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
The Case Of The Mystery Man
How can Reflex Systems turn its sales trio into a sales team? Thiru Vengadam of PeopleSoft, Prem Kamath of Hindustan Lever and Joseph John of Wipro Infotech discuss.

Oh no!" exclaimed Rajan Trivedi, allowing his normally unflappable self to get flapped. His colleagues Santanam Shankaran and Kirit Singh stopped and shrugged.

Till this point, Reflex Systems' three senior sales and marketing executives had been on their way for lunch after a routine meeting. Now, it was two of them left waiting, as Trivedi rushed to recover his rolodex file left on the conference table-apparently a crisis of unspeakable proportions. Trivedi was mortified by the thought of someone-anyone-thumbing through it.

"Teamwork 101," said Shankaran, with sarcasm.

"Yeah," Singh chuckled, "all for one and one for more."

It was half an hour later-at the local pizza joint-that the issue was broached again. Trivedi had opted out, and both had one name on their mind: Trivedi.

"The Razzmataaz deal was quite a stunner," said Shankaran, at last. He was referring to Trivedi's latest coup for the company-a contract worth Rs 10 crore for an upcoming retail chain. "Weren't you supposed to go with him for the deal-closing meet?"

Singh frowned. Something had come up, and Trivedi had not been able to re-schedule the meeting. And so it happened that their colleague went alone, again, to score the big one. "It's been tagged in the credit records for all three of us anyway," mumbled Singh.

"And he's also filed the deal report in proper format," said Shankaran, "I studied it with a magnifying glass. Very nicely written. The negotiation process is all there, right to the last detail. A masterpiece."

They both laughed-in consolation for the grim fact of the moment. Without Trivedi, they knew, neither of them could possible make any headway with Razzmataaz, with or without all the documentation processes on how the deal was swung. The report was what it was-a report with bald facts and obvious numbers, as the office template demanded, rounded off with a nice dose of prose elaborating the supposedly insightful details of the client's business requirements.

"Do you think Ramanathan ever sees these reports?" asked Singh, himself a diligent report-filer-as a way to make an impression on the CEO, who had founded the software firm some 10 years ago.

"We're supposed to study the market together, chalk out strategies, and then go get the contracts. All of us. That's the job"

"Well, Mahajan certainly does," replied Shankaran, referring to the President, sales and marketing. "Didn't he just mention how our reports are beginning to sound so similar that we must have terrific cohesion?"

The two laughed again. "Maybe we're subconsciously mimicking Trivedi's style," ventured Singh.

"As if reports mean anything..." scoffed Shankaran.

"So long as it formalises the process of institutionalising the whole sales operation, I think it's positive," opined Singh, "Better than operating as lone rangers... mysterious cowboys who gallop alone into the night and turn up at dawn with bags of gold at the saddle."

"What makes you think this is any different?" growled Shankaran, "putting statistics together for group analysis and reading each other's reports is not my idea of market-knowledge sharing."

"So what-you want us to read each other's minds and turn into professional soul-mates? There's an art to the damn thing and someone will always be more artistic at the job than others. We can't grudge Trivedi that, you know," shot back Singh.

Suitably provoked, Shankaran turned on his most argumentative voice. "Ha-now you're talking art," he bristled. "If it was so much art or whatever, you could bet your next bonus he'd be a lot happier letting us into the tricks of the trade. Artistic skill cannot be copied, but this guy is behaving like we steal his job if we steal his rolodex. Wake up, man. The guy's paranoid or something."

"Maybe he's just highly individualistic," contended Singh, "in any case, I don't think we have any business sitting here psycho-analysing a colleague. You know, one of America's greatest folk singers used to hand out the music score to his accompanists only seconds before the studio recording-he was nuts about anything leaking out beforehand."

"Accompanists?" Shankaran raised his voice. "What on earth are you talking about? We're a three-person sales team, dammit. We're supposed to study the market together, chalk out strategies, and then go get the contracts. All of us. That's the job. We're supposed to be on a common wavelength."

"That's not the job," said Singh, "that's the theory."

"Fine-maybe even you're developing a special antenna to pick up signals from deep within clients' minds." Shankaran was turning morose.

"Hey, trust me. I'm just as zapped as you are, so cut out the 'me and you' thing. But admit it, we're damned lucky to be in Trivedi's group. We're also getting the fat sales bonuses. All we need is some real teamwork."

"That's not going to happen at the rate we're going. Trivedi sees this quiet arrangement like some sort of mutually acceptable equilibrium. You know what he was doing once when I walked into his office? He was talking to an ex-customer of Raazmataaz-there's no mention of it in the report. Now look at the brief we've prepared for the programmers. No retailer looking purely for shelf-space efficiency maximisation would go with such software specifications... it's obvious they're looking for some non-conventional metric for shelf-space value, but they did not verbalise it. So how did our man know?"

"Good question. Try figuring out what's on his mind, and he'll just stonewall you."

"Yeah, so let's have a heart-to-heart with Mr Mystery... we're not challenging his sales skills, we're just pursuing the company's institutionalisation objectives. The system's bigger than the individual, remember?"

Shankaran looked sceptical. "Sounds too much like a threat for any such discussion to end amicably. I think we're better off taking the issue up..."

"With Mahajan?" cut in Singh, incredulously.

"Of course not-he has a stake in papering all the cracks, and he's cool so long as our group's targets are met. And when it comes to a budget battle to retain his team, he also knows exactly who Mr Indispensable is."

"Terrific. Got any ideas?"

"We go to the hr head for advice. I mean, he'll at least take an angel perch view. And this could be symptomatic of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed before it's too late. This systemisation thing is not working, and the CEO should know it's not working. An atomised company cannot retain its edge for long. Teamwork 101. Company alert."

"Oh-and risk letting Trivedi get the whole bonus all to himself the next time round?"

The question: What should Shankaran and Singh do about Trivedi?

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