Mahalaya – The day heralding the Durga Puja

We, the Bengalis wake up on this day, listening to the dream music to our ears, the recitation of Birendra Kishore’s Mahalaya poetry. This heralds the  traditional 6-day countdown to Mahasaptami. Goddess Durga visits the earth for only four days but seven days prior to the Pujas, starts the Mahalaya. The enchanting voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra fill up the predawn hours of the day thus marking the beginning of ” devipaksha ” and the beginning of the count-down of Durga Puja.

Ayi Giri Nandini Nandita Medini, Visva Vinodini Nandinute Giri Vara
Vindhya Shirodhini Vasini Vishnuvilaasini, Jisnunute Bhagavati He ShitikaNthakutumbini
Bhoorikutumbini Bhoorikrute Jaya Jaya He, Mahishaasuramardhini

How long do Bengalis all over the world wait for this day? For us, the Bengalis, the clan producing the sons like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhash Chandra, Bose, Satyajit Roy and so on.. this is what the Christmas is to our Christian brothers, the Id-ul-fitr is to our brothers of Islam, and so on. We, the “Bongs” across the world keenly wait for this day when we may return to our roots and look forward to a week full of magic with all those artifacts that we are identified with.

While our current Gen-X may sometimes be lost when it comes to identifying with our roots, this is the day that knocks us back to our senses and makes us get back to what we hold so dearly, our cultural roots. The expectations and memories from the Durga Puja are so high amongst our clan that where-ever we are, at that moment, we all hope or wish that were we in Kolkata when the puja will happen. We guys eagerly wait to don the Punjabis while our female counterparts dress up in Saris in anticipation of creating a few fluttering hearts, and sometime, ensnare a hopelessly romantic dolt with her charm.  The kids dress up and play, firing their toy-guns (caps) and the occasional sound of crackers and very recently, whistles and horns, play the perfect foil to merry-making. This is the time when the “Mashimas”,  “Boudis” and “Didis” with that “Para’r danpite meye” unite to play with the flavor of the crimson magic. This is the time we unite across generations and pay homage to our seniors. This is the time when nuclear families reunite in infectious joy. This is the time when the elderly, stop harping about the tormenting life, and enjoy the fruits of harmony with their younger counterparts. This is the time when the school going kids, are relieved of their burden from those nightmarish study-books and they are free to reign their world of fairy-land.

Yes, this is what Durga Puja brings to us. But unfortunately, although we “Bongs” would like to share the magic with all our Non-Bong friends, they would really not be in a position to savor the actual flavor of this delicacy. But, true to our roots, it is through the pursuit of these differences and these identities of our culture, we find meaning in our life. Otherwise, we are just another robot planted on this tormenting planet wonder, to play our role on the grander stage of life.

Three cheers to the Mahalaya, which heralds the Durga Puja.

And I wish I could do better justice to our roots with an ode to our cultural roots, but unfortunately, I have my limitations as a serious poet.

Why should you have a Corporate Social Network

Often, there is very little to differentiate between the winners and the “not-winners” in the race for corporate seniority in the industry. What creates that illusive competitive advantage for those who actually succeed. In most cases, it is not capabilities to deliver the goods that count but the winner’s socializing capability. So what benefits does a Corporate Social Network brings to a professional?

  1. Personal Branding: did you know that each member of a social network adds about U$ 80-U $ 100 to the brand value? Your depth of “intimacy” with your contacts in your corporate social network will determine this added value to your personal brand. In short, if Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are on your contact list in Linked-In, it helps to increase your personal branding.
  2. Relationships Based Organization: Today, when in a big firm, everything is standardized, we are moving into a relationship based management to deliver that inch extra. Generally, contacts with different types of stakeholders are kept in databases but, they are not organized in groups and segmented in order to build long term relationships. The same is true to all contacts of all employees that there are spread among various social networks.
  3. Knowledge sharing: Corporate social networking is one of the most popular and easiest ways of facilitating knowledge sharing, either by posting articles, wikis or by acting as a simple repository of several files as text editors, spreadsheets, presentations, etc..
  4. New leadership identification: It helps to strengthen group activity, and thus it is paramount to nominate a team of group leaders. This leadership must be naturally stimulated. The company will be able to observe styles and attitudes of each professional and reward them fairly whenever they create real value.
  5. Transparent relationship: By the time the company organizes all its stakeholders, starting by its internal collaborators, clients, suppliers in several specific groups, it opens a very strong and positive relationship channel with all of them creating the possibility that each stakeholder bring their respective relationships to the same business environment.
  6. Active & identified communication: the company starts offering to everyone an environment, in which, the communication can flow both ways actively in an identified and transparent manner. Company will know with whom it is talking to, what is being discussed and what the concrete results are because the platform itself documents all exchanged ideas.
  7. Market test: instead of spending a fortune in market research, how about having your own and qualified sample, make an in-house test and have a more reliable and real time result?
  8. Stakeholders loyalty: It is to be recognizes that there is a challenge to overcome by the time the company is exposing more. However, by facing and solving problems directly and by finding intelligent and creative solutions involving each stakeholder specifically, the company will consolidate its brand before the market and will attract the best opportunities besides making all stakeholders loyal and having them bringing new businesses to the organization. This is only possible if managers have a corporate social network which is not only wide but also deep across organizational hierarchies.
  9. Central, global & local management: Corporate social networking is all set to evolve to a central relationship point among all with several modules like payment gateway, web-conferences, mobile solutions,  CRM, reducing tremendously the operational costs of new business search and allowing the global  reach by having strong presence on the Internet while reinforcing its local presence.
  10. Lock-in effect: Considering that in general, people are fairly resistant to changes and that everyone competes for time and attention of the superiors in an organizational hierarchy, the one, who is better poised to affect their decisions will have conditions to create a a lock-in effect hence nullifying competition from co-workers.

What is Customer Network Value

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” – Jeff Bezos.

Customer Network Value is the Value generated from the network (Both social and professional) by the acquisition of new customers through word of mouth advertising.

Jeff Bezos, the founder, president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Amazon.com never said anything truer when it came to realize Customer Network Value. Typically it has been seen that for both B2B products and especially for B2C products, word of mouth proves to be a better media for advertising than most other media, and actually the returns on investments are that much higher.

Typically every customer has their own Customer Life-time Value (CLTV) to the firm. But very few managers realize that this is only a small fraction of the value that can be generated from a customer. The social and professional network provides another great source of value to the firm, potentially called the Customer Network Value.
Customers, on an average, through their network can potentially rope in, 2-5 times their own life time value (revenue), from their network, if they are satisfied. A satisfied customer, on an average, brings in 2.8 new customers to your firm, in the B2C segment, through word of mouth.

Not only by creating customer satisfaction, you are increasing his life tme value to the firm, by increasing customer loyalty, but also you will increase the customers network value and rope in new customers.

And all this extra network value for almost zero cost of acquisition. This is of prime importance in today’s business scenario since typically, cost of new customer acquisition is 5 times than to retain an old one. Although it is difficult to determine the exact origins of this value claim, the earliest sources that we can find attribute it to research conducted by the Technical Assistance Research Project (TARP) in Washington, D.C. in the late 1980s. Around the same time, other loyalty pundits claimed exactly the same findings as their own (for example, the Customer Service Institute, Consumer Connections Corp., and ITEM Group).

How ever big may be the multiplicity value, it boils down to one thing, Customer’s network value cannot be rejected in current times.

By the way, did you read our article on customer lifetime value estimation and management?

How to Launch a Successful Product

“A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one”.

Henry Ford never said anything wiser. But essentially what is a good product or a bad product.

Technically a product may be great, but it may not meet the requirements of its target segment. Understanding the gap which no products available in the market is fulfilling is one short yet simple strategy to create a good product, and more importantly, a successful brand.

So how should companies go about it? Consumer focused market research is the only solution. So how to go about the same?

  1. First do an exploratory study to gauge the needs which your target segment may be facing which are yet to be met with.
  2. Then do an internal analysis to match the firm competencies vis-a-vis the gap faced by the target segment, to propose few product types with hypothetical specifications.
  3. Do a in-depth interview to review if the proposed product types meet the needs of the segment, or if at all, they are needed. Many products fail because they do not address any market needs.
  4. Do a conjoint analysis and/or a factor analysis to determine specifically what is required by the target segment.
  5. Go back to verify if the same matches with the internal competencies of the firm, and do a feasibility study for the proposed project.

Applications of Fuzzy Set Theory and Fuzzy Logic

Fuzzy set theory provides a major newer paradigm in modeling and reasoning with uncertainty. Though there were several forerunners in science and philosophy, in particular in the areas of multivalued logic and vague concepts. Continue reading “Applications of Fuzzy Set Theory and Fuzzy Logic”

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business

Henry Ford never said something more meaningful. A business has more implications on the society and environment in which it functions. Its not only the philanthropic activities which matter but activities like “Go Green” paves the way for a sustainable development and a better future for generations to come.

Understanding what an organizations Corporate Social Responsibility may be, may turn out not just an attempt for brand building in the long run, but a survival strategy, in the changing era of government intervention and policing.

CSR policies today, more than ever function as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby organizations would monitor and ensure its support to law, ethical standards and even international norms or expectations. Consequently, today organizations are embracing responsibility for the impact of its activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere, just to ensure a humanitarian face towards the ecology within which they thrive. Furthermore, CSR-focused businesses would proactively promote the public interest  by encouraging community growth and development, and voluntarily eliminating practices that harm the public sphere, regardless of legality. Essentially, CSR is the deliberate inclusion of public interest into corporate decision-making, and the honoring of a triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.

Today, CSR is not just a thing that companies may choose to do, but it is gradually turning out to be strategic inclination of major MNCs getting positioned for a better future. Today it has become a key component while evaluating a brand value and its recall value. Considering this take by the MNCs, can even the smaller and medium sized enterprises neglect whatever CSR is possible, in their disposition?

United States’ Strategic Sourcing Initiative using e-Governance

USA, the largest economy in the world is facing a fiscal crisis, even now. Ever since 2003, its major economy bearer states like California, there was a major projected budget deficit. The Government took adequate care to approach the problem and to tackle the imminent crisis, but even though the black ages are gone, the repercussions from the shock still exists. The goverment launched many programs, one of which is the majorly popular California Strategic Sourcing Initiative, to control spending and stimulate the revamp of the economy. These focused primarily on the way the state purchased goods and services.

These programs aimed to identify saving opportunities. The focus to do so was through strategic sourcing. This was achieved by establishing new contracts or renegotiating existing ones. A team consisting of key professional procurement staff was created to achieve this goal, and not only at a short term goal, but to look towards achieving this as a sustainable long term process. Rather than a one time program, these initiatives were designed as an ongoing program to save money in the long term and position the United States to com out of the economic slump.

e-Governance played a crucial role in the revamp of the economies. Information Technology was widely used to issue electronic RFPs and conduct reverse auctions. The usage of these technologies also helped to streamline processes and speeded up the savings potential. Consulting firms like A.T. Kearney helped in the processes by developing cross-agency and departmental training programs, in which the procurement staff members were taught new skills in the area of spend analysis, e-sourcing, reverse auctions and e-negotiations. This training, which took place in classrooms and on hands, ensured that the team was well positioned for the change. Change management was the crucial success factor in this initiative.

In the coming few years, these strategic sourcing initiatives are expected to create savings in the tune of billions of dollars. The first wave of the program is already completed, and thus the spend categories have been identified, addressed and initial savings have been achieved which helped to forecast future savings. This e-governance strategic sourcing initiative has demonstrated how economies can be revamped using e-governance and information technology.

You have to have your heart in the business and the business in your heart

Thomas J. Watson as always comes up with a great one liner. So what does he mean?

Its obvious that you need to be passionate about what you do to be successful in your endeavors, but it appears he is also talking about the famous Shakespearean “nature” vs “nurture” dogma here also. Are successful entrepreneurs born and not made? In that case, a lot of B-School education would fall flat on its face. Is this quote indicating that formal training provides one only a platform to move on in business?

Another great quote flashes to the mind: “Great leaders are born and not made”.

By the way, do check out Cornerstone LMS. They offer great learning solutions.

Any suggestions on these viewpoints on success of entrepreneurs and leadership?

Google Priority Inbox-Revolutionizing emails

Check out what Google has to offer now along with its core offerings in email. Google is planning a launch of its priority inbox, where, each user will mark mails as being more important and less important. Based on the priorities of individual users, obtained from feedback and text analysis of the mails more viewed by the same, incoming emails will be prioritized.

And intelligence ensures that users don’t need to set up rules to make the sorting happen. The feature takes its cues from things like who users e-mail the most and what messages are open and replied to rather than being skipped over.

Priority Inbox is scheduled to be rolled out to all Gmail users over the next week or so. Users just have to look for the “New! Priority Inbox” link in the top right corner of their Gmail account.