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Strategy and Entrepreneurship


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To Trust or Not To Trust

The beauty of ‘Trust’ can only be realized by trusting. But you can also be ‘cheated’ only by trusting. So how does one decide to trust or not? The question should be ‘why’ not ‘how’!

The answer is you have no control or decision with respect to the outcome of trusting. It is whether to trust or NOT; that remains the question. Be it personal/professional/ business or societal – this question always arise with respect to trusting. Almost all know that without trusting there is no relationship. We evaluate and make choices. Sometimes we are right and sometimes wrong. But the result is known only when we start ‘trusting’ .

If ‘experiment more’, ‘fail –often’ and ‘fail-early’ mantra is employed; we may understand what ‘trusting’ really is. But without ‘trusting’ life (which itself is an experiment) cannot be lived.. at least to its fullest.

So try it..get ready to be cheated/treated and learn what trusting is all about – TRY IT!


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Good but for whom?

It is often said that good and bad are inseparable! And also too much of Good is often Bad. I experienced this through a rather mundane occurrence today – which made me think: in our enthusiasm to run our business are we running it over?
 
I called the popular Just Dial service and requested for a service provider’s information. Interestingly before I put the phone down, I had a call on my mobile asking if I wanted some help – from another company who is into similar servicing. By the time I told them that I have already asked someone for the service, there was another provider calling me on my landline. This “call attack” continued for about 15 minutes! At some points it resembled a comedy paradox with me glued to the telephone.

Just Dial is a very helpful service, which I have used number of times. It is especially useful for local search queries and for getting a general list of providers for common services. When Just Dial started sending a bunch of numbers as an SMS to our mobile number so that we can reach out to alternate providers, I was appreciative of this value add. But today Just Dial has started forwarding our numbers to providers for a fee. There seems to be now, a good number of people who get our numbers and names.  While it seems like a logical extension to servicing and also a good revenue stream for JustDial – for me as an user it is a cause of  irritation (due to the ambush by so many agencies) and concern (privacy).  If this continues (and it looks like it will) many people will have to think twice before calling Just Dial – considering the fact that we will be flooded with calls from vendors almost instantaneously.

While Just Dial may have thought of the value add (for organizations who enlist with them), they seemed to have missed the impact on the user (people who make the enquiries). Additionally with stiff competition for local search coming from data based on-demand search services from the likes of Yahoo! And Google, this consumer irritation / concern could hurt Just Dial, if not addressed in time.

This experience is a page out of the Just Dial approach towards business – but do we also make such decisions? Are we thinking enough on our customer acquisition and retention strategies? Does our organizational strategy think long enough on sustainability and repercussion of our choices? On whose perception are we basing the value of our initiative?


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Vedantic Wednesday: Discipline and Growth

What strikes you when you look at most business owners / entrepreneurs – especially the aspiring ones, the first gen and the youth? The first thing that would strike you is the immense impatience to grow. The energy and zest is almost infectious. On a closer look you may find similarities between them and a person trying to Sprint in a Marathon!

In most organizations – words like delivery, speed, productivity, turn-around, more orders, more work and more… all seem to refer to various aspects and attributes of growth. However on the contrary – process, routine, checklists, tollgates, SOPs are all seen as deterrents to speed – and hence anti-growth.  In the rush to grow – the ingredients required to sustain that growth is often forgotten.

This is what came to my mind as I was reading through some reference on Upanishads. It is said that once a group of six boys in their eagerness to realize the supreme knowledge  – went to a venerable sage asking him to initiate them into the higher echelons of truth, knowledge and realization. The wise sage smiled and told them, to first discipline themselves with simple acts and to demonstrate sustenance in the practice of that discipline. After many years of having mastered the discipline of living the life of an ascetic, was when the six boys were allowed to raise questions on various topics. The sage then patiently answered them and these answers are what is presented in the Prasna Upanishad. It was the rigor of the discipline that prepared the boys to scale their understanding thereby grow manifold in knowledge.

Unfortunately in many instance of entrepreneurial journey, any form of disciplining process is considered to slow down the progress. This is also not the place where most attention of senior leadership is directed. The attention is more on the outcome and not on the sustainability or consistency. The thrust is on one-time results, while expectations are always on repeat performance.

This leads to dilution in effort of arriving at any framework that can assure performance and consistency.  This is because while progress is viewed as interesting – preparing for progress is not.

Organizations who opt for such shortsightedness, resemble a group of actors – who are keen on acting but forget to prepare the stage!!

It is important for organizations to first discipline themselves especially during periods of growth. Sacrificing discipline at the altar of progress is not only short-lived but often detrimental. It is only through practice of discipline that the organization can actually be ready to sustain and hasten their progress. It is only through conscious organizational disciplining that one prepares for the next leap.

Look at it! Even learned ones when they want to go further into the higher levels of learning and realization have to exhibit high levels of discipline at their current stage. This discipline of mind and body is both a test and a necessity for taking on the next step in the path of self-realization. It is also then important to know acts that need to be disciplined are different at different stages.

It is very important for entrepreneurs to think and know that without preparation, progress is not possible! Yes, there may be exceptions, but they may also not last long. Because, there are some laws of nature that cannot be won against!

Happy Thinking!


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Vedantic Wednesday: Is Dharma a choice?

What is ‘dharma’? The word today has become synonymous with being ‘good’ or ‘truthful’ or ‘straight-forward’! Hope you agree. But the very essence of ‘dharma’ is ‘a law that governs conduct’

In the broadest sense this refers to a law governing the way of life that we should be leading. It includes practice of fairness, unselfishness, honesty, prudence, sharing amongst others. But it also refers to doing what one is supposed to do. In a way it also means ‘righteousness’.

Like the good have a ‘dharma’, the so-called bad also have their ‘dharma’.

Here are some thoughts that came to my mind based on my sojourn with Vedanta texts

When we exploit our resources, Mother Nature is giving us indication (through tsunamis, earthquakes, etc) that we are not living by the ‘dharma’ of the world. When we conflict with the universal truth, we always feel we have beaten the system – but what is not understood is that it is only for a short-term.

Our dharma as individuals is pre-decided based on the roles that we adopt. However the actions that we take (the karma) decides whether we are abiding by it or not. So the cause and effect (karma and karma-palan) needs to be studied not in isolation but in relation with what is the underlying dharma governing the individual.

A father who has taken a bribe blames God for having given him a sick child and for the pain of seeing this every day. But what he doesn’t realize is that universe is balancing the earlier act. It is settling accounts in the longer term.

As in the end (which is actually at various points in time) accounts need to be settled and balanced. That is the eternal ‘dharma’ of the world. You, me or no other human will be able to defy and beat it – smartness does not work here!
 
Look at it from your own profession.

Don’t you know what is right or wrong in terms of practice? Don’t you know if you are cheating someone? Don’t you know if the system being followed is right or wrong? Are all our actions not born out of conscious choices that we make as businessmen or professionals?

Why is it that even after knowing all this, many of us do the non-dharmic act? Why is it that we allow selfishness at various levels (self, family, institution, profession, country etc) come in the way of giving in to the even greater good?

While we cannot choose our dharma – our karma’s (actions) are our choice. This is the freedom that has been given to us. The powerful tool called ‘intellect’ enables us to see the difference and make our choice. But then most of us seem to be bent on wasting time to outsmart the rules.

We are busy trading short-term benefits for the longer term fall-out. We ensconce ourselves so often in the ‘just this one time’ or ‘I will take care of this later’ syndrome – forgetting that the law of dharma immediately indulges in the balancing act. No future act of ‘goodness’ can correct your current ‘misdeeds’.

If hundreds of small businesses decide to ensure ‘dharma’ is upheld in the way they go about building, sustaining and growing their business – can we see the silver lining for a more calmer, peaceful and happy world?

Should this not be the responsibility of entrepreneurs / businessmen, even higher than that of making profits?

After all we have chosen the path of ‘capitalism’ through the use of the powerful instrument called ‘intellect’! And we should not forget that ‘capitalism’ also has its own ‘dharma’.

Make your choice!


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What they think about us

I happened to meet up with a foreign national this week to discuss business. He was a fairly well experienced global executive. He had travelled the globe, lived across countries, run businesses in various continents and worked across borders. He had some strong views about Indians and i thought it was kind of important for us to know about what people outside of India think of us as business men. Clarification: This is the view towards us as professionals in the business context only.

He said “Indians are very bright and intelligent but, i have some fundamental qualms too.”

He went on to list:

1. Indians don’t stick to commitments.
2. Indians have no respect for the other man’s time.
3. Indians really don’t have any value for their own words.
4. Indians find it very difficult to say sorry even when they have made a mistake.
5. Indians give excuses all the time.

Apart from all the complaints above and some others there was one thing which struck me very hard – Indian businesses expect customers to adjust to the company’s offerings, not the other way around! Surprised at this? Initially i thought i should have been – but why?

Look at the way we get treated as customers – I am sure we all have stories to tell about our service providers that are not even remotely funny. There are very few companies that even think they need to listen / acknowledge / service customers. Most of them are happy to live with dissatisfied customers. Be it telecom, education, banks or anything. Because for every service they have not one or two but a billion people queued up.

Though i will agree that we are transitioning towards a more customer sensitive economy, we are far away from true customer satisfaction – when many business leaders talk ardently about customer delight. But if we want to become more global as a nation, it is time we become empathetic to the professional requirements at the receiving end too. Especially if one is vying for customers in more developed economy – we need to change and redefine our parameters and principles around customer service. ‘Jugad’ that we are so proud of here – is not appreciated elsewhere! What worked for your domestic customers here is NOT going to work there! It is time we accept and action this out!

Thought it was important to share this with aspiring and existing entrepreneurs, because prevention is better than cure – isn’t it?

Happy Thinking!

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