Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Cloud Battle - Windows Azure

Microsoft has released a new "cloud" computing service , where the data and the application will be stored in the giant data centers across the world , and not in the user's system
The chief aim of the software is to allow developers to build new applications which will live on the internet, rather than on their own computers , so that it can be accessed anywhere, from any device.

"Cloud Computing"

Several companies with massive data centers "rent" their space to other businesses who wants to build rapidly growing online applications without needing to invest in more servers,when the traffic expands
For personal users , their data and many of the applications they use could be stored online "in the cloud, which can be accessed from anywhere across the globe

Interestingly , Amazon and Google has already been in the cloud computing business, where they rent out their data centers for developing online applications for social networking sites, mobile phones, and E-Commerce transactions
Amazon created the model with its "Elastic Cloud Service" , while Google quickly adopted it and created a whole different suite of programs for online advertising and search. One of the notable applications was Google Docs, where people can create Spreadsheets and Documents online and store it in the Google server , which can be accessed anywhere anytime.

Microsoft was quoted saying
"Our customers still want to be able to choose to have their software offline, on their own computers, as well as online in the web cloud"

"We believe deeply in on-premises software and we believe deeply in this new world of software in the cloud," said Ray Ozzie.

Several critics and investors been constantly criticizing Microsoft for its failure to embrace the internet when it actually exploded, when companies like Google and Yahoo rose to fame and reaped billions in profits .
Will this be a new strategic paradigm shift for Microsoft to fight the competition and can they succeed? Lets wait and watch !

Source : Microsoft

Monday, October 27, 2008

Personalised Car Registrations

Personalised Car Registrations

Ever wondered having a fancy number , with a stylish number plate for ur car ? Browsed countless designs and yet returned unsatisfied?

With this motto of offering a personalised service in providing number plates, Northumbria Numbers was established in 1995 in the Border County of Northumberland also known as "The Secret Kingdom" .Northumbria Numbers offers the best service in the Cherished Numbers business , with a massive selection of private number plates .

One can search for ageless car registrations, prefix type personalised number plates and current style number plates and design it according to his car and type .One can also choose from Car Manufacturer number plates, Personal number plates and Professional number plates .
These Personalised number plates come at a wide variety of styles and price ranges.
So go ahead and choose one now !

Friday, October 24, 2008

Microsoft beats profits forecast

US software giant Microsoft has posted profits and sales figures well above analysts' expectations.
The firm made a $4.37bn profit during the first three months of its financial year, up from $4.29bn a year ago, while turnover rose 9% to $15.06bn.
Finance boss Chris Liddell said Microsoft had demonstrated the strength and diversity of its business model "in a challenging economic environment".
However, the company also warned that during the next three months it was unlikely to meet the estimates of Wall Street analysts because of the economic slowdown.
(Source : BBC)

Meanwhile , do check out my Surface Laptop review, a recent launch by Microsoft.

Retail in India : Is it still taken for granted ?

The Indian nation might be in the progressive shift from being a developing nation to a developed nation but the state of retailing has never shown even the slightest change of improvement.

With investors and retailers predicting that India is steadily increasing on the organized retail sector (which currently owns only 5 % of the total market) , the facts and the reality actually proves the contrary

  • Lack of parking space (even for hypermarkets ) - Did they even plan one while building it?
  • Edible products that has crossed the expiry date
  • Domination of cheap store brands , with the major preferred brands (of superior quality) not even in the visibility zone ,or worst case not available
  • A complete disarray of product arrangement and a pile of garbage strewn across the floors
  • Torn, faded and worn out dresses due to old stock
  • Nonexistent customer service or worse rude and smirk replies
  • Poor Lighting facilities , difficulties in navigation across the store
and the list is endless

Organized retailing is not about opening a string of 100 supermarkets across the country.
Its about running at least one store very efficiently
Its not about boasting a 10000+ footfall every week . Its about a single buyer being satisfied with his shopping inside the store
It's not about opening a store in every area in the city. Its about making the people come again frequently, a factor that drives them towards the store

A recent visit to Subhiksha supermarket , made me experience all the above.
Employees on a verbal fight with each other , non availability of any snacks(including biscuits)
soft drinks and milk products and several other products, bill counter person refusing to accept money ,because she doesn't have change(can u believe that it happens in a supermarket ? )

As far as a premium fashion/apparel store is concerned(for eg.Pantaloons, lifestyle,Globus ) , we don't need a person to stand behind us to get the right size dress.
We need a person who can suggest a style of dress that suits our personality. The role of "Shopping Advisor / Assistant" is virtually nonexistent in any of the stores

The above idea was basically inspired from three sources :
1 - www.cdshirts.com : The talk to us column which contains the "I need help to find me a shirt" link , which identifies the user's taste and personality and suggests a couple of designs that can go well with the person
2 - Jennifer Anistons Role in F.R.I.E.N.D.S , where she is a shopping advisor in Ralph & Lauren
3. www.jcrew.com

No wonder people prefer the flea market than these "superficial stores" . The hassle in bargaining in a flea market is much less compared to the horrible store experience in these organized retail stores

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nouveau Riche

Nouveau Riche

Contrary to my previous article on the financial meltdown, and people losing huge amounts of money, I have tried to write about a new concept called the Nouveau riche

Nouveau Riche is a term of reference used by the already rich to describe people who had the capacity to become rich by actually working for it rather than by patronage and inheritance.
This term also refers to the fact that the concerned individual was previously of a lower socioeconomic rank, and such wealth has given him the means for the acquisition of luxuries that were previously unobtainable with his income.
The world has seen millions of these kinds of people, who have got something in them, to achieve their dreams and passions, with a ingenious business ideas and made billions in the process
Some of these billionaires include the greats like SAM MOORE WALTON, CARLOS SLIM HELU, RICHARD BRANSON, DAVID PACKARD etc

Considering the example of Sam Walton, the founder of the world’s biggest retail Mart, Wal Mart.
Starting as a small retail store, he has now built a huge empire of hypermarkets across the world.
On the other hand, Richard Branson has a different story. Beginning with a student newspaper at age 17 and a record label to which he signed the Sex Pistols in his mid-20s, Branson has built the Virgin Group into an international conglomerate of some 350 companies, many of them still tiny but all of them combining for more than $8 billion a year in sales
When asked about his business ideas , Branson quotes
"The conventional wisdom is you should specialize in what you know and never stray from that, but no other brand has become a way-of-life brand the way Virgin has. And it wasn't us setting out to become a way-of-life brand, it was me continually being interested in learning new things. We've got people all over the world who are coming up with great new ideas, and trying them doesn't actually cost us a lot relative to the overall size of the group." So they try. In the process Virgin has developed a business method that Branson calls "branded venture capital," whereby he starts and manages all manner of new companies under the Virgin name while partners provide most of the investment.
describes in detail dozens of such entrepreneurs who made it to the big. The Nouveau Riche in the list is so comprehensive and has managed to cover almost every single billionaire across the world from almost every country . It is really worthwhile and enlightening to have a quick read over it

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Trace Your Money - Or was there one in the first place?

Trace Your Money - Or was there one in the first place?

A very interesting article I came across in the net , when I tried to figure out what actually happened to the billions of dollars the multinationals held , which they seemed to "lose" in a matter of days. Even the financial institutions and major banks shut down because of lack of funds .So where did this money go?

The answer was simple : There was no money in the first place ..

Here's the article :

Robert Shiller, an economist at Yale, puts it bluntly: The notion that you lose a pile of money whenever the stock market tanks is a "fallacy." He says the price of a stock has never been the same thing as money - it's simply the "best guess" of what the stock is worth.

"It's in people's minds," Shiller explains. "We're just recording a measure of what people think the stock market is worth. What the people who are willing to trade today - who are very, very few people - are actually trading at. So we're just extrapolating that and thinking, well, maybe that's what everyone thinks it's worth."

Shiller uses the example of an appraiser who values a house at $350,000, a week after saying it was worth $400,000.

"In a sense, $50,000 just disappeared when he said that," he said. "But it's all in the mind."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Joy of Flying with the King of Good TImes

Just hours after my last post on embracing your competition , arch rivals Kingfisher and Jet Airways has announced that they will form a Code Sharing Agreement and a Joint Alliance.

(Just exactly like what "The Waking Life" propagates - Many people from different parts of the world come up with a similar thought flow at the same time - a thought process that travels across the world into minds, and strikes up a corresponding design)

With a steep rising prices in aviation fuel, the global financial meltdown and the sharp decline in the airline traffic , both Kingfisher and Jet Airways has come to realize that it is not sustainable to run the airline business in the long run, by competing against each other, after suffering a loss of $988 million between each other.

In fact , they have done the opposite. They embraced each other with a mutual agreement for both national and International flights and also sharing expenses in buying aviation fuel, despite retaining their individual brand identities.
Vijay Mallya himself has come out in the open , joining hands with Naresh Goel and proclaims that Jet Airways is a brilliant airline and vice-versa

This agreement leads to better seat utilization ,joint fuel management,crew sharing,optimization of flight routes and schedules and flight frequency and reduction in operating expense for both

With the current deal , the two companies now control 4 of the top airlines in the industry(namely Jet Airways ,Kingfisher, Sahara(Jet Lite) & Air Deccan (Kingfisher Red) )
and thereby easily have a combined market share of more than 60 % ,and with a intended strategy to increase the prices , its just a matter of time ,for the profits to come rolling in

P.S. I had actually assumed that embracing your competition was mainly advantageous in the retail sector. But it turns out , its true in any vertical or industry,as evident from the current post.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Embrace your neighbourhood

Embrace your neighbourhood

With the onset of Dussehra, Navratri and Diwali season, I decided to pick up a few apparels from the recently opened "Style One" store in Adyar , Chennai.
(note the stress on "Pick up" ,to denote the fact that Men still don't like to shop !)

After the purchase , I headed off directly to the nearby Sangeetha restaurant for dinner,where I noticed a strange thing. Almost 50 % of the people there had a Style One Bag or an Odyssey bag (the neighborhood apparel and book stores respectively) , which made me wonder , why wasn't this phenomenon converted into an opportunity . It was so obvious , that everyone failed to see it.

The phenomenon described here is not limited to the above locality alone. It happens everywhere ,across the world. How often ,being a restaurateur or a coffee shop owner , you have noticed people walking in with loads of shopping bags after purchasing from the nearest apparel store ? And have you done anything about it to keep the trend going ?

It's time that these restaurants or coffee shops located near the market place to embrace these shops and strike up deals , whereby these shoppers are given discount coupons or special offers in these restaurants/coffee pubs whenever they shop from these nearby stores for a certain amount

This acts as a win-win situation for the restaurants , the retail stores and the shoppers too (who anyways end up in the local deli for a quick bite. For the restaurants it directs more "targeted customers" to their place even during the lean hours , offering discount coupons for purchases acts as an added advantage to the retail store , and for the shopper its a mix of both

Offering a discount at a restaurants or a coffee shop is literally unheard thus giving a unique value added advantage to them.

For example, a Starbucks or a KFC or a Pizza Hut can tie up with multiple retail stores in different areas and offer specialized discounts . For each of the various outlets, they should have a corresponding retail tie up , who offers Starbucks discount coupons for every purchase.
The retail store can be a book store or an apparel store or even an accessory store.
All that matters is , whether the target profile of the retail store matches to that of the restaurant/coffee pub, and in most cases it does .

Exploring this opportunity might pose another serious question ? Can a retailer embrace another competitive store in the same street/locality?

The answer is Yes. According to Al Ries and Laura Ries , it actually leads to expansion of the category . As per the 22 Immutable laws of branding , Law of Fellowship quotes ,
"The best way to build a brand is to welcome other brands"
The best place for a second place brand must be in the opposite of the leading brand store, in the same street .When the top brands of the same category lie in the same area, the area becomes more popular for that particular category and more targeted traffic comes in .
People who were displeased with the competitive store might walk in and end up buying in your store , which wouldnt have happened in the first case
Rather than being a destination driven store,having low traffic or walkins , it gets converted to a category specific store in a related area ,which also leads to a far better conversion rate(Conversion rate = no of people who actually buy / total walk ins)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Do you know what you want?

Do you know what you want?

I just happened to watch a beautiful movie called P.S. I Love you and was quite amazed by it
Never for a minute thought it to be so beautiful and emotional about love .
What really struck me in the movie was a particular scene , where Daniel asks "What do women want ?" and Hillary Swank replies "
This is a sacred secret. Here it goes -
We have no idea what we want."

It's not only true for every women in the planet , but for every consumer. Until you give them something to try out and experience it , they may never be able to exactly articulate what they need.

So how does focus group discussions help ? They help in extracting cues.To identify the gap between their needs and the currently available product. It does not necessarily translate to what exactly they need in a product.

For example , When you ask them what do u need in a new food product to be launched , they might reply good quality , cheap , healthy ingredients , etc
But ultimately the only food they end up buying is the tastier one or the one which has a better packaging design and looks good.

Therefore building a product based on a consumers choice and preference may be suicidal sometimes. The same holds in differentiation. There are a million ways to differentiate. Probably one can come out with a blue colored ketchup ,or a circular shaped T.V or worlds thinnest laptop, which doesnt even have a DVD player.
So whats the use ? Do I benefit with a new variant or different color ? Of course not !

Differentiation for the sake of differentiation is a pretty useless thing.When Coke came out with the New Coke , it bombed in the market. Sometimes it is attributed to the "resistance to change" by the people . But the key factor is , the product has failed to satisfy any unrequited need .
This is where the Walkman succeeded. It answered the need for music on the move

So remember , differentiation maybe important , but whats more important is constantly searching for cues to develop the "most needed" product and not the "most wanted" product !

Blue Ketchup anyone ?