Posted in Random thots..

A Small Lesson in Sales


 Lesson in Sales

To cut a long story short- I recently moved to another country with my family and had to sell off all the stuff at my house  before the move.

So I took nice pictures of everything and put up ads in the classifieds. And started getting flooded with  calls – “Is the Computer table still available?”, “Is the price negotiable?” etc etc..

And although this might seem a cumbersome task, which it was in the beginning, I slowly began to get fascinated by all of it. It was like my own tiny social experiment on C2C sales – selling stuff to people who would actually use it!

And with a well intention-ed scientific curiosity, I went haywire designing my experiment, bundling offers to see how people respond to different options. – “Coffee table free with King size bed”  vs “20% discount on king size bed if picked in next 12 hours”  I even had a pipeline for every item I was selling , trying to find some pattern in the madness!

Here are my observations  – some not-so-random findings from this totally random experiment.

People buy for their own reasons:  “So you’ve liked the sofa. Would you like to take the dining table also with it . I’ll give you 20% off on the bundled price on both” – I used this dialogue on many unsuspecting subjects. Well, they will smile politely, and go see whatever else  you offered them.. Engage in small talk.. Phone a friend.. Take an audience poll.. And then politely decline due to reasons entirely beyond their control- “Err, wish I had more space in my flat”.. “Oh no, I just bought a new dining table!”. Bottom line is – do what you may, people buy for their own reasons. You can’t change that!

Buyers always look for Trust:  Nobody will ever tell you on the face (hopefully!)  that -“You look real shady to me”. But before getting into any transaction , people will always want to know if they can trust you. So they ask questions like – how old is your Refrigerator, did you ever need to get any repairs done on it? And they will believe what you say. So although you might not have any papers to prove any of this- if they trust you then they will still go ahead and buy it from you. And the weird thing is – you really cannot define where this trust comes from. Perhaps it’s a gut feeling, perhaps it’s about your body language, or just a culture where people trust each other. But earning Trust is the foundation of any successful sale.

Bargaining is good for any Negotiation:  Everyone feels good after a bit of haggling. Don’t agree with me? Well.. On the last day of my social  experiment on selling stuff  (adding  an academic zing to it!), a guy turned up for my TV Table. He named half the price I had quoted. Since I was on a deadline to clear everything off,  I agreed immediately . And the expression on his face was that of extreme disappointment. He seemed so upset , as if he had been cheated!.. Which is why – if a negotiation happens and you easily agree to the other party’s terms, then they will always  feel that they didn’t  get a good enough deal.  Ergo,  unless it is grossly appropriate – haggle away! 

But then, generalizations are generalizations after all. Every sale is different, as Sales gurus might say – The deal is in the details!.

Posted in My World View, Random thots.., Technology Talk

Idea #5: Fail Early, Fail Fast


A few weeks ago, Apple released its Maps App with the new iOS 6 upgrade. Within hours, the internet was awash with scathing criticism of Apple Maps. It was branded a dismal failure, the L’Enfant terrible of iOS 6 upgrade portfolio. FB news feeds flooded with lamentations about awful maps after upgrading to iOS 6.

Tech bloggers lashed out at Apple, calling it a company which had become arrogant in its greatness. Doomsday predictors began asking – is this the end of Apple’s commitment to perfection and its meteoric rise?

All this brouhaha really irked me. For all those going berserk over the Map App fiasco, wouldn’t it be nicer if we could cut Apple some slack and appreciate the benefits of failing early??

I am not an Apple fanboy, but personally I felt the new Maps app was awesome. It brought in radical features like vector-based maps and breathtaking flyover 3D views (my first reaction on seeing the App was “Wow!”). Yeah, the awesome 3D feature resulted in the most terrible goof ups too. But then, online Maps are complex and you cannot perfect it unless you have millions of people sharing it and reporting back to you. Does anyone remember Google Maps when it was first launched?

The point is, with technology cycles moving so quickly, could Apple have afforded to keep the critical Map app under the hood till the next iPhone release? Absolutely not.

The fact is – if anything can go wrong, it will. And the sooner that happens, the better it is for you and your product. And the most valuable company of our times has sent the message – the future is about failing early, failing fast. And if you do make mistakes, admit them quickly and move on.

Well.. Google does it all the time! (remember Google Buzz, Froogle and Google Answers?)

Getting a minimum viable product out into the world is the best way to kick start your idea, whether it is a new book, a business venture, or a project at work. It helps you overcome the fear of failure, test your assumptions and identify constraints in your solution. So go ahead with your new creation. Get it read, experienced and used.

Because usage is like oxygen for ideas. “You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world.”

So fail early. Learn fast!.

And if you are an unflappable cool dude who hates to admit your mistakes or let the world know about your failures – Just fail early..   And then destroy all evidence that you tried!.. 🙂

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

Idea #3: Execution is everything!


When you think of Creativity, what are the thoughts that hit you first?

Well, you might consider it as the ability to come up with shiny, jaw dropping, awe inspiring ideas.

But in my experience, the hard part about Creativity is not about coming up with new ideas at all.

And that is the thought of this week . On their own, ideas are nothing. Execution is everything!

Really !??

Well, we get ideas all the time. In the shower.. while shaving, or brushing our teeth. But it’s the guy who walks out of the shower, dries off and buckles down to work is the one who makes the difference. Writes the bestseller.  Outshines in the workplace. Makes millions.

Okay, I agree that ideas are sexy.. fascinating.. alluring – they inspire confidence in us. But they are also a bunch of dangerous, reckless, wild things. They make us overestimate our ability to execute. And that can hit you very hard – as it happened to the 3 guys here.

In early 2003, a bunch of Harvard seniors stumbled on the idea of creating a dating site for the university. They engaged a freshman to program their site. Well, it turns out that the kid they hired was smarter than they had bargained for. He improved on their idea, built a cool website and launched it himself. The new site created a storm on the Internet, and that kid went on to become one of the world’s youngest billionaires.

You guessed it right. This is the story of Facebook.

The point is, can anyone deny Mark Zuckerberg the credit for Facebook’s success?.  He might not have owned the idea, but then, ideas are tied to reality only by execution. In the movie “The Social network”, Zuckerberg famously says – “ If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”.  Touché!

Friends. Fellows. Countrymen!

The path to success winds through mountains of pain, heartbreaks, heartburns and learning.. And there are so other many factors like vision, talent, analytical insights, passion and most importantly, luck.. An idea is just the beginning!..

That brings us to the next question. Why is understanding this life changing?

Because, if you have a brilliant idea, be sure that this not enough. Brace yourself; you have a long way to go.

And don’t be too upset if someone else stumbled on the same idea as yours.. Execution is everything.. baby!! 🙂

Posted in Technology Talk

The Outsourcing storm ..


obama oscar pic

Last week, there was a furore in India over the US President Barack Obama’s perceived anti-Bangalore-outsourcing statements at a meeting to discuss  US tax policies in the White House. The President was speaking about International Tax Reform, and mentioned flaws in US tax policies that favour companies outsourcing jobs over those that don’t.

Reactions to his statements and tremors were felt everywhere –at home, on TV, in the front page of the daily newspaper and in coffee time chats in office. There was outrage in various sections of the media, with everyone proclaiming “Obama is at it again!”, and criticism of the US president’s anti outsourcing  Obama-isms. The NASSCOM issued a statement that the Indian IT industry is doing quite good, and there is no danger from the newly proposed tax policies of the US.  All this brouhaha piqued my curiosity, and I was inspired to a bit of research on my own.

Agreed, these are competitive times, and everyone wants to be at the top of the pyramid. Yet, we have to acknowledge that Obama has an axe to grind against the outsourcing industry, especially when US is in the midst of the recession. Americans are losing jobs in millions, to be exact – their economy lost another 539,000 jobs in the month of April. So, he is just doing his job. Also, the tirade is not against Bangalore, but an expression of frustration towards a phenomena which has cost thousands of Americans their jobs and livelihoods.

In the last fifty years, there has been a radical shift from the old “Manufacturing Based” economy, to a new “Information Based” economy. The major force of a company is now intangible assets like knowledge, intellect, creativity and brain power.. “…In an information-based economy, it is this human capital and knowledge that creates worth for the firm.”  There is a relentless pursuit to hire and sustain employees which are of high technical value and a level of completion which the industry has never seen before. Under these circumstances, off shoring jobs to skilled personnel in foreign nations seemed to be the obvious choice for many of them. It is all the more relevant at a time when companies are scuttling to aggressively cut costs and boost profits.

However, off shoring is not the crux of all White house economic woes. And coming back to Obama’s original statement about Bangalore, we have a lot to infer from it. I read the text of his statement, and he is talking about the flaws in the tax policies of his country –“… it’s a tax code that says you should pay lower taxes if you create a job in Bangalore, India, than if you create one in Buffalo, New York.” The mention of “Bangalore”  here is not just alliteration, but is symbolic of India’s coming of age in the global economy, and how it is beginning to be perceived as a threat to a Global superpower – both in terms of human resource and technology. We have indeed come a long way – though we still have a long way to go!

Life is like that, and someone’s loss is someone else’s gain. However, we have precious lessons to learn from this. If the world is flat, then it is flat for everyone. So its very easy for fortunes to change – if the opportunities are there for you, there they are there for everyone else too!.. You have to be competitive or critical, differentiate or die – and this is what will give us the edge in the future. We might be competitive under the current circumstances, but we need to move towards becoming critical in terms of ideas, technology, competency and resources.  And the pace at which things are moving, we need to evolve fast!  We need to breed our own Yahoo!s and Googles – because in this laissez-faire and unforgiving economy, the only exclusive competitive advantage you can have  is a brilliant and original idea!!

A link to the President’s address is here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-The-President-On-International-Tax-Policy-Reform/

Posted in My World View, Random thots.., Technology Talk

Globalization 2.0 ?


IPL_logo

This is the IPL season, and cricket is in the air!

So, even though I’m no huge fan of cricket, I ended up watching this hugely successful Indian Premier League match in South Africa – a fiercely contested match between the Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals in Durban, SA. Amidst the huge frenzy in a jam packed stadium full of enthusiastic cricket fans, every four or wicket attracted roaring applause… There was drama, suspense, enthusiasm and trepidation in the air. As the camera zoomed over the cheering spectators cheering for Rajasthan, something struck my mind. Most of the faces cheering for the Rajasthan Royals was that of foreigners, who would’nt even have seen a map of Rajasthan! Come, think of it – a West Indies skipper Chris Gayle representing an Indian city Kolkata is batting against Shane Warne, an Australian bowler representing Rajasthan in a match which is being cheered by South Africans, and the live stream beamed all over India. Indeed, this is symbolic of India’s coming of age in this era of globalization. This is Globalization 2.0!!

Compare and contrast this with Globalization 1.0.

Traditionally, India witnessed huge growth due to globalization and open markets during the last two decades. Basically, the leap was spurred due to the service based industries flourishing from business generated in Europe and the Americas. The booming BPO and the IT industry benefited from jobs being Bangalored, specifically due to the growth of the Internet and the subsequent “flattening” of the world. But essentially, we grew as service providers and not business generators. The IPL has just changed that!!

It has transformed the way the world looks at India, and generated millions in spending and revenue, even in the middle of a recession.It is indeed heartening to see that an idea conceptualized in India has metamorphosed the face of cricket forever. Generating a huge business not only in India but also in South Africa, the IPL has ignited enthusiasm even in the US, a country that traditionally never played cricket.

It is a huge branding exercise, with innovation and a fresh approach to the way sports is marketed. A heady concoction of Bollywood, Business, Cricket and Glamour has all been pre-packaged into an irresistible package called the Indian Premier League. Capturing the imagination of millions of spectators throughout the world, the IPL is a show of corporate power, with thorough professionalism and determination in the face of all odds. The T20 format has been exploited so efficiently, ensuring that every match is the edge-of-the-seat thriller with a nail biting finish!
The Indian in “IPL” is what makes it most special, making it a defining event in the history of Indian Business. Kudos to the revolution – Hail IPL!! 😀