This weekend has been a special one for me – I got my second back to back article (and that too a double pager) in the Economic Times!
Check out this piece on what India Inc must do in 2013 – Yeah, 13 things…
The copy of the article appears after the image:
When I was invited to write this column, I thought of a few ideas and then said to myself, “This is nothing but ‘The Future Plan’.” Turns out, ‘The Future Plan’ has 13 letters in it – à la 13 things to do! These are my ideas, letter by letter…
T – Time
Google is probably the most innovative and successful companies of our time. And it’s no secret that Google allows each employee to work on anything she wants, for one day a week; no questions asked. 15 years later, Apple (the most valuable company in the world) is rumored to be adopting the same concept.
If India Inc. wants to create the next Google, it needs to give its employees way more paid ‘experimental’ time, so that they can think of inventing as much as doing!
H – Hierarchy
I see lots of hierarchy in India Inc. To navigate some Indian companies, you feel as if you need an Indiana Jones map! Hierarchy as a functional requirement is fine, but flatter is better.
Think of the Berlin Wall when you see your ‘Org Chart’ in your company. You have to make it disappear; make the company approachable and faster in decision making, with lesser people acting as barbed wires in between.
E – Esop is the new Equity
Dhirubhai Ambani is the first Prime Minister of Indian equity. He placed Reliance shares in the hands of petty traders who could later marry their daughters with the value of those shares! Narayana Murthy is the second Prime Minister of Indian equity. He made lots of shareholders super rich by the massive wealth explosion of Infosys equity.
I believe that the new colour of wealth is Esops. Travel to Silicon Valley and see how Esop shares can motivate even God to start working with you! We need India Inc. to be bold, generous and really aggressive in distributing Esop wealth holders to attract the next Jack Welch to work for it and build world class, global companies!
F – Faking it
Faking it never worked in the bedroom and I think it’s high time India Inc. stopped faking it in the boardrooms.
Any half-witted stock analyst can look at a classic ‘P&L’ and Balance Sheet of a classic India Inc. company and quickly say what doesn’t look ‘true and fair.’ While cases like Satyam are rare, there is a strong undercurrent to ‘adjust’ financial statements to suit market sentiment and book closing dates.
As Chinese stocks get hammered in the US bourses and lose their long term reputation, India Inc. needs to examine its commitment to reporting its performance without manipulation. It will only benefit us, in the long run.
U – Universities
Did you know that McDonald’s corporation has a 130,000 sq. feet university situated on an 80-acre campus? The university is aptly called ‘Hamburger University’ and trains people in the restaurant business. When will India Inc. invest in universities? When will we see a Motorcycle University of Bajaj Auto and a Textile University of Reliance?
The existing state-owned Indian universities are not sufficient to serve our youth, and only India Inc. can invest in parallel, hybrid universities to train Indians to be proficient in a specific industry that will help in long term career planning.
T – Technology
Indian Inc. must technologize. The cocktail party conversation where CEOs ‘number thump’ and say, “I have 3000 people working for me” is as passé as sticking to a Nokia phone. Or as juvenile as the vanity sticker that says, ‘My other car is a Porsche’. Hiring more people (in most cases) means that you are technologically dumb.
India Inc. desperately needs to implement technology in everything it does. As someone who worked in his father’s socks factory for 10 long years, my satori (nirvana) moment was learning how technology could revolutionize silly socks. That knowledge liberated me and made me a tech entrepreneur!
Today, India Inc. needs tech in manufacturing, supply chain management, just in time inventory logistics and much more. If the Indian government could use technology 10 years ago and create the incredibly successful IRCTC (the Indian railway ticket booking site), then highly progressive Indian companies can do much better!
U – Unisex
Why do I see so many men when I visit Indian offices? I glanced at the 5000 odd visiting cards I’ve collected in the past 15 years, and figured that 70% belong to men.
India Inc. top honchos really need to spend time with Mr. K.V. Kamath (ex CEO and MD of ICICI) and understand how splendidly he groomed, elevated and promoted extraordinary women leadership to blossom at the ICICI group of companies.
Women leaders bring great equilibrium, poise and diversity to a company. They are required in equal if not large numbers, to create the perfect yin and yang balance of the futuristic Indian conglomerate.
R – Revenue Ideology
In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus says,
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”
I think the tide for India Inc. to rethink its ‘Revenue Ideology’ has come in. India Inc. must accept that the great companies of the future will not earn revenues by leveraging the cost arbitrage of wages of worker in the USA vs. those in India; or by applying a ‘cost plus’ calculation; or worst by relying on protectionist policies. Instead, like avant-garde companies such as Cognizant are championing, India Inc. will need to earn revenues on revenue sharing terms, as success fees and on the broad structure of ‘win-win’.
The global corporate world has become fiercely cut throat, with no free coffees. If India Inc. is preparing for the future, then its revenue complexion will need to change to being more collaborative and variable than the pre-existing “this is my cost” ideology that our grandfathers taught us.
E – Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs drive the engines of economic development and India Inc. must support them. It needs to promote entrepreneurship within its employee ranks and fund mini venture funds that could liberally invest in money in ‘startups’, knowing that startups fail more than they succeed.
India Inc. has the experience, balance sheet mojo, the connections and stature to promote all kinds of entrepreneurs. India Inc. at appraisal interviews must not only offer its employees better positions, but also offer them to become ‘entrepreneurs in residence’ as a career plan!
P – Product first
At airports, I usually eat Café Coffee Day’s ‘Veg Slimmer’s Sandwich’ for breakfast. It’s delicious, but that’s only when you are able to bite into it! Before you lay hands on it, you have to navigate and negate the menacing ‘cello tape’ that seals the box. No matter how well you are trained in meditation, you will quickly lose patience and your mental balance as you make the valiant attempt. The ‘cello tape’ just does not come off!
India Inc. sucks at putting product or service first. Think of the ketchup sachets you struggle to open. Or try calling your mobile telecom operator to ask them to switch off the obscene ‘caller ring back tune’ they have forced on to your driver’s mobile.
We need to understand that unless we think like Apple and make our products and services delightful, we will not progress.
L – Losses are OK
India Inc. has an allergy for losses and that’s understandable. Losses have been a sign of corporate impotence and failure.
In today’s era, losses are just one metric that could be overlooked when appreciating the broader picture. Consider Amazon Inc. While it loses millions of dollars a year, it is worth billions (of dollars) and has completely revolutionized the global e-commerce industry. It is valuable because of its scale, operations and potential and is not condemned for its operating losses.
India Inc. must work with SEBI and the government to amend regulations that allow public listing of Indian loss making companies. After all, if stock markets are the public marketplace, then it’s only fair that the public decides if they like loss making companies or not!
A – Advertising
Some of the silver foxes (grey haired dudes who still make important decisions) heading marketing at India Inc. are living in a state of a ‘waking coma’. They deny aggressive activation of Internet media in their company’s marketing plans. This will make their companies suffer badly in the future.
Advertising is no longer ‘spray and pray’. David Ogilvy alluded to that problem but he is dead. India Inc. today must rapidly adopt the Internet and mobile media (that is highly measurable) in its advertising, recruitment and brand building strategies to ‘future-proof’ itself. If you aren’t digitally ready, you are dead.
N – Not for profit
How I wish to see India Inc. give more. CSR rules are statutory obligations that companies fulfill. But we need large endowments, grants, perpetually lasting donations and investments in ‘not for profit’ initiatives that India Inc. currently shies away from.
We can only get richer if we think richer. And to think richer, we must train ourselves to be better givers. If you are still not convinced, call up Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and a guy that wears a hoodie called Mark Zuckerberg.