Job Quotas or Meritocratic Politics?

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Developed countries continue to struggle to identify industries, areas of business, skillsets and employment opportunities that will make their workforce, abilities and manufacturing resources relevant again in a world of cheap labor and low cost manufacturing from developing countries.

At such times, instead of leveraging the inherent potentials we in India have, to gain more ground in the world; we stop and think, “how can we fuck up this great opportunity for us?”

Then, we hit jackpot: “Hmm, 27% quota in the private sector should really kill it. Look at the wonders its worked in education. Yeah, let’s do that.”

Instead, imagine politicians being elected based on merit of public work done. That, might be the only missing piece in the national development puzzle.

Here’s one of the articles about the proposed quota for reservations: link

Business – whenever, wherever

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If you got to start your business, you can’t always wait for real estate prices to be right.

Sometimes, you just start..Wherever.!

(Saw this on some random inner road on the outskirts of Pune)

For those still wondering, that is a car covered with clothes that a man is trying to sell to passers by.

And while I was there only for a minute or two, while trying to make a u-turn as I was a little lost, he did have a few customers.!

Pretty cool huh?!

Starbucks

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The entire buzz in the recent past about Starbucks coming to India reminded me of this question that popped up in my head when I was at a Starbucks at a mall in New Jersey last year.

It was probably a weekend, the mall was crowded. There were a good number of people queuing up to get their caffeine fix or to grab a quick bite before getting back to shopping. It was apparent that the café was short staffed. There was a growing line of people waiting to order, and a fewer, but slowing increasing number waiting to pick up their orders. There was only 4 staff members.

Which brings me to the question.

What would you do in a similar situation, if the total staff strength was 4 (including you), handling a growing queue of coffee lovers. Would you:

  • Divert a larger number of hands to taking orders (so that you could lock in the revenues, so that customers would complain/ grumble at best, without you losing any business (since the queue to order is moving fast, and the money’s coming in), or would you
  • Have an  equal number of staff taking orders and preparing too, or
  • Would you have more staff members preparing customer orders, while letting the line to order grow, so that customers’ who’ve already ordered didn’t have to wait too much, and as the line to order would obvious grow longer, those in a hurry could go about doing their work and perhaps come in later when the lines were shorter, and those who didn’t mind waiting, could.

Let me know what you would do in a similar situation.

Your choice will speak a good deal about how you would run your business, your priorities, the whole jazz.

Layers of BS

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Ever realized how much time we spend each day either building a thick layer of ‘unnecessary’, and/ or scraping a thick layer of it.

Rather than build quality products and services, we tend to build our own imaginary features, declare our products/ services to be the absolute best without the real stuff to prove it. Facts are covered up, hyped, or even distorted.

And customers on the other hand, while listening to people brag about their ‘best-in-the-galaxy’ offerings, have to spend most of their waking hours in a state of suspicion, of products and services they buy, of people they interact with, of ideas and suggestions they are given. Because, more often than not, there’s always a layer of bullcrap that customers are mentally scraping and making their own deductions. And usually, the more the BS, the poorer the impression they have of what you have to offer.

Sellers will ridiculously inflate prices. Buyers will be aware to some extent, and both will go through the motions till they arrive at a common ground. And it isn’t just about price. It’s the same with quality, safety, and a lot of such critical factors. One hypes it, the other either falls for it to whatever extent, or doesn’t at all.

Rather than spend time in building quality products and services, we have come to rely more on confident BS based on an illusion of supposed facts that we have created, and what we pass on to every new employee at most companies.

More emphasis is given on teaching the shortcuts, rather than on the product/ service or business know-how. Employees too would rather learn some quick fake facts about something they’re trying to sell, rather than know what they offer, inside-out; so that they could perhaps better understand it, better understand the customer, and help build an even better product/ service.

Guess the meaning of ‘learning the ropes’ has, over the years, slipped down the very same ropes.

Our innate attitude is towards avoiding that extra mile, towards quick fixes, rather than in the direction of building something that lasts.

The way I see it, that extra mile today usually saves several hundred extra miles in the long run.

We Deliver.!

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Several years back, I used to work in the ever so famous BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) Industry in one of India’s IT hotbeds, Bangalore. My job involved providing technical assistance to North American customers of our pretty impressive all-in-one printer range.

And just when I thought the monotony would leave me permanently depressed, or worse, brain-damaged, I received an email from my boss. He was forwarding an email from a customer I had assisted a few days before. The customer had needed print cartridges urgently. For some reason unknown to most of us, it took about 3-4 days after placing an order, for the cartridges to actually reach the customer. (And in case the thought crossed your mind,  ‘No, the cartridges weren’t shipped from India). And of course, while this was a free delivery, there was a 1-day shipping for some charge. I was aware that in some special cases, I could request a senior colleague to waive off the charges on the 1-day fee, but it was not a luxury I’d like to take for granted. So I promised the customer a 3-4 day delivery period and that I would try to have the cartridges delivered earlier if possible.

Coming back to the email the customer had sent, it read something on the lines of  – I would like to thank XYZ for the quick shipping of my print cartridges. He said it would take 3-4 days, but when it arrived the next day, I was thrilled. He has done what we in the customer service industry call ‘under-promising and over-delivering’, the surest way to win a customer and a little more to that effect.

That was my first lesson in customer service; ok maybe not the first, but certainly the one with the most impact. It has been a while since that corporate ‘high’, and since those technical support days, but that feedback has stayed on with me. While I’m no ‘pro’ at customer service, I do understand its ever-increasing importance in any business, and I constantly try to figure ways of improving the customer’s experience.

And I have found many an Indian BPO employee, or for that matter, even your average sales or service staff at any retail outlet or business centre, bubbling with enthusiasm to cater to the customer’s every demand. And while this is a great thing for customers, there are 2 key ingredients missing in many cases. Those being  Planning and Communicating. A simple equation of their effect on customer experience would look something like:

                                                             Customer Experience =                                                   Communicating * (Planning+Commitment+Delivering on Commitment)

Most of us are great at committing, but tend to fall a little short when it is time to deliver on the commitment, thus causing unnecessary customer dissatisfaction.

In our endeavor to give the customer that little bit ‘extra’, we often miscalculate delivery or commitment deadlines causing the exact opposite of the effect we had planned for.

If we were to take into account all possible influencing factors (Planning) and build it into a commitment or delivery deadline, and perhaps even throw in a little buffer if we have a gut feel about possible delay, we would be giving the customer a more realistic picture. And of course, nothing beats plain old ‘Communication’. It is extremely and absolutely important that we communicate with the customer, keep them posted on delivery or commitment deadlines, and update them the moment we see the deadline getting stretched. You cannot imagine how much customers appreciate that phone call informing them of a slight delay, as opposed to them arriving at your doorstep on D-day only to be asked to come the following week.

To my customer.
I may not have the answer, but I’ll find it.
I may not have the time, but I’ll make it.
-Unknown

Then of course, nothing beats delivering on a commitment or deadline.!

Bumblebee

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According to the theories of Aerodynamics, the bumblebee should be unable to fly. The size, weight, and shape of its body, in relationship to its total wing span make it technically impossible to fly. The bumblebee, however, being ignorant of those theories, goes ahead and flies anyway.

I was reading an article about how some researchers are expecting another recession in the United States before things finally get better, and what that could possibly do to small businesses which survived the first bout of recession.

This sounds like an average day in the life of most of us, speculating about what might, and what might not; constantly living in fear of the unknown. I was trying to imagine myself as running a small business someplace, and if the economy were heading south, what would I do. Would I panic, and try to do as much business while the scene is still looking good, or would I try to re-work my business to make sure it sees the highs after the dip?

If most of us reduced all that speculation, we might just be staring at brilliant and simple solutions to many of life’s intriguing questions right in the face.

Keep Flying anyway…

Be your best judge

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This is a small extract from Michael E. Gerber’s ‘Awakening the Entrepreneur Within’. Michael Gerber is the bestselling author of The E-Myth Revisited, E-Myth Mastery.

He says “Unfortunately, most businesses don’t close soon enough. They just linger on and on and on, surviving as best they can. Entrepreneurs should never create a business simply because it can survive. To do so would be to commit oneself to daily dying. Entrepreneurs create business that thrive.”

I guess that simply says a lot.

While starting companies is one thing, but something that entrepreneurs should always constantly do is judge or evaluate their business/ progress/ future growth, rather than losing sight of the big picture in the race to capture more market share…

Judging based on the business itself, competitors, and on the vision.

Many companies just seem to drag the eventuality, that way burning tons of money, sabotaging employee careers, and neither growing nor benefiting from the business.

Opposed to that, it sure takes the rare soul to accept defeat, wrap up, and fight another day.

And there is an advantage to that. Your big business could be based on the idea you get after you’ve freed your mind of a business that’s just trudging along.

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