Saturday, 26 July 2008


This blog has been set up with clearly defined objectives, but must make an exception today.

The city of Ahmedabad has been rocked by over 16 bomb blasts today, and this just a day after serial blasts rocked Bangalore. India was also witness to the gruesome bombing in the cities of Jaipur and Hyderabad earlier this year. I happened to be in Mumbai when several bomb blasts crippled the city several years earlier.

However there is one common thread across the social fabric that I've noticed across these mega metro cities - Resilience!

Inspite of the most gruesome attacks and the fear that lurks post such terrorist strikes, the citizens have always prevailed and proceed with life as usual. The dedication to work, inherent belief in the democratic values and faith that normalcy shall prevail, has always resulted in these cities rolling into full swing immediately.

There are two schools of thought. The first believes that we've become insensitive and cynical and hence we go on. The other school of thought believes that people shall not bow and staying back home results in a recognition of victory for the terrorists. I'm a member of the latter.

May god bless the families of those who have lost their loved ones!

David & Goliath

I am a huge fan of "David & Goliath" business stories. Came across this one in the economist recently, and believed I must share this with you.

"Dabba" is a South African wireless start up which has pioneered the "village telco", making phone calls more affordable. Using reprogrammed wi-fi routers as base stations with open source software weaving them into a network and cheap wi-fi handsets, the folk at Orange Farm, near Johannesburg can make calls at cheap rates.

They have brilliantly connected with the mainline telecom networks and actually buy airtime which is then resold to their customers! Revenues arise from call termination charges, sale of air time to retail customers and in the future selling this model and set of garage technologies to other prospective villages. And all this at an astronomical investment of USD 5,000!

Dabba intends to present an aggregated front to the mainline telcos for the village telcos as and when the model proliferates.

Yet again, illustrating the sheer drive and innovation that is fueled by the opportunity presented in markets where most large organizations falter.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Collections Redefined!

With an increasing trend of customers playing truant on their monthly credit card and other loan repayments, believe the collections teams require to perhaps think out of the box!

Being a Friday evening, thought I might contribute to some approaches that they could adopt to contact these mischevious customers!

a. Call them for an Interview : With the employment market in a lean phase, you may be able to lure these chaps with this bait quite effectively

b. We Goofed Up : Yup, just tell them your back end operations cell goofed up on the interest calculations and their outstandings have dropped drastically!

c. Matrimonial Matches and Dating Services : You'd be surprised how appealing a blind date might be to a bachelor facing a liquidity crunch ( to lift his spirits of course!)

d. GPS Transmitters : Induce their doctors to inject those neat little gps transmitters into them, and that might help you track them down a bit easier!

Now to the serious stuff......With an increasing delinquency trend across retail customers globally, the need for innovation is dire! Though customer education and sane lending practices would perhaps address some of these issues as we go forward, a couple of approaches that are perhaps worth a shot for the chaps under repayment strife:

a. Seek Collateral : Convert unsecured to secured. Some high value outstandings could be restructured if the customer were to submit collateral - Gold, Stocks, Bonds etc.....anything to get the EMIs down and get the customer to commence repayment. May require a skill set outside your competency or "defined process", but this is the time to think out of the box.....

b. Counselling : Yup....may sound radical....I've come across senior professionals who get into personal economic crisis situations, and display irrational behavior. May just serve your while to get them into a counselling session " Defaulters Anonymous!"
The other end of counselling would involve undertaking a financial planning and budgeting exercise with the client and showing possible routes.

c. Reduce your rate / Restructure: Critical to understand the line between an intentional and accidental defaulter, and drop your rate. Much better to see the inflows than writeoffs!

d. Promissory Note : Yup, before you write off the loan, take a promissory note from the customer indicating promise to pay 12 months hence. You may just have a few grateful chaps who will reappear and pay.

e. Advertise the good deeds : If your organisation has been able to work with some defaulting customers in getting them back on track, you may just like to publicize the same. Could have a positive rub off.

Look forward to hearing your views!

Friday, 11 July 2008

The Conscience Lives!

Over 10,000 volunteer registrations in 72 hours, offering their time, skills and energies in teaching the underprivileged children of India. An initiative launched recently by the Times of India, one of India's leading media houses, inviting volunteers to teach!

In these days of inflation, work stress, challenging careers and chronic blood pressure amongst professionals, it was heartening to note the enthusiasm with which men and women from all walks of life have taken that first step towards giving back to society.

It quite obviously displays the need for a credible "brand" in giving that crucial spark to the inertia that lies within all of us! And yes, I have finally taken that plunge, and urge you do the same. Its never too late!

I also await the day when wallets and purses shall be opened to offer money as micro-loans to small economic enterprises that await to flourish. The conscience is alive, but awaits a "brand" to start the fire!

Friday, 4 July 2008

The Pyramid of Consumption....

A recently published report by the folks at Citibank " The Pyramid of Consumption - Who Gains Now?" makes for rather interesting reading on an evolving passion ...The Bottom of the Pyramid!

The report represents the world population into three layers with the bottom of the pyramid classified as earning < USD 3,000 p.a., is estimated to be a USD 5 trillion market!

The need for a radical reduction in transaction costs and lowering costs of business models in the financial services space for the BOP is quite apparent. However with all the recent momentum and interest in this space, the report estimates that under 30% of this population will have access to microfinance by 2015.

Obviously a long way to go!

To download the report click here

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The Silver Lining....

Recession, hyperinflation, stagflation, economic downturn, liquidity crunch, rate hikes, budget optimization, cost cutting, increment minimization, stock market crash, loan defaults, frozen assets, price corrections, declining demand, over supply, margin pressure, rising oil prices, climbing delinquencies, accelerating rentals, sub prime crash, declining valuations, price corrections, dropping sales.................

It's been a fairly eventful ninety days for the global economy. In these stimulating times, I posted a question on Linkedin enquiring " Is there ever a recession period for innovation?" It was a fairly unanimous response as would be expected.
The underlying theme was in the need for organizations to constantly inculcate and catalyze an innovation culture.

However the key challenge remains in how an organization can allocate resources and investments in non-proven "innovations" when the chips are down. A few thoughts that I have on the same when the chips are down ....

a. Get out of the Board Room : Often notice that more meetings are called during the downturn. It may help to spend some time with your customers. An unexpected dialogue can often result in a new economic value equation

b. Back to Basics : It's not very surprising that a large portion of your customers have forgotten some key benefits or propositions of your offerings. A little repackaging, new medium or an alternate channel might just do the trick!

c. The Core : Review and be open to redefining your core competencies, re-evaluate your core strengths and recognizing the latent value of your assets.

d. Partnerships & Speed : Leverage shared services platforms and white labeling options for introduction of new services. Evolve performance based cost models, if required to protect your outflows and ensure incremental margins.

These models would enable you to minimize your cost outflows and investments, yet allowing you to generate incremental value!

e. Change Currency : Barter can be your new currency, give it a thought.....

Will leave the rest for the innovation experts............