August 31, 2010

Myth & realty of Customer Delight!

A corporation must strategize its engagements plan with the customer in order to have a healthy top line over longer period. A corporation must attempt to create an engaging dialogue with target consumers and stimulate their engagement with the brand.

Reams of literature exist that stresses the need for focusing on the Consumer engagement & Delight in order to have financial profit from the enterprise. But what is the reality of the real market in India? How many consumer durables companies have a customer complaint/feedback button on their website? In the FMCG domain the scenario is no different. The E2E or B2B markets have different mechanisms to deal with negative feedback. No durable or FMCG company in India has a formulated Customer Grievance policy that could be set in motion in case of negative feedback & assist the executive to remedy the hurt/loss. What does it mean? All that ‘marketing talk’ on customer comes first are mere sham or myth? Check any company budget templates and try search the allocation &appropriation for complain redress?  Where is the marketing in India?
Another important misunderstanding about marketing in Indian context is about the relationship between Consumer engagement & consumer satisfaction. As per wiki,” Customer engagement has been discussed widely online; hundreds of pages have been written, published, read and commented upon. Numerous high-profile conferences, seminars and roundtables have either had CE as a primary theme or included papers on the topic. Customer engagement marketing places conversions into a longer term, more strategic context and is premised on the understanding that a simple focus on maximising conversions can, in some circumstances, decrease the likelihood of repeat conversions (Customer engagement interview with Richard Sedley). CE aims at long-term engagement, encouraging customer loyalty and advocacy through word-of-mouth.”
Customer Engagement in services is more critical than in the products because of the nature & ownership issues. Most Marketing managers focus more on satisfying the customers at the primary product level without strategizing the process of engagements. In a scenario of less importance to marketing in the deficit markets of India/ China nature most companies are confused in allocation of resources between Engagements & Satisfaction. Such a situation would mean the once you have a strategically great product, price & promotion you need not factor in the issues of engagements.
I have researched the problems with my client organizations and the market at large. The service companies must have a defined engagements policy that could maintain the consumer trust resulting in financial success for the corporation. Some of my recommendations are:
1.       Engaging consumer in pre, sale & post sale needs strategic stance.
2.       A satisfied customer can forget you so needs reminder
3.       A bad situation can be converted into a gain with the help of quality engagement.
4.       An engaged customer has more value than the satisfied only.
5.       Quantity & quality of the communication must be calibrated with a bias for quantity in deficit markets like India. 

Myth & realty of Customer Delight!

A corporation must strategize its engagements plan with the customer in order to have a healthy top line over longer period. A corporation must attempt to create an engaging dialogue with target consumers and stimulate their engagement with the brand.

Reams of literature exist that stresses the need for focusing on the Consumer engagement & Delight in order to have financial profit from the enterprise. But what is the reality of the real market in India? How many consumer durables companies have a customer complaint/feedback button on their website? In the FMCG domain the scenario is no different. The E2E or B2B markets have different mechanisms to deal with negative feedback. No durable or FMCG company in India has a formulated Customer Grievance policy that could be set in motion in case of negative feedback & assist the executive to remedy the hurt/loss. What does it mean? All that ‘marketing talk’ on customer comes first are mere sham or myth? Check any company budget templates and try search the allocation &appropriation for complain redress?  Where is the marketing in India?
Another important misunderstanding about marketing in Indian context is about the relationship between Consumer engagement & consumer satisfaction. As per wiki,” Customer engagement has been discussed widely online; hundreds of pages have been written, published, read and commented upon. Numerous high-profile conferences, seminars and roundtables have either had CE as a primary theme or included papers on the topic. Customer engagement marketing places conversions into a longer term, more strategic context and is premised on the understanding that a simple focus on maximising conversions can, in some circumstances, decrease the likelihood of repeat conversions (Customer engagement interview with Richard Sedley). CE aims at long-term engagement, encouraging customer loyalty and advocacy through word-of-mouth.”
Customer Engagement in services is more critical than in the products because of the nature & ownership issues. Most Marketing managers focus more on satisfying the customers at the primary product level without strategizing the process of engagements. In a scenario of less importance to marketing in the deficit markets of India/ China nature most companies are confused in allocation of resources between Engagements & Satisfaction. Such a situation would mean the once you have a strategically great product, price & promotion you need not factor in the issues of engagements.

I have researched the problems with my client organizations and the market at large. The service companies must have a defined engagements policy that could maintain the consumer trust resulting in financial success for the corporation. Some of my recommendations are:
1.       Engaging consumer in pre, sale & post sale needs strategic stance.
2.       A satisfied customer can forget you so needs reminder
3.       A bad situation can be converted into a gain with the help of quality engagement.
4.       An engaged customer has more value than the satisfied only.
5.       Quantity & quality of the communication must be calibrated with a bias for quantity in deficit markets like India. 

August 28, 2010

What you must learn in an MBA

When the name of the department of commerce & business management at Punjab University Chandigarh was changed to the University Business School it was considered an exercise in ‘marketing’. ‘Marketing’, in India particularly, is understood as an additional activity of hyperbolic nature. MBA is still taught in many [most] b-schools in India as another commerce course.

An MBA student wishes to learn about the ‘business’ scenario around her/him so that they could develop an understanding about it. Most MBA classrooms can be heard discussing myths about industry that has no relevance to the actual shop floor. You have scores of MBA graduates who have never written a business/marketing or financial plan in a class room. The first and foremost part of learning in an average MBA program is to develop skills to write a plan. Though plan writing is mentioned in the syllabus but the student never gets a chance to learn it.

Knowledge about the industry in the local & global context is very crucial. I have met many MBA students & teachers who have heard about the TATA, Reliance & Bhartis of India but have never bothered to visit their website or care to read the reports to find the crucial numbers. A student must understand how various corporations work so that they could prepare to deal with them.

The functional approach in MBA should be mixed with sectoral knowledge. What I mean is that discussions about a particular sector of industry are necessary to develop a deep understanding about it amongst students. Why should a student learn about FMCG sector if s/he is aspiring to join durables industry? Agree that all knowledge is good but let us first develop understanding about one’s own domain before spreading thin into another plane.

Generally it is seen that beyond few management institutes others places do not study about b2b and the industrial goods industries. This results in lack of appreciation amongst the students about this important sector that discourages them for joining it for a career.

MBA/PGDM course seems to be losing its attractiveness in India due to factors that are controllable if the owners, managements and faculty care to look seriously at the quality of the 
the content in the class room.

August 26, 2010

Sacrifice your Star for the Crowd

India has seen considerable growth in the service sector particularly the ITES during the past couple of decades. The growth of this sector has slowed down due many reasons external to the Indian economy.  But there have been major internal challenges too. One such impediment that is internal to an organization is the lack of Internal Marketing.

The first waves of ITES companies were closely aligned with their global partners therefore it was easy to bring in systems, processes & practices that have been followed in the global context. The market was agog with their employee friendly policies and five star office spaces. Therefore talented people never stopped looking for such organizations. The scene has changed a lot.

Just a causal walk into any IT park in India would apprise you of spaces that once were buzzing with youthful activity. What has gone wrong with India’s ITES dream? The answer is pretty dumb. Once Indian managements took over such facilities they turned it into what they knew best, a product centric approach to business rather than intensity of service management.

The scaling down of quality due to several business and other considerations has affected the delivery process so crucial to an ITES enterprise.  Internal marketing have been ignored or forgotten. Training & development have been reduced to mere ceremonies. Once the delivery quality suffered it was normal for the client to change the vendor leading to weak financial performance.

Business organizations in service sector have to leave the HR policies hardened over the product marketing fire in a closed market. Internal marketing & quality of the internal customers would be the only two crucial parameters of success of a company in Education, Hospitality, ITES, Energy & Telecom domain.  Investment in the internal customers & their quality must go up as they only determine the delivery.

A service company must not live on the old fashioned adage of ‘organization is bigger than an individual’ and let its great people leave them for greener pastures. No HR policies must restrain a service organization to pamper their stars performers for the elusive search of team building. You would have bigger team if you are successful, that is just a consequence of an inspired leadership of an individual. Teams are great but greater are your talented people. How would you rate the success of Apple computers without maverick Chief Steve jobs? If your operations are global then it pays to play by global rules. 

Gurinder S Ahluwalia

August 20, 2010

Challenges Confronting Family owned Mid-Size Companies

Recently I’ve had the chance of listening to an old hand senior person from a fast growing mid-size Company making an introductory presentation about the organization from two years old slides that had names of people who had left the company job too. You could understand the impact he would have made on the audience about the organization he represented. Surely he didn't realize the damage he would do to the reputation of the business.

Family owned mid-sized companies all over the globe have to transition through the trauma of resolving the dichotomy of performance v/s loyalty.  The reverberations of this tumult have long reached to our India but many of us did not give much importance to solving this strategic issue leading to grave consequences for many mid-sized companies.  The jury is still out & a final call has to be taken at the earliest to keep the monster of failure away from the land of new opportunities.

Our mid- sized companies owned by established  family run business houses look like a fascinating kaleidoscope that could be admired for their beauty & size but have no definite strategic pattern that could offer equilibrium and stability to keep them on the growth path for long. 

Indian economy and the business organizations are experiencing unprecedented period of continuous growth which is presenting them with new challenges. Indian business organizations have been used to the organic way of growth and slowdown cycle since a couple of generations. They have never anticipated such long period of continuous change, therefore they have no strategies to keep the organization in equilibrium state while keeping the foot firmly on the accelerator.

Strategic equilibrium, during the growth phase of an organization, is a state of arranging the available resources in a manner so as to provide support to the infusion of new talent & resources to build on the momentum.  Many companies in India have grown leaps & bound in the past decade & most of them have diversified into several unrelated areas presented by the Indian economy.  Such companies have had long periods of organic growth & stability. The fast paced growths into diverse businesses have presented a major challenge to their strategic core competencies that such business houses had acquired over the generations.

A leading auto components engineering company that was established two generations ago presents a happy picture of growth with on the job trained manpower vying for attention amidst a smattering of ambitious smart engineers. You have latest machines silently working alongside improvised technologies of the past.  We have long been known as the land of ‘Jugaad’. A Jugaad is a contraption that gives almost similar but low- grade-less-efficient output as the original equipment would produce.  This was working as long as the level of technology in the country was low & not exposed to the global competition.

Most large organizations have understood the message and overhauled old technologies with swanky new generation lines. But still there are some mid to large size organizations that refuses to go for complete change as they are bound more by their attitudes & tradition than lack of resources or competencies. Sooner such companies upgrade to next level of technology better it would be for them to keep pace with the constant changes in future. This would improve their efficiency & bottom line.

There are similar challenges facing the growing companies with regard to their HR policies & plans too. Small organizations that have grown over the years from small fledgling businesses with few closely knit group of people to large diverse teams, find themselves at the crossroads today in resolving the conflict between rewarding loyalties and recognizing trail blazing performance.  They are increasingly finding themselves straddling the piquant situation of striking a balance between rewarding the years of loyalty and recognizing the performance of the recently joined new age talented professionals.  My close encounters with some mid-size engineering & technology organizations reveal the true dimensions of this harrowing conflict.  Such conflict of interests in a traditional society like India has disastrous consequences for the enterprise thus scuttling its growth.

Corporate world today is replete with incidents of unwanted  show downs between long serving employees having ordinary education, low motivation or desire for growth & change, having  average performance and the new age professionally qualified people burning with zest for competitive growth & consequent change. Indian corporate is certainly going through the generational shift for the better, hence would require professionals with higher appetite for growth and an attitude for adjusting with high rate of change in the environment. The companies of the future would be those who develop robust systems geared to factor in ever present change in the environment.

Let us face it; India is competing with global firms therefore ‘Jugaad’ days would soon be over. The new age companies would require skilled qualified professional to run them.  In such a scenario the organizations would have no choice but to create systems & processes that could engage the tech savvy professionals to fuel the growth in a fiercely competitive world. The loyalty has to give way to performance because any assets that are not aligned to the growth principle would hurt the prospects of the company and make it noncompetitive. 

Gurinder S. Ahluwalia is a Strategic Marketing Consultant based out of Chandigarh India. guriahluwalia@gmail.com  9417723313

August 7, 2010

What’s not wrong with the golden bird?

Well there are people & groups in India that talk about the ancient glory of India, and others who do not seem to agree with the opinion. I have grown up hearing that once upon a time India was a golden bird, sparrow to be precise, then hordes of marauding armies attacked us and plundered our wealth rendering us a poor place. In the 80s, as a young boy in love with himself I tried to seek out explanations about several shortcomings that plague my identity & persona.

Youth in general are beautifully free from all the muck of centuries that pollute our mental spaces. Those were the goggleless days, so you got to find & read books. Reading books is a markedly different from reading online as books have physical & more sensual contact with the reader.

Excuse me for saying that books are sexy. The youth would reject it & the traditionalist would disown me. Anyways books exude a warmer charm unlike the cold plastic feel you get from your personal computer. Wish the pc maker change the plastic feel that comes when you touch a machine.

Returning back to the topic of what’s not wrong with India, let me say that the most glorious thing about India is that it has not yet given up. Uh! India is a survivor. You can notice a look of struggle to succeed writ large on the faces of millions of Indians. Despite in the face problems like population, poverty, cultural shit, & lack of character there still bloom a lonely Infosys & Naraynamurthy, TATA under Rattan, PM Manmohan Singh and more like them. They are our hopes of a better world India sans cultural bias, efficient, incorruptible, and hard working.

When I was in Universities in my youth most of us agreed that it’s not possible to succeed in India without being morally, culturally & financially corrupt.  So we thought that those of us who have character, charisma & knowledge would not succeed in India and would have to migrate to a place outside India. That explains why so many Punjabi youth longs to get out of India on a first available flight. But the scene has changed in the last decade. I do tell my son that now it’s possible to work hard & succeed in India now.

India is bogged down by its not so glorious past, so sooner we get rid of that and move on better it would be for India.

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