The ANALyst

Leverage, optimise, synergise

Brand (R)evolution


A few days back I visited BBS to have a look at a typical day and attend a classroom session. One of the events included in the day’s schedule was BBS’s marketing club’s annual panel discussion. The event was titled Brand (R)evolution i.e. brand evolution vs brand revolution. The keynote speaker was the GM of Nokia Emerging Economy.

Brand evolution, as the name suggests, refers to the organic growth of a brand. This could refer to a high-end cosmetics maker moving into high-end fragrances. Brand revolution on the other hand refers to a complete shift in the intended market of the product. For example, Nokia making watches. Brand revolution, according to the GM, is a lot more risky than evolution. Not only may the new intended audience not accept the product, but the brand runs the risk of alienating its established customer base. A conservative financial services institution (if any such things exist) that caters to an older audience might scare away its existing customer base if it started offering (and advertising) a lot of high risk investment products to a younger market.

This is not to say brand revolution never works. Better known and respected brands have a better chance at revolution than other brands. Lets take the example of the Virgin group. What started of as a music records selling business has now diversified into airlines, cola, railways etc etc – i.e. almost everything under the sun.

Why do I bring this up? Apart from it being a very interesting talk by the GM of Nokia EE, it is also a very relevant problem facing strategy consultants working in the customer and market space. Often, in a bid to move ahead of the competition, companies tend to think a bit too out-of-the-box, moving in a direction that is not only costly, but in the end proves futile. This can be especially true in a recessionary environment. It is an age old saying, “When in trouble, go back to the basics”. This holds true in this situation as well. Always build on your core competency. Do not diversify in a way that will hurt your core product or your core market.

Having said that, brand revolution certainly has its place. In boom times, when things are good and you have cash to spare, not only is it a good idea but sometimes it may be the only idea. Even then one can’t be complacent – a good idea may not always translate into a good product/service. Companies need to watch out for ‘escalation of commitment’ or ‘sunk cost fallacy’. These refer to a phenomena where companies keep investing in projects (new products, services etc.) even if they are not yielding good returns. Ideas that do not work need to be chopped. Period.

What are your thoughts on brand (r)evolution? Feel free to share.

PS – Thanks to the GM of Nokia Emerging Economy for his insightful talk on the same.

 

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November 16, 2009 Posted by | Consulting, General | 1 Comment

Disaster strikes


Well today was supposed to be an historic occasion. It was meant to be the day when the ANALyst conquered the obstacle called GMAT. It was the day he was meant to showcase his verbal quantitative superiority over lesser mortals. It was the day, when the first of four obstacles towards getting into the hallowed grounds of the bschool would be removed.

Only, it didn’t. The ANALyst managed to f**k up. Yes, impossible as it sounds, that is exactly what happened. The ANALyst managed to run out of time in the quantitative section without attempting the last eight questions. EIGHT questions unanswered in a GMAT is as good as dead.

Ended up with a disastrous 640, which by any stretch of my imagination isn’t going to get me admission into a top-school. Not with only two and a half years of work experience, even if one of those years was spent in the Emerging Economy.

Given, that it is already mid-November and I haven’t really started on the essays, doing the GMAT again in December would be a tad late for round 2 applications this year. So I guess, this means no b-school in ’10 :-(.

What happens to me now? Well, I frankly don’t know!!! I was pretty set on applying to b-school this year, but seems like some higher soul had other plans. If you guys have any ideas, please let me know. For once The ANALyst is listening!

November 10, 2009 Posted by | B-School, Life | 8 Comments

Another visit to BBS.


Having created a username and password at the application page of BBS (refer earlier post), I got invited to the Student’s Conclave today. It was a whole day event from 10 am to 7 pm. Thanks to a lack of sleep, completely attributed to alcohol and project work, I almost didn’t make it. However, given that this would be the only chance I would get to attend a classroom session at any b-school prior to joining one, I decided against passing up on the opportunity.

The day started off with the invited prospective students to join the marketing club’s annual panel discussion event at the main auditorium (separate post on that later). The panel discussion event lasted for about three hours, most of which was quite interesting.

This was followed by lunch for the invited prospective students. Having dozed off during the announcements, I had little idea as to the location where the delicacies were being served. I ended up wandering around the campus instead. The campus is beautiful, serene and modern. Facilities are state of the art and the accomodation on par with hotels (fully serviced). In the course of this little adventure, I bumped into another lost soul looking for the lunch venue. He happened to be a Big4 consultant from the Big Apple, who decided he wanted to return to his motherland for b-school and the life beyond.

Next session was the one I was most looking forward to. A classroom case study, with one of the professors, titled “Negotiations in the corporate world”. Aah! Why not! While the prospectives gathered in the assigned lecture hall, one over enthusiastic soul decided to take charge, “While we are waiting, why don’t we introduce ourselves and where we come from….our backgrounds and which round are we applying to…” My new found friend from the Big Apple gave me the “What the **** is wrong with this guy look”. I concurred. What a twerp!

Anyway, the professor strode in and much to my disappointment, announced that instead of the case study he would just have a discussion on negotiations! Apparently, one hour wasn’t enough for him to conduct a meaningful case study. He distributed a set of questions where you are meant to make a decision, followed by a discussion on the same. It was supposed to enlighten the students on errors made during decision making in the absence of complete information. By all means, the points he made were very valid and a lot of the class seemed to enjoy it. There were lots of “ahaa” moments. However, it wasn’t something any decent consultant with more than two months work experience wouldn’t know already. I don’t blame the professor though – he was catering to a very wide audience with the majority being fairly young people.

The last session (or atleast the last that I attended), was about the various student run clubs at BBS. Mainly generic stuff present at most good b-schools.

Overall impression – still unchanged from my previous experience, although I really liked the calibre of people they had invited to the marketing panel discussion. Was also impressed with the knowledge and background of the above mentioned professor, although it was a shame, I did not get to see a real classroom case study. Applicant pool – fairly diverse (atleast in terms of industry and experience, if not nationality).

Will I apply? Probably! No harm  in applying is there. Will I go there if selected? I don’t know yet!

November 9, 2009 Posted by | B-School | 1 Comment

Venus Strikes II


A month ago, I posted about the biggest problem confronting me at the time. Well here’s an update on the same. Having not found a single useful powerpoint deck that I could use to woo the “exotic girl in foriegn land”, I decided to take ResIpsa’s advice of “Just Do It”.

“Just Do It” however does not equate to “Just Tell Her”. That would be so “unconsultant-like” . It had to be done in style, with flair, passion and enthusiasm, highlighting my core attributes and negating the rumors (so often true) spread about me by lesser mortals. The consultant had to be proposed on another project!

First, the scene had to be set. The exotic girl in foreign land had to be given a few hints. BTW, by this point we had graduated from Facebook chats to “real” conversations on Skype (thank you messrs Facebook and Skype). The perfect opportunity came during a casual conversation, which went something like this,

Me: Did you finally manage to submit that ******* corporate comms assignment?

EGIFL: Yeah, just about…had to sit up all night for it…but yeah I got it done.

Me (sounding impressed): Not bad…you deserve a chocolate!

EGIFL: yeah sure…send me some…I mean now….can you do that…c’mon send something through that silly computer screen

This is where the powers of Google, the cellphone and my credit card combine to eliminate all challenges posed by the 7904.7 kilometers of sea and earth separating me and the exotic girl.

Step 1: Open internet browser (if not already open)

Step 2: Google “Chocolate delivery in *********”

Step 3: Acquire phone number for maker of gourmet chocolates.

Step 4: Dial above number

Step 5: Make small talk with the lady picking the phone (if a guy picks the phone, hang up and repeat steps 2 to 5)

Step 6: Order chocolate, reveal credit card number

Step 7: Watch horrified look on exotic girl’s face as she watches all this happening live through Skype.

Step 8: Scene is set.

Having set the scene pretty well with actions like the above, it was time to take the next step. Now that was going to be a real challenge. While I would have preferred the Eiffel tower or Walt Disney World, the realist in me decided that they were probably a bit “out-of-scope”. Now I had been told in no uncertain terms that the telephone and IM were not acceptable means of taking the next step, irrespective of the distance. That left me with the only option of having to travel to the Old World. My commitments (aka projects) in the Emerging Economy, however, would not afford me such an opportunity until early next year. And three months is a long time to wait.

I had to introspect and dig real deep. And then it struck me – it was so simple! Two things consultants are very good at, are negotiations and compromises with the clients. This was no different. Exotic Girl was my client and I had to negotiate and get her to compromise. Did it work….hell yeah!!! After all I am a consultant…I am superman!!!

Epilogue: We agreed on a soft go-live, i.e. pilot launch, to be conducted on Facebook so that we seal the deal and create the terms of reference until I am able to travel to the Old World early next year for the more formal go-live!

November 2, 2009 Posted by | Life | 1 Comment

ANALysis of the best business school in the Emerging Economy


The Emerging Economy’s best business school (BBS henceforth) was conducting an information session today which I decided to grace with my presence. The school is only 6 or 7 years old but has managed to rank within the top 20 in the Financial Times MBA rankings for 2009. Not bad!!!

Although, given that this school was founded with the blessings of the then Managing Director of McClumsy and literally who’s who of the Emerging Economy’s business world, there was little reason for this school to not be a phenomenal success. So let’s begin the ANALyst’s assessment of the Emerging Economy’s best b-school

1. Reputation and Ranking

BBS’ reputation as the best in the Emerging Economy is unquestioned. It is the school that all applicants in the Emerging Economy with any sort of work experience aspire to get in to. Financial Times has ranked the school within the top 20 in the world, which for a six year old school is just unbelievable.

Furthermore, the school has alliances with the likes of Cornflakes, CityBoy Business School across the pond and that other famous school which is neither in the west coast nor in Boston.

2. Coursework

BBS offers a one year course beginning and ending in April, the start time being quite a departure from convention. It claims not to have compromised on course material by really compressing the material and “not offering any holidays at all”. The faculty is a mixture of resident and visiting faculty. Resident faculty are mainly from the Emerging Economy, but who were previously faculty members in the US business schools and have now decided to return to their homeland.

Visiting faculty are from all over the world, and I got the impression that they really put in a lot of effort to get the best people to teach the courses. All the popular majors are offered, with the exception of Human Resources. They claim that so far there hasn’t been enough demand amongst the students to get enough electives to constitute a major in HR. Change management electives however do exist.

3. Post MBA Job Opportunities

Plentiful – if you wish to work in the Emerging Economy. All the multinational corporates are present on campus and recruit heavily. In terms of the names of companies, you could mistake the bschool as one being in the US.

BUT, and this is a big but, most of these companies recruit for their operations within the Emerging Economy and not for overseas ops. So for instance if you wanted to do an MBA at that school in Boston and then wished to cross the pond – perfectly doable. Here….not so sure.

Furthermore, I wasn’t very impressed with the post b-school salaries. They didn’t seem like a large figure compared with global standards. Those in the Emerging Economy already working in finance or business consulting, will probably not see much of a jump at all.

However, if you are amongst the one-fifth of all graduates offered places overseas, your pay is comparable to that anywhere in the world.

4. Alumni

Being only a six year old school, it would be unfair to expect the alumni size or influence to compare with that of the other b-schools of the world. Having said that, the alumni network does seem like a very tight and closed bunch – almost like a frat. Going forward, this will only increase and get better.

5. Networking

I feel that this is an achilles heel for the school at the moment. Again, not for the fault of the school itself, but given that it is a six year old institution, it still does not attract the diversity of students from around the globe that the schools in the Old and the New World do.

BBS is taking steps to counter this, having set up exchange programs with many of the best schools around the world and I think with time, we will begin to see a much more diverse pool. But as of today, the interaction opportunities are limited.

6.Calibre of students

Technically – brilliant. Measured in quantitative ability alone, they would be amongst the best in the world. What do you expect when 65% of the admitted students have an undergraduate degree in engineering!

Soft skills – needs improvement. For the most part, they are not the typical suave, smooth, consultant type people you see in most b-schools. While that is not a measure of ability, it does tend to reduce the perception of ability as a b-school graduate.

Bottomline:

I think BBS is a great school, that has really come places in six years. It is the ideal school should you wish to work or do business in the Emerging Economy or the surroundings. But if your primary choice of work place is either the Old or the New World, I would still recommend you go to one of the schools there.

November 1, 2009 Posted by | B-School | 6 Comments

Sunday Afternoon


It is Sunday afternoon and I am procrastinating. In no order of priority the following are the things I need to get done

  1. Start B-school essays
  2. Start GMAT study (exam in the 2nd week of Nov)
  3. Some PM stuff for the project I am managing at work at the moment
  4. Write an article for a newsletter at work (They want to know my experience of the Emerging Economy so far…arrrrrgggghhhh!)
  5. Wash my clothes (arrrghh x2)
  6. Clean my room
  7. Eat lunch (luckily I don’t have to make it, the cost of living at the Emerging Economy allows me to outsource the cooking)

Now that’s a lot of work for a Sunday afternoon. Especially considering I’ve had three weeks of 20 hour days non-stop. Apart from the sheer intensity of the project, working in different timezones also takes its toll. And I thought I was going to have a relaxing few months here (never ever assume)!

Anyway I need to get back to my procrastination…..and a few beers….cheers!!!

October 25, 2009 Posted by | General Rambling | 4 Comments

Writing the B-School Apps


Is this process insane or what?

Why do I need to bare my soul in front of the B-schools of the world? Where do I fit the essay writing process into my 18 hour workdays? Can’t they just take a peek into my mind and figure things out for themselves (and they claim they are smart)? Oh and I haven’t even started about the GMAT. In the midst of all this you want me to….what….write an exam???

This is preposterous! How dare you ask the advisor to CEOs; the mentor to aspiring consultants; the protege to world leaders; the superman of Powerpoint; the conqueror of Excel; and the saviour of the Emerging Economy to prove his mettle in trivial algebra and punctuation? Never have I faced a bigger insult…ever!

What??? You want me to get you letters of recommendation? Don’t you ever watch CNN you imbecilic moron? If you don’t know me already, your school is not a place I want to be!

That was the ANALyst’s two minute rant on the mountain of work that lies in front of him as this bedouin tries to prepare for the next step in the journey called life.

September 30, 2009 Posted by | General Rambling | 9 Comments

Venus Strikes!


Over the past month and a half, I’ve been settling in to Emerging Economy, as you very well know. The transition hasn’t been the smoothest. There have been issues to deal with, from the bureaucratic to the cultural. Having overcome all those obstacles, just when I thought I had properly settled into the Emerging Economy, another issue has arisen. See, this is that type of issue which you never budget for; usually do not plan for; and hence when it does occur you are completely and utterly lost.

Enter exotic girl in foriegn land!

I guess you are beginning to see the point – the sheer magnitude of the dilemma.

While her ancestors referred to the Emerging Economy as their homeland, the girl herself does not reside within its territorial authority. In fact she now calls the Old World her home.

It all started about eight months ago, at a casual meeting, at a friend’s place. At that point, the thought that I would ever interact with her again, let alone fall truly, madly and deeply in love with her had never crossed my mind. Being a consultant, I was taught that the word “Network” is more important than the word “Mom”. Adding acquaintances to my Facebook account then, was only natural. Facebook then (eight months is a long time in tech parlance), was merely a social networking portal, not a part of your life. That happened later, when Zuckerburg decided to add the chat feature. This was May 2009. That chat feature is the source of my troubles!

What should never have been anything more than a “Hi, remember me?” type of conversation four months ago has now turned into an obsession where I can’t sleep if I haven’t spoken to her at least twice a day. To be frank, even then I can’t sleep! My mind seems preoccupied with her thoughts all the time. You see that’s not it, weirder things have happened to me. I do not notice other girls anymore; I do not go to clubs on Friday nights anymore for the fear of getting hooked to another female; and what’s infinitely worse is that I’ve been told that I am so lost in my thoughts that Salma Hayek could walk past nude and I wouldn’t notice!

The funniest part is – She (exotic girl in foriegn land) talks to me everyday, twice a day, but has no idea that I am truly, madly and deeply in love with her. I haven’t told her yet because:

  1. I wish to do so in person.
  2. I am not sure how it is possible to fall in love long distance with a girl living 7904.7 kilometers away, on Facebook!!!! Ever heard of that???
  3. I am still not sure if it’s love. But then again, if something forces me into celibacy with every other chick, then it has to be love, hasn’t it?
  4. I haven’t yet found a powerpoint deck which tells me what to do in this situation!

So in the twenty something years of my existence, having traveled to over a 100 cities in 20 countries; having advised executives at various companies on problems that seem impossible to solve; having jumped out of aircrafts at 15,000 feet with nothing but nylon to keep me alive; having acquainted myself to exotic females in five continents; having quit my job and relocating to the other side of the world on a whim; and having survived through obstacles most people can only dream off; I fear I have now been thrown a problem that I have no idea how to solve!

Before I close this post, I shall leave you with a short incident that took place yesterday. Usually, I take all my calls at my desk – the effort required to find an empty meeting room is too discouraging. I even make personal calls from my desk phone – they aren’t more than 30 seconds long anyway. Yet when I felt the urge to talk to her last evening, the first thing I did is booked a meeting room for thirty minutes and then dialled her from my cell. Why? Because

Cost of dialling from my desk phone = $2

Cost of dialling from my cell phone = $10

Having your private space in the midst of 5000 people = Priceless!!!

September 23, 2009 Posted by | Life | 5 Comments

ANALysis of the Emerging Economy


Perhaps I should clarify that this is an analysis of my company only and not the country as a whole. Before I begin, let me ask you a question:

What if Superman never ever realized he had special powers?

The question above seems to best summarize the situation at my new company (referred to as The Company henceforth). The Company is basically an offshore office of a large global entity, as is common in the Emerging Economy. It was initially setup with the idea of reducing costs – surprise surprise!!!

However, in the years since the office was setup, two important things have happened:

  1. People in the Emerging Economy have picked up vital skills, so much so, that they could replace any of their counterparts in the west. And given that there is no shortage of people here, it means there is no shortage of skills.
  2. People in the west, seeing that a lot of their work can now be done by cheaper resources offshore, have moved away from developing skills in these areas. Which means, fewer skilled people in the west.

These factors combined with the global financial crisis have resulted in the offshore office becoming a key strategic partner of the wider organization – you would think this puts the offshore delivery center in a rather envious and powerful position, doesn’t it!

It does – only, no one here seems to realize the leverage they hold. The idea of taking control does not seem to have occurred as of now. The idea that their position allows them to do truly wonderful things and become something like a power sharing center, just hasn’t occurred. Now don’t get me wrong – I am not suggesting a mutiny or anything silly of that sort – but I am saying that knowing what you are capable of and where you stand not only allows you an advantage compared to the rest of the organization, but also against your competitors. This benefits The Company as a whole.

The other thing that seems to lack here is innovation. Innovation, not in terms of work delivery, but innovation in terms of really designing and coming up with revenue generating opportunities. Somehow, the people here tend to believe that all the thinking must be done at the mothership. Reality check – new ideas don’t necessarily come from the 60 year old veterans but from the young people coming out of college – does not matter where in the world they happen to be located.

Much as I love the Emerging Economy, and I think this place has great potential (for my wallet too), I am a bit frustrated at how little the people here work towards empowering themselves. If only they knew what they could do – the world as we know it would change significantly!

It’s as if Superman hasn’t yet been enlightened!

September 19, 2009 Posted by | Emerging Economy | 6 Comments

The Eagle has Landed


Sorry for the hiatus ladies and gentlemen, but the transition to the “emerging economy” did not go as smoothly as anticipated. Silly bureaucratic glitches have made life a tad harder for the last couple of weeks. Add to that a severe bout of flu decided to attack and decimate me. I have just about won the war with the flu though…I think!

Some initial observations from the “emerging economy”

1. This place is just buzzing with people. If you thought NY was busy, take a look here.

2. You will be completely hypnotised by the sights, smells, sounds and colors. It’s weird and beautiful at the same time.

3. This place works 24×7. That’s right – this place never sleeps – literally. Thought shift work was only for back office service centers – think again!!!

4. Decades of underinvestment in infrastructure has resulted in complete chaos. Demand is crying out for supply. Roads, airports, houses, sewers – you name it, they need it. (Hint: Buy shares in infrastructure companies in this emerging economy.)

5. It is still incredibly cheap to live here. House rent, servants to do your cooking and cleaning, all under $300 a month. Wow!!!

6. While renting in some places maybe cheap, don’t even think of buying a pad in the more expensive areas. It will make Manhattan real estate look reasonable in comparison.

7, 8, 9 and 10. Food, food, food……..

Anecdotes coming up soon. Stay tuned!

September 6, 2009 Posted by | Life | 6 Comments