I don’t watch too much sport on TV, and American football can be one of the most complicated games for a newbie to follow. The rules are easier to understand than baseball, but with all the padding it is difficult to tell the players apart, the game has only 12-15 minutes of action and the players seem to advance only a few metres at a time. To me it is less a game of skill than of muscle power – I much prefer soccer. But I decided to watch the 2010 Super Bowl last Sunday for two reasons – the New Orleans Saints were playing for the first time in the finals and the secondly, many new ads are premiered for the first time. In fact, the ads are awaited with as much anticipation as the game itself, and they are some of the most expensive ad slots in the world.
Luckily, I was rewarded on both fronts. The Saints who were not the favourites, won the game with some brilliant maneuvers, and I love a game where the underdog wins. New Orleans has been struggling to get back on to its feet after Katrina, so most of us were cheering both the city and the team. Also, many of the ads were good. My favourites – the new Google ad – “Parisian Love,” the Doritos “Revenge of the Dog” and the old lady in the Snickers ad. And, as a St Louisian, I had a soft corner for the Clydesdale horses of the Bud-Weiser ad, and again, the ad didn’t disappoint.
Mostly this event is overcooked, overhyped, overproduced. But there are some good moments in between….
It is unfortunate that the Toyota brand which till very recently was worth $31.3 billion, and stood for good quality, has deteriorated so quickly. This was a brand that actually managed to shine amidst the debacle that was the American car market in 2008-09, and was the eighth most valuable brand last year, beating Apple, Disney and Intel. But with its current accelerator pedal crisis that has stopped production on 8 models and resulted in a recall of 500 million vehicles, the damage to the brand is enormous.
Sadly, the company did not have a good crisis management system in place – it took a whole week for Toyota to respond. To add fuel to the fire, it appears that the company knew of the problem as far back as in 2007, but did nothing to fix it. In cases like this it is better to over-react than to under-react, as Toyota is learning. Analysts feel that it might take many years for Toyota to recover its brand image, especially considering that its brand edge was built around ‘quality,’ ‘dependability,’ and ‘safety.’
To quote: “I don’t think Toyota will recover from this,” said Juergen Pieper, a Frankfurt-based analyst at Bankhaus Metzler. “They used to have an edge thanks to quality, but surely that’s been irrevocably shattered now. The impact of this catastrophe on their pricing power and sales will be enormous.”
Sad, but true.
Hyderabad-based company Notion Ink is making waves with the Adam tablet. Competing with iPad and the soon to be launched HP slate and Lenovo UI Hybrid, Adam promises some exciting new functionality. It can function in two modes: black and white where it consumes very low power and works much like Kindle (e-reader) as well as full colour mode where it can be used to play 3D games and watch hi definition movies. It is Wi-fi enabled as well. It runs on Google’s Android OS, but the interface has been completely redesigned in collaboration with NID. Notion Ink plans to launch Adam in India before the end of the year.
It is really heartening to see Indian companies entering the consumer electronics space and take on giants like Apple on their own turf. It shows that India has come a long way from being a shop for warm bodies and is now emerging as an innovative, creative and high-tech player.
That is the title of an interesting article in the latest Fortune magazine. The article discusses how, with the altered business landscape, post the recession, the leading technology giants – IBM, Cisco, HP & Oracle – are vying with each other to get the most share of the customer’s wallet. They are doing this by becoming the “one stop” tech shop for all tech and networking needs. This bodes for interesting times ahead, from a market observer’s stand point. How companies prepare to provide comprehensive services, what kind of pricing models will emerge and how the end customer will benefit from all this will be worth watching out for. After all, there is a mammoth $1.5 trillion at stake ( that is the size of the global computing & netowrking spend)!
With Q3 coming to a close, companies will soon start publishing their results. From what companies such as TCS and Infosys have been saying, it looks like the market is definitely turning around albeit slowly. Companies are not expecting significant growth or increase in IT budgets. However, the BFSI sector will hold some promise unlike last year – the M&A activity in this industry could spell new business opportunities.
Overall, Nasscom has forecasted a single digit growth ( 4- 7%) for next year. Companies will have to focus on non-linear revenue models to handle the slowdown and also up efficiencies to preserve margins. We feel that Non-linearity, solutioning etc will gain prominence especially among Indian IT companies in the coming quarters.
Microsoft’s performance with Steve Ballmer as CEO has been fairly unspectacular. With Google and Apple dominating the web and mobile markets, Microsoft’s attempts to make an impression have been rather unsuccessful. That was not all though. In what is being spoken about as Ballmer’s biggest failure, Vista bombed as its introduction was not well timed, nor was the OS able to co-exist with existing devices and hardware. This year the company’s revenues have contracted and it has missed its earnings estimate. Things could not have gotten worse!
However, the story does not end there. Microsoft has bounced back with the launch of Windows 7 which is now being acknowledged as the best technology launch of 2009. Surveys and analysts predict that Windows 7 could put Microsoft back on track. We will know soon……
For a recent client assignment, a colleague and I had to do an extensive and exhaustive primary study across 10 cities in India. The study involved interviewing end-users and trying to ascertain their investment plans over the next 3 years. To begin with, the area was completely new for us, so we started off by interacting with an industry expert. This helped us in getting our bearings right and put us on track. The first stop for the face-to-face interviews was Hyderabad. Being my home town ,and since I know the area quite well, I assumed that finding the locations would be a cake walk. I was proved quite wrong. Finding and getting through to the locations proved to be quite a tedious task. Lesson number one: Always carry a map whenever you are out doing multiple interviews on the same day. Yes, even if you think that you know the location inside out, having a map always helps.
As we went along doing interviews at multiple locations, we arrived at a certain pattern. Someone would call these people in advance, and fix interviews at designated intervals. Then we would hire a cab, trash out the route, and make plans in such a way that we could cover the maximum locations in the time available. But most often, the script didn’t go according to plan. For an interview that took about 10 minutes on average, we had to wait for up to an hour to speak to the right contact. Frequently, the respondent would have his own emergency things to deal with: from an irate client to crazy deadlines to plain old making-you-wait-to-show-how-important-I am people, we encountered them all. You cant even blame the poor guy;a client is more important to him than participating in a survey that would actually help him in no discernible manner.
We visited Pune at the height of the Swine Flu scare.So, yes, when you are doing an extensive primary study, its better to be medically equipped as well. Do have some medication always at hand, just in case. Also, staying at a decent place is a necessity. After an exhaustive day, the last thing you need is to go back to a shady place, with beds that haven’t been properly managed in weeks. Just in case your company(or the client) is footing the bill, you need to be extra careful about maintaining a detailed account of the expenses, and carry all your bills intact. And yes please, don’t fudge the bills and over charge.
If you are traveling in a Cab, please ensure that you are friendly with the driver. They know the place better than you, so be nice to them, and you might discover that the Cab guy is more than willing to do the ground work for the next interview location, while you are waiting to meet your respondent at his place.
It goes without saying that you constantly need to look at the responses, and eliminate any assumptions that you may have falsely started out with. One of the joys of doing a primary study is to discover that your assumptions are wrong, and to validate the results through extensive questioning of respondents.
There will also be the temptation for you to formulate your own theories if some how the responses don’t seem to match with your knowledge of the indented outcome. As long as your target audience is properly chosen, you should let yourself discover the outcomes, rather that predicting them according to your convenience.
And do see to it that you don’t “Create” any response of your own making. This defeats the very purpose of the study. Also, if you are doing an extensive study stretching over many months, please take a stock of the situation once a while. This gives direction to the study, and helps you in keeping your focus. And lastly, please keep to the timelines so that you have enough time on your hands to come up with the best final report that the study deserves and demands.
You probably read about HP buying 3Com and now competing with Cisco in some areas. Pretty soon, you will have HP, IBM and Cisco morph into technology conglomerates – what I mean is that they will have several disparate areas within the tech purview. It is interesting to speculate on how things will turn out in the next few years. Will there be more consolidation and a few biggies ruling the roost with a few emerging players struggling to make an impact similar to an oligopoly? I don’t think that will be the case – my view is that the technology market would be an expanding pie with opportunities for every kind of player , big or small. Consolidation will be a common phenomenon as companies try to strengthen their market presence
The IT market in India is expected to grow by almost 12% in 2010 according to Gartner. It is no surprise that India and China will register these growth rates as they catch up with the western world. I think the similarity between these two markets end there. While China has a huge domestic market potentially, you do not hear of many global companies making inroads there. I keep hearing that Chinese companies prefer to work with local vendors as they are more competitively priced than companies from outside.
On the other hand, many of the larger players including the global ones have entered the Indian market and you see IBM’s and Accentures’s win large deals. Prayag continuously studies the Indian market to assess buyer behaviour and one thing we find is that the Indian CIO makes well-informed decisions. The Indian CIO is quite aware of what they need and does not invest in IT for the sake of technology. In that sense, we are not early adopters of technology unlike the west. However, if there is a need, companies are willing to spend on the right solution and the supplier is chosen based on a combination of factors, price being one of them. It is true that the Indian business will have lower margins but working in a different and possibly more challenging environment could result in a lot of learning. There are better chances of global best practices being implemented here than say compared to in China.
Before moving to Mumbai, I had often heard about its famous ‘commercialism’ – how if there is a need perceived here – for anything – the gap will be immediately addressed. When I started living here, I realised how true this was, from the vegetable seller and tender coconut water seller who delivers to your doorstep to the bigger businesses who have tapped into into the mindset of the consumer to perfection.
Given that time is at a premium for most people, and given that driving in Mumbai is difficult and time-consuming, a number of businesses have figured out how to make it convenient for consumers to use their service. There are some examples that are now widespread in other cities across the country as well – Crossword’s Dial-a-book that delivers books to you, Shemaroo’s delivery and pick-up of books and videos, tailors who come home to measure you and then deliver the completed clothes. Add to all this a new service (a few months old actually) – literally “dial-a-bag”. This is targetted at the upper middle class who aspire to luxuries but cannot afford them.
Now, you can actually browse a website and reserve a handbag for a day / night / week, etc. And these are handbags that come with a brand attached – Louis Vuitton, Chanel, even a Birkin. Apparently already popular abroad, this concept is now gaining ground amongst the Page-3 crowd in Mumbai.
Given that an average Birkin costs more than a lakh, this is an attractive proposition for someone who wants to be seen with trendy accessories but cannot afford to buy them. These can now be rented at a fraction of the cost. Rumour has it that a lot of A-list celebrities are also a part of this exclusive club that circulates handbags and allows you to own them for a short period of time – much like books or DVDs. One wonders – what next? Maybe haute couture gowns or sarees by Tarun Tahiliani