• Prognosis on Consumer Spending
    Economic Times - October 27, 2008

    We are spooking ourselves into a slowdown that is even slower than is warranted by the reality of how much our consumers' disposable income and their mood has actually been hit. Gloom and doom feeds on itself, and then it makes companies even more pessimistic in their marketing conduct as they shift from coaxing consumers to buy (as they usually do in the normal course of their business) to conserving their own cash and not taking chances on sales growth generating expenditure.

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  • The Magic Ingredient
    Business Standard - September 18, 2010

    Whenever my daughter tries a recipe from my cooking repertoire, she calls and complains, "But it doesn't taste the same as when you make it. What's the secret ingredient you are hiding?" Without missing a beat I reply, "Mother's love."

    Whenever we talk of the recipe for financial inclusion in terms of ingredients such as technologies, policy incentives and enforcers, points of access, from kiranas to cellphones, we also need to add the magic ingredient of customer-centricity. In this case we mean customer empathy, cultural sensitivity and a recognition that money is not just about deposits, withdrawals, loans and repayments but the emotive and sensitive aspects of life and living. These are not things to worry about after the inclusion is done but things to use to design the inclusion programme and which will alter costs and benefits, hence the entire recipe and, I daresay, the kitchen that is used to make it.

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  • Let's be Fair
    Business Standard - August 21, 2010

    Every day when I open the newspaper, I wonder about double standards when it comes to accountability. When train accidents occur and innocent people die because of the train driver’s negligence or because the tampered tracks went undetected despite prescribed routine surveillance, there is no move or even talk from either the NGOs, the media or the government to hold the non-executive chairman of the Railways responsible. And who should that be? The railway minister or the chairman, Railway Board? When CRPF jawans die because they didn’t follow operating procedures, who is the non-executive chairman that should be brought to book? The state chief minister? The overall head of the CRPF? When really sad accidents occur in Kashmir with children and civilians dying in police fire, there is no arrest warrant out for the non-executive chairman (the home secretary? the state police chief?) who is technically responsible for supervising the police whose actions caused disastrous consequences.

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  • Thinking out of the Dabba (India and Global Affairs)
    September 17, 2009

    The most hotly debated business idea in recent times is the idea of 'fortune at the bottom of the pyramid'. Its originator Prof C K Prahalad points out that two thirds of the world is poor, and not being served well by the existing market economy, which has been designed for the rich.

    The poor either are unable to access many products and services because they are priced beyond their reach, thanks to the business economics prevalent; or they effectively end up paying far more for them than the rich do - either because of the price penalty that exists in today's market for the buyer of miniscule quantities or because they are served by the unorganized sector, comprising many layers of usurious middle men.

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  • Process Obsessed and Customer Hostile
    Economic Times - September 14, 2009

    The process obsessed organization is here, and increasing in number, especially as service businesses come of age and the service component of product businesses start being the differentiator and hence driver of customer choice. They spend enormous amounts of time effort and energy in perfecting the process that will consistently deliver all the elements of the job needed to be done to service customers and allow easy building of scale, maximize profitability, facilitate easy quality control, not requiring complex training given the high employee attrition levels, and the outsourcing that is inevitable. The only trouble is that they often design all this to deliver a level of quality that they have decided is appropriate - without really taking the customer into account.

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  • The Walk-Talk Gap On Financial Inclusion
    August 10, 2009

    Spurred on by so much talk of "financial inclusion" from the pulpits of the finance ministry and RBI, we decided it was high time our domestic help - our live-in housekeeper - had a bank account. And as we tried to get her one, we fell headlong into a deep chasm called the Walk - Talk Gap. Here is a view of that chasm, as seen by customers, and highlights how several banks don't want to take on low profitability business in urban areas (to be charitable, perhaps the problem does not happen in rural India, where there is a shortage at each bank branch of rich customers, and so the poor end up being included.) Should they be forced to? Or should we create a new category of "janata" banks who will want this business and be imaginative enough to design new business models to profitably serve such customers?

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  • Governance Models for IIMs & IITs
    Economic Times - April 7, 2008

    The HRD minister must be congratulated - and thanked - for wholeheartedly accepting the propositions that educational institutions should be governed by their governing boards; and that there is nothing wrong with a plan that delivers self-sufficiency with social justice. We look forward to this being the direction in which he will encourage all educational "navaratnas" to move.

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  • Paying for Basic Consumer Data
    The Economic Times - February 2006

    Even as large companies in India loudly proclaim their worship at the altar of consumer centricity, their reluctance to pay for fundamental consumer related, consumer based market structure data bases is low. The market research industry agrees with me– they say that serious analysis of fundamental, consumer data on demographics, living conditions, spend patterns, consumption and ownership, collected on an all India basis, across rich and poor, rural and urban households does not have as much demand as it ought to, given the level of business interest and business speak about consumers. And it isn’t because the price is prohibitive. India has the lowest cost survey data compared to anywhere in the world, and of very high quality.I am not referring to market research budgets, which are showing healthy growth. The fact is that a lot of market research spend is on product and marketer performance related issues like customer satisfaction, brand track, product testing and so on.

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  • Helping the IIMs to Surge Ahead
    Business Standard - June 2004

    Thank God for cosmic chaos. For delivering institutions of higher education from a regressive regime with anachronistic ideas. Thank God for the new HRD minister and his team who believe in logic, dialogue, and the sanctity of governing boards. The IIMs now have a window of huge opportunity to sell a plan to get them well on the path to world class, and get the resources and the changes needed to make it happen.

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  • More on the IIMs
    The Economic Times - July 2002

    The articles on the Government 'take over' of the IIM directors' appointment and on why alumni and corporate leaders are merely watching this retrograde step without comment, suggested that the reason for this apathy is that neither group believes that autonomy has done too much" for the IIMs -so why bother, if they are going down the tube any way. As someone who has been closely involved since with one of the IIMs as an alumna, a visiting professor and a member of the last Committee for Future Direction, I would like to discuss some of these issues further.

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