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A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Category: Reviews

Nano Jeans

The Crumbling Apple Pie

We have been an Apple family since 2010. We have 4 iPhones, 2 MacBooks, 2 iPads an iMac and 2 iPod’s. Recently my 17 year old daughters hand me down iPhone 5S needed replacement – it was slow and the 16 GB was just not enough storage. It was logical to expect that she would ask for an iPhone iPhone 7 or 8 – but to my surprise she wanted an Android Phone. She had compelling reasons – It’s half the price, has a big screen, is super fast and has a lot of storage. Add to that she never used the Apple Ecosystem.

That summarises the story of Apple in India. A Niche brand that had a 2% market share in the Smart Phone Market (In 2014) with aggressive plans is now seeing a steep de-growth. As per Counterpoint research the company had a 1% MS in Q2 2018 and unit shipments for 2018 are expected to be 2.4M ( 2017 – 3.2M Units)*. But before we comment on Apple India struggling lets look at the big picture.

Most of us remember the amazing launch presentations of Steve Jobs when he literally pulled out a rabbit from his hat. Be it the iPod from his hip pocket or the MacBookAir from an envelope – Steve was a marketing genius.

Steves Keynotes during the New product launches including his last Keynote at WWDC in 2011 attracted attention like the Grammy’s & Oscar’s. The craze was global even if Steve’s focus was largely the Western Economies. At every launch there were huge Q’s lining up the stores and product availability was always a challenge. He genuinely Exceeded Expectations – both with his presentation and the Product.

Compare that with the launch on Sep 12th this year by the current CEO Tim Cook. The big takeaway was the launch of Dual SIM iPhones. Sadly this feature was launched in 2000 by Benefon and became popular from 2010 – 2011. As of mid 2014 almost 60% of Smartphones sold in India were Dual SIM phones. So the worlds most innovative Phone company launches a feature that is 18 years old.

Since Steve Jobs that has been the summary of Apple launches. Lots of colours, numerous models, better camera, better resolution – but hardly any innovation on technology. And the question that begs to be asked is a 58 year old Tim Cook out of touch with technology in an industry that is run by 30 – 40 year olds (Mark Zuckerberg 34 , Sundar Pichai 47, Elon Musk 47). Yes he is a brilliant operations and financial wizard – and with dexterous buy backs and steep priced products has ensured that Apple’s profitability and stock price continue to rise against all odds.

The question that needs to be asked is how long can this continue? Is it a case of Gaining Momentum – Losing Altitude? With declining sales in Mac and iPads and the Apple Watch a very niche product sold mainly in US & W Europe – Apple has relied heavily on the steep prices of the iPhone.

A few years back iPhones in India were launched at a 40 – 50K INR pricing. That was steep – but this year the most affordable product the iPhone XR will be launched at Rs 76,900. While the premium range retails for 1 Lac – 1.34 Lacs. With that pricing you cannot attract the youth brigade.

When Tim Cook met PM Modi in May 2016 – there was a high level of expectancy that this was the moment when the worlds largest tech company would shift gears and accelerate. But sadly little has transpired – and things have gone from bad to worse – a steep erosion of market share in the last 2 years.  

While Apple operates a basic facility with its partner to assemble a few models of iPhones in India, Samsung has set up the worlds largest Smart Phone manufacturing plant in India in July 2018. That makes business sense as it saves the company 20% Customs Duty. And with the raging USD one can expect import duties to get steeper.

They quickly followed it up with the launch of the worlds largest retail outlet at Bangalore spread across 33,000 feet that was launched in Sep 2018. Now that is a commitment difficult to meet. 

The decline in Market share for Apple India also reflects in  the ramping down on operations from five national distributors to two. Many retailers across the country have been forced to close shutters with dwindling volume of sales.

The Apple Ecosystem – a Key differentiator has failed to engage audience in India. Most youngsters use platforms like Wynk to listen to music and movies are streamed from Netflix and Amazon Prime. Apple TV is almost never in the consideration list when you decide to buy a streaming device. Apple maps is almost never used. The lack of adoption of iTunes and the Ecosystem has been the biggest setback to Apple India. This ensures that there is no  stickiness and hence the retention rate of existing iPhone users which worldwide is stated to be over 90% is a lot lower in India.

Indian retail is always a challenging market – and India has once again proved to the worlds greatest tech company that success here doesn’t come easily. Companies that don’t adapt to the needs of the country are bound to fail and Apple is a good example.

The End 

* References 

From Technology Outsourcing to Social Entrepreneurship – The journey of Dr Sridhar Mitta

As part of A Few Good People – This blog features Dr Sridhar Mitta, a pioneering visionary who not only established Wipro as a global leader in Technology Outsourcing but also built the foundation for the industry. Dr Mitta has influenced the lives of thousands and on this Guru Purnima I would like to pay my respects to this wonderful man.  

In 1980 when a young 30 year old walked into Wipro’s nascent Information Technology Division as a founding employee he achieved two things. He helped catapult Wipro into a Global Technology giant and set the ball rolling to position India as a Global Outsourcing hub.

 Dr Sridhar Mitta, Bangalore in 1980, with a population of ~ 2M was a quaint little town deserving the sobriquet of a pensioners paradise and a hub of  Research Institutes. The Janata government had shown the door to IBM, The PC was yet to be discovered, Infosys did not exist and the Indian Rupee was trading at 1 USD = Rs 7.86.

This was also the time when a young Azim Premji (AHP) at the helm of Wipro was hungry to expand. Whether it was vision or chance one would never know – but AHP who always had the knack for identifying great talent hired Ashok Narasimhan (A smart savvy financial controller from Telco) and Dr Mitta. Between them they were tasked to build the IT / Technology business at Wipro. 

Dr Mitta armed with a MTech from IIT Kharagpur and a PhD in Control Systems from Oklahoma State University (He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009) was the right choice for Wipro. He was a visionary but hands on. A wonderful team player he was crystal clear on the road ahead as he went about it step by step with determination and passion.

I recollect my first interaction with him in 1992. At our induction  program he  predicted that in the coming years the PC would be like a telephone, just a black box – and the whole attention would be on Software and Services. How right he was.

Over the next 20 years the successful trio of AHP, Ashok Soota and Dr Mitta built Wipro into a global giant. (Mr Ashok Soota took over as the President of Wipro Infotech from Ashok Narasimhan in 1984)

 Dr Sridhar MittaSridhar Mitta celebrates his birthday with Mr Premji, Ashok Soota & Sudip Banerjee

The first phase between 1980 and 1990 was the “Make in India” journey. Intel was coming out with blazing fast microprocessors and Wipro started building multi-user Minicomputers the S86, S286, S386, Landmark 486, Pentium based Synergy series etc. some of them based on the Unix operating system

Designing a Multi Processing Computer in the 80’s was not easy. Remember there was no Internet and Google. The R&D team under Dr Mitta built deep expertise in Chip design, Board design, Operating System, Compilers, Interoperability, Testing and all the zillion things that go into making a reliable high end system.

Dr Mitta recalls that in those days Wipro was the 1st choice for any IIT Graduate because of the quality of work and company ethics. People, Process & Technology were the bedrock for the R&D team and that was Wipro’s positioning for many years. Quality work always gets noticed and global tech companies like Intel started exploring partnerships with Wipro’s R&D team.  This would prove to be the foundation for the next wave of innovation. 

 R&D teamThe young engineers from Global R&D. Most have grown to be Tech entrepreneurs,CTO's and CEO's of leading companies

By the early 90’s it was evident that the India was liberalising. HCL had tied up with HP, Compaq had an alliance with Microland. All the large players were beginning  to make an entry. They had global scale and size and it would be unviable to try and compete with them in manufacturing given the small size of the Indian market.

The visionary in Dr Mitta saw an opportunity amidst this threat. He started contacting his friends  in the US who were working in large Tech companies like Intel, Sun, Tandem and NCR. The bold pitch was to ask for projects that could be done by his team of highly qualified engineers from India. He was crystal clear that there would be no body shopping (The model that software exporters had adopted initially).

The going was not easy as foreign travel needed RBI permission and there were strict controls on the amount of Forex you could carry. He recollects – “We survived on less than $50 a day living with friends and at times eating one meal a day. It was tough. But we were fired with a mission.” Infrastructure, power and network bandwidth were the other challenges that the team had to surmount.

Doing work remotely needed a strong process. Wipro led the industry in embarking for ISO and later CMM certification. This gave a high degree of comfort to clients on the process maturity of the company. Thus was born Tech Outsourcing from India. A wave that has transformed the lives of millions and positioned India globally.

Dr Mitta      Dr Mitta with the numerous awards won by Wipro Global R&D

After that there was no looking back as Wipro’s R&D transformed to Global R&D executing high end work for tech giants in US, Europe & Japan.This was when Dr Mitta decided to explore his entrepreneurial calling. After a 20 year stint at Wipro starting as employee No 1 he had now become the President of Wipro Global R&D. But deep down the technologist in him was itching for doing more innovative work that would impact society.

He spent a decade in EnThink and E4E two innovative startups. EnThink was an Intellectual Property design and licensing start-up located in silicon valley. At E4E  he helped develop the concept of EAP – Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program working closely with TIE (A Global organisation fostering entrepreneurship). By now he had seen the challenges of the rapidly growing IT Industry in Indian cities. It was time to connect the dots and bring his 40 years of experience in creating something new and innovative. This led to the creation of NextWealth.

While conceptualising NextWealth he met the legendary Dr C.K.Prahlad who spent a lot of time with Dr Mitta and finally concurred that his basis for NextWealth was foolproof. Dr Mitta still remembers his advice ” Think beyond Best Practice, invent the NextPractice – The next big business model“.  The founders wanted the company to be named NextPractice but since that domain was not available they settled for NextWealth.

Dr Mitta           Dr Mitta with Anand Talwai & Mythily Ramesh

NextWealth was Co – Founded with leaders from Wipro and the team of Dr Mitta, Anand Talwai, S.R.Gopalan and Mythily Ramesh steering it ahead.

NextWealth was created to add social value through entrepreneurship. The company has a unique business model that solves many of the challenges of the day.

  1. The Vision of the company is to provide 10,000 jobs in smaller towns. They call it The Distributed Delivery model.
  2. Each job generates 5 ancillary jobs and kick starts the local economy. NextWealth promotes not just employment but overall economic development in smaller towns.  “40 Years back Bay Area outsourced work to India 5000 miles away so why can’t Indian companies outsource work 500 miles away in their own backyard? Questions Dr Mitta.
  3. A lot of good talent is available in smaller towns at very affordable prices. This kills two birds with one stone – Lower costs and almost nil attrition.

The company identifies business opportunities and partners with entrepreneurs in smaller towns. The local entrepreneur runs the centre with  inputs from the experienced leadership team at NextWealth. The company has now partnered with competent entrepreneurs in smaller towns like Salem, Chittoor, Mysore, Hubli and Bhilai and has established its business model with many customers.

Over the last few years NextWealth has delivered with some very demanding Global & Indian customers in eCommerce, Finance, IT & Retail. Their core expertise is on deriving insights from Digital Data that can be monetized by blending people and automation. The focus areas are

  • Customer Interaction
  • Assisted Digitisation &
  • Business Process Management

It is a Win Win formulae for Customers, Employees and the Entrepreneur. A mid sized company that can scale rapidly and deliver quality output at very affordable rates. Quality of staff is good and with the right training and mentoring the staff excelled. And it was no surprise that more than 50% of the staff are women.

NextWealth

I visited their largest centre near Salem. It was buzzing with energy. The process & security standards were foolproof. NextWealth supports over 40 customers in a variety of high end digital services. (Judgemental, Cognitive, Analytics, Lead management and Lead conversion customer support) and is meeting metrics ever day and every week

Backed with the vision and operational depth of Dr Mitta and his leadership team NextWealth is now ready to take on large complex projects. The proof of concept phase is over. NextWealth is now ready to accelerate this proven model. It is truly delivering its promise “Human Touch to Digital processes”. 

For additional information please contact 


Graama Bhojanam – Fresh, Healthy, Tasty Millet restaurant at Jaynagar

An experienced Iyer couple from Chennai (Who left his job after 30 years at HLL), a young entrepreneur just back after completing his degree in Hotel Management from Switzerland and his friend from the legendary Savera hospitality group, and a Ranji cricketer  – When these four people with diverse expertise get together something unique is born. And that was Prem’s Graama Bhojanam.

The restaurant at Jaynagar Bangalore leveraged on the expertise of Mr Krishnamurthy who started Prem’s Graama Bhojanam with his own cooking at a small place in the bye lanes of Adyar Chennai.

Their goal is to promote healthy food with healthy ingredients. All the  dishes here are made of millets and Red/Brown Rice.  It definitely is more environmental friendly as growing millets requires 70% lesser water than rice.

The first thing you must order here is their “Paddus” (“Kuzhi Paniyaram”) – They are delicious and healthy – made of  “Samai” Little millets. Crispy outside and soft inside – you can gobble 3 – 4 of them easily. So ensure that you order more than 1 plate if you are in a group. At just Rs 80/- a plate you need not worry about the bill.

Paddus

Thats the beauty of this place – all the varieties of Idlis, Dosa’s, Vada’s and Bajjis  are made of millets and they taste better. Of course they are healthier. They are also priced very reasonably.

The signature dish is their Lunch and Dinner Thali that includes 4 Main Dishes – Sambar rice, Curd Rice, Rasam Rice and Rice of the day – Lemon / Puliyogare etc  but all these “rice” items are made of millets. Then there is a Curry, Chutney, Sweet of the day,  (Made with Jaggery), Buttermilk and Roti – all of this unlimited for Rs 195/-. Even the RO water is laced with Camphor, Tulsi, Clove and Cardamom. Food is cooked in a healthy way – all their products are sourced directly from Organic farms and there is no use of Vanaspati, Sugar, Maida and artificial colours.

A lot of focus has gone on the menu and the accompaniments – and thats what is important. If you get the food and pricing right people will come – ambience is secondary. And they seem to be on track serving over 100 lunches every day and 200+ lunches on the weekend.

Menu

The ambience is basic, functional and clean with an eye on costs.  Prem’s Graama Bhojanam is expanding with a fine dining restaurant that opens in Chennai (Annanagar) on the 23rd of July and its a matter of time before they expand their footprint in Bangalore. They seem to be setting the trend with a handful of other restaurants in promoting Millet based food.

Prem's Graama Bhojanam

Do visit them – Sr Citizens especially will love this food. Prem’s Graama Bhojanam is a house in Jaynagar converted to a restaurant. Its run by Yuvajith and Smita, Avinash & Tina and their friend from the Savera group Tarun Reddy. (Yuvajith is passionate about Coffee and has opened a signature coffee brewing centre – The Brewing Bean at Eco Space Bangalore)

Graama Bhojanam

  • Address : 234, 32 A Cross 2nd Main Road, 7th Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore
  • Timings : 12 Noon – 10.30 PM

Graama Bhojanam

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