SEPT 14, 2003
 Cover Story
 Personal Finance
 Case Game
 Back of the Book

Q&A: Jagdish Sheth
Given the quickening 'half-life' of knowledge, is Jagdish Sheth's 'Rule Of Three' still as relevant today as it was when he first enunciated it? Have it straight from the Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing at the Goizueta Business School of Emory University, USA. Plus, his views on competition, and lots more.

Q&A: Arun K. Maheshwari
Arun Maheshwari, Managing Director and CEO of CSC India, the domestic subsidiary of the $11.3-billion Computer Sciences Corporation, wonders if India can ever become a software product powerhouse, given its lack of specific domain knowledge. The way out? Acquire foreign companies that do have it.

More Net Specials
Business Today,  July 20, 2003
First Skim, Then...

...plunge in. A unique Unilever story that aims to stimulate thought, a study of India's integration with the global economy, and quick looks at coffee, peace and free expression.

Brands: They take more thinking than you'd imagine


Has Unilever lost the plot? It's a monosyllabic answer, and one that leaves you open-mouthed, if this account of the 'dramatic transformation' of its Dutch foods unit is taken as a millennial precursor to some sort of global rejuvenation. Written by a greying organisational psychologist and a couple of young academic researchers, it's quite a dramatic story, literally-hints of which are evident in the cover (the visual and stylisation). Well-enacted, too.

The book begins without much ado. After a few words of awe from T.E. Lawrence on natural rock formations, the book's narrative-a five-act drama-opens to a scene that engages all five human senses. The smell of rotting food; the sight of a huge warehouse full of 'rejects'; the sound of Mozart's Requiem; the taste of incoming chief Tex Gunning's operating style (he'd whisked 1,400 unsuspecting employees to this warehouse one fine morning in 1995); and the feel of a splash-in-the-face awakening.

To the desert, to the Scottish clan-land, to Iceland-as the pages turn, these whisk-em-off 'outbreaks' assume a pattern in Gunning's masterplan, as the effervescence of his ideas begin to work others into a lather. Old notions of hierarchy get dissolved as teams become teams, the voiceless speak up and free associations gain potency. The business' focus shifts to market opportunity, not process maintenance. Leading the consumer, not following.

To The Desert And Back
By Philip Mirvis, Karen Ayas & George Roth
Price: Rs 1,242
PP: 256

Spontaneity grows. Initiatives get taken. Ideas pop up. Wins are scored. And when Gunning's modest unit merges with Van Den Bergh, the original Dutch arm of Unilever, his folksy 'farmers' turn the latter's 'sophisticates' into go-getters. That's when the 'artists' of value creation and 'executionists' of value delivery join forces, and some turn into 'angry young men'. Angry enough to stage a rebellion. And what does Gunning do? He goes to the bigwigs on the board, who sit together, recall their childhoods, break down, sob like crazy (the chief too), empower the rebels, and "suddenly start saying, 'No, no, let's do this and let's do that'". That's it. Team after team unmasks. The 'cascade' begins. And a few teary outbreaks later, it's action time.

Brand after brand is relaunched-Liptonica iced-tea gets 'mountain madness', Uno noodles gets bikini cool-and, boy-oh-boy, the topline flashes growth, growth, growth.

The net result?

'Holistic integration', as the last chapter calls it. Personal and business growth. Appealing to the head and heart. Driven top-down and bottom up. Through order and chaos. "Gunning," notes the book's concluding analysis, "was by turns a tough bastard, a poet, a preacher, and an everyday mate. And like any other successful leader in business, he was guided by his own theories."

Underlying all the drama was a neat strategic plan: to loosen up, foster empathy, rally everyone, redefine 'competitive space', spot new consumer needs and highlight the.

Rather theatrical. Books are books, and do have their inconsistencies, rushed insertions and what not. But never mind all that. What matters is the 'take out', and that too, in its finest form.

And the desert trip?

Ah... that's the climax, the Act V. The final y2k outbreak-to Wadi Rum, Jordan, and the famous Petra monastery, sculpted by the Nabataeans a millennium before the scientific age.

The outbreak's idea? To unify forces. Stimulate minds. Distinguish. Accept. Reject. Reflect. Truly, madly, deeply. "Understand what worked well."

Think back. For the future.

Reintegrating India with the World Economy
By T N Srinivasan
Suresh D Tendulkar
Oxford University Press
PP: 167
Price: Rs 395

Ever since India opened its gates to the world as a destination for investment and a player in world trade, there have been several scholarly books on the country's joining the world economy as a full participant. Still, Reintegrating India With The World Economy, by two of the India's leading economists-T.N. Srinivasan, the Samuel C. Park Professor of Economics at Yale, and Suresh D. Tendulkar, Professor at the Delhi School of Economics (DSE)-is a welcome addition and fine read.

This slim 152-page book with 14 pages of exhaustive references and abundant graphs, addresses two of India's major concerns. What should India's position be in the multilateral trading system? Second, and more importantly, which domestic policy issues need to be addressed if India must achieve a sustainably high growth rate?

On trade, the authors believe that India should play the borderless trade champion at the WTO, rather than play 'Third World leader' by engaging in protectionist barrier-for-barrier theatrics, which plays well at home but hurts the country's long-term trade interests. They even suggest that India should unilaterally reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers-as a strategic move to enhance Indian competitiveness and gain market access.

On the domestic front, the authors remain cautiously optimistic, despite the deteriorating fiscal reality, infrastructure deadweights, autarkic labour laws, antiquated bankruptcy code and outrageous liquidation procedures.

So why the optimism? "It is heartening that the need for this extension and deepening of reforms is being realised by the parties in power and by the opposition,'' say the authors. Indeed, one would love to agree.

By Leslie A. Yerkes & Charles Decker
Rs 920
PP: 154
Short little fable on a café called El Espresso, its owner's passion for coffee and employee empowerment, and the wonders his passion works for business.

Middle East Illusions
By Noam Chomsky
Price: Rs 295
PP: 299
Here's a book Ariel Sharon might not like you to read. About how the Western world deludes itself on peace and justice, and their mutual interdependency.

Law Of The Press
By Durga Das Basu
Price: Rs 995
PP: 896
What does a 'free press' really mean? A legal reference book. Why is questioning India's 'territorial integrity' illegal? What does Section 153A say? The details.