Category Archives: phantom management guru

Google: Fighting wars on too many fronts?

The key mantra of brand building is positioning. Plant a flag in a product/service category on the consumer’s mind map. Every enterprise has to work hard everyday to tighten its focus in an effort to plant the category ownership flag.

Google became Google because of it’s fantastic positioning. They were THE search engine. However, with every passing minute they seem to be broadening their focus – and bit-by-bit they are chipping away the foundation of their strong brand.

Every passing minute it is becoming harder to answer the question – “What is Google?

  • Is it a search engine? Yes
  • Is it a news aggregater – Yes
  • Is it an advertising platform – Yes
  • Is it a platform for software developers to build applications – It seems so, Yes
  • Is it a book archive – Yes but I have never found a full book. If I have to read excerpts, I would rather go to Amazon, the experience is much better.
  • Is it a comparison shopping service? – Yes, isn’t that what Froogle is? But why does it have the same interface as Google Search?
  • Is it a photo sharing portal? – Yes; but I like Flickr better
  • Is it a smart phone? – Yes; but from what I have heard it’s nothing like the iPhone
  • Is it an OS vendor? – Yes; I heard it is; but not sure how good their OS will turn out to be; the early reviews are mixed.
  • Is it a Blogging Service provider? – Yes; but it’s pretty bland. There are better ones out there, like WordPress.
  • Is it an email service provide? – Yes; and a damn good one at that!

Google is trying to extend it’s brand beyond advisable limits. It’s becoming unclear what Google is, as it is becoming unclear who Google’s main competitors are. It seems to be fighting wars on too many fronts at the same time – even going to the extent of pissing of old friends like Apple and turning them into adversaries.

Whichever way Google goes, it will definitely make for a very interesting management case study in the years to come.

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Indian Institute of Mismanagement

If a premier Institute of Management is unable to manage it’s own admissions process, how are employers supposed to feel confident about the quality of potential hires graduating from that school?

Just as a Chef cannot die of food poisoning after eating his own food, or an Investment guru cannot go bankrupt (while that does happen a lot), or a data backup company cannot lose it’s own data in a server crash – Management schools like the IIMs cannot afford to mismanage and mess up their admissions process in such a spectacular way! It’s not good for their reputation!

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Which is worse?

I am in the process of bringing in a partner for a very nascent venture that I started about 6 months back. During the course of one discussion, my potential partner asked me what I thought was the biggest risk for the new venture. My reply was “being condemned to mediocrity. The way I see it, for the new venture, mediocrity is a bigger risk that failure”

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Stakeholders

In times of crisis, we often hear publicly traded companies giving out assurances that the interests of all stakeholders – investors, customers and employees, will be looked after.

To me, that doesn’t sound anything more than empty lip service, for it is impossible to promote the interests of  ALL stakeholders at once.

For instance, a company cannot protect employee interests [job security and wage parity] without hurting the interests of the investor. On the flip-side, if it chooses to protect investor interests, it may have to cut staff, trim salaries or lower customer service standards  in order to ‘maximize value for investor’.

If one cuts through all the noise generated by the lip service, one will realize that all stakeholders may be made to believe they are equal – but in reality, as the pigs announced in the Animal Farm, some stakeholder [investors] are more equal than others.

Of the three stakeholders, the least equal in my view are the employees. Profit seeking companies may not say it out loud, but they all believe deep in their heart that employees are somewhat of a necessary nuisance they have to learn to live with [ necessary nuisance may not be the right phrase, but I used it due to the lack of a more apt one].

Ask any Japanese auto car worker who has lost his job to a robot and he will tell you how ‘equal’ he felt when he was handed the pink slip. Ask the management of the same company who they love more, the employee or the robot, my bet is they will pick the robot any day.

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Means and Ends

The question of ‘purpose of business’ is very intriguing with no conclusive answers. Is the purpose of business purely to make a profit? Or is it something bigger than just making a profit and involves contribution to customer, society and other higher and nobler objectives?

In other words, is the end goal of a business to make a profit for its owners with the business activities serving as the means? Or is the end goal of a business to carry out its activities, with profits serving as the necessary means?

Peter Drucker wrote that the purpose of business is to create a customer. When I read the statement, I couldn’t help but be amazed at the clarity of thought he possessed!

The amazement however was short lived, and dilemma set in again when I asked myself – “So who is the customer?”

So who is the customer after all?
I am very passionate about retail automation software. If I start an enterprise with my own personal capital to develop and sell retail automation software solutions – I clearly know who my “customer” is. It is the retail business that can benefit from my automation solutions. I also very clearly know that to be able to serve my customer effectively, my business must always remain profitable. In other words, profit or making money is a means to meet the end – the end being creating a customer and satisfying his need for a better retail automation solution.

At a later stage in time, I feel the need for additional funding and seek out partners who are willing to invest in my enterprise. The moment I do that, the investor becomes my primary customer. After all, he is looking for a solution as well – to get his idle money to make more money. The purpose of my business remains the same – to create a customer and to satisfy his need, however my new customer compels me to flip my means and end. My new end becomes making a profit, and selling retail automation solution becomes the means to achieve that end.

A story goes that when someone asked Russi Mody what business his company TISCO was in, he answered “We are in the business of making money. It is just a co-incidence that we also make steel.” [This line was later immortalized in the very successful TISCO advertising campaign that ran with the tag line “We also make Steel.”]

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