A tribute to Indian Farmers (To world farmers to that matter)


If you are from India or at least you follow the happenings from India, it’s likely that you heard of Indian farmers committing suicides. Have you ever think of the reason? The reason you may give is that their financial status has been in distress. That’s right. But do you know how bad it is really? Let’s dig into some numbers and know the facts.

For analyzing the facts, let’s consider simple growth metrics of a country – GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and Income-Per-Capita. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, here is a brief explanation. GDP is the cumulative productivity of a country in a year’s time. That means it’s the total income, a country (its workforce) earns in a year. Income-per-capita is GDP divided by population. That means it’s the income person person in the country on average.

In 1990 agriculture’s share in GDP was 31%. In 2011, it fell down to 16%. That means in about twenty years, agriculture lost half of its share in GDP. In 2011, nearly 52% of Indian workforce was dependent on agriculture, which is almost same as it was in 1990. In other words, 52% people are earning only 16% of the GDP where as the remaining 48% workforce, who is non-farmers, is earning 84% of the GDP. That means, income-per-capita of non-farmers is more than 5 times of the income-per-capita of farmers. In other words, farmers are earning 70% less than the nation’s average income-per-capita. For every rupee (dollar) that a non-farmer Indian is earning, a farmer is earning less than 20 paisa (cents). That shows how bad the farmers are doing.

The future for farmers doesn’t look bright either. In 2011-12, Indian GDP is projected to grow at 6.4% where as agriculture is expected to grow only by 3%. On the other hand, food inflation has risen to 12% in 2011. That means if you bought a kilo tomatoes for 10 Rupees in 2010, it would have cost you 11.20 Rupees in 2011. Though there was growth in food prices, the growth is not reaching the end producers – the farmers. Recently you might have heard of Indian government’s decision to allow Foreign Direct Investments into multi-brand retail sector (currently the decision has been put on hold because of the opposition government faced in parliament). This change would have allowed foreign companies to invest up to 51% which is a crucial number to take over the decision making capabilities. If this happens, it would not be a boon to farmers, primarily for one reason. Currently farmers have better negotiation power with the traditional retailers to get better prices to their products. If this law comes into force, then foreign companies would follow the same strategy they have been following elsewhere in the World. If you ask farmers,  in countries like USA, you may not hear much positive opinions about the big retail chains and their pricing policies. These chains make long term contracts with farmers which are less profitable to farmers. As the chains enter the market, it’s likely that traditional retailers will be forced to go out of business because of the fierce competition. As a result, farmers have to agree for the highly restricted contracts from chain retailers or they won’t find a buyer to their products. Hope this law will never be approved. Of course, same effects can be created by the domestic chain retail stores. However, we haven’t seen this trend yet.

Now, do you want to do something to make their lives better? Probably there is not much that we can do except for small help here and there. When you go to shop groceries in India, try to buy from Raithu Bazars (Farmers Markets) instead of buying from a grocery store chain. If you are one of those who don’t think twice before spending 5,000 Rupees on a branded dress or 2000 rupees on a dinner, then don’t bargain with the farmers for 5 rupees on a Kilo tomatoes. Be compassionate to farmers wherever and whenever you can. Hope and wish that Indian government’s decision to allow  FDI into retail business would never materialize.

Since 1997, nearly 2,00,000 (2 lac) farmers have committed suicide. Still every year, more than 17,000 farmers are killing themselves. Despite all these setbacks, still more than 50% of Indian workforce is in agriculture which hasn’t changed in last 20 years. That shows their commitment to their profession. Today, India is the largest rice producer, second largest wheat producer, only after China. India is the second largest in world agricultural output after China. India’s share in world’s agricultural output is more than 8% in 2011. It’s NOT just Cricketers who are bringing glory to India and Indians. It’s farmers too. Hats off to Indian farmers !!!!

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture#List_of_countries_by_agricultural_output

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_India

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Tim Cook, Steve Jobs’ Alter-Ego?


Note: I like to listen and learn from your opinions. If you like to share your view with me, then don’t hesitate to leave a comment on this and all other articles. I welcome any constructive discussions.

One of the most discussed topics last week is Steve Jobs’ resignation as Apple’s CEO. I like to put forward my thoughts on it. Many reports and TV shows covered this story. Almost everybody agreed that Tim Cook is a good alternative to Steve Jobs. When I read a little bit about Tim Cook, I could not come to the same conclusion immediately. If I was asked my response on this would be,  “we don’t have enough information to say either way”. I may sound strange by saying so, but let’s look into why I have to say that way.

First of all let me acknowledge Jobs’ achievements. I am trying to establish Jobs’ personality so that the comparison between Jobs and Cook would be easier. I don’t go into the history a lot but will briefly touch a few important milestones in Jobs’ life. As we all know Steve Jobs is a Co-founder of Apple. Who is the other co-founder(s) then? That’s Steve Wozniak. He is the design and the electronics guy behind early days of Apple. Apple’s first computer in the market was Apple-I. It was designed by Wozniak and was sold by Jobs. Then it was a good success and laid the path to its next generation computer Apple-II. Apple-II was a huge success. It redefined the computer world and over night Apple and Jobs became the hot news in Tech world. Jobs was the face of the company and he was believed to be a whiz-kid by most of the tech people.

After the success of Apple-II, company did not have a success for a long time during which it had to rely on Apple-II’s revenue for survival. Meanwhile, Jobs started working on a project called Lisa. This was supposed to be a high-end computer with much better configuration than the previous models. For some reasons Jobs was forced to leave the Lisa project which is taken over by others in the company. As a replacement Jobs was given another project (which was completely his brainchild) called Macintosh. Despite the hype it created, Mac was NOT an instant success. Eventually it did good. On the other hand, Jobs was forced to leave Apple.

After leaving Apple, Jobs started another company called NeXT which is acquired by Apple after his return to it. NeXT was not a successful venture, if not a failed one. While Jobs was with NeXT, he happened to buy Pixar Studios for $10M (some say it was only for $5 M). Jobs’ main idea behind buying PIxar was to manufacture Computers for Imaging purposes. His idea behind it was always to sell computers that can be used with Medical Systems etc. Jobs never considered Pixar to be an animation studio though he let some of its resources to be spent on animation. It was the case at least until Toy Story got released. Eventually Pixar was proved to be one of the best animation studios and was bought by Disney for $ 7.4 billion. With this deal, Jobs has become a board member and the biggest investor of Disney.

We all know what happened with Apple after Jobs’ return. He turned the company which was on the brink of bankruptcy to one of the most successful companies in American history ( I am sure Microsoft must be regretting its decision to lend a helping hand of $150M to Apple at that time). Today it’s the largest tech company in the world. By looking at Apple’s history everyone agrees that Steve Jobs is one of the best CEO’s that world ever had.

On the other hand, Tim Cook worked at some of the best computer manufactures such as IBM and Compaq. At both Compaq and Apple he was mostly responsible to the supply chain management. He doesn’t have much experience as a CEO except for a couple of months in 2004 in Jobs’ absence and then seven months in this year. That means mostly he is an operations person and yet to be proved as a CEO.

I like to recollect one of the most common questions in management world. What is the difference between a Leader and a Manager? Just think of it for a while before you continue to read on. Leader is a person who is mostly responsible to set the future course of the company. He has to motivate the employees, define the vision of the company and see how and where the company would be in the years to come. He is also responsible to make the company reach its vision in the given period of time. On the other hand, a manager is a person who takes care of the day-to-day operations. He might define the processes that would facilitate the day to day activities. He makes sure products/services/solutions are delivered on time. The same person can be a good leader as well as a manager. But there is no guarantee that a good manager makes a good leader and vice versa. That’s why most of the companies have two different designations CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and COO (Chief Operating Officer). What’s the difference between a CEO and a COO? Yes, COO reports to CEO and CEO directly reports to the Board of Directors. But that’s not what I am trying to highlight here. CEO is mainly responsible to  define the future course of the company whereas COO is responsible to make sure the operations are performed without any hiccups.

So far Tim Cook was more of an operations person than of a leader. No doubt he did an excellent job in removing all the chaos in Apple’s supply chain. He outsourced all the manufacturing to China and saved a lot of money to Apple while improving the quality of its products. His experience as a CEO is not known yet. Jobs as the CEO and Cook as the COO proved to be one of the best teams (just as Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Ray Lane did). Jobs always had a vision to the company. He is believed to be the world’s best consumer. He had an aesthetic touch to all of his thoughts. Aesthetics always played a crucial role in Apple’s products. If you ask any Apple customer why they like Apple products, the most frequently given answer would be “they look cool”. Apart from coolness, Apple products are simple to use. All this came into Apple’s products only because of Jobs. I am not saying Jobs himself designed all these products. But he has the taste of picking up the best of the designs/features to provide. He would never be satisfied with anything inferior. Tim Cook has declared that he would continue to give the same importance to designs and designers. However, what he also needs is the ability to pick the best one out of 10s of options provided to him. This quality cannot be acquired with experience. It has to be possessed by birth.

In the last seven months, since Steve Jobs announced his leave of absence, Tim Cook has been working as Apple’s CEO. However, in these seven months, I didn’t see any major decisions that can change the company’s path. It’s not very often you see the companies changing or redefining their strategies. So I would say we need to wait on this and see how Tim Cook will do when the time comes to define the company’s vision. With Apple’s current product line any operations person can lead the company for the next couple of years. But we need to see how Tim Cook is going to fare at his job when the time comes. It’s a skill to read the pulse of the consumers. Based on their pulse, products have to be made. It’s what Steve Jobs excelled. Even he was not correct all the time. He had some misfires too. For example, his purpose behind buying Pixar was to sell Image Computers. But how many of us know about Pixar Image Computers? His bet did not work in this scenario. However, Pixar was successful for other reasons which he too surprised about.

Generally when founders of the companies leave and the second generation leaders come in, it’s not easy to share the same vision and view as the founders did. We have at least a couple of cases in front of us to prove it. Where is Microsoft’s growth since Bill Gates gave up the reigns? What happened to Dell in the absence of Michael Dell? What went wrong with Apple between Steve Jobs’ exit and reentry into Apple? On the other hand there are successful stories too when the next generation leadership replaced the founders. Companies like HP and IBM did well even when the next generation took over.

It’s possible that Apple can stand in the same league as HP and IBM does. However, Steve Jobs cannot be replaced. There is no second Steve Jobs and there is no another Bill Gates. Every person is different with his/her own strengths and weaknesses. As Michael Porter, the famous Strategist once said, the leader’s personal values have to be taken into consideration while defining the future course of a company (in defining the feasible strategy of the company). All we need to do now is, just wait and see how Tim Cook’s strengths and weaknesses can off-set Steve Jobs absence.

PS: I hope iPhone 5 release is NOT delayed by Steve Jobs’ absence. Generally new models of iPhone release in June. This time it is NOT out yet. Hmmm…..it’s already end of August, I suppose. Are we seeing Jobs’ effect already 😉 ?

Corporate Strategy – The good and the bad examples


Lately, a lot of things are happening in Tech sector. As I have been observing some strategic decisions, I feel like listing some of them here.

IBM Vs HP

IBM

Verdict: Thumbs up.

IBM has done a good job by shedding off its PC market. Sometime back it sold out its PC business to Lenovo which was the IBM’s exit from the PC market. IBM has been building up its software portfolio very well for quite some time. On the other hand it kept its dominance in the server hardware. By discarding its PC division, IBM freed itself from a low margin market while investing in a higher margin areas like Services and Software. It’s a good strategy which has already been paid off.

HP

Verdict: Thumbs down

Unlike IBM, HP has stuck to its PC business. Being the largest PC maker in the world and having big chunk of its revenue out of it, HP cannot completely exit the PC market. However, it could have strengthen its software suite of products by acquisitions which it didn’t take place. It has caused HP to fall behind in the more lucrative area while Oracle and IBM have been reaping the fruits. Though HP tried its luck in the services sector by acquiring EDS, the move itself was a late move. Now HP is suffering from reducing PC market by the arrival of Tablet PCs while it cannot venture into Software are as well.

CISCO Vs Amazon

CISCO

Verdict: Thumbs down

Cisco seems to be the company that has recently set itself as an example of strategic failures. Its strategy of entering the consumer products market back fired. It has been suffering with decreasing market share in its core areas like Switches and Routers. Cisco recently announced the closure of its Flip camcorder line of products which is acquired two years back. At the time of acquisition Cisco’s plans for Flip were sky high which have been proved wrong. Within two years of acquisition Cisco called it the end for the product line. Though Flip was accepted as one of the successful products, the inclusion of video recording features in smart phones made the presence of Flip meaningless. Interestingly within two months of Flip’s acquisition, video recording capabilities were introduced in iPhone. Cisco has clearly failed in anticipating the advancements in the field. In my opinion, entering into new product-markets is necessary to expand the business. But what went wrong with Cisco was neglecting its core business. Probably it would be the most basic rule to follow while making any strategic decisions. Never ever neglect the core business while venturing into new businesses.

Amazon

Verdict: Thumbs up

Amazon has been trying out new things apart from its core business of selling books online what it started with. Now Amazon sells almost anything from clothes to watches and jewelery to books to furniture and what not. It has been trying out some unconventional businesses like Cloud Computing Services, online music store, online video streaming etc. While growing organically it has been acquiring companies like Zappos. At the same time it has set the trend in its core business of selling books by introducing Kindle. And it stills leads its core business while making its hands dirty with some experimental ventures. All in all Amazon would be the second most innovative company after Apple, in my opinion.