Sunday, January 15, 2017

Faram and Naati

Faram is the local market lingo for farm. Naati is the local lingo for country.

Farm is the good looking, beautiful, colourful, ruddy vegetables. But farm chillies are not spicy. Farm tomatoes have no flavour. Farm eggs are 'artificial'. Farm bananas have all colour and zero taste. What to say of the industrial tangerines - they started off as 'Australian Oranges' and sold for a premium a few years ago, but now they are lower priced than their so called inferior cousins - Nagpur Oranges.

Country on the other hand has zero looks. The tomatoes are smaller, but rich with flavour. The bananas are sweet. The eggs are smaller, but tastier. The oranges drip with tang and juice. And the chilies are spicy.

Between style and substance, one can take the market for some time with style, but the educated customers come for substance. Incidentally, my education came from my maid who taught us to distinguish from the two and go for the rustic ones...

And this works in the market as well. Of late, country has morphed into organic and gives a run for money to the farm variety which is now patronised by the less 'educated' customers.

And it cuts both ways.

Cryptic post :) 

The Rubiks cube and peer learning

When we were children, the Rubiks cube was a source of immense fascination. It was eminently unsolvable and those who solved it came on TV news.

Somehow, it never struck us then that it had to have an algorithm to be solved.

Cut to the internet age. Every kid has the cube and the algorithm and after that it is no big deal at all. Layer by layer, they get it.

And thats when the fun ends. If it is a matter of just knowing the algorithm, whats the big deal?

 No, it has not been dumbed down, even with the algorithm it is a great learning - for visual patterns, memory and even the 'aha' moment.

So, from being an inscrutable mystery, the Rubiks cube is a great learning tool and like kids competitively reading books to keep pace with each other, the Rubiks cube is a quest for mastery among the kids.

I love the way kids learn competitively. When kids learn together and learn competitively, they learn well -helping each other and making each other better.

And that is a great recipe for a peer learning process. Except that kids grow up to be adults...

Hint: Self Motivation :)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Find your niche!

Of late, we have been racking our brains on Strategy (we are busy cooking something).  It is in this context that our strategic lenses are ON.

 Most of the time we think strategy is for the CXO suite and somewhere in an airy-fairy land. But, the fact is strategy is all around us. See this picture from Vasudev Adigas - a typical Bengaluru fast food eatery.


At one end of the spectrum is a Starbucks and Cafe Coffee Day. Add a few other brands and local cafes - and there is solid competition at every 'road' or 'street'.

On the other hand are the numerous 'sagars' that dot Bengaluru. Some of them have gone upmarket like Vasudev Adigas. Sure, they are not as upmarket as the Starbucks or coffee houses, but they are a level up over the rest of their ilk. Again, there is competition at every half street in this range. 

And mostly, the clientele is interchangeable - few exclusively go to coffee shops. 

And VA knows this. Their USP is fresh food - not frozen food reheated. Their USP is traditional South Indian food (give or take a few). They have innovated quite well - both in terms of upgrading their service levels, decor, food, range while maintaining an amazing level of taste and quality. 

And there is where this poster comes in. VA knows its strengths and uses it well. They serve one type of coffee - no cold, hot, latte, frappuchino, this that...and are proud of it - and know that their customers want 'That' coffee when they come there. 

So, thats a strategy lesson there. For every strategy, there is an equal and opposite strategy that might work as well. More importantly - one cannot be everything to everybody. Find your niche!

6 months into entrepreneurship!

Nearly a half year along the entrepreneurial journey in the learning consulting space and these are some of my thoughts and observations.

Sales cycles are long and can be frustrating.

As many books as you can read, rejection is difficult to take. (Yes, it is not rejection and I have  possibly read all the strategies around it)

There is only one way to experience the entrepreneurship journey - and that is by taking it. Everything else is like learning to swim on land.

There is a wide world out there. The learning in a few months of the journey is much greater than a 10 times timeframe of a similar secure job. The nature of work, the types of firms, the types of people are all very different.

Differentiation is the key (and as much as I work on it, I think the question is a constant one). Everybody thinks they are different, but the market does not see the difference. There are may 'quasi' differentiators, like there is 'quasi' IP, but very little in the real sense. There are some great differentiators in the market like Knolskape!

There are underserved areas in the market - which are not worth serving, but there are also underserved areas in the market that are worth serving.

The market does suffer from a fair amount of 'me-too-ware', and there is space for new ground to be broken.

Note to self: It is important to keep optimism levels high not by vapourware, but by small wins.

Entrepreneurship is a risk, but to make the big risk successful, a series of small risks need to be taken.

There is enough work out there, more than what one can handle, so go out and fish! Everyday.

On Feedback

When I run a session on Feedback skills - I ask this question:

Your manager has just called you. Its an unscheduled meeting. What goes on in your mind?

The answer in most companies is fairly negative.

Did something go wrong?
What broke?
What needs to be fixed?
What did I do?
What did my team do?
A sense of anxiety
A sense of unease

Interesting isn't it? What amazes me (though not surprising at all) is that, very few if any, actually look forward to the sudden meeting with the manager!

To me, it signifies an appreciation gap. A gap that as an employee, I do not get enough positive strokes vis-a-vis negative strokes.

What does team think when you call them for an impromptu meeting? And what can you do on a daily basis to let them look forward to any meeting - planned or impromptu?

And what if your team looked forward to every meeting with you as manager  - with their 'curiosity' lenses intact? What would the impact of that be?

Believe me, this is achievable - even in my limited experience, there are entire companies (as opposed to a few managers) that have actually got there.