NOVEMBER 7, 2004
 Cover Story
 Personal Finance
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

The iPod Effect
Now you see it, now you don't. All sub-visible phenomena have this mysterious quality to them. Sub-visible not just because Apple's hot new sensation, the handy little iPod, makes its physical presence felt so discreetly. But also because it's an audio wonder more than anything else. Expect more and more handheld gizmos to turn musical.

What route other than musical would Panasonic take, even for a phone handset, into consumer mindspace?

More Net Specials
Business Today,  October 24, 2004
Internet Age Lead

The modern leader's 21st century agenda, and how to get the money in.

Virtuous individual: Richard Branson sees youthful opportunity in old dilemmas

Needs are needs. They're the same on the other side of the globe. Ergo, business must go global. Voices too. This has had its moments of fun. 'Better dead than red,' ran a slogan in the US once; people across the Pacific heard it as 'Better dead than led', scratched their heads, and resolved to lead instead. 'We're always consensual-your elections are silly,' went a cross-ocean rebuff some years later; people back on the other shore heard something else, griped awhile, and invented Viagra.

People and places differ. Even in the internet age. According to Diamond Jared's Guns, Germs And Steel, human differences can be traced to earth formations, survival strategies and so forth... it's a long story. Anyhow, even now, people from seafaring countries often prefer to 'trawl the net' online, fisherman-like, while inland folk like to 'crawl the web' spider-like, sometimes even laterally. Meanwhile, the very 'web' imagery evokes differing thoughts. A superhero fantasy for some, a camouflage to others. Yes, people differ.

By Fons Trompenaars & Charles Hampden-Turner
Tata McGraw-Hill
PP: 496
Price: Rs 395

Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, who wrote Riding The Waves Of Culture, are consultants on 'intercultural management'. Now this is a tricky subject; going about sticking labels on groups of people could have nasty effects. As diversity experts, however, these two are quite careful, even keen on passing the 'global test' of approval. They avoid simplistic this-or-that binaries, and speak of values as continuums with contrasting ends, without dropping hints of what's good or bad. Yet, they have heaps of research on differences that can be used to club people together as 'cultures' on the world map.

Americans, for example, like universal rules ('no booze, buddy, is no booze'), while East Asians tend to go case by case ('okay, well, just this time'). Americans are individualistic ('gimme my own spaceship controls'), while people further east are relatively collectivist ('we're all in it together'). Some folk like precision ('we won'), others are fine fuzzy ('depends what you mean'). Some express themselves volubly ('bleep'-expletive deleted), others contain their emotions ('uhm'). The differences go on.

To the global leader, each of those contrasts is a 'dilemma'-a word strewn liberally around the pages of 21 Leaders For The 21st Century: How Innovative Leaders Manage In The Digital Age, the latest work by Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner. The job of a global leader is to reconcile dilemmas. And this can be done so long as one is ready to call what's false 'false', and do what's needed to prove the point.

So far, so clear. It's the '21 leaders for the 21st century' who get the lips pursed. At first glance, the list screams 'oversell'. Sure they've all shaken businesses up, but would any of them make a list made a hundred years from now? Could they really hope to grab the imagination of kids who've not even been conceived yet?

Yet, it's not entirely absurd. So long as people continue to read, they could possibly lead. At least in some fuzzy way. The specific successes of the 21 may be far from historic, but there is something universal in their rejection of 'either-or'. And in their passion for value synthesis. They have all dared to think beyond the 'box' defined by current thought limits (set by humankind).

Take Virgin's Richard Branson. This young man started by selling music that the big guys were too scared of, and has gone about resolving one dilemma after another by refusing to take himself too seriously. He has created a big business poking fun at big business, and revels in being a rebel against his own. He sold condoms turning people pink in the face, started Virgin Bride stores on the brainwave of a flight stewardess, and was once found by a survey to be the favourite for the job of editing the 'Ten Commandments'.

Should one be jealous? Who knows. Is this book all ra-ra all the way? Yes. Or maybe not. There must be a way to straddle both.

By Philip Kotler, Hermawan Kartajaya & S. David Young
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
PP: 246
Price: Rs 1,372

Quick, raising capital is a finance function, right? Well, yes and no. For even while beancounters remain indispensable when it comes to the nuances of internal-rate-of-return (IRR) or return-on-capital-employed (ROCE), attracting investors has become as much a marketing function as selling a bar of soap or that foreign holiday package.

So no matter who you are, a CEO going in for private placement, a small business owner running into a cash flow problem, or a young entrepreneur on the trail of a venture capitalist, Attracting Investors is just for you. The authors, marketing guru Philip Kotler, Hermawan Kartajaya, and S. David Young, take you through the process of raising capital by winning over investor mind, heart and marketshare, using the marketing techniques of prospecting, targeting, segmenting, differentiation, positioning, brand building et al.

The book even has a crash course on sources of capital-from angel finance, private equity and vendor financing to financial institution loans. And what's more, the book takes you, step by step, into the mind of your potential customer, clearly spelling out the inherent risks and strengths with every capital partner. What, for instance, motivates business angels? How do they differ from one another? The authors sum up by concluding that to attract and keep investors, you should stick to the value-creating principles and discipline of everyday brand marketing, customer service and process-orientation.

By Jeff Saperstein & Dr Daniel Rouach
Pearson Education
PP: 390
Price: Rs 595

Silicon valley, Taiwan, Ireland, France, Sweden, Israel, Munich, Cambridge and Bangalore. Places that have little in common. Yet, Jeff Saperstein and Daniel Rouach in their book Creating Regional Wealth In The Innovation Economy: Models, Perspective And Best Practices show how these assorted "entrepreneurial hotspots'' have become powerful magnets for talent, money and ideas, and powerful incubators for tomorrow's best companies. They also explain why some locations succeed in their quest for innovation and sustain their competitive advantages, while others fail.

While the success stories of Bangalore and Silicon Valley are already well documented, there's much to gain from the chapters on Ireland's emergence as Europe's high-tech hub and Sweden's transformation into a communications technology centre. The Irish experiment, for example, has been one of dovetailing technological progress and government policy. While the country attracted manufacturers in the 1980s because of low wages and tax incentives, once this edge wore out, the government shifted focus and repositioned Ireland as a hub for internet and other creative businesses. It adopted a proactive approach to e-commerce by enacting the E-Commerce Act, July 2000, and deregulating the telecom market. All this has made it the 'Celtic Tiger'-the fastest-growing of all OECD countries. These stories could make this book a good reference for many and a fun read for techies.




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