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Simplifying to Amplify in a Disruptive Economy

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Speakers: Dinesh Malkani, Cisco; Rishad Premji, Wipro; Rajiv Bajaj, Bajaj Auto.

Moderator: Shereen Bhan, CNBC TV 18.

Preamble: Right through 2016, the IT industry had learnt to live with uncertainty. It was constantly having to answer the question, “What do you really stand for?” In turn, internal structures were being re-imagined, dictated by the volatility of the external environment. To stay ahead, one had to necessarily give up on a few things, and the question inevitably was – what exactly would those very “things” be? Better, if we simply called it “The Art of sacrifice?”

Rajeev Bajaj

He started by saying, the idea of simplification may be at loggerheads with the overarching theme of re-imagination. And, was it really possible to re-imagine without actually re-engineering? He added that 25 years ago, Bajaj was synonymous with low-cost scooters and served the domestic market primarily. In present times, the export share was more than 50%.

He drew parallels from Homeopathy:

Issue

Homeopathy – Approach

Management – Approach

Problem

Studies Patient Symptoms

Likened to business failures

Analysis

Case Taken up

Strategy

Solution

Remedy Choices tabled

Differentiated idea

Implementation

Posology adjustment – administering in small doses

Execution management

From a management perspective, ideas can be viewed through the dual lenses of Individualism & Holism. The former entails that the idea meets success through a particular brand but may not be proportionately resonant with others. On the other hand, the latter is akin to the blind men and the elephant example. The plan has to work in its entirety and not selectively. Homeopathy has a similar approach. It seeks vitality through strengthening the entire immune system. Rahul Bajaj says, that the answer to not having R&D is not about selling cheap.

In simplifying execution, businesses often make the mistake of juxtaposing local strategies to a global scenario, hoping that it will fetch similar results. Obviously, it doesn’t. In a differentiated market, action should be initiated in small steps, as the bar gets raised progressively. Likening it to Homeopathy – the smallest dosage is introduced till such time the system adapts to it.

Dinesh Malkani  

To compete and win in digital, one has to be cognizant of a few things:

Changing customer expectation – a certain degree of paranoia is required.

  • Talent mismatch that exists.
  • Competition faced from unexpected markets.
  • P&L pressures.
  • Relentlessly evolving models.
  • Macroeconomic pressures.

If organisations do not disrupt, then eventually they will be the ones to get disrupted, as they face the looming threat of being commoditized. To negate this threat in the digital age, companies should:

  • Have a stake in the ground. The mission matters
  • Taking big bets. Risk taking

He believes that during the period 2018 – 20, India will be the most digitized nation. The challenge will be about managing the inflow into cities which will be like the fountains of opportunities for teeming millions in India. At this point, it is important to note how the government is envisioning the future, based on what customers really want. Are they able to spot trends fast enough? Change ultimately, will be brought about by people. It will have to be about agile teams and diverse workforces, equipped with differentiated thinking. Diversity will reflect in gender, age and geographical locations as well.

To bring in simplicity and subsequent amplification, organisations may require the aid of partners who can bring in innovative thinking. Industry solutions will be created in innovation centres through the process of co-creation. In addition, technology will be leveraged to gain quick learning. This journey will continue with a healthy mix of paranoia, if it can be called that.

Rishad Premji

Complexities and uncertainties in business are at a whole new level. Arguably, the human mind wasn’t fashioned to process complexities of this magnitude, and the challenge today is about building flexible structures that can respond optimally.

  • How does one break hierarchy to enable fluid flow of information?
  • How will stable and dynamic businesses learn to co-exist?
  • How is the learning curve for dynamic businesses going to look like?
  • The playground matters, where there will be experimentation.
  • Taking informed and intelligent bets to convert opportunities quickly.

These were the initial points that were shared and afterwards, the discussion really intensified between the panellists. Some of it is captured below:

  • The focus should be about protecting the future and not the past.
  • Business needs will be about scaling up, whereas, entrepreneurial needs will be about riding the new waves. Let the two not interfere with each other. As Mark Twain once said, “don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”
  • The job of a CEO is to prepare for future through current structures that are made available to him.
  • For a developing nation, to be truly global it may need to narrow down the product portfolio focus. Being able to find niches, specializations will determine pricing strategy accordingly.
  • This effort has to be continued, sustained over a period of time and be communicable to investors.
  • Business is all about perception – so climb mountains one at a time.
  • De-risking is not gambling. If bets don’t pay off, at least one can live with the solace of having made informed choices.

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