Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Capital deprivation and startup strategies

One of the most important uses of capital is in discovering new markets. With a sufficient pool of capital, new markets can be quickly discovered, probed and exploited; the viable markets invite a rash of competing companies, and unviable markets are neglected and wither.

In India, most companies are severely capital-deprived. With the increases in FDI in recent years, this has changed for the better, but the process of market discovery is still slow and, by and large, left to large companies.

This capital deprivation is one of the reasons that a few large companies are spread across many unrelated markets in India – for example, the Tatas in broadband (Tata Indicom), mobile (Tata Docomo), power distribution (Tata Power in Mumbai), and even electronics retail (Croma).

One of the best features of the American economy is that capital is available to both small and large companies – small companies often doing the work of finding new profitable market niches, and going on to become (or selling out to) larger companies.

In India though, the lack of capital means that most small companies have to think constantly of ways to survive before it becomes possible to sustain the company through cash flows from their primary product.

Some markets require large amounts of capital before it can be said with any certainly whether they are viable or not. In the book "Founders at Work", the founder of Tivo – probably one of the more disruptive products of the last few decades – mentions that it took about $500 million in funding in its first few years. This is an unimaginable amount of money for a small company (or even a medium-sized) company in India to spend, although in the case of Tivo at least, I think the jury is still out on whether this is a viable market or not.

The example of Amazon – which spent several years taking investor money before it turned profitable – is also well known.

These examples – of large capital expenditures before a market is proven – are unlikely to repeat themselves in India since the pool of capital is limited, and flows mainly to large companies. Large companies are typically conservative about exploring unproven markets, since there are multiple internal constituencies that have to be convinced before such projects are green-lighted.

Given this situation of capital scarcity, especially for early stage companies, what is the best strategy for startups to survive?

One is, as mentioned above, to copy products that have worked somewhere else. These have the nice property that you know that someone, somewhere, is willing to pay for that product, and it is also fairly clear how much money is needed to produce it. Companies following this strategy have to be careful that the original product itself won’t be available in their target market before they are ready. For example, making an Indian version of Facebook at this point is probably a poor bet, since the original product has considerable traction. Countries such as China or Germany that have language barriers have seen domestic knockoffs of popular international Web applications before those products were localized into their domestic languages.

Another strategy is to bootstrap the company by doing work for hire. This is a well-established path, and intermediaries like Elance, Rent a Coder and oDesk make it possible to get contract work that (at least in theory) can pay for the salaries of the people working on the "real" product.

In practice, I believe it is all too easy to become a full fledged outsourcing company, and lose sight of the original product. This is fine as far as it goes, but a service company lacks the advantages of leverage that a product startup naturally has. (See my previous post for more on this.)

An additional option, which I believe more and more companies in India will adopt, is to conceive and develop a product in India for the international market.

While examples of US companies that develop their entire product in India while targeting the US market are now commonplace, these companies are typically American companies with American (or Indian-American) founders.

Companies created by Indians in India have traditionally focused on the market at their doorstep before venturing abroad. In some cases, especially for technology products, the Indian market may take several years to become large enough to support Indian startups. In such cases, it makes sense to target global markets side by side with, or sometimes even before, the Indian market.

This "global from day 1" attitude is probably most evident in companies from Israel, as well as other small European countries that lack a large home market. For products where the Indian market is more similar in size to, say, Belgium, than the US, it may make a lot of sense for Indian companies to think international from the start.

[This post is authored by Abhijeet Vijayakar - founder of Nunook Interactive Pvt Ltd, a game startup in Mumbai and Chennai. Nunook is currently developing BrainNook, India's first online, educational virtual world for kids, parents and teachers. In a previous life, Abhijeet developed 3D graphics engines (and games) at Electronic Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. He highly recommends not succumbing to capital deprivation syndrome.]

Monday, October 5, 2009

Get Customers First and Then Write a Business Plan

from Wil Schroter's BIGGER Blog - Go BIG Network

If you’re thinking about starting a company, please don’t write a business plan. Stop, put the keyboard down, and step back. You’re wasting valuable time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you run aimlessly into the startup abyss. What I want you to avoid is the black hole of planning that most entrepreneurs get into when starting a company. They get sucked into a time warp where a formerly great idea gives way to months upon months of “thinking” about the idea instead of just making the damn thing happen.

If Nobody Buys, it’s Not a Business

The first step, before writing a plan, is to validate the concept. If nobody will ever buy your product, it’s unlikely that a business is ever going to form. Focusing on the product first, and more specifically the customer’s willingness to buy that product, is by far the most valuable time you can spend early in your business.

In addition to validating your concept, selling the product early allows you to prove some key assumptions in your plan before you begin writing it. For example, wouldn’t it be helpful to know what someone would pay for your product before you built it? You would be surprised how much information you can gather from potential customers just by asking them what they would pay for a hypothetical product. “If you build it, they will come” might have worked for Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams, but it’s a formula for disaster in a startup.

The Prototype Company

Sometimes finding out early that your idea isn’t as viable as you thought is a blessing. Instead of spending months writing an elaborate business plan on a completely unproven idea, try putting together a “pre-business plan” that consists of only about five pages that quickly communicates your idea and focuses on the key assumptions that drive your business. These key assumptions are often questions like “Will people buy the product as I’ve defined it?”, or “what will they pay?”, or “how much would it cost me to sell this product?”.

Imagine that the first few months of your business are really more like a great big “prototype company”. Focusing strictly on the sale of the product and proving your assumptions, even on a small scale, will allow you to write a far more comprehensive and viable business plan when you are ready to formalize your thoughts. Additionally, you will be able to make much more accurate forecasts on the business when you get a sense for what it really takes to market, sell and deliver the product.

Your Business Plan is Not an Application for Capital

It’s a common misconception that investors want to see a business plan before they will consider investing in a concept. That’s not entirely true. What investors want to see is that you can demonstrate your ability to sell the product to paying customers. Ask anyone (even yourself) who you would rather invest in – a startup company that is making money without a plan or a business plan that isn’t making any money? Writing long, elaborate papers might have impressed your instructors back in college but it won’t win you any points with investors. They want results, not ideas.

Keep the Plan Simple (and listen!)

Despite what you may have heard, most of the best business plans are as simple as possible. It’s far more important for you to demonstrate that you can solve one market need incredibly well than being able to show you’ve thought of every possible market niche and have included it in your plan. Think quality over quantity.

The process of writing your business plan isn’t to show off how much you know about a concept. The most important aspect of writing your plan is to become a voracious listener. Listen to what your potential customers are telling you they want in a product. Listen to what they are not getting from the existing products. Listen to what investors are looking for in the companies they put money into. Your business plan should read more like a record of all the valuable information you have heard, presented in a meaningful way that makes the case for your company’s potential success.

Put Down Your Pen and Pick Up the Phone

You’re much better served to do your business planning by picking up the phone and asking customers to buy than you are

If Craigslist cost $1

from Seth's Blog

Some things are better when they're not free.

If Craigslist charged a dollar for every listing, what would happen?

Well, the number of bogus listings and repetitive listings would plummet, making the site far easier to use.

The number of scam artists using the site would go down, because it's more difficult to be anonymous when money changes hands.

The revenue of the site would soar, which means that the people running the site could get (far) richer, or fund digital journalism or change the economy of an emerging nation.

Money creates a sort of friction. In the digital economy, magical things can happen when there is no friction. You can scale to infinity. On the other hand, sometimes you want friction.

If you lead a group that allows anyone to join, for free, your group might be large, but it's not tight, it's not organized to make important change. Commitment slows things down in the short run, but ultimately aligns interests.

Startuppable Markets

[Guest post by Abhijeet Vijayakar]

What environmental factors are necessary for startups to flourish?

This question has been examined by several authors, and most have come to the conclusion that a place that looks a lot like Silicon Valley is the natural answer. In other words, take a couple of technologically sophisticated cities such as San Francisco and San Jose, a high-quality university such as Stanford, mix with a generous dollop of military funding, and startups will emerge spontaneously.


(I define a startup as a small company that has the potential to grow explosively rather than incrementally. Every small company is not a startup.)

While this answer is true, I think it focuses on only one aspect of a developing startups, the supply side. In other words, the question is generally posed as trying to find the most nurturing environment to generate startups, while assuming that the environment to consume the product of those startups (the demand side) already exists.

Is this always true? It would seem that the organizations best equipped to meet the needs of the market are large companies that can invest significant resources in market research and product development. And indeed, in most parts of the world this is the case.

Specifically in India, large companies like the Tata and Reliance groups are still the dominant Indian players for most products, from “old school” products like salt to Internet properties like blogging sites. There are few Indian companies that have emerged from the ground up to become big on the strength of their products in the domestic market.

So, what about the demand side? What are the characteristics of startup-friendly markets – markets in which startups can successfully compete with much larger players?

I can think of at least three characteristics:

  1. The markets must be large, or growing rapidly on a moderately large base. Targeting a $5 million market growing at 100% will mean that your startup will have to wait for over 4 years to be in a viable $100 million market. By then, your company is likely to be dead.
  2. The markets must be new, or at least changing rapidly. If this were not so, large incumbents would already have completely satisfied the market, leaving no space for new companies to come in. In developed countries, there are not many startups in the grocery store industry for this reason.
  3. It must be possible to create the products that the market needs with small amounts of capital and high leverage. A low level of capital is typically necessary since startups have only a limited amount of money to prove themselves – usually much less than large companies – before dying. High leverage is the same as low marginal cost — once the product is created, there must be hardly any incremental cost in creating thousands or millions of the same item. Software products are the classic example of low-capital, high-leverage products, and so most startups (not all, but the majority) produce software.

There won’t be many startups in the nuclear power plant industry because of the low capital requirement. Similarly, a single hairstylist won’t be able to create a startup because of the high leverage requirement, no matter how distinctive his style, unless he is able to cheaply pass on the essentials of his style to other apprentices.

One of the reasons in which restaurants like McDonald’s were different from those who came before them is because they were able to distil the essence of their product into an easily replicable (and hence leverageable) process.

How do Indian markets fare on these parameters? Are they startup-friendly?

The good news is that the Indian market for many products is large, and getting larger rapidly as the country becomes richer. As many people have remarked, the threshold of $1000 per capita GDP, which is roughly where India is right now, marks the “take-off point” for consumer spending.

Around this level, a large section of the population has their basic needs taken care of and has disposable income for other products. These markets also change rapidly as new consumers with new preferences enter the “consuming class”. So the first two factors certainly hold for India.

I think it’s the third factor that makes the Indian market challenging for startups. The products that Indians consume, by and large, are not startup-friendly. The market for soaps, TVs and motorcycles is growing rapidly, but these are not products that startups can cheaply make.

Similarly, the markets for plumbing or electrician services are also likely to be growing rapidly (hard data for this is difficult to find), but these are not high-leverage products.

So until Indian consumers evolve to a point where they consume low-capital-cost, high-leverage products (broadly, software) in large quantities, startups will have a hard time succeeding in the Indian market.

Till this happens, it probably does make sense for venture capital firms to behave like private equity investors, and be a source of equity capital for medium sized, non-technology companies.

Although the leverage in these “brick and mortar” sectors is much lower than in technology – indicating that Indian VCs will almost never match the percentage returns of their non-Indian counterparts – the sheer size of those markets makes them attractive to be in.

When will India become a large market for startup-friendly products?

I believe in the very near future. India’s GDP today is roughly where China’s was in 2000, and China in this decade has witnessed a huge increase in both the number of Internet users, and the technology services they consume. Shanda, Baidu, and Tencent are only some of this decade’s success stories in that country.

As the Indian market rapidly turns “startupabble”, their Indian versions are not far away.

[Abhijeet Vijayakar is the founder of Nunook Interactive Pvt Ltd, a game startup in Mumbai and Chennai. Nunook is currently developing BrainNook (http://www.brainnook.com), India's first online, educational virtual world for kids, parents and teachers. In a previous life, Abhijeet developed 3D graphics engines (and games) at Electronic Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is surprised that sushi is not more popular in India.]

Simple tools

Weekend Favs October Four

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Things to ask before you redo your website


I don't do any consulting, but that doesn't stop people from asking me questions. The most common question people ask me when they want a new website is, "If you were in charge of this, who are the 2 or 3 people you’d want to be sure to talk to – to help think through the issues, help us figure out who should do the work, etc.?"

The second most common question people ask me, "In addition to Apple’s site, are there 2 or 3 that you think are really appealing and work well for their business?"

I think these are perhaps the tenth and eleventh questions you should ask, not the first two. Here's my list of difficult and important questions you have to answer before you spend a nickel:

  • What is the goal of the site?
  • In other words, when it's working great, what specific outcomes will occur?
  • Who are we trying to please? If it's the boss, what does she want? Is impressing a certain kind of person important? Which kind?
  • How many people on your team have to be involved? At what level?
  • Who are we trying to reach? Is it everyone? Our customers? A certain kind of prospect?
  • What are the sites that this group has demonstrated they enjoy interacting with?
  • Are we trying to close sales?
  • Are we telling a story?
  • Are we earning permission to follow up?
  • Are we hoping that people will watch or learn?
  • Do we need people to spread the word using various social media tools?
  • Are we building a tribe of people who will use the site to connect with each other?
  • Do people find the site via word of mouth? Are they looking to answer a specific question?
  • Is there ongoing news and updates that need to be presented to people?
  • Is the site part of a larger suite of places online where people can find out about us, or is this our one sign post?
  • Is that information high in bandwidth or just little bits of data?
  • Do we want people to call us?
  • How many times a month would we like people to come by? For how long?
  • Who needs to update this site? How often?
  • How often can we afford to overhaul this site?
  • Does showing up in the search engines matter? If so, for what terms? At what cost? Will we be willing to compromise any of the things above in order to achieve this goal?
  • Will the site need to be universally accessible? Do issues of disability or language or browser come into it?
  • How much money do we have to spend? How much time?
And finally,
  • Does the organization understand that 'everything' is not an option?

The Funda of Debt & Banking

from Trakin' the india business buzz by Arun Prabhudesai

I stumbled upon this 47 minute presentation called “Money as Debt” by Paul Grignon and trust me, this has cleared many of the doubts that I had.

The videos will show you how the Banking started and what shape it has taken over the years – and how does modern banking, Debts and deposits function in today’s modern world.

These set of 5 10-minute videos will be a great education for you and I suggest you bookmark it for future reference, if you are not able to view them now.

Is Selling Becoming More Like Marketing?

from Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch

I have to admit that part of the motivation for the title of this post is to excite the sales oriented folks out there, but no question, the Internet has forever changed the practice of sales.

Today’s salesperson is often greeted by a sales lead that knows more about the technical or historical aspects of a product, service, or industry than they do. Selling evolved long ago from an act of presenting and closing to one of educating and consulting, but access to information via online sources, rating sites, filtering social media streams, and tools for competitive analysis have once again changed the game.

The game of selling in today’s digital information age has become one of helping a prospect aggregate and filter information and come to the shared conclusion of what value looks like. The salesperson that can best illustrate a valuable outcome wins. I don’t know about you, but from where I sit, that sounds a lot like what good marketing aims to do.

I love to use the medical profession to help make this point. (Doctors have long sold patients on what was best for them!) Years ago you went to a doctor, they diagnosed your problem, and offered a solution. If you were really sick you got a competitive prospective, but for the most part, you took the advice and moved forward. Today, patients have access to information about medical conditions, experimental drug trials, and therapies from alternative practices. Today’s medical buyer is often more informed on new medical directions than treating physicians. Few doctors can expect to see a patient and dictate a solution. The practice of medicine has evolved, in large part due to access to information, into one of helping patients filter information and come to a shared conclusion of the best path.

Today’s salesperson must employ the same online aggregating, filtering, and listening devices as their prospects or prepare to be dismissed as a hack.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Where’s Your Fortune Cookie Moment?

Where’s Your Fortune Cookie Moment?

Interesting Revelations of Orkut Zeitgeist

Interesting Revelations of Orkut Zeitgeist

Friday, August 21, 2009

What’s So Scary About Marketing Strategy?

What’s So Scary About Marketing Strategy?

This content from: Duct Tape Marketing

dart board strategySmall business owners resist creating marketing strategy like many resist getting their teeth cleaned.

Over the years, I’ve discovered why this is:
An effective marketing strategy requires understanding who you are, choosing to be different than everyone else, and committing to one simple way of doing, acting and creating – to the exclusion of all other ways of doing, acting, and creating. Now, that’s some scary stuff!

The above set of requirements may seem difficult to accomplish, but accomplish them and you will set your business free from the tyranny of making up the idea of the week over and over again. However, that’s the crutch that keeps business owners from ever taking strategy head on. It’s far too easy to just grab another tactic, this week’s twitter, and run with it. If this week’s tactic fails, no harm, no foul, find next week’s thing. (A bit of a dart board strategy approach.)

When you commit to a marketing strategy, you’ve actually got to put your entire authentic self on the line and that scares the hell out of people. What if that fails, how do you recover? Well, it starts with a realistic and practical way of thinking about strategy and a mindset that links your marketing strategy to the culture of your organization – if a marketing strategy is real and true for you, your customers, and your people, to some extent you cannot fail.

My take is that a marketing strategy should scare you a bit, push to you an uncomfortable place, and make you stretch – otherwise is may never truly require you to anything remarkable to reach it.

Here’s what you need to discover and capitalize on to create your one true marketing strategy.

  • What business are we really in? – another way of saying this is – what does your customer really buy when they buy your product or service? – does someone buy insurance because they want an insurance policy? Do they hire a plumber because they’ve always had a hankering for a new P trap? Well, what do they really get from a successful experience with you – it’s probably not what you think.
  • Who is our ideal customer? - You’ve undoubtedly read this from me already, but I can’t say it enough – not everyone is your ideal customer, you’ve got to know enough about that perfect customer you are trying to attract, so much so that anyone in your organization could spot who is and who is not that customer. Hint: look long and hard at the make up of customers that are referring business to you – there’s a good chance they hold the key to discovering your ideal customer.
  • What do we do that our customer really values? – The answer to this question is the essence of your thrust to differentiate your business from all others in your industry. It’s likely that you have a unique way of doing business, serving the customer, and creating a winning experience, it’s also just as likely you have no idea what that unique value is, but your customers do – go ask them to tell you what your magic is and then let it shine in all your marketing messages, because it’s a pretty good bet your ideal prospect wants that too.

The best news of all is that once you do this, decision making – what new product should we create, what should our direct mail say, how can we use Facebook – gets very, very easy. Simply ask yourself – how would this help us achieve our marketing strategy?

Just remember, safe is boring – bold is where the opportunity resides, bold is how your create something extraordinary – do it now!

Image credit: Don Fulano

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Building Trust Online

Building Trust Online

This content from: Duct Tape Marketing

Trust Agents If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time you know that my definition of marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you. And that’s precisely why I give Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book Trust Agents in the must read category.

This is blatant promotion for someone who’s earned my trust, as I hope I’ve earned yours.

Trust is hard earned and so easily lost, but more that a useful read, this book is a toolset that shows you exactly how to engage, build your reputation and earn trust in a shifting marketing world. In addition to buying and reading this book I suggest your follow Chris and Julien around the web and learn from the example that available in every tweet, presentation, and blog post.

You can also find out more about how to get Chris to come out and share his wisdom with your organization –check it out here.

Building Trust Online

How to Figure Out If You're Dealing With a Nutcase from How to Change the World

How to Figure Out If You're Dealing With a Nutcase

The long tale

The long tale

Self Employment: Positive Resultant of Global Downturn

Self Employment: Positive Resultant of Global Downturn

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The art of staying in the present

The art of staying in the present

Concentration is about living in the moment - which unfortunately isn't as easy as it sounds

Aakash Chopra

July 30, 2009

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A
Sachin Tendulkar executes a savage pull, Australia v India, 4th Test, Sydney, 3rd day, January 4, 2004
Did Tendulkar never once think of playing the cover-drive during his 241 in Sydney? Unlikely © AFP
Related Links
Players/Officials: Sunil Gavaskar | Sachin Tendulkar

Ever since I started playing cricket I've been told about the importance of concentration and how it's the key to batting for a long time and scoring a lot of runs. There has always been plenty of emphasis on this aspect of the game. I'd often hear a commentator say that a lapse in concentration cost the batsman his wicket, or a coach telling me to concentrate harder whenever I couldn't put the bat to ball.

Though I understood the importance of concentration fairly early in my career, I didn't entirely understand the concept itself. And I wasn't the only one.

What exactly is concentration?
A few years ago I was selected to play in the Challenger Trophy (before I made my international debut). We had an interactive session with Geet Sethi, the billiards player, whose definition of concentration remains etched in my memory. He said that concentration is simply remaining in the present. The longer you can remain in the present, the greater your span of concentration. Sounds easy, right?

Nearly two decades of playing cricket has taught me that it isn't. The mind has the peculiar ability of wandering off at the first available moment, and it doesn't need any permission. You might be in the middle of an important match, playing an important knock or bowling the most crucial over, but the mind has a mind of its own. Two places it likes to wander off to are the past and the future.

I'd either start feeling bad or good about what had happened in the past - the ball before - and get disconnected from the present, or I would start worrying about or prematurely celebrating events in the future, getting away from the task at hand.

Whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future does not have, or at least should not have, any bearing on the ball you're going to bowl or play next. All that matters is what you do with that particular ball. Remaining in the present is the only way to concentrate.

One needs to start concentrating once the bowler starts his run-up and the concentration has to be at its peak from the time of delivery till the ball hits the bat. (Of course, this changes for fielders, who need to be alert till one of them fields the ball.)

How can you improve your concentration?
Most games of cricket go on for at least six hours at a time, with occasional breaks. Now concentrating for a few minutes at a time is quite difficult, let alone six hours. So the idea is to switch off after every delivery and then switch on before the next. Switching off means allowing the mind to wander away for a few seconds before getting it back on track. This is not restricted to only batting and bowling; fielders do it too. One needs to relax before starting to concentrate again.

Batting or bowling in the nets can be instrumental in improving concentration, since one needs to concentrate ball after ball in that situation, with very little time in between (as there are usually about six or seven bowlers operating at all times).

The trigger movement
Most players follow a set routine - adjusting the equipment, or something else - that acts as a trigger to snap them out of wander mode and back to the game. Greg Chappell would look at the crowd after playing every ball; MS Dhoni fiddles with his bat and gloves; I scratch the leg-stump mark on the pitch with my shoe; Jason Gillespie used to stop for a few seconds and take a deep breath at the top of his run-up.

Staying in the game
While it's important to switch off and allow your mind to wander, one still needs to ensure that it doesn't drift too far away. For example, a captain has to still think about the field placements and plan his course of action, like bowling and fielding changes. A fielder is supposed to always be looking at the captain or bowler for instructions on any possible changes in the fielding position before starting to concentrate again. A batsman weighs his options of scoring runs off the next ball. I call this not-so-focused form of concentration "staying in the game".

The zone
Then there are some - we call them geniuses - who seemed to get into the zone at will: the state of mind where everything flows automatically. You don't consciously switch on or off, your mind doesn't wander into the past or the future, you're constantly aware of your surroundings and almost always play the ball on its merit or bowl where you want to bowl. We all have times when we get into such states, but to do it on a consistent basis is an art that only a few have mastered. Sachin Tendulkar seemed to get into the zone more regularly than the rest.

How can one attain that state at will?
Honestly, I don't know for sure. I've gathered over the years that even the greatest minds can wander. Thoughts keep coming into your head regardless of whether you want them to. The best way to deal with them is to acknowledge their presence rather than trying to ignore them. Trying to push the thoughts away gets you involved and takes you away from the task at hand. When you leave them unattended, they disappear. Tendulkar's innings in Sydney in 2004 is the perfect example of not paying heed to the thoughts that try to intrude. He didn't play a cover-drive for most, if not all, of his innings of over 200, and I refuse to believe that the thought of playing the shot didn't cross his mind, especially once he was set.

Sunil Gavaskar once told me that when you reach a milestone your mind takes you to the ones you love most. You feel an immediate connection to those close to you who are watching you achieve the feat and your heart goes out to them and with it your mind too, which results in a loss of concentration

When are we most vulnerable to losing concentration?
I used to think that staying in the present was important only at the beginning of the innings. After all, it's only at the start, when we're plagued with self-doubt, that we are most susceptible to failure; once we get that elusive start, everything falls in place. But I've learned that I was mistaken. A loss of concentration can occur at any point during an innings, and most often does when you're feeling good, like after going past a milestone, when you drop your guard a bit.

I once asked Sunil Gavaskar about it, and he said that when you reach a milestone, the mind takes you to the ones you love most. You feel an immediate connection to those close to you who are watching you achieve the feat and your heart goes out to them, and with it your mind too. You thank everyone on the ground by raising the bat, thank God for his blessings, and your family members in your heart. At such times the mind is anywhere but on the cricket field, and you often end up taking the long walk back before realising what's happened. His advice to me was to recognise that emotional surge and allow yourself a little time to regroup; perhaps spending a few overs at the non-striker's end at such times is a good idea.

The external factors
Bowlers and fielders, especially the ones close to the bat, often try to talk the batsman into playing a poor stroke. Few batsmen succumb to the tactic and lose focus; the majority have their own ways of dealing with it.

Sunny bhai told me that the best way is to ignore the comments and even avoid eye contact with the talkers. On the contrary, someone like Matthew Hayden relishes a chat with the bowler and the fielders. Then there's Brian Lara. The Indian team would decide before the start of a series against West Indies to leave him alone, because if you try to get under his skin he starts concentrating harder and then is almost impossible to dislodge.

Even the crowd has a role to play. But contrary to popular belief, a hostile crowd doesn't have as much of an impact as a cheering crowd.

I remember getting hit on the helmet in Melbourne during the Boxing Day Test in 2003, and 70,000 people cheered Brett Lee and Co to do it again. But the only effect it had on my game plan was to make me more determined. On the other hand only 30,000 people egging me on to hit another four off Daniel Vettori in my debut Test, in Ahmedabad, was enough to lure me into a false stroke. I got ahead of myself and was dismissed.

We now know that regardless of whether we know the definition of concentration or not, whether we play cricket - or any other sport or for that matter - remaining in the present is the essence to being successful. We all do it unconsciously, and perhaps that's why we slip out of it without knowing, but if we manage to do it consciously, at will, keeping close tabs on our mind, we'll be able to control it a lot better and produce better results.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Beyond the Blues, an account of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season. His website is here

RSS Feeds: Aakash Chopra

Friday, July 10, 2009

Top 50 Outsourcing Destinations in the world

Top 50 Outsourcing Destinations in the world

India is miles ahead of the rest when it comes to its popularity as a offshoring destination. China is making progress, but so far India has managed to keep the threat at bay.


Although the top order looks pretty much settled the dynamics of lower order are visibly changing.

According to A.T. Kearney’s Global Services Location Index 2009 (GSLI), a ranking of the most attractive offshoring destinations, Central/Eastern Europe is falling off the radar while Southeast Asia and Middle East countries are gaining popularity.

Following are the current 2009 rankings of top 50 most preferred Outsourcing destinations in the world

(Current Ranking, Country Name and 2007 ranking in parenthesis. The Green denotes countries that have risen compared to 2007 and Reds have fallen. Blacks are the ones who have held their position)

  1. India (position in 2007 GSLI: 1)
  2. China (2)
  3. Malaysia (3)
  4. Thailand (4)
  5. Indonesia(6)
  6. Egypt (13)
  7. Philippines (8)
  8. Chile (7)
  9. Jordan (14)
  10. Vietnam (19)
  11. Mexico (10)
  12. Brazil (5)
  13. Bulgaria (9)
  14. United States (Tier II)* (21)
  15. Ghana (27)
  16. Sri Lanka (29)
  17. Tunisia (26)
  18. Estonia (15)
  19. Romania (33)
  20. Pakistan (30)
  21. Lithuania (28)
  22. Latvia (17)
  23. Costa Rica (34)
  24. Jamaica (32)
  25. Mauritius (25)
  26. Senegal (39)
  27. Argentina (23)
  28. Canada (35)
  29. United Arab Emirates (20)
  30. Morocco (36)
  31. United Kingdom (Tier II)* (42)
  32. Czech Republic (16)
  33. Russia (37)
  34. Germany (Tier II)* (40)
  35. Singapore (11)
  36. Uruguay (22)
  37. Hungary (24)
  38. Poland (18)
  39. South Africa (31)
  40. Slovakia (12)
  41. France (Tier II)* (48)
  42. Ukraine (47)
  43. Panama (41)
  44. Turkey (49)
  45. Spain (43)
  46. New Zealand (44)
  47. Australia (45)
  48. Ireland (50)
  49. Israel (38)
  50. Portugal (46)

The top half has changed a lot compared to bottom half in matter of 2 years, whereas the top 4 popular destinations have managed to stay where they are.

Highlights from 2009 GSLI survey include:

  • The Middle East and North Africa is emerging as a key offshoring region because of its large, well educated population and its proximity to Europe. In addition to Egypt and Jordan, ranked at sixth and ninth, respectively, Tunisia (17th), United Arab Emirates (29th) and Morocco (30th) all rank among in the GSLI’s top 30 countries.
    “The Middle East and Africa area has the potential to redraw the offshoring map and in the process bring much needed opportunities for its large, underemployed educated class,” said Johan Gott, project manager for the Global Services Location Index.
  • Saharan Africa also showed strength. Ghana ranked 15th, Mauritius 25th, Senegal 26th and South Africa 39th.
  • Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean continue to capitalize on their proximity to the United States as nearshore destinations. Chile placed highest among countries from the region, ranking 8th on the strength of its political stability and favourable business environment. Other strong performers in the region include Mexico (11th), Brazil (12th) and Jamaica, which rose 11 places to rank 23rd.
  • India, China and Malaysia continue to lead the index by a wide margin through a unique combination of high people skills, favourable business environment and low cost. In particular, India has remained at the forefront of the outsourcing industry and actually has become an enabler for industry growth through expansion of Indian offshoring firms into other countries.
  • The United States, as represented by the onshoring potential of smaller “tier II” cities such as San Antonio, rose to 14th in the rankings due to the financial benefits of a falling dollar. The country is the leader in the people skills category and the combination of rising unemployment and political pressure to create jobs is increasing interest in onshoring possibilities among smaller inland locations. Similar trends are evident in the UK, France and Germany, all of which also rose in the GSLI.
  • While the global financial crisis has slowed recent offshoring moves, the percentage of companies’ staff offshore may very well increase as a result of the crisis. Layoffs at home are not translating to layoffs among offshore workers as companies seek to maintain service but reduce costs. Additionally, offshore facilities tend to be more efficient because they are newer and lack years of inefficiencies often built up in onshore facilities.