Archive for April, 2011

Nokia To Cut 4,000 Jobs Worldwide, Transfer 3,000 Symbian Jobs To Accenture

April 27, 2011 1 comment

Today, Nokia announced that it will cut its global workforce by 4000 by end of 2012 and transfer 3000 Symbian jobs to Accenture. Something on these lines was expected since Nokia signed a deal with Microsoft to use Windows Mobile 7 platform for its phones.

In my blog yesterday, I had indicated that the high end mobile phone vendors were competing on the OS level and today, Nokia has announced that they will not fight the war on OS and will rather partner with Microsoft. This does not go well for Nokia.

Though, I can understand the circumstances, under which Stephen Elop had to make the decision, I do not think that this was the wisest thing to do. Reasons being the following:

1.     Microsoft is already facing a tough time convincing the developer community to develop apps on the WM7 platform. Currently, both Android and iOS easily beat WM7 as a platform of choice for app developers.
2.     In the top end of the mobile devices, the hardware is a commodity. What separates the players is the OS and the apps running on the device. Apple did not become the leader in this segment just because of their hardware but because of the awesome OS, accompanies by the hugely popular apps created by the developer community. By completely exiting the OS space, Nokia will end-up being an OEM for Microsoft.
3.     Symbian was not just an OS. It has a huge ecosystem around it. By selling the OS to Accenture, Nokia has now alienated the entire ecosystem. It takes years to build an ecosystem like that.
4.     The employees who are being terminated can choose to be on the Nokia payroll till end of this year. IF they had to let employees go, I would have thought that they would let them go as early as possible, so that you can get on with life. With these employees hanging on for the next 8 months, there will be a huge negative energy among the Nokia employees. This is not the kind of environment where you can expect a lot of creativity or innovations. However, competitors can bleed a company in 8 months.

All said, I feel sorry for Nokia as an organization. I would not be surprised if the organization as we know it today may seize to exist by 2012. 

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Long tail of Choice – War of the phones

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Last week, Intex launched a mobile phone for the visually impaired. The phone has features like Braille on the keypad, voice dialing, big keys, emergency sms key, hearing aids (including a torch light!). This after a launch of a series of such phones targeting niche segments like phones for the elderly, phones with insanely long battery life, phones with a projector

As Seth Godin talks in his blog and I quote

            “The mass market is being replaced by multiple micro markets and the long tail of choice.”

All these are products being offered by small players in the market and not by any of the established mobile phone vendors like Sony Ericcsson, Nokia, Samsung, LG, Apple or HTC. As Seth says, that this is now starting on fringes and will spread across fast. Unless the incumbents take notice about this now, it might be too late for them to continue to post the kind of growth rates that they  have been enjoying.

Where all the global players are innovating and fighting the battle for mobile devices on the software and apps, the local players in India are innovating on the hardware.

While the global players are trying to outdo each other on the tablet play, the local players are vying for the local phone market. 

This looks to me like following the classic play – the fringe players start eating into the marketshare of incumbents at the lower end of the spectrum which is not very profitable. So, the incumbents do not mind that much as they start concentrating on the product lines which are highly profitable. Gradually these fringe players become big and they now want a pie of the high margin products as well and so start gaining marketshare in this category and the cycle continues and culminates in a blood bath in the category. 

The only thing could stop the cycle is if the low end segment is completely killed for whatever reason. Though I do not see anything remotely capable of killing the low end segment in the mobile phone industry yet, I do think that could possible rule that out. This space will become even more interesting if that happens.

For now, the Nokia’s, Samsung’s of the world need to be wary of the Intex’s, Micromax’s and the Lava’s of India.  
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Aircel – Time to wake up

April 23, 2011 Leave a comment
I have just moved to a new house within the city and my wired phone and along with it my regular internet connection at my new home is still not active. I remembered seeing and advertisement by Aurcel regarding their Wi-Fi connections. So, thought of exploring the same. The following is the information posted on their website:

Now, I wanted to find out more about the wi-fi access at the locations that they have mentioned. I wanted to know if I need to be at in the stores or in the vicinity of these stores to access the connection. So, I tried reaching them on the number mentioned on their website. After responding to the call center software thrice, I was directed to the main menu.

Now comes the surprise! The main menu did not have an option for me to dial for information about the wi-fi access. Also, there was no option for me to be able to talk to a customer service representative. The best is that after 2 tries, my call was disconnected!!!!

What an absurdity !!! No wonder Aircel is no where close to being the top service provider in any of the categories in the country!!!

Now, Aircel is the only provider who seems to offer Wi-Fi connectivity in the major cities. They had an opportunity to gain competitive advantage over their competitors and they squandered it away.

I do not understand the reasoning for the following:

  1. Why should it take 3 entries on the automated software for me to get to the main menu?
  2. Why is the Wi-Fi service missing on the main menu? Or is it sitting somewhere beneath the options on the main menu?
  3. The service which can create competitive advantage should have been right at the top of all their communications. As this is not the case, now I believe there could be some issues hiding beneath there and would be cautious to say the least.
  4. Why should they restrict such a Wi-Fi access to only Aircel customers (they require an Aircel mobile phone number to send the login information to)?
  5. Why not make it available to any user (just like they do at the airports)? This way they can add more users to their network.
  6. Why not provide an unlimited usage plan with the other plans at half the price that other networks offer on the USB modems and expand the network quickly? This will give all the other service providers a run for their money?
  7. To expand fast, why not partner with the Indian Postal Service to get all the area in and around a Post office Wi-Fi enabled? Work out a revenue sharing model with the Postal service and you are in business faster than you can think?
Now the question is if Aircel is even aware of such an opportunity? Are the other service providers aware of such an opportunity?

Only time will tell… 

Categories: Ideas Tags:

A Mobile App to check your eye-sight

April 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Just read about a mobile phone app for smart phones, that the MIT media lab researchers have developed which when coupled with a small plastic device, can be used by anyone to determine their eyeglass prescription. In the video below, Ramesh Raskar, explains the concept of the device + app combination and how it can diagnose your eyeglass prescription.

This was unveiled in July last year and is still in prototype. If successful, this could just be the beginning of a solution to one of the world’s biggest challenge – making healthcare available for the vast majority of the world’s developing countries. This can solve the challenge to scale the healthcare solutions across to geographically diverse locations.

It is absolutely important for these folks to be able to take this innovation to market. This will require them to innovate on the business model (including, distribution, training, etc) to be successful in the market. 

This is the kind of innovation that can make the world a better place to live !!!!!

Here’s wishing them all the very best!!!

Categories: Ideas Tags:

Blog share – Leap & the net will appear

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

An excellent blog by Michael Hyatt, on commitment, faith and self-belief. I would say, take a deep breath and leap and wings will appear.. 
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Book review: REWORK – Simple and complex at the same time

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Today, I completed reading the book Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson. These guys are the founders of 37Signals.

First things first. This is an easy book to read. I was able to finish reading the book, cover-to-cover in about 3 days. The book is written as if it is a collection of blogs. One can read the book as I did, cover-to-cover or pick a topic of interest and read it.

Though the book is easy and simple to read, the content of the book is equally difficult to practice. They prescribe an approach to business that defies conventional wisdom.

This book is a great guide if you have just embarked on your journey of running a business, especially if you are running an internet related business (Yes, they would rather prefer calling it a business than a start-up, which I whole-heartedly agree). Most of the advice that the book offers can solve a lot of challenges that large business face, but are very difficult to implement in the context of a large business due to various reasons, biggest of which being inertia.

The one thing that I do not like about the book is that the authors want you to believe that their recipe is the only recipe for success, which I do not agree with.

Overall, the book is an amazing read if you are leading a business or plan to lead a business. Atleast, this gives you a different perspective of how to run a business. 
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BharatGas (BPCL) – Is someone listening?

April 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I recently shifted my residence from one part of Bangalore to another part of the city. An important part of the process is also to complete the formalities for the change in the gas connection, landline phone connection and updating the address in all the relevant places.

As it turns out, the process to shift my gas connection proved to be a very bad experience for me and my wife. The connection is on my wife’s name and hence she had to go through the bad experience as well.

The current process is as follows:

  1. The person who owns the connection comes to the franchisee’s office with the following documents:
    1. The documents that prove that you have a gas connection from Bharat Gas
    2. An address proof for your new address where you are moving to.
  2. The person submits the documents to the franchisee.
  3. The franchisee gives transfer advice for each gas connection that you have.
  4. You take this advice to the franchisee serving the area where you are shifting to.
  5. He creates a new connection on your name and the connection becomes active at the new address.
Now, there were a lot of things that do not go well with the entire process:

  1. The offices of both the franchises were really cramped up (maybe about 8’ x 8’ in all). We had 12 customers there for various reasons (buy a new connection, transfer the connection, book a replacement cylinder, enquire about the status of their bookings, etc).
  2. There were only 2 employees handling these customers.
  3. There was no air circulation inside the office and all the customers were sweating profusely.
  4. The attitude of the employees was not helping either.
  5. The franchisee owner wanted to talk to each customer who wants to buy or transfer their connections. He only comes to office post lunch as he has other businesses to attend.
  6. Once, the franchisee knew that we were transferring the connection to someother franchisee and there is no more revenue coming from us, he demanded a service charge of INR 100 for the transfer. When asked for an invoice for the fee, he just gave a scrap of dummy invoice.
  7. There was a notice which said that the customers can buy the stove and other accessories wherever they wish. However, the franchisee was not only forcing new customers to buy the accessories  but was also forcing them to buy specific accessories from a specific brand. As a customer who is desperate for a gas connection and having got to the owner after a grueling 40-45 mins in que, the consumer just bought the same and left fuming.
Is all of this necessary? What can BPCL (parent organization which owns Bharat Gas) do to ease this situation?

  1. Allow consumers to book their replacement cylinders by using a code based SMS engine for managing the reservation centrally. This is a fairly simple solution to implement, which will reduce the queues at the franchisees by half and improve transparency in the entire process. FIFO for all orders received. This will improve the customer satisfaction tremendously.
  2. For transfer from one franchisee to another, provide a simple form that the customer can download and fill at his convenience. The same can then be dropped at a drop-box at the office of the new franchisee where you want to transfer the connection to. The new franchisee would then do the necessary process in the back-end.
  3. Ensure that the offices of the franchisees are at least well-ventilated and comfortable for customers visiting the premises.
  4. Create a feedback mechanism to allow customers to file complaints about misconduct of the franchisees.
Simple things can go a long way in improving customer service and satisfaction. Right now, maybe due to the subsidized environment, no companies right now feel the need to invest on customer satisfaction but with the government looking to end the subsidy regime any time, such attitude can create a great competitive advantage over other competitors in the new environment.

BPCL, are you listening?
Categories: Customer delight, Ideas