Strategic Reflections

Based on Hilmy Cader's column in the Daily Financial Times

An Economic Paradox

It would be fair to say that more than 99% of the world's population would want peace, not war. However, increasingly, more regions in the world are involved in various wars, from the drugs in Mexico to the borders of Thailand and Cambodia to the NATO attacks in Libya. The global defense industry is valued at US$ 1.5 trillion per annum and the global media industry is valued at US$ 1.1 trillion. These two industries are major providers of employment, and power the economies of many countries, mostly developed nations. For these two industries to continue at profitable levels, there has to be ongoing excitement! So, to (politically) live "happily ever after" may well be a dream! What will be the wake-up call?

Global financial crisis - what can we do?

Not a day passes by without bad news on the economic and financial front. Globally, we seem to respond to these challenges with more and more "Bad-Aid and Plasters", when what we nedd is "Surgery" and Soul Searching. That fact that we are living way beyond our means (economically and ecologically) is the root cause of the fast deteriorating global economic health. This is compounded by the creation of "imaginary money" throught various speculative financial instruments. Unless, we address these two fundamental flaws, the global economy will plunge into further crisis. At an individual and corporate level, we all can respond with less GEM (Greed, Ego and Materailism)

Think "Small"

"Think Big" is a clichè in business. It works well for goal-setting. When it comes to strategizing, it can lead solutions that are "blanket", shallow and/or an "over-kill". Instead, by miniaturizing the variables, there can be sharper focus on what nedds to be done. E.g. how will advertising "Ceylon Tea", on the attire of our cricketers influence a British consumer at a London supermarket to switch brands? To make that switch, how can we convince the supermarket to stock brands with "Ceylon Tea" and for this to happen, how can we convince the top global brands to switch to "Ceylon Tea"? Or how can we create top global brands?

Tourism Strategy

The role of toursim in marketing a country is not just confined to the Tourism Dollars it attracts. Tourism can play a major role in influencing the perceptions of a country for FDIs and Exports. There are 5 key, inter-related questions that any country's Tourism Strategy needs to address: - Reason: Why would they want to travel? (e.g. leisure, spiritual, adventure, sports, conventions, medical etc.) - Relevance: How relevant is the country's current "product" to the "Reason" for travel? Do you work around the "Reason" or the "Relevance"? - Region: From which parts of the world are we likely to attract tourists - given their "Reason" and our "Relevance"? - Rivalry: Which countries/regions will "lose" as a result of our "gain"? What will make them shift? Why Us vs. Why Them? - Relationship: Can ourb"product" satnd-alone or do we need to synergize with other countries in attracting tourists to the region at large? Countries that have succeeded at International Tourism ask these hard questions, define specific answers, and ensure unwavering commitment to execution - covering the entire supply and demand chain.

Recognizing the power of supply chain management

Take a closer look at the staggering increase in the price of commodities, everything from sugar to petroleum. By all indications, this upward trend in commodity prices will continue. The cause in very simple: Supply vs. Demand. At the same time Retailers (thanks to their franchises with consumers and the value they offer) are holding on to their margins and even capping prices. This leaves the middlement (I mean the brand owners!) in a fix. We need to find ways to add "real" value to the consumer, and this can only come by active involvement of Supply Chain Management and R&D. Is every dollar you spend converted to consumer value? Are you pursuing every opportunity to optimize the supply chain? Time to challenge everything!.


As businesses grow bigger and more complex, it is easier to hide inefficiencies and lose sight of value-addition. An "acid test" for any job in such large organizations would be an affirmative answer to the following: Does your job have a define impact on: - Customer Value - Operational Efficiency - Strategic Moves If not, what purpose does the job serve?

Cost Cutting Vs. Slack Elimination

When confronted with a need to reduce costs in a downturn, the kneejerk reaction of most businesses is to cut "headcount". The number of staff on your current payroll is a function of your organization's strategies, structure, and systems. Therefore, taking the "slack" out of these 3 elements should happen before taking the "slack" out of the payroll. Otherwise, it could be like claiming "weight loss" after losing an arm and a leg!.

HRM - Human or Humane Resource Management?

To an Economist, HR is one of the factors of production. Shareholders and customers expect the most efficient use of all factors of production, so that they get the optimal return for their investment/spending. Which means, every cent spent on HR/HRM should demonstrate a return - if not why undertake such activities? However, businesses must treat staff in a fair and responsible manner - irrespective of economic value added (call it "Human Management"). Getting the two (human and humane) mixed up is a temptation that businessess must resist. The former needs a "tought mind", while latter needs a "soft heart", with nothing in between!

Brand - milking cows or puppy dogs?

The only reason for the existence of Brands and investment in them, is the profitability they return. As "capital" gets more and more impatient, there is the added pressure to deliver "Now"! Is the roaring affair that Marketers are having with their brands blinding them from their ROI expectations? Can Marketers take a literal lesson from the fact that ICICI's Buffalo Loan (in India) is based on the Milk Yield of the animal? Capital given to an initiative - linked to the return it delivers! Or are we treating our brands more like cuddly Puppy Dogs - beautified pampered, and feel-good? I hope the cows come home soon - or am I barking up the wrong tree?

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