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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Emphasis on Innovation, Brand Building during Recession

Hi all.....

We have been hearing a lot about Whether in present times companies should Innovate or not. 
In today's Economic Times Brand Equity(India's Premier Business Newspaper), Nokia India MD, D Shivakumar has expressed his views about the same. Here's a copy of that article. 
Check it out. Innovation & Brand Building are even more important & provide a unique opportunity to race ahead of competitors. 

Check Out the Article

Downturn, What’s That?

To build stronger brands, look no further than the downturn, writes D Shivakumar, MD, Nokia. A Brand Equity exclusive

    THE year 2008 was a watershed year for businesses across the globe. The banking industry collapsed, Wall Street declined 41% and consumer spending took a nosedive. Words like slowdown, downturn, recession and depression found prime place in corporate lexicon. The Indian story has been similar leading to sentiment that is subdued at the moment. 
    But good firms and leaders will seize the slowdown as a great opportunity. Evidence suggests that 3 of the top 10 firms drop out of the top 10 list during a slowdown. Companies make more dramatic gains and losses during downturns and not boom times. Gaining in tough times also ensures that companies will make more gains when good times return. 
    In a slowdown, successful firms do two things - Managing IN and Managing OUT. It is like Formula 1. The driver needs to decelerate through a curve properly so that he can pass a few competitors while picking up speed on the straight. Managing a downturn is exactly like that. The key pieces in Managing In are mindset, costs and scenario planning. 
    In India, the mindset issue is critical at the moment. Anyone 
below the age of 37 hasn’t seen a tough year; they have only seen good times in India and therefore they have had an optimistic view of their capabilities and their future. A lot of the young managers have taken on debt, with the confidence that their jobs are secure. The current slowdown has jolted that confidence. It is likely that many managers will be going through a combination of fear, paralysis, cowardice and momentum. Good leaders need to move the bulk of the organisation to the momentum zone as quickly as possible. 
    The second element of Managing In is looking at the costs de 
novo. One should bucket the costs into good costs and bad costs. Any cost-cutting that weakens the brand and the company position is not good. It is important that we do not tamper with quality in our zeal to save costs. Consumers might not overtly appreciate great quality but they are quick to seize on its absence. Brands like Kit Kat in the UK cut quality in recession times by making the chocolate coating around the wafer thin. Mars, their main competitor did the opposite. It took years for Kit Kat to recover from that move. Advertise Or Perish 
In marketing terms, we have to think value and not price alone — alter the proposition so that the consumer sees more value in it. Give price a reference and then consumers are smart enough to get it. Something like what Ariel Basico communicated on their packs — “Cleans everything except your wallet”. 
    Cross category partnerships is another option. P&G and retailer Ann Taylor are promoting the concept of not needing to dry clean clothes. They are helping consumers see value. The third element of Managing In is to build scenarios and work at the “worst case” scenario. The worst case scenario can be distributors not having cash, customers not paying up, losing key employees etc etc.. By planning for the worst, the firm and the brand would be in a better position to handle any variation of the worst case scenario that comes up. 

    Managing Out, on the other hand, is far more strategic. It is about the philosophy of what matters in a business. Firms that continue to invest in a downturn — in innovation, advertising and talent — always come out stronger. 
    If we look back to the Great Depression of 1931, there is data to suggest that there were five categories that saw volume growth in that period (volume 
growth in 1933 versus 1929). The categories were refrigerators, butter, chocolates, bicycles and knitwear. That list includes essentials and little luxuries. The reason for the growth of the refrigerator category was simply brand and category innovation. And this is, therefore, the most effective antidote to consumer sentiment and deferring purchase in a slowdown. 
    Research from the 1981 re
cession shows that companies that invested in innovation grew 40% more than the companies that didn’t. Similarly companies that invested or maintained advertising grew 50% more than those that cut back on advertising. 
    Most firms see advertising as dispensable. However, I think that companies need to maintain, if not grow the advertising budget. Cutting advertising is the simplest option because it is seen as a luxury in downturns but if the firms want to succeed they must look at investing the money smartly behind a few big projects. As a marketer, our focus should be to change the way consumers think about our category, the competitive offerings and the brand. 
    Slowdowns, downturns, recessions and depressions will come and go but brands are for life. Focus on the long-term goals and continued engagement with the consumers and employees would result in winning and staying on top.

Companies make more dramatic gains and losses during downturns and not boom times 
    D Shivakumar


Article Source: BrandEquity , Economic Times ,25 Feb 2009. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jose Antonio Abreu- Ted prize winner

Jose Antonio Abreu is the charismatic founder of a youth orchestra system that has transformed thousands of kids' lives in Venezuela. He shared his amazing story and unveiled a TED Prize wish that could have a big impact in the US and beyond.

Check out how he is able to solve the problem of poverty and provide children a sense of identity, purpose and means of livelihood. Can we replicate something like this here in India and other parts of world.

All I Can say about this video is that I am Inspired.
Check it out & get Inspired too

Article & Video Source:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cultivating Innovation : Interview with Alberto Alessi

Check out the interview of Alberto Alessi, CEO of leading Design firm. 

You may have to register to read the whole interview. Check out the PDF version for extended interview. 

Article Source:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Design Research : IIT

Alright everybody, its been a while since the last post. Was busy with attending
 India Design Festival which happened here in Pune with an array of speakers from
 across the globe (Japan, Holland, Finland, USA, UK,etc). Will soon write about it. 
In the meanwhile, we have all heard of Design Research and how it is different from market research and the aim of which is to derive latent needs of users. IIT-ID holds a design reserach conference every year where speakers from across the Industries come together and speak about methods that they use for design reserach. 

Check out the great videos including that of Colleen Murray from Jump Associates as she talks about How to envision, Rob Tannen as he talks about the technology tools for design research, Miguel Gomez Winebrenner on maximising design & innovation by keeping a pulse on multicultural audiences. 
Great learning experience. 

Also TED has just released new video of Siftables (tiny computer blocks that interact). check it out.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kindle 2: Is it User focused

Kindle 2  launched recently.

Design thinking involves focusing on User's needs - discovering their latent needs & developing products accordingly. Lets see if the newely launched Kindle 2 focusing on user needs.

Here are some Pros & Cons 

Here Pros refer to the value which the users may be looking for and helps them meet their unarticulated needs
and Cons refer to the undelivered value to Users. 

So what are the Pros
1. Easy downloading of the book via free wireless access
2. Large memory holds 1500 books than the original version holding 200
3. Gets Sync with other devices that can hold text files.
4. New & Improved Design: Easy to read & lighter too.

So whats the Cons
1. Content can be bought from Amazon only:  We talk about focusing on user's needs. here I think Amazon has focussed on its business interest allowing books only to be downloaded from This in a way provides opportunity for other companies to allow users to download from any site thereby providing value which users care. 
2. Cost : At a $ 359 it is considered costly and even compared to some netbooks pC's. 

Let's see what the user thinks in the coming period which will be shown by sales


Friday, February 6, 2009

TED 2009

TED has started
The conference is currently going on in California with some of the best thinkers coming together and presenting & discussing Ideas. 
I got this video on You tube showcasing a Taste of Ted, what TED is all about. 
Have a look.
The videos of the current TED is already on
Make sure to catch the same. 


BusinessWeek 5 questions to Brian Dunn, Best Buy

Hi everyone
Recently Businessweek Selected 5 questions from readers to be asked to incoming CEO of BEST BUY Brian Dunn.
I happened to send my question which was among the 5 that were selected. 

My question was:
 In present era of economic downturn where reducing costs & avoiding  risks are do you make sure that new ideas selected will  be successful. How do you choose & test the feasibility of new ideas before their actual implementation in order to make sure innovation practices are successful. 

Check out the response from Dunn as he mention how in the present scenario having new Ideas and testing new ideas become important and how Best Buy is using its methodology to regularly test new ideas at selected stores and then phasing out selected ideas nationally reducing the risk of failure. 

Also during the Interview, notice as he talks about attention being paid to Customer, As Dunn mentions, the focus on customer is even more important during these times which will ensure not only customer walking into the store but also a purchase. 


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

UPA's 10$ laptop

Well here's a creative Idea
We have all heard of the Fuse project ($100 laptop )
Well here'e an Innovation- how about laptop costing $10 only.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA)- India's ruling party has announced the launch of a laptop costing Rs. 500 or $10. 
The laptop has been  developed by students and faculty at IIT Madras, VIT (vellore institute of technology) and IIS bangalore.
The laptop is beleived to be having wifi, 2 GB memory , consumes just 2 watts power,USB,Ethernet.
Although many beleive this as a strategy to woo young voters as Indian general Elections are coming soon but if successful the laptop will help many students and young people in India for sure. 



Monday, February 2, 2009

Entrepeneurship Summit' 09

For all those of you who want to convert their ideas into reality as a successful business, IIT Mumbai brings the Entrepreneurship Summit. Following is the introduction about the summit from the website:-

For More details visit

About E-summit:

E- Summit is a unique initiative by The Entrepreneurship Cell, IIT Bombay which serves as a common platform for aspiring, budding and successful entrepreneurs to interact and help build successful enterprises.

E-Summit 09, as an integral part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of IIT Bombay has an overlying theme of Empowering entrepreneurs. It will exhibit a broad realm of Sessions which include insightful Panel discussions and Interactive Talk Sessions by seasoned entrepreneurs.

E-Summit '09 also brings The Investor Pitch – an invaluable opportunity for startups to raise seed capital and exclusive Mentoring sessions for aspiring entrepreneurs. The Summit will also play host to the finals of Eureka'08 – Asia’s largest B-Plan competition along with Startup Showcasing and Global Conference of Entrepreneurship Promoting Organizations.

The Summit is divided into two tracks meant for aspiring and budding entrepreneurs
Track 1 – From idea generation to a startup
Track 2 – From startup to a successful company

Date: 7th Feb, 2009 Venue: IIT Bombay

Organized by:
The Entrepreneurship Cell
SAC, IIT Bombay
Phone No: (022) 25764044
Fax No: (022) 25768490