Friday, March 27, 2009

The Geese Story - Team Building & Leadership Lessons from Nature!

Yesterday evening I was enjoying the weather (finally it was raining for a moment in the mid of summer) from my backyard and I could hear a funny sound coming from the big pond behind my house compound wall. So like any curious person I rushed out to see what the sound was. Sure enough there was a family of Geese trying to cross the pond. It was so beautiful to see the Geese in the evening sunshine and I have never seen them so close.

This group of Geese reminded me the wonderful story which I use for training to learn the basics of Team building & Leadership.Well, is there any link between the Geese & Team building ?

We know Team building skills are critical for our effectiveness as a Manager or Entrepreneur. People in every workplace talk about building the team, working as a team, but few understand how to create the experience of team work or how to develop an effective team. Belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself.

We do have some lessons from Geese which provides a perfect example of the importance of team work and how it can have a profound and powerful effect on any form of personal or business endeavor. Geese take full advantage of the power of their group, sharing leadership responsibilities and flying in a structure that enables the flock to leverage the strength and power of its individual members, sometimes numbering in to thousands. It is said that the Geese can make an annual round trip journey of more than 5,000 miles at a speed of 50 mph or more!

I am sure the Team building & Leadership lessons from the geese can be helpful in our workplaces. Lessons from Geese was originally transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arrien and was based on the work of Milton Olson.We can use the following five lessons in our personal and business life and it will help us to foster and encourage a level of passion and energy in ourselves, as well as those who are our friends, associates or team members.

Lesson 1 - The Importance of Achieving Goals

As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "UPLIFT" for the birds that follow. By flying in a 'V' formation the whole flock adds 71 percent extra to the flying range.

Outcome : When we have a sense of community and focus, we create trust and can help each other to achieve our goals.

Lesson 2 - The Importance of Team Work

When a goose falls out of formation it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back to take advantage of the lifting power of the birds in front.

Outcome : If we had as much sense as geese we would stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Lesson 3 - The Importance of Sharing

When a goose tires of flying up front it drops back into formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Outcome : It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks. We should respect and protect each other's unique arrangement of skills, capabilities, talents and resources.

Lesson 4 - The Importance of Empathy and Understanding

When a goose gets sick, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to the ground to help and protect it.

Outcome : If we have as much sense as geese we will stand by each other in difficult times, as well as when we are strong.

Lesson 5 - The Importance of Encouragement

Geese flying in formation 'HONK' to encourage those up front to keep up with their speed.

Outcome : We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups and teams where there is encouragement, productivity is much greater. 'Individual empowerment results from quality honking'.

I'm quite sure our fine feathered friends, the geese don't spend a millisecond thinking about the Team building & Leadership lessons they provide. They teach us that we can accomplish more when we work together as a team. Individual talent, as impressive as it may be, will only be multiplied when that person joins forces with others.

People who share a common vision, mission, and purpose, like the geese, attain that goal faster and more efficiently when they work together. Just as the geese generate thrust as they travel together, our team's thrust will allow us to accomplish more when we stay together. The geese also teach us that staying in formation gives a bonding and makes it better than going alone. Unity in the workplace is defined not by a pat on the back when we succeed, but in lifting up a team member's hand when he is down. A unified team wants everyone to succeed.

Finally, the geese teach us that someone has to take the lead and someone has to honk from behind. Each team member brings different skills and abilities to accomplish the goals. Sometimes, we may be the person to bring the team to victory. At times, someone else may have the right talent and skills to accomplish the mission, and therefore we must fly in formation from the back; honking our support with enthusiasm.

So, the next time you see geese flying above, take a moment to remind yourself just how smart they are, and what we can learn from them. The geese teach us to work as a team, work together in unity, share the hard jobs when it comes to leading, and honk from behind to encourage others.

What does your honk say about you? Don't forget to visit my website for more!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Think Positive - Make Life Better !

Is our glass half-full or half-empty? On those days when nothing in our life seems to be going right, it can be really tough to see the silver lining among all those clouds. However, it's during these times when the ability to see the good in even the worst situations is so important. A positive attitude benefits not only our mental health, but your physical well-being as well.

Helen Keller says, " When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us ". This is very true and most of us are victims of this. To make it clear let me share a simple but good story which I came across reminding us of the choice we have to think- positive or negative.

There was once an old lady who cried all the time. Her elder daughter was married to an umbrella merchant while the younger daughter was the wife of a noodle vendor. On sunny days, she worried, "Oh no! The weather is so nice and sunny. No one is going to buy any umbrellas. What will happen if the shop has to be closed?" These worries made her sad. She just could not help but cry. When it rained, she would cry for the younger daughter. She thought, "Oh no! My younger daughter is married to a noodle vendor. You cannot dry noodles without the sun. Now there will be no noodles to sell. What should we do?" As a result, the old lady lived in sorrow everyday. Whether sunny or rainy, she grieved for one of her daughters. Her neighbors could not console her and jokingly called her "the crying lady."

One day, she met a monk. He was very curious as to why she was always crying. She explained the problem to him. The monk smiled kindly and said, "Sister! You need not worry. I will show you a way to happiness, and you will need to grieve no more."

The crying lady was very excited. She immediately asked the monk to show her what to do. The master replied, "It is very simple. You just need to change your perspective. On sunny days, do not think of your elder daughter not being able to sell umbrellas but the younger daughter being able to dry her noodles. With such good strong sunlight, she must be able to make plenty of noodles and her business must be very good. When it rains, think about the umbrella store of the elder daughter. With the rain, everyone must be buying umbrellas. She will sell a lot of umbrellas and her store will prosper."

The old lady saw the light. She followed the monk’s instruction. After a while, she did not cry anymore; instead, she was smiling everyday. From that day on she was known as "the smiling lady".

The story tells us, we cannot change the things happening around us but we can change the way we look at it.The choice between positive & negative thinking is very much within us.We can focus on the positive side of everything and stop worrying about the negative side of it.

Our minds are an incredibly powerful tool, and as we know, we only use a small portion of it every day. Our thoughts play a significant role in how we view the world, and the positive v/s negative thoughts we carry with us can be the foundation for all sorts of things in our lives, both good and bad.

But, we know no matter what happens and how good our life seems to be going, there are going to be times when it seems like everything is going bad or just not the way that we want it to. In these times, we can choose to either allow ourselves to feel down and out, or we can decide to overcome any of these adversities and learn how to look for the opportunity that is being presented.

How to Think & Stay Positive?

Many people believe that positive thinking takes lots of effort. In the beginning, while we form the new habit, it certainly will take awareness. However, the only way to empower ourselves to live Our Very Excellent Life is to live consciously with an awareness of our thoughts.

It is said that of the 65,000 plus thoughts that flip through our mind each day, 95% of them are the same ones we thought yesterday. Yes, 95%! Why in the world do we do that? The simple answer-most of us live in the past or the future, missing the only time that really counts and really that matters- the present.

Most of us use the energy we need for today, to keep alive memories from the past or misuse our imagination by carrying past pain into the future as slightly altered experiences. The fears that stop us from living our dreams are really expectation of bad experiences in the future. In other words, many of us take our past into the future and remain stuck in life.

With little effort we can find ourselves to be positive thinkers. Positive thinking is actually very simple, here are a few ways we can get started...and have a positive impact on all areas in our life:

  • If we find ourselves thinking a negative thought, change it to a positive thought.
  • Surround our life with positive people, don't allow negativity into our life.
  • Spend our time on activities that bring us happiness.
  • Invoke positive memories whenever we can.
  • Cherish the simple pleasures in our life.
  • Be around people who make us laugh.
  • Love ourselves

Don't fool ourselves into thinking that, just because the above ideas are simple they will not work. The opposite is actually true, and we all know what impact positive v/s negative thoughts can have in our life. If we convey a positive attitude towards others we will be surrounded by people who want to be around us and are positive themselves. These relationships will only continue to grow and bring more positive energy into our life. The opposite is true as well, so keep positive thoughts.

Remember thinking positive is only a plat form where the thinking has to translate into positive action which should eventually become positive habits which lead to positive results. But every thing starts with positive thinking!

Have you heard of the old saying "he woke up on the wrong side of the bed?" We have all experienced this before ourselves, for some reason we wake up in a bad mood and our entire day seems to turn out bad. Did you know that we can change this?

Begin each day in a positive manner. Open the drapes to let the sun shine in, put on some of our favorite music, tell ourselves a positive thought or two...whatever it takes to start our positive thinking. We will be amazed at what these simple changes can bring to our life.

Well, just because these ideas are simple...does not mean they are easy. That is probably why everyone is not walking around with a positive attitude, because it takes work, desire, and discipline to live our life in this manner. It is easier being negative! The choice is ours, we have nobody to blame but ourselves, when deciding between positive v/s negative thoughts.

What are your thoughts now- Positive or Negative ?


Thursday, March 19, 2009

A.R Rahman - "An Inspiring Story of Success through Excellence" !

Few weeks back I wrote an article on M.S Dhoni and the lessons from his unique leadership style. We have another role model who has mastered excellence in his profession and brought the whole world under his feet - The Music Legend - A.R Rahman.

Is there any thing common in these two youth icons of our country ? Yes,commitment to excellence is their DNA. Winning is their habit and they always perform at ' WOW '! Aiming for perfection and winning the competitive edge are the things for what they crave constantly and add them to their attitude. The next thing is performance. During any moment of the day, their performance is EXCELLENCE. Performance is their language and they understand the language of result only.

If you pick up any newspaper or see the web or watch the news these days, chances are that you will find an interview of A.R.Rahman. He is all over the place after his OSCAR achievement and he really deserves it! All of us have been seeing videos of his arrival back to India and his press conferences with excitement.

Today, A.R. Rahman is one of the world's most successful musicians. With a brand name like Rahman, movies rake in millions. But it isn't just Rahman's exceptional enthusiasm that's so contagious, but also the quality and success of the work he's churning out. The man has redefined contemporary Indian music and has become an icon for millions all over the world.

Like everyone, I have known him and his music right from the time 'Roja' was released in 1992.. that's a good 17 years! Everyone speaks of his music, and what he eats, sleeps, drinks and what he does when he is free and so on so forth. But really, there are things much beyond that one needs to know and learn from the legend that A.R.Rahman is. With so many people who speak so high of him at all times, there are some things that are unsaid and certain things that we so easily ignore about Rahman, that makes him stand apart from the clutter.

The musical genius that Rahman is, most of that comes from his being and principles. Rahman's success presents some valuable tips to us which can be applied to our professional lives and achieve our goals. And on that note, with the little that I know of him, let me share some of the learnings from A.R.Rahman.

1. Family - Respect your Parents

It might be very easy to brush this fact aside, but the truth is Rahman has always loved, respected and adored his parents. With his father R.K.Shekar leaving for heavenly abode when Rahman was nine years old, Rahman's mother Kareema Begum, gave Rahman a new ray of hope and fresh lease of life. She painfully raised the family, and is one of the driving factors of why Rahman is a legend today.

Remember what he said when he received his first OSCAR award, " Mere paas ma hai, which means I have nothing but I have a mother, so mother's here, her blessings are there with me. I'm grateful for her to have come all the way ". Which other music composer or for that matter which other media/entertainment/corporate personality do we know who follows this principle. How many of us will openly show our love and respect to our parents like him. That makes him truly unique.

2. Belief - Be Spiritually inclined

A.R.Rahman believes in god and spiritualism. Its not about the fact that he follows Islam, and offers prayers 5 times a day…its much more than that. I believe there is a huge difference between being religious and being spiritual, of which the latter is what Rahman is made of. In a recent interview Rahman revealed that, "Religion sounds vulgar these days, I am more of a spiritual person. And I believe in being consistent with my spirituality. As one grows in life, one realizes the magnitude of spirituality. It is the most beautiful passion. It raises you above all the negativities. For me and my music, spirituality is the most important element and I don't think I can create the kind of music I do, if I don't practice spirituality."

Spirituality has not only made him connect to his music, but has also made him connect to humanity. When he received his second OSCAR, he said " all my life I had a choice of hate and love and I chose love and I am here, god bless " . That's the powerful message of his spirituality!

3. Country First - Be Patriotic

Though Rahman acknowledges his accomplishment, after receiving OSCARS he quickly points out that this is a COLLECTIVE INDIAN VICTORY. He says, he is more happy because this is the first OSCAR for an Indian work and the whole country was waiting for this with bated breath and hence he wanted to get it. He says, now all Indian artists will be looked upon with more respect as we have shown what we are capable of. His patriotism is evident in all his patriotic songs including the latest " Jai Ho ". The way he sings ' vande mataram ' injects some kind of positive energy into our blood stream !

4. Roots - Don't leave your Soul

Mumbai the mecca of Indian films and the entertainment industry, a place where any and every musician will find a way out to survive and earn enough to feed him for the day. It would have been so easy for a musician like Rahman to go and settle in Mumbai and work for acclaimed filmmakers post " Roja and Bombay ". But the man preferred not leaving his home, his roots to a place where instant fame, recognition and money was assured. Of the many ignored facts, Rahman's major success lies in working from his home. Home is where your heart, mind, body and soul is.

With no distraction whatsoever, he has all his energies focused on doing quality work from the comfort of his home. It means a lot to be based out of the place where your family is, where your soul is..your home, your hometown.

5. Focus - Let your work speak for itself

Yes, let your work speak for itself. Many a times, there are instances where one will be criticized for the way he is, his dressing, his upbringing, his economic background. One will be made fun off, and will be called names. One will not get the support he expects to receive from his seniors and so on….But at the end of all this, if you have a strong will power you can overcome all these, and prove yourself with your work.

There was a time when Rahman was being humiliated by some critics, directors and producers over the kind of music he had scored, and all this when he was at the peak of his career. He could do nothing about it, and preferred to remain calm and unmoved. And when ever his work was released, it got an outstanding response and was embraced by the masses. This overwhelming response and success was a slap on the face of those critics, producers and directors. This tell us, all we need to do is to focus on what we are good at, not on the success it can bring. Success will follow us, our work will speak of itself.

6. Service - Consideration for others

Not many may have noticed that Rahman has introduced maybe a hundred new young singers to the Tamil and Hindi screens – his faith in the youth of India is evident in his statement that he would like youngsters to take a different view of music after his winning the OSCARS. Rahman has done what no other music director has done for the cause of music-starting a music school, the KM MUSIC CONSERVATORY. His objective for starting this school is to make Indian musicians have a global orchestra of their own. This is such an innovative idea and Rahman is spending a lot of time, money and energy towards realizing this noble musical mission!

Rahman is the UN ambassador for the campaign fighting against poverty and he has associated himself with many social causes. When he was in a state of probably disillusionment - one of the things his mother said to him was "why don't you live for others and then you will find a meaning to life". Rahman stuck to that and he does music to make people happy and to enrich their lives.

On the night he returned to India after receiving the OSCARS, his request that his fans ought not to disturb his neighbors in the dead of night attracts attention to a long forgotten quality in India—consideration for others.

7. Humility - Be Humble. Be Honest. Be Simple

With all the above in place, being humble, simple and honest is all that one needs to do to ensure a great life. With so much of stardom and attention after the Golden Globe and OSCARS, Rahman could have got carried away with the success, however he always chose work over publicity.

After winning the OSCARS, he was asked by the press, " what's left for you to achieve? " He replied in a polite way, " Well, I have not achieved anything. I have not ended poverty level. I have not stopped wars happening.For me these are achievements. And in my opinion, I am just a small musician who has got an award that is it " !

He carries no weight around him, and that makes him completely approachable and genuine. His childlike smile can pacify ones fear and anxiety of meeting him in person. Its like his smile speaks a thousand words. It depicts the purity of his heart and soul. Each and every success makes him more humble, honest and simple. What more we can learn from this winner!

Regardless of season he march towards rock climbing success. Even in tough time his eyes do not move away from excellence. Commitment, giving 100 percent, focusing on performance is the key ingredients to his success. Meeting challenges and riding over obstacles are in his blood cells. Transferring stumbling stones into opportunities with conviction and leading towards 'WOW' level is the essence of his success.

Through his eternal value and simple living A.R Rahman presents us with opportunities for professional success provided we learn from them, adapt them to our own situations and implement them appropriately.

He convey a message to all of us silently especially to the youth - " humble origins need not prevent us from aspiring for and achieving great success ". How does he convey this message ? Dil Se !


Monday, March 16, 2009

India's Rural Market - " The Fortune At The Bottom Of The Pyramid "

For the last five days I was out for a market visit to some of the districts in south Tamil Nadu. I opted to travel by car covering thousands of kilometers through rural areas of Tamil Nadu. It was truly an experience to travel through the villages and my mind was stuck at the rural market - the so called untapped markets !

Each & every small shop I passed through reminded me the two books I have read on rural Indian markets, " The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" By C.K. Prahalad and " We are Like that Only " by Rama Bijapurkar. My eyes were surfing through the leading brands hanging at almost every shop in the villages which include products like Mineral Water, Cola's, Shampoo, Detergent Powder, Tooth Paste and even Packed Snacks.

There was a time when the whole world thought that the rural India was a land of snakes and holy men with magical powers, maybe its time to re-acquaint ourselves with the true identity of the rural side of our country. Coke / Pepsi or Chic / Pantene or Colgate / Close Up or Ariel / Surf or Lays / Cheetos are house hold brand names in rural markets today!

"The future lies with those companies who see the poor as their customers" says C. K. Prahalad in his book " The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid " . He clearly pinpoints on the raw fact that there is vast potential for profits in the rural markets. He says, globally the bottom of the (economic) pyramid consists of 4 billion people living on less than $2 per day. If we stop thinking of the poor as victims or as a burden and start recognizing them as value-conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up. Prahalad suggests that four billion poor can be the engine of the next round of global trade and prosperity, and can be a source of innovations.

He cites numerous examples of companies that have generated wealth for the poor and profits for themselves by focusing on underserved rural markets. As urban markets become saturated, more businesses are retooling their marketing strategies, and in many a case their products targeting rural consumers with tiny incomes but rising aspirations, giving birth to a new era of rural marketing.

To expand the market by tapping the countryside, more and more MNC's are foraying into India's rural markets. Among those that have made some headway are Hindustan Lever, ITC, Coca-Cola, LG Electronics, Britannia, LIC, HDFC Standard Life, ICICI, Philips, Colgate Palmolive and most of the Telecom companies.

In this article let me share with you my views on Opportunities & Challenges for all the Companies targeting to tap this huge rural untapped markets.


The Indian rural market with its vast size and demand base offers a huge opportunity that companies cannot afford to ignore. We are a country with 1.12 billion people of which 70% live in rural areas which means more than 700 million people spread around 6,27,000 villages. India's rural population comprises of 12% of the world's population presenting a huge, untapped market.

The importance of the rural market for some FMCG and durable marketers is underlined by the fact that the rural market accounts for 55 per cent of LIC policies, 70 per cent of toilet soaps, 50 per cent of TV, Fans, Bicycles, Tea , Wrist Watches, Washing soap, Blades, Salt, Tooth Powder and 38 per cent of all Two-Wheelers purchased. Of the two million plus BSNL connections, 50% is from small towns/villages and out of 20 million Rediffmail signups, 60% are from small towns ! Let me also give you the gigantic market size of rural markets (in Indian Rupees) : FMCG - 6500 Billion, Agri-Inputs - 4500 Billion, Consumer Durable's - 500 Billion, Automobiles ( 2 & 4 Wheelers ) - 800 Billion ! The figures tell us that the rural market is growing much faster than the urban counterpart. A recent forecast revealed that the Indian Cellular Services revenue will grow at a rate of 18.4 per cent with most of the growth coming from rural markets.

In 2008, the rural market has grown at an impressive rate of 25 per cent compared to the 7–10 per cent growth rate of the urban consumer retail market. According to a McKinsey survey conducted recently, rural India, with a population of 700 million, would become bigger than the total consumer market in countries such as South Korea or Canada and it would grow almost four times from its existing size in the next few years.

Understanding the Rural Market

I believe understanding the characteristics that make the people and the market in rural India unique, can help companies to enter this market with success. With an average income of less Rs.2000/- per month (Rs.24,000/- per annum), rural Indians have a very low disposable income. Most rural homes have minimal storage space and no refrigeration. Very few people own or have access to cars. As a result, rural Indian purchasing habits tend to be of an "earn today, spend today" mentality.

Rather than buying in bulk, which would mean paying more for a large quantity upfront, rural Indians tend to buy what they need for short segments of time. These factors result in consumers buying products locally, in small quantity on a daily basis. Before a company considers entering the rural market, understanding the types of products and packages that rural Indians typically use is crucial. By taking into account the low disposable incomes and the unique product and package needs of this market, consumer products that are designed and packaged for this market have great potential.


The rural market may be alluring but it has got its own problems like: Low per capita disposable incomes that is half the urban disposable income; large number of daily wage earners, seasonal consumption linked to harvests and festivals and special occasions; poor roads; power problems; and inaccessibility to conventional advertising media.

In her book, " We Are Like That Only ", Rama Bijapurkar points out, the main problem with the MNC's entering India is that they think the world is one homogenous market. They believe, what works in America, Europe, Asia has to work in India too. Its because of such thoughts that many of the multinationals have not managed to penetrate the Indian markets. After spending billions and being in India for more than 15 years, Coke and Pepsi still don't make profits.Another notable flop in the Indian market is Kellogs Cereals. The company couldn't understand that Indians prefer a hot steaming breakfast every morning, instead of cereals dunked in cold milk. Even if the lady in the household is working, the kitchen in an Indian household starts buzzing very early in the morning.

The rural consumer is different from his urban counterpart in many ways. I think the biggest challenge for any MNC's are meeting the four aspects in rural marketing: Availability, Affordability, Acceptability & Awareness.


The first challenge is to ensure availability of the product or service. India's 627,000 villages are spread over 3.2 million sq km; 700 million Indians live in rural areas, finding them is not easy. However, given the poor state of roads, it is an even greater challenge to regularly reach products to the villages. Over the years, India's largest MNC, Hindustan Lever, has built a strong distribution system which helps its brands reach the interiors of the rural market. To service remote village, stockists use autorickshaws, bullock-carts and even boats in the backwaters of Kerala. Coca-Cola, which considers rural India as a future growth driver, has evolved a hub and spoke distribution model to reach the villages. LG Electronics defines all cities and towns other than the seven metro cities as rural and semi-urban market.


The second challenge is to ensure affordability of the product or service. With low disposable incomes, products need to be affordable to the rural consumer, most of whom are on daily wages. Some companies have addressed the affordability problem by introducing small unit packs. Godrej recently introduced three brands of Cinthol and Fair Glow in 50-gm packs, priced at Rs. 4-5 meant specifically for rural markets. The success of Cavin Kare has become a very notable case study. It is a company that began in a small way. It started the Chic shampoo sachet for 50 paise when shampoo was available at Re.1, and it revolutionised the market.

Hindustan Lever, among the first MNC's to realize the potential of India's rural market, has launched a variant of its largest selling soap brand, Lifebuoy at Rs.2 for 50 gm. Coca-Cola has addressed the affordability issue by introducing the returnable 200-ml glass bottle priced at Rs.5. The initiative has paid off: Eighty per cent of new drinkers for coke now come from the rural markets.


The third challenge is to gain acceptability for the product or service. Therefore, there is a need to offer products that suit the rural market. One company which has reaped rich dividends by doing so is LG Electronics. It developed a customized TV for the rural market and was a runway hit selling 100,000 sets in the very first year. Because of the lack of electricity and refrigerators in the rural areas, Coca-Cola provides low-cost ice boxes — a tin box for new outlets and thermocol box for seasonal outlets.The insurance companies that have tailor-made products for the rural market have performed well. HDFC Standard LIFE topped private insurers.


Since large parts of rural India are inaccessible to conventional advertising media, building awareness is another challenge. Hindustan Lever relies heavily on its own company-organized media. Godrej Consumer Products, which is trying to push its soap brands into the interior areas, uses Radio to reach the local people in their language. Coca-Cola uses a combination of TV, Cinema and Radio to reach rural households. LG Electronics uses vans and road shows to reach rural customers. Philips India uses wall writing and Radio advertising to drive its growth in rural areas.

With all the above facts & figures the question is, can we afford to ignore rural India and move ahead? Well the answer is, we will not be able to survive without rural India in future! It is estimated that the rural India will consume 60% of the goods produced in the country.

For most of us, rural India is an unknown entity even today, and it calls for a lot of investment. Initially, the ratio between investment and returns will not be the same as we see in urban India. But eventually, we will get the returns. In today's corporate world, all the entrepreneurs and managers, looks for quick returns and depend on their quarterly results. They only look at what gives them immediate success. I think freebies have no meaning in rural India. Indian rural market is undoubtedly complex but there are some simple truths that we need to accept. The rural consumers are very value-conscious. They may be poor, but they are not backward and they can make a difference to our products and brands.

Gone were the days when a rural consumer had to go to a nearby town or city to buy a branded product. The growing power of the rural consumer is an opportunity for us to flock to the rural markets. At the same time, they also threw up major challenges. Gandhiji believed that India's future lay in her villages and it goes without saying those among us who can bring innovations in marketing mix with rural markets in mind will take away the " fortune at the bottom of the pyramid " !

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

" Attitude Virus " - A Threat to Organizations!

Last Sunday evening I was at this big Super Market chain next to my house well known for Customer Service where I buy groceries regularly. For once, there was no one in line and I walked right up to the first position in the queue. There is a new gal in this Super Market that I try to avoid. I really wonder if she was ever trained before she got placed in the billing counter. Last time when I asked the reason for delay in billing she said she hates working on the computer and wished she didn't have to use it! Welcome to the real world, sister! I found she is extremely slow and the queue in her counter recently have been horrible due to this.

Well, I have no problem with new employees. Sometimes a fresh new face can make the experience tolerable. But not hers!

As I walked up to the counter I glanced over to see one of the "regular" employees who has known me for some time. He had a big smile on his face and said, "How was your week end sir ?" I immediately answered, "It was great, thank you for asking!"

With that I looked at the gal who was handing over the bill to me and after making the payment I said to her, " Thank you and have a nice evening!" To which she replied with a long face, "If I can get out of here early, it will be a better evening" !

Two employees, same shop, two totally different attitudes, and which employee will the customer prefer to go back to? I think it shouldn't be hard to guess. Entrepreneurs may be familiar with this employee symptom which is popularly known as "Attitude Virus"!

The Attitude Virus is everywhere. It's contagious and it can spread in minutes. It infects the employees and kills motivation. Symptoms include rudeness, poor service, lack of motivation, and increased stress. The non-performing and under-performing employees carry this virus and soon it infects the healthy employees which eventually threatens the bottom line and the very existence of the organization itself. Long term effects result in employee turnover, low productivity, customer complaints, poor sales and a drain on profits. One bad attitude, like one bad apple, can infect the entire organization.

Let me give you a check list of the symptoms exhibited by the Attitude Virus infected Employees. Check out whether they, (1) Miss too much work (2) Come in late too often (3) Make too many mistakes (4) Gripe and argues all of the time (5) Upset others to the point of disrupting their work (6) Complain now and then (7) Are a nuisance (8) Violate company policies more than most (9) Talk too much or too little (10) Seem to be in their shell all of the time.

I am sure all the above mentioned symptoms are very common among our employees but we don't act on it most of the time. This is easy to clear up only if we understand about it and if we ask about it. Don´t lose employees because we are sticking our head in the sand. Let's take a deep breath and get to the bottom of it. We will feel better and both we and our employees will benefit. That's a promise!

If your employee exhibits the behavior in Items 1-5, the solution may be termination; if the employee is more like Items 6-10, the solution may be to counsel and change his/her attitude. Attitude is everything when it comes to business. You can be taught all of the skills and procedures to correctly do any job, but I believe you can't be taught to be nice. I think it is a never-ending battle to try to teach people to be nice, that in the long run, will leave you exhausted and in the meantime, will drive away your customers!

Business for every one today is going through a critical phase due to recession and high competition. Creating a positive culture that can attract, motivate and retain customers and employees is the biggest challenge entrepreneurs face today.

The Prevention and the Cure

Many Managers throw their hands in the air and believe that they cannot do anything about these virus infected employees. Not so. The above behaviors are not acceptable and can and should be managed just like any other expectation. I believe teaching Managers to manage and motivate effectively is the prevention and the cure for improving employee retention. Most Managers have the skills to handle day-to-day activities but only the top performers have the talent needed to avoid the things that derail most people. The missing skills that derail Managers are the weak links in an organization that leaves the organization vulnerable to more attacks and employee turnover.

What can an organization do to immunize the workplace and end Attitude Viruses?

1. Diagnosis. Recognize that there is an attitude problem. This requires an honest assessment of the organization at all levels and collaterally to your vendors, suppliers and customers. Acknowledge any underlying causes of the Attitude virus and take responsibility for removing them.

2. Investigation. Select only Managers who have the skills or potential to manage and arm them with the tools and training they need to detect the infected employee before they leech out the morale and motivation from the healthy and positive employees. Effective Managers hold the keys to employee retention and profitability.

3. Treatment. Take responsibility for upgrading the skills of your first line of defense, the front-line employees and managers, who fight the "infection" and "exposures" on a daily basis. Develop and train managers to have the skills to "treat" or quarantine the infected employee and train them back to health. The attitude virus is spreading almost daily and continuous learning is crucial to prevent it.

4. Monitor, monitor, monitor. Taking a diet class and waiting for the pounds to shed off is ridiculous. Taking skills training without reinforcement and feedback and re-testing is equally bad. Identify the skills that differentiate your highly effective managers from the average performers, develop training that is specific and responsive to those specific skills, and provide on-going feedback and post-assessment to monitor progress.

Suppose this training & counseling doesn't work what do we do? To be specific with an example, assume you have an employee whom you probably rely on for crucial work. In other words, you have been forced to live with his bad behavior. Does he realize this? Is the toxic behavior a case of attitude virus syndrome? If so, you could train someone to cover his work. This could be an internal transfer or a new hire. Maybe he'll realize he's replaceable and change his ways. If he doesn't change his ways, at least you will have made progress; you'll no longer be obliged to him.

If you believe he is truly irreplaceable, you could isolate him. Put him in the corner, or in his own office. Schedule meetings without him. Suggest he works from home. Minimize his contact with the rest of the team, and you'll minimize the spread of his toxic attitude virus.

Learning new ways to manage and better ways to perform is no longer a choice but a necessity. A good attitude starts at the top. Work attitudes have changed. Increasing demands on performance and increasing workload have changed employee expectations. This often leads to tension in the workplace. Entrepreneurs must focus on how each employee thinks about doing his or her work and create policies and systems to get all the work done effectively with a minimum amount of stress. Creating a positive climate with a renewed focus on the needs of our employees and customers will differentiate our business in a competitive and demanding market.

Now is the time to attack the Attitude Virus and to immunize your organization. Attitude Virus-free organizations grow and prosper because they select positive workers, quarantine their infected employees and either nurture them back to health, or "delete" them before they infect other workers. A work culture clean and free of the Attitude Virus is rewarded with a healthy bottom line, good sales, high rates of employees & customer retention.

Is your organization contaminated with this deadly virus? Take a closer look. You might not always be able to "see" it but i guess you might be able to "smell" it! If so,don't wait pass the bug spray!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

" Concentration " - The Key to Success!

Our world has become busier and busier with more TV Stations, Radio Stations, Websites, E-mails, Mobile Phones and other forms of interruptions in the daily life. We become overwhelmed with new ways of simplifying life, but in reality the so called time saving devises end up chewing up more and more of our time. End of the day all of us say, we wanted to be successful but not able to focus on anything!

One of the secrets to success is what I want to share with you in this article so that we can understand this ' quiet and powerful ' tool the successful people have been using to climb the ladder of great achievement. We don't need to be extraordinary and super natural to apply this key. Ordinary people like me and you have already used it knowingly or unknowingly to achieve extraordinary results several times.

This magic key is " Concentration ". It is a 13 lettered word. Very simple but powerful. It has a tremendous power that transforms life like a tornado in action. Concentration has been defined as "the ability to direct one's thinking in whatever direction one would intend".

Success and failures are part of the progress in life. However success and failures have to be handled differently. It is also to be observed that despite the differences in the way the two are to be handled, there are some aspects, which one needs to consider which are common to both. One of the key common factors for both success and failure is Concentration.

Successive failures some times makes one to think of the failures there by preventing one from bringing back the focus to the task.

This can be amply seen in our cricketing world, which most of us are familiar. There have been several instances, when batsmen after achieving a milestone like having scored a century, a double hundred, tend to throw away their wicket. This is due to the sudden shift in the focus from continuing the task, to the happiness of success. Similarly, the failures of capable batsmen were mainly due to the lack of concentration and letting their thoughts drift to those aspects not relevant to the game or failures that have gone behind.

Few months back I had the opportunity to attend a workshop conducted by "Custommerce", on ' strategies for a customer-driven economy ' at Hotel Leela Kempinski, Kovalam. One of the Speakers was the eight - time world Billiards Champion Geeth Sethi who talked about concentration drawing an example from the world of sport to illustrate the power of concentration. It is indeed an inspiring story and let me share it with you.

Ever heard of James Wattana? He was the former billiards champion from Thailand nicknamed 'Thai-Phoon'. It was the 1991 NEC England World Billiards Championship final. Wattana, just 16 and half years old, is playing Jimmy White of the United Kingdom. The Thai is playing brilliantly and is leading seven frames to one, supremely confident. Suddenly his game drops and before you know it Jimmy White has stormed back to level with Wattana. In the last frame, Wattana just falls apart and White wins the championship 8-7!

Asked later what happened, Wattana said that his mind wandered to a particular street in Bangkok and of a £200,000 house he wanted to buy for his mother. “So, here he was, in the finals, but his mind was several thousand miles away. By the time he regained his focus it was too late,” explains Geeth Sethi.

But the young Wattana went back and put in continuous practice for next five years. During 1997, the same Wattana, ready for another final at British Open, is told just before he is to play that his father has been shot dead in Bangkok! Wattana goes on to play, all focus and concentration, emotions in check; he demolishes his opponent in just one hour, that too five frames to nil and then gives vent to his feelings! That's the power of concentration.

James Wattana, says Sethi, constantly reined in his mind. “You need to rein in your mind even when the pressure is on, even though you heard disturbing news; you need to concentrate on what you need to do.The mind is a funny thing, it has a mind of its own and needs control by constant training. At the moment of truth you need to be there ".

This tells us, concentration can improve with constant habits and training. Concentration will be required to retain ones focus while reaping success and also to bring back the lost focus due to failures. We all have the ability to concentrate. But at times our thoughts are scattered, and our minds race from one thing to another. To deal with such times, we need to learn and practice concentration skills and strategies. To concentrate, we have to learn a skill, and as with any skill this means practice repeated day after day until we achieve enough improvement to feel that we can concentrate when we need to.

Our ability to concentrate depends on :

1. Our Commitment : We need to make a personal commitment to put in the effort needed to do the task in the way which we realistically plan to do it. If we just play at it in a half-hearted manner then it is much more difficult to take the task and ourselves seriously.

2. Our Enthusiasm for the task : If we are interested in the task and enjoy doing it, then we find it easy to motivate ourselves to start. Once started, our feelings of involvement in the activity keep us going - we want to do it.

3. Skill at doing the task : Knowing how to do something gives confidence that our efforts will be successful, so we don't have to deal with anxiety whether this will work or not. Anxiety tends to impair concentration.

4. Our Emotional and physical state : When we are in good physical condition - i.e. feeling rested, relaxed and comfortable - and our emotions are calm, then we tend to be positive about things. This in turn raises self-esteem, which makes us more able to concentrate, if only because we don't have to worry about how awful we are or life is.

5. Our Psychological state : For example, if we are in an obsessional or distracted state our thoughts are pre-occupied, leaving little mental space to think about anything else.

6. Our Environment : It is much more difficult to concentrate if our surroundings keep intruding on our awareness, perhaps because it is noisy, too hot or too cold, the furniture is uncomfortable or the people around us are stressing out.

To conclude, it goes with out saying concentration helps us to solve problems and come up with the fastest path to attain our goals. It is very difficult to succeed without concentration. A mind that concentrates is a beautiful mind. It is a mind that will get results and give us power to overcome challenges.

Remember the mystical words of Jesus: "Whatsoever thing you desire when you pray, pray as if you had already received and you shall have."

We all have different levels of concentration. Concentration can be improved through practice and avoiding distractions. Don't you feel concentration is indeed the Magical Key to Success ? The question is how will you improve your concentration today?


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

" Can Indian Tiger trample the Chinese Dragon? " The India v/s China Story

In an article posted on my blog few weeks back on the topic " Made in China - A Threat for India? " , I was trying to analyze how we can compete with China. But today, I want to get into an interesting topic. Ever wonder who will win the economic competition between India & China? End of the day who will survive the recession? I am sure, there is no dispute that India & China are emerging as the World's two Economic Super Powers.

The conventional wisdom suggests that China will soon rule the world, because of its world leading population and massive economic growth over the last two decades.

But let me bring a new twist to the ' India-China, who's better ' story. I was reading a report published by Capgemini Consulting Service, which says, ' Made in India' could be the next big economic story in the world. The report says that in the next 3-5 years, India, while retaining its IT hold, could challenge China as the world's manufacturing hub.

Adding on to this, according to the Economic Times, some economists believe that India will overcome China as the fastest growing economy in 2009. If India achieves a better growth rate than China even for one quarter, the message will go across to the world and help India in attracting more foreign capital. Already, Government Officials in India have been highlighting reports of a few investment analysts who doubted China’s official GDP numbers and claimed that it could be just an inflated one. Its true that, the economic slowdown has hit both India & China but i think the situation in China is worse than us. Exports are drastically coming down and China is hit hard. Our economy is driven more by domestic demand and our rural economy is much more dependable than that of China.

We have strong reasons why the Indian economy will be the most successful one when it comes to riding out the current economic storm. Are you surprised with such a statement when all we get is hysterically bad news about economy from media's? Don't be. I have some facts and figures published in Business & Economy to support my views.


FDI : China comfortably gets more than $ 150 billion in foreign direct investments every year. As a percentage of GDP, it will be between 7% to 10%. On the other side, Indian FDI has crossed $ 20 billion but has never exceeded even 1.5% of GDP. Now, we all know that foreign investments will dry up. But since our GDP growth has been driven by domestic investment, we will be the least adversely affected.

EXPORTS : There are horror stories floating around of how hundreds of thousands of jobs are being lost because exports are slowing down and declining. I read, half a million jobs were lost in the last quarter of 2008 because of contrasting exports. But on the other side, Chinese government admit that, 20 million jobs were lost in the same period and now you know where India stands compared to other nations. Also remember, exports from India is only around 15% of GDP, one of the lowest among major economies in the world.

CONSUMPTION : China's consumption accounts for just about 35% of GDP while it constitutes about 65% of GDP in India. When bad times come, consumption might stagnate in India while investment is bound to fall suddenly in China. No wonder, the Indian GDP growth rate will be around 7% in 2008-09 while it might crash from 13% to 6% in China. Slow & steady is often better!

INTEREST RATES : If every crisis is an opportunity, here is the mother of all opportunities. A few years ago, when major economies of the world had started cutting interest rates because of recession worries, our RBI kept hiking them to fight inflation. After the meltdown, there has been a move to cut interest rates. But the fact of the matter is that no other major economy of the world has interest rates as high as India's. That means, there is enough scope to reduce it drastically which puts us in a better position compared to other nations.

HEALTHY BANKS : This is arguably the biggest advantage that Indian economy enjoys in these turbulent times. Nobody knows for sure the position of Chinese Banks when it comes to bad debts ; but things have started rottening for them post recession. But our banking system is literally in the pink of health for sure.

INDIA INC : Many economists now acknowledge that India holds the advantage compared to China because of two reasons. Most successful Indian companies are private. More importantly, they have used capital far more productively and efficiently than Chinese counterparts. Chinese companies purely rely on Government incentives for growth. Also remember, most of our companies are sitting on billions of dollars of reserves!


DROP IN GDP : China is surely paying price for its past mistake ( heavy reliance on exports for growth ) these days. The GDP growth for them remained in single digit during 2008, now its slipped below 8% and expected to go even further down!

INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION SLIPS DOWN : Even the much talked Chinese production machines are slowing down. Industrial output, which was dependent on export-oriented industries is rapidly loosing speed. It has slipped down from 17 % during march 2008 to just 5.7% during last December. In fact, this downward trend will continue to haunt China in 2009 as well.

EXPORTS BOUND TO SINK FURTHER : Exports the backbone of Chinese economy, is continuously declining over the last one year. This decline in exports is happening not only in labour-intensive sectors but across all sections of the economy. The factories are shutting down and the manufacturing boom seems to have come to an end in China.

DOMESTIC MARKET SLOWS DOWN : China's strength was always the fact that they have a 1.3 billion population which makes their domestic market the largest in the world. But that seems not coming handy for them during this recession! In fact, China witnessed the slowest pace of retail sales growth since November 2007. The China Retails Sales percentage was 21.6% during May 2008 & its been dropped to 19.0% towards the end of December 2008.

I hope the reasons and comparisons stated above tell us that the Indian economy will ride this storm without much damage. Our government is confident of achieving close to 7% growth this fiscal. In addition to the two stimulus packages, recently, the government announced a Rs,30,000- crore boost to the slowing economy by cutting excise duty and service tax.

The global recession looks to me as an opportunity for India to start closing the lead that China has built over it in the past decade or so. A growing majority of economists predict that India's democratic structure and the resulting transparency will allow it to over take China in near future.

Guess its time for the Indian Tiger to trample the Chinese Dragon !

What do you say?