Innovation 101: “Look Ma, no ethics!

There’s this fancy company that has a fancy business model called multi level marketeering (MLM). I will not name it, not because I’m afraid to but because putting their name here would be another way to virally market them. Sorry guys, you’re not going to be able to leverage my blog to achieve your unethical goals.


What’s my problem? After all in business, the end (profit for you) always justifies the means doesn’t it? And isn’t there a well known legal tenet that says ‘customer beware’? But I haven’t come across any philosophy that says ’employee beware’.

Now these guys say that theirs is an innovative business model. They don’t need infrastructure, payroll, management – just a set of products that use the credibility of unsuspecting human beings down a never ending chain. The model ‘invisibly’ erodes the value of the unsuspecting victims’ existing social networks for a miniscule fraction of the return that the glib entrepreneur makes every time a sale is effected.

Can you even imagine what they’re selling? Packaged cosmic energy!! I’m not kidding you. That’s why I called it marketeering and not marketing. In my dictionary marketeering has all the ingredients of criminality but sadly,  no legal system in the world has classified it as such. That would make all businesses criminal right?

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Cost-cutting: Is Alfred Nobel sleeping?

Alfred Nobel's death mask. Photo taken by Hal ...Image via Wikipedia

We can keep cribbing about jobs being outsourced to India, dealing with foreign accents, etc. but the real problem lies elsewhere. Who decided that costs are the only drivers of business? Who created the call centers? Who decided that technology is a good alternative to human beings? These are some of the questions we need to answer.

When I was a kid, my Dad told me what selling was all about. “In one sentence,” he mused, “it is about selling a hair brush to a bald man and getting him to be obliged for the favour!” My take-away was that selling is the art of having your customer see value beyond the price he’s paying. There’s hardly any sales competency required if all I have to do is to lower the price. Business competencies yes, but sales competency NO. If my strategy for the future is based on the principle that my competitors will become worse and worse, then that’s the weakest basis for survival. Forget growth.

My other contention is that the cost model might still work for ‘material’ goods that are possible to benchmark by adding from raw materials upwards. How do I even figure out the BoM for consulting? That’s easy! Just take salaries of people and put it in the ‘Raw Material’ column??

So when we talk of cost-cutting, the first thing that comes to mind is to cut the salary bill. Hey that’s a pointer. Where can I get a person at one-tenth the salary so I can hire 10 people for every one person I have today. Next step, fire all the people I have today and I end up running a company 10 times the size. WoW! The mathematics are perfect and infallible.

10 janitors = 1 software professional. All we need to do now is to teach the janitors Java. Even if it took me a year and I spent another fraction on training, I would still make a higher profit. Is Alfred Nobel dead or sleeping!

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Can Innovation be taught?

Since I have decided to write a book on the much hackneyed topic of innovation, I thought I should share a podcast (Lunar’s Icon-o-cast) recorded earlier this year at Lunar Design‘s San Francisco office. Lunar’s co-founder and CEO, Jeff Smith, has become a good friend. This is a conversation with Lunar’s President, John Edson where you’ll hear both of us meandering through the complex business landscapes of the future.

 Listen to the podcast here …

Download the mp3 file here. (Right click to save)

The mask on the face of India Inc.

This is the first time I am trying to create a legitimate post. First timers generally make a hash of things and I don’t know if I’m going to be any different. That’s one of the problems with us writers. We can never seem to distinguish between a book, an essay, a newspaper column, a blog or whatever. Does a writer need to develop a micro-style at a lower level to make sure that a post does what a post is supposed to do?

I derive some pseudo-comfort when I look around me. I am Indian. My friends from other disciplines are also similarly challenged. My IT friends don’t seem to think they need to consider anything except programming. My business friends only think of number targets. My artist friends are perhaps the only refreshing exceptions to the rule.

Driving to work this morning I found myself asking why India’s business community looked so much like any other country’s especially since the physical and cultural characteristics resemble no other. I wondered if it had to do with our having discarded our ethnicity along the way or whether we had consciously worn the mask of the western world for the sake of convenience and our need for acceptance.

The one thing that’s clear to me is that it is a mask we’re wearing. What scares me is that most Indians in India and elsewhere have come to accept that this mask is actually the face God gave them. And what’s worse from my point of view is that they actually like the face that stares back at them through the mirror every morning.

I am reminded of a conversation from years ago – that most of the valuable research on ancient Indian philosophies and languages was being churned out by western researchers in western universities. Continue reading “The mask on the face of India Inc.”