bangalore, there about 4-5 lacs IT professionals. 9mn population may translate to 2mn households. 4-5 lac IT professionals may be spread across 3-4 lacs Households, accounting for couples or siblings working in the Industry. This implies 20-25% Households having an IT professional!!! Very high !! If we look at only the middle-class and upper class HHs, then the %age might be much, much higher. So Bangalore is indeed an IT city, and any marketer of any product or service needs to take that into account while designing their marketing (and business) strategies. Offering has to be online, on social media; go-to-market should involve corporate worksites; offshore-onshore behaviour should be understood, and so on.
• There was an average of 7-8 full page ads in the Times of India every day for Real Estate properties !! Realty market is still going strong. With ticket sizes of Rs.80 lacs to 2 crore being the sweet spot, this is a breath of fresh air to Mumbaikars, who may have to own a bachelor’s (or spinster’s) pad in the outskirts with that budget. 25-storey buildings loom on the skyline in all directions. Sarjapur, Outer Ring Road, Hosur Road are fast replacing the Whitefield mania of the previous decade. North Bangalore is of course going to be the darling in the coming decade with an IT park threatening to come up there as well.
• Language of communication in the shops and markets is fast becoming Hindi, with the huge influx of North and West Indians into the city through the IT route. This might be provoking the “Kannada wave in schools” sort of movement. Having seen similar movements in the past in Maharashtra, I think commercial interests will prevail in the long run. Development always pips sectarianism.
• Housing complexes have become swanky, with many complexes having 6-10 buildings of 20-25 storeys each, having 2-3 swimming pool, large gym, hyper-market. The pools are full with people from 8am-9pm !! And then the odd post-dinner star-gazers lounging on the pool cots. This could possibly be because it was May, summer vacation for kids. 8-9am, one sees young IT professionals swarming out of the complexes in their Zens, WagonRs, i10s, i20s and many on bikes. Some amble across the complex on foot, boarding their company buses reaching outside the gates.
• Eating out is growing exponentially (no hyperbole here, I actually mean doubling every 2-3 years). There are 87 such joints on a 1-km stretch on the 100-ft road in Indira Nagar. In addition to another 100 retail outlets for apparel/ fashion-wear. Delivery still is not as rampant as in Mumbai, with overall low service levels of Bangalore hitting this space too. What I mean by lower overall service levels is seen across restaurants, shops – the sprightly, spirited entrepreneurial zest seen in Mumbai is sorely missing here among waiters, kids manning the tills, delivery boys etc.
• Very few places to see!! We did manage a few – Lalbagh Botanical Gardens (4.5 on a scale of 5), Cubbon Park (4), Suryanarayana Swamy temple at Domlur (3.5), Sankey Tank (3.5), Art of Living Centre on Harohalli Road (3), Pyramid Valley 50km from the City (3), MTR – the Mavalli Tiffin Resort at Basvangudi (3), St Marks Cathedral (2.5)
• Lalabagh was a revelation! One has to take the Electric powered Buggies to really enjoy the Garden (Rs 100 per person for a 35-minute ride, with three photo-op stops). The cotton-silk tree with the 4-metre wide trunk is a marvel (possibly the largest tree in India?). The Eucalyptus tree grove and the Japanese Black Bamboo plantations also came a close second.
• Cubbon Park matched Lalbagh in natural beauty, parts of it coming close to Hyde Park and St James Park in London. Some parts were desolate and barren, and hence one has to select the correct parts to visit (it’s huge and may be covered in 2 visits, same like Lalbagh).
• MTR was a bit of a disappointment, largely because the Menu varies widely with the timings in the day. 0630-0730, one gets Idli-Chutney, 0730-1330 one gets only Masala Dosa, Rawa Idli, Khara bath, Gulab Jamun, Kesari Bath – but all with only chutney !! Beware if you ask for Sambhar – that will expose your non-traditional roots. We hit MTR for breakfast at 0830 and were ushered into the Deluxe Family Room upstairs (behind the water cooler).
• We of course managed to overcome the MTR visit with a visit to the MTR1924, a hipper version of MTR, started in Malls. We gorged into sumptuous Rava Masala Dosa (Masala being a separate potato vegetable called Sagu), “actual” Masala Dosa, filter kapi.
• Sankay Tank (lake) in Malleswaram is a beautiful jogging spot for the TamBrahms living closeby. One could jog in Lalbagh or in Cubbon Park too. But none of them could match the class of Jogger’s Park or Priyadarshini Park in Mumbai (OK, OK, both man-made, I admit).
• Very few street eating joints like Vada-Pav stalls or Bhelpuri-Panipuri stalls like in Mumbai and Delhi. Possibly because rent is low here and such people can rent a small shop instead of running an illegal stall, as in Mumbai.
• There were at least 10 Biryani chains and 100 outlets I came across the drive from MG Road to Bommanahalli on Hosur Road, a 10-km drive. Ammi’s Exec Biryani and Ambur Biryani topped the list of maximum number of outlets.
• Other than Biryani (or Biriyani, as spelt in many outlets), one finds Bakery shops as every 10th shop on the streets. I remember the chain of Iyengar Bakery outlets from my stay here 20 years back. There are many more now, of course. Bread and Cakes remain a popular choice of Bengalurites even now.
MG Road-Brigade Road is still the same, art gallery along MG Road is a superb stunt, traffic is terrible, bikes jostle for space with cars. Energy is definitely on the rise!!

Posted in Miscellaneous - Parenting, Culture, Urban living, and… well, miscellaneous | Leave a comment