Friday, December 15, 2006

Maverick: My thoughts on the Trend

Maverick, an attitude for the new India?
I went through the perspective that Style-Vision had proposed; the three dimensions of the Maverick attitude. Yes, till then I had only thought about the first one i.e. against the system. One finds examples strewn around that represent that attitude, be individuals taking up cudgels against the stale, putrid system (i.e. Sridhar Gune's online petition against the civic system apathy recorded 11,500 endorsements in just a few days, from all walks of life in Pune city or a civic crusader like Mr. Anna Hazare, whose efforts bore fruits in terms of getting Indians unthinkable "Right to Information Act". In one way it is acting against the "system" to break free, but on the other side there are example where people become maverick entrepreurs (like Sir Richard Branson you mentioned). Some times this very trait spreads through a community and the whole community adorns this attitude. And children dorn in these communities are born maverick (in business or on issues that concern them). In India, the Marwaris, Gujaratis and Punjabies (tradionally traders from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Punjab states respectively, the western part of India) are known to be such communities. Here children grow up seeing their father taking risky business steps, or uncle going abroad to start a new business or some person from their own village becoming rich because he/she did too well in business (starting from the same status as they were in). A shining example of this attitude is reflected in the fact that highway motel in US are now quoted as 'Potels', because majority of them are owned by a particular ethnic Indian community members known as "Patels". Similarly Canada has become a second home of many Sikhs or Punjabies. Now a days one sees a glossy magazine called 'Marwar' on the news stands, that celebrates the success of maverick entrepreneurs from the Marwari community. Incidentally many grand business houses in India have emanated from this community. If we look at the second attitude within the maverick scenario i.e. an attitude of innovation in attacking the complexity, making it simple, it sounds to me an act of empowerment to common people. If Stephen Hawking can bring to a common man, the mysteries of cosmos in the nutshell (like "Brief History of Time) it is an act of empowerment. A common man starts thinking of things which were out of bounds till then. Web revolution has brought this empowerment to Indians in so many ways that west is not familiar with. Arranged marriage through internet introductions, is one of the most mesmerizing contributions of internet. My grandfather would have never imagined that two families would be interacting to get their son and daughter married with first introduction or advertisement through internet. Historically, this was always done through a common reference. One family may suggest the marriageable boy or girl to another family, they would meet and talk of the marriage possibilities for their son or daughter. Now things are so simple... just log on to for a wider choice. Or if someone wants a more specific community then portals like have come up. These portals are different from dating portals that web-World is filled to the brim with. These are serious family-to-family introduction portals, with sole objective of marriage of their wards. The idea of 'empowerment'(lets say it is the other name of 'deft handling of complexity in the new realities') to achieve bigger goals is also seen in, how family owned businesses are increasingly taking professional managers rather than sticking to the family members. Yes, it surly takes more than business reality to usher into this attitude. If this was not the case, all the family businesses would have done that long back. The Tatas and the Birlas (the legendary business groups in India) and the new age Reliance group has done it, but Kinetic groups still thinking about it. Means it still takes one maverick head of the family to give the mandate "please, get some good managers from the market, let's not try to do everything ourselves". The third dimension to this attitude i.e. creativity shown in personal evolution that starts touching the life-at-large, is again, should be lasting thing lacking in the land where spiritual quest has been the core motto of life since the time immemorial. Even if we keep out the so called "gurus" with huge following within or outside India, there are humble, ordinary people who have raised themselves to the iconic levels. Mr Verghese Kurian, who made the co-operative movement in Gujarat possible and help create the milk-products brand "Amul" is one such case in point. Marketing students across the country now study the success of Amul the brand, but the farmers who now reaping the fruits of co-ordinated milk production have lived their life in the struggle and success of this movement. If we turn to youth icons, and focus on parallels of Madonna, current rage Sania Mirza comes to the mind. The young tennis player who has not won the grand slam on court but surely won many of them in the minds of youth. She is flip-flopping from the sports pages to life-style pages in the newspaper. It is important to note that in India, nothing but Cricket is that sells. Tennis suddenly sees to be raising lot of interest in the youth, thanks to the new icon. A woman with plain middle-class face, but filled with simple confidence and a dash of style is what it makes this icon tick…at least till her next avatar. If we look at what maverick in India may mean, one could say "being Indian" is maverick. Not following the West is Maverick. Not to replicate the successful product or service or idea that has worked elsewhere, is maverick. In the traditional terms of success, it is far more difficult to be maverick in India than in the US, where success waits with bags full of dollars if you have a sparkle. In the socio-economic panorama of India that is still struggling to define the meanings of success in the new realities, it is multiple times more difficult to hold-on to a belief. Be it a brand or a new product or a new rational, a strong belief in the very idea and stamina to stay afloat is the maverick attitude that is showing so much prominently in recent times than ever before. MNC's don't look formidable now... Coca-Cola is consumed after a second thought... Names of the products are turning Indian... (also the names of the babies)... Films are no more remakes of Hollywood, but sometimes they are remakes of the Bollywood itself... Engineering and medicine are not the only career option for the middle class- "DJing" could be one... and lastly "a coalition government is completing complete 5 year term in India" is the height of the maverick attitude, just not the persisting reality.
© Manoj Kothari 2005

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Here is P&G and IDEO's case...interesting read from an article in Business week-

"To understand why the creativity movement is becoming so important, you need to go back to its roots at P&G. By harnessing the power of design, P&G has transformed itself from a stagnant brand manager into a model of innovation efficiency that outperforms industry rivals.Before Lafley, P&G's volume growth was basically flat. The company cared more about how its products functioned than it did about how customers felt about them. "P&G had the best chemical engineering and marketing operations in the country," says Patrick Whitney, director of the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology. "It didn't care about the user experience." P&G could tell retailers to stock eight kinds of Crest, and they did. As power shifted to big retailers, P&G couldn't do that. "It had to create new products, and to do that, P&G had to get closer to the consumer," says Whitney.Fresh EyesLafley turned to design. In 2001 he established a new executive post: vice-president for design, innovation, and strategy, naming Claudia B. Kotchka, now 53, to fill it. She and Lafley knew they couldn't change P&G's culture without fresh eyes from the outside. So they made a major decision: Even as P&G began laying off thousands of top executives, middle managers, scientists, and others, it quadrupled its design staff. For the first time it hired a legion of designers who had worked at other companies and in other industries.In a second crucial decision, Kotchka dispatched designers to work directly with R&D staffers to help to conceive new products. This changed P&G's entire innovation process, making it consumer-centric rather than driven by new technology. To open up the company further, P&G started hiring different kinds of consultants. Among them were Design Continuum; ZIBA Design in Portland, Ore.; Chicago's Doblin Inc.; and IDEO in Palo Alto, Calif.Here's how it works at P&G: Kotchka contacts P&G's divisional heads, asking for a list of possible opportunities designers might address. Recently, the head of home care said it was time to look at bathroom cleaning. Kotchka brought in IDEO with the goal of helping out. IDEO and P&G's designers went out and observed people cleaning bathrooms around the world. In South America they saw women using brooms to clean walls and showers effectively and built a prototype combining a small hand cleaner with a long pole. P&G tested the idea via a survey. People hated it.But P&G hung in there. What is fast becoming the Holy Grail of innovation -- the "unmet, unarticulated" needs of consumers -- didn't show up in the survey. Instead, P&G relied on the informed intuition of designers and tested the idea again, using working prototypes. People loved the real thing. P&G then broke down the walls of its Mr. Clean brand, reached in and used the Mr. Clean detergent for the new product. The Mr. Clean MagicReach was introduced in April -- with a four-foot detachable pole. Mundane as this example may be, it shows how design strategy can generate innovative new products and sales.



check out the overview of design and innovation, see the August 1, 2005 Business Week Special Report Get Creative!)

Wonderful articulation of how Knowledge Economy is creating new frontiers and jitters at the same time in America.