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MAY 20, 2007
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Web Censors
Internet censorship is on the rise worldwide. As many as two dozen countries are blocking content using a variety of techniques. Distressingly, the most censor-heavy countries such as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Uzbekistan seem to be passing on their technologically sophisticated techniques to other countries of the world. Some examples of censorship: China's blocking of Wikipedia and Pakistan's ban on Google's blogging service.

Temping Trend
Of late, temporary staffing has become a trend in India Inc. In industries such as retail and logistics, temporary hiring has become a business strategy as it enables them to quickly ramp up teams. It is becoming increasingly important for the survival of Indian firms, given the growth rates and talent shortage. Although the salary gap between temporary and permanent jobs is narrowing, temporary staff in India earn lower salaries than permanent ones, which is contrary to the global trend.
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Business Today,  May 6, 2007

Crazy After All These Years
Kishore Biyani is a breath of fresh air in a corporate world littered with inheritors and preservers.
By Kishore Biyani with Dipayan Baishya Rupa
Pp: 268
Price: Rs 99

Kishore Biyani is stark mad. And he won't send Business Today and this writer a legal notice for saying so. The pioneer of organised retail in India-who has built such brands as Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar and Central-is in a destructive mood these days. A few months ago, he demolished the organisation's structure, painstakingly created over the past decade (since venturing into modern retail with the Pantaloon chain of stores), to create a new platform for new ideas.

Biyani is different, refreshingly. He hasn't yet read his horoscope (and doesn't appear likely to), and since an early age has been against religious practices and rituals. He's even tried to write this book in a non-linear format which, though commendable, may irritate conventional readers. But that's typical of a man who thought of the brand name WBB for the launch of a fabric for men's trousers way back in the 80s. Abhay Kamat, a long-time friend of Biyani, says: "I asked him what the brand meant. His reply was: 'It is innovative.' I thought he was crazy." WBB incidentally stands for White, Blue and Brown. It worked.

Nobody calls him crazy today because he's made it. "When one is young and tries to rewrite rules he is called 'mad.' But when he is finally successful, because he dared to risk it, he is called a 'maverick'." Biyani is still young (45), and the Future Group and organised retail itself in India are in their infantile years. So, why is he writing a biography when he and the industry still have miles to go? After all, one of his idols, Sam Walton ("the original master of rewriting rules"), founder of Wal-Mart, authored the classic Made in America, when he was on his deathbed. Biyani's efforts are ground-breaking, but as Irena Vittal, who heads McKinsey's retail practice in India, notes: "…It's too early to decide whether he is successful or not. The game has just begun."

Biyani provides the answer in the Foreword to the book, via the voice of his son. He sees a need to tell his story to the 'potential' India of tomorrow, a story of "ordinary people who have made extraordinary things happen during our times." But the book may also be a sub-conscious attempt at attracting the accolades, which have been slow in coming. Biyani is conscious about the chasm that exists between first-generation achievers like him-"small-time Marwari banias" who didn't go to B-school-and the "inheritors". "There is a much respected lady from a large business house who used to refer to ours as 'dirty stores'," writes Biyani.

Like many of the better business biographies, this one works at various levels--of the individual, the organisation he's built, the industry he operates in, the consumer he sells to and the insights he's picked up along the way. If reading about those who have done it can indeed help one become a successful entrepreneur, It Happened in India has to be compulsory reading.

By Yossi Sheffi
Pearson Education
Pp: 338
Price: Rs 375

It's every manufacturer's worst nightmare: parts that are supposed to reach the assembly line just in time don't for whatever reason. Lost sales is just one fallout of this scenario; loss in market share and customers switching to some other product are other damaging possibilities. In the modern environment, where supply chains are far flung not just within the country but across the globe and manufacturers have fewer back-up suppliers, any disruption in supplies can have grave consequences. The Resilient Enterprise, then, is about how competitiveness depends not so much on what the company does after disaster strikes as what it does before. Using examples, Sheffi, a professor of Engineering Systems at MIT and Director of the MIT Centre for Transportation and Logistics, shows how supply chain breakdowns can have devastating impacts, and what techniques companies can use to plan for contingencies. Standardisation, modular design and collaboration with suppliers, Sheffi says, are some ways in which the modern-day manufacturer can become resilient. The good part about the book is that although it is about a subject as complex as supply chain, it in itself is not complicated. Sheffi employs an easy narrative, and steers clear of complicated charts and graphs. Anyone responsible for managing supply chain will find that Sheffi's book, as one testimonial says, provides "food for thought and stimulus for action".