કયો ધંધો કરવો જોઇએ? આજકાલ શેમાં “ચાંદી” છે?

ઘણી વાર લોકો પૂછે કે આજ કાલ કઇ લાઇન સારી છે? કયો ધંધો કરવો જોઇએ?
પોતાની કરિયર કે ધંધાની લાઇનની પસંદગી કેવી રીતે કરવી એ પ્રશ્ન દરેકના મનમાં હોય, એ સ્વાભાવિક છે, અને આ પ્રશ્નનો ઉકેલ સારી રીતે શોધવામાં આવે, તો ભવિષ્યની ઘણી ભૂલો નિવારી શકાય અને પોતાની જિંદગીમાં ધારેલી ધંધા-વ્યવસાયિક સફળતા પણ મેળવી શકાય.
પોતાના માટે કરિયર કે ધંધો શોધતી વખતે મોટે ભાગે લોકો કોઇક સફળ લોકોના ઉદાહરણમાંથી પ્રેરણા લઇને એના જેવું જ કંઇક કરવાની કોશિશ કરે છે. સામાન્ય રીતે આજ કાલ જે ધંધોઓમાં તેજી હોય, એ લાઇનોમાં જવાની બધા કોશિશ કરે છે. આપણા કોઇ સગા-ઓળખીતાએ કોઇ એક ધંધા-વ્યવસાયમાં સારી પ્રગતિ કરી હોય, અને એ લાઇનમાં બીજા લોકો પણ સફળ થયા હોય, તો આપણને એમ લાગે કે આ ધંધામાં દાખલ થવા જેવું છે. આ લાઇનમાં “ચાંદી” છે. અમુક વર્ષો પહેલાં અનેક લોકો પોતાનો રેગ્યુલર ધંધો છોડીને શેર માર્કેટમાં દાખલ થયા. રીયલ એસ્ટેટમાં તેજી જોઇને એ ધંધામાં પણ લોકો આંખો મીંચીને દાખલ થયા.
ભણતરના આધારે થતા પ્રોફેશનલ કોર્સીસમાં પણ આ જ ટ્રેન્ડ જોવા મળે છે. ડોક્ટર, એન્જીનીયર, સી.એ. વગેરે લાઇનોમાં આપણું કોઇ સગું-ઓળખીતું સફળ થયું હોય, તો આપણે પણ એવું કરવાની પ્રેરણા થાય છે.
આ સારી વાત છે, અને જો એનો અમલ સારી રીતે થાય, તો એમાં કશું ખોટું ન હોવું જોઇએ.પરંતુ મોટે ભાગે આપણે જોઇએ છીએ કે કોઇના ઉદાહરણની નકલ કરીને કે દેખાદેખીનો શિકાર બનીને શરુ કરાયેલ ધંધા-વ્યવસાયો મોટે ભાગે નિષ્ફળ જાય છે.કોઇની ધંધાકીય સફળતાના આધારે આપણા ધંધાની લાઇન પસંદ કરવી એ કેવી રીતે ભૂલભર્યું સાબિત થઇ શકે છે એ આપણે જોઇએ.Slide6
1) સૌથી પહેલાં તો જે ધંધા-વ્યવસાયમાં આપણે જોડાતા હોઇએ, એના વિશે આપણી પાસે જરુરી નોલેજ અને આવડત હોવા જોઇએ. આપણો પોતાનો સ્વભાવ એ ધંધા-વ્યવસાયની જરુરિયાતોને માફક આવે એવો હોવો જોઇએ. જિંદગી જીવવાના આપણા અરમાનો-ઓરતાંઓ-સપનાંઓમાં આ ધંધો-વ્યવસાય બરાબર બંધબેસતો હોવો જોઇએ. આપણે એક સ્થળે રહીને આરામની જિંદગી જીવવા માગતા હોઇએ, તો જે ધંધામાં અવારનવાર ટ્રાવેલીંગ કરવું પડે, એ આપણને માફક નહીં આવે. આપણે જો લોકો સાથે ખુશીથી, હળીમળીને કામ ન કરી શકીએ, તો જે ધંધાઓમાં આપણે સતત લોકોના સંપર્કમાં આવવાનું આવે (દા.ત. શો-રુમ, ડૉક્ટર, કન્સલ્ટીંગ, એડવાઇઝર) એવા ધંધાઓ આપણને માફક નહીં આવે. આપણે એકલા કામ કરી શકીએ અને ઓછામાં ઓછો લોકસંપર્ક થાય એવા વિકલ્પો આપણે શોધવા જોઇએ. આપણો ધંધો જો આપણાં સપનાંઓને સાકાર કરવાનું યોગ્ય સાધન નહીં હોય, તો આપણે એમાં સફળ નહીં થઇ શકીએ.
2) આપણો ધંધો શરુ કરતી વખતે આપણને એ ધંધા માટે જ આવડત કે નોલેજ હોય, માત્ર એના જ આધારે જિંદગીભર એ ધંધો આપણે ચલાવી શકીશું, એ ભૂલભર્યું સાબિત થાય છે. આજના સમયમાં દરરોજ અનેક પરિવર્તનો આકાર લે છે. આવા ગતિશીલ સમયમાં જે સતત શિખતો રહે, અને સમયાનુસાર પોતાની જાતમાં, વિચારોમાં અને વર્તનમાં પણ પરિવર્તન કરતો રહે, એ જ વ્યક્તિ ધંધા-વ્યવસાયમાં સફળ થઇ શકે. આપણે જેની કોપી કરી હોય, એ માણસ પણ સમયાંતરે પોતાના ધંધા-વ્યવસાયમાં પરિવર્તનો લાવતો રહે છે, આપણે જો જરુર મુજબના પરિવર્તનો લાવવાની અનુકૂળતા ન વિકસાવી શકીએ, તો આગળ જતાં અટકી જઇએ.
3) હા, ધંધાની લાઇન પસંદ કરતી વખતે એટલું ચેક કરવું જરુરી છે, કે આપણી પ્રોડક્ટ કે સર્વિસની પૂરતી ડીમાન્ડ હોય,એટલા કસ્ટમરો માર્કેટમાં છે. જો માર્કેટમાં ડીમાન્ડ જ ન હોય, તો સફળતા મુશ્કેલ થઇ જાય છે. પરંતુ એક વાર ધંધાની ડીમાન્ડ છે, અે નક્કી થયા પછી, જે કોઇ ધંધો કે વ્યવસાય કોઇ કસ્ટમર વર્ગની જરુરિયાતો સારી રીતે સંતોષી શકે એ ધંધો જ લાંબા સમયની સફળતા હાંસલ કરી શકે. કસ્ટમરની જરુરિયાતો ન સંતોષી શકે એવો કોઇ પણ ધંધો લાંબો સમય ટકી શકે જ નહીં. જે ધંધાઓ માત્ર ધંધાર્થીના પ્રોફીટ માટે જ શરુ થાય છે, કસ્ટમરોનું ધ્યાન નથી રાખતા, એ જલદી બંધ થાય જ છે. આપણે જેની કોપી કરી હોય, એ ધંધો કસ્ટમરોની જરુરિયાતો કેવી રીતે સંતોષે છે, એના કરતાં વધારે સારી રીતે જો આપણે એ કામ કરી શકીએ, તો એના જેટલી કે એનાથી વધારે સારી સફળતા હાંસલ કરી શકીએ. પણ આપણને જો પ્રોફીટ માર્જીન એના જેટલું જ જોઇતું હોય, પરંતુ કસ્ટમરો-કર્મચારીઓ-સપ્લાયરો પ્રત્યેની નિષ્ઠા એના જેટલી રાખવાની તૈયારી ન હોય, તો નહીં ચાલે.
4) આપણે દેખાદેખીથી કોઇની લાઇન તો કોપી કરી નાખીએ, પરંતુ એની કામ કરવાની ધગશ, એનું કમીટમેન્ટ, એના વ્યાવસાયિક સંબંધો, એનું નેટવર્કીંગ, એની લોકોને મોટીવેટ કરીને એમની પાસેથી કામ કરાવવાની આવડત આપણે કોપી કરી શકતા નથી અને એને કારણે નિષ્ફળ જઇએ છીએ. ઘણાં લોકોને બીલ ગેટ્સ જેવી સંપત્તિ એકઠી કરવાની ઇચ્છા હોય છે, પરંતુ એ માણસે 20 વર્ષો સુધી એક પણ રજા લીધા વગર સતત કામ કર્યું છે, એ કેટલા જણ કરી શકે? આપણી નજર જો બીલ ગેટ્સના પરિણામો પર હોય, તો આપણાં પ્રયત્નો પણ એની કક્ષાનાં જ હોવા જોઇએ. દરેક વ્યક્તિની પોતાની ખૂબીઓ-ખામીઓ-ખાસિયતો હોય છે. આપણો ધંધો-વ્યવસાય આપણી આ બાબતોને ધ્યાનમાં રાખીને જ નક્કી થવો જોઇેએ.
5) ધંધો-વ્યવસાય સિલેક્ટ કરવાની એક બીજી ભૂલભરેલી માન્યતા એ છે કે સંતાનોએ બાપ-દાદાના ધંધામાં જ જવું જોઇએ. જૂના જમાનામાં કરિયરના બહુ વિકલ્પો નહોતાં, ત્યારે આ ઇચ્છનીય હશે, પરંતુ આજના સમયમાં ડૉક્ટરનો દીકરો ડૉક્ટર જ બને કે બિઝનેસમેનના સંતાનો એનો જ ધંધો સંભાળે અને સફળ થાય એ જરુરી નથી. સંતાનો જો પોતાની મરજીથી એ ધંધો-વ્યવસાય પસંદ કરે, તો ખૂબ ખીલી ઉઠશે, પરંતુ એમને જો એ ધંધા-વ્યવસાયમાં રસ નહીં હોય, તો એ સરાસર નિષ્ફળ જશે જ. અમિતાભ બચ્ચનનો છોકરો એના જેટલો જ સફળ થશે, એ જરુરી નથી. ધીરુભાઇ અંબાણીના બંન્ને પુત્રોમાં એકસરખી આવડત અને એબિલીટીઝ હોત, તો બંનેનાં બિઝનેસ સામ્રાજ્યો એક કક્ષાનાં જ હોવા જોઇતા હતા. આપણે જોઇએ છીએ કે એ થઇ શક્યું નથી. કુમારમંગલમ બિરલા અને યશ બિરલા ભાઇઓ નથી, પરંતુ એક જ પ્રકારના કૌટુંબિક વારસામાંથી આવતા હોવા છતાં, જે કુમારમંગલમ કરી શક્યા એનો નાનકડો અંશ પણ યશ બિરલા કરી શક્યા નથી. માટે સંતાનોની ઇચ્છા, આવડત, એમના સપનાંઓ અને એમનો ઇન્ટરેસ્ટ આ બધાને અનુકૂળ હોય, એવા ધંધા-વ્યવસાયમાં જ દાખલ થાય, તો એ જરુર સફળ થશે.
ટૂંકમાં, કોઇ ધંધામાં “ચાંદી” હોતી નથી. કોઇ ધંધાની લાઇન સારી કે ખરાબ હોતી નથી. જે ધંધાના કસ્ટમરોની જરુરિયાતો સંતુષ્ટ કરવાની આપણી ઇચ્છા, આવડત અને મનોવ્રુત્તિ આપણામાં હોય, એ ધંધો આપણા માટે સારો. ધંધાની સફળતા માત્ર એ ધંધાની લાઇનમાં નહીં, પણ ધંધો ચલાવનારાની પર્સનાલિટી અને એટીટ્યૂડ પર પણ એટલી જ આધારિત હોય છે.
– સંજય શાહ (SME બિઝનેસ કોચ. લેખક: “બિઝનેસ મેનેજમેન્ટ સિમ્પ્લીફાઇડ”)

Why all eCommerce ventures are not successful?

I have heard people saying that they bought something from eBay.in, flipkart.com, infibeam.com, snapdeal.com, amazon.in or jabong.com. But, I have not yet come across anybody talking about buying or selling something on OLX or QUIKR.

The only place where I have seen their names is in advertisements, which try to tell me that I can sell my junk through them. Somehow, I am not convinced that selling my assorted used items (which even the Kabadiwala refuses to look at) will be as easy as it is made out to be and people will be waiting to lap up my useless stuff.

I think there are many people like me who are not convinced.

This reminds me of a mother who grooms her young daughter and takes her to all parties and social functions to get her noticed by mothers of prospective grooms. The only objective is to get her daughter married to some boy from a prosperous family.

The rise of some eCommerce ventures and their phenomenal valuations coupled with the easy availability of VC or PE funding has given rise to some silly and greedy start-up mindsets, whose only motive is to create a company which gets picked up or taken over by some bigger giant. They are not interested in developing a business. They are just interested in creating a hype, making a lot of noise and waiting for some idiot to come and buy their junk at ridiculous prices.

And they think that even if they sell junk, there will be hordes of PEs and VCs with loads of money eager to buy their company.

They don’t realize that if they could not convince a customer to come and buy/sell their stuff on their platform, only idiots will come and invest into such junk traders who themselves are soon going to be junk.

They must remember that in every Tech boom, everybody and their cousins want to ride that wave. Today, everybody wants to be an Amazon or a Flipkart. But most of them result into a mother desperate to showcase her daughter.

They should realize that it is not easy to “Bech De” their company so Quikrrrrr….

Making noise on advertisements (on easy VC/PE money) is easy. Making sense is not so easy.

If you’re not paying for it, then you are the product

Many of us could not understand why Google and other companies give email, storage, audio, video and so many of their services FREE to us? For us, it was a welcome gift..!

But, think over. Why would any company give anything FREE? We must remember that there is no free lunch anywhere in the world.

So, in exchange of the FREE email facility and assorted other services, these companies are getting to know a lot about us. What do we like? What to we buy? Where do we buy from? How do we spend our time? Who our friends are? Which movies do we like? Which books do we read? Which mobile phone or Credit Card do we use? Where do we travel? Which restaurants we eat at?

And, this is very very valuable information. When they know all such things about us, they get a fair idea about us and our tastes and preferences. Then they themselves use this information for selling us many similar products and services and also to other companies who buy data from them. Also, bits and pieces of information accumulated from billions of people around the world finally result into a mammoth source of knowledge which marketers can use profitably by inferring trends from that data.

So, in exchange of giving something FREE to us, they sell our own data…! This is the price of connectivity that we are paying in the form of loss of privacy.

So, next time be aware and clear that if you are getting something for free, you (perhaps in the form of data about you) may be the product. Really, there is no FREE lunch, breakfast or dinner.

3 Marketing lessons from Samsung’s vulnerability

Recently, news are coming in that Samsung has lost its market leader position in Smartphone markets in India and China, two of its biggest markets. What makes Samsung’s position in mobile handset market so vulnerable?

In India, MicroMax and in China, Xiaomi are said to have displaced the market leader. MicroMax and Xiaomi are claimed to be beating Samsung at its own game in which it decimated Nokia few years back.

In the utterly crowded and commoditized mobile handset market, such drastic changes are not surprising, unless you are an Apple. Samsung may dispute the claim or defend its territory for a while, but not for long. Sooner than later it will have to give in to some competition, which may emerge and ascend rapidly because it has built its brand on the foundation of vulnerability.

What are the marketing lessons one can learn from Samsung’s shaky brand position? Here are three :

1) No single target customer segment
You can own  Samsung phone for as low as Rs 1200 or as high as about Rs.50,000. That is a full spectrum of mobile phone users. So, who is a Samsung target customer? Almost everybody.

Because of this large base, Samsung can be attacked by any Tom, Dick, Harry and their cousins. And it will have to spend time, money and energy in defending each of these territories.

Marketing lesson-1 :
Have a clear target customer segment and protect it firmly. Sharper the target, the safer. Don’t spread yourself too thin so that you can be attacked by anyone.

2) No clear positioning in customer’s mind
If you own an iPhone, that says something about you. You understand or appreciate quality, innovation and uniqueness. Also, you can afford a high-end phone.
If you own a Samsung? It does not say anything about your taste. You could as well own any other similar ‘looking’ phone.

Marketing lesson-2 :
Have a distinct positioning for your brand. Stand for something. Own a distinct position in customer’s mind. Don’t focus on marketshare alone. Focus on mind share instead. And drive that home in the customer’s mind.

3) No uniqueness
Apple has its unique hardware and its unique software. This makes switching difficult for an iPhone user because he gets used to some unique features, services and Apps which other mobile Operating Systems can’t offer. An Android based Samsung can be seamlessly switched to another Android phone without any significant loss of data or user experience.

Marketing lesson-3:
Be unique. Give something that others can’t copy easily. Don’t become easily replaceable.

It is not only the product or brand that sells

Only a strong brand is not enough to succeed. Along with “what” we are selling, “how” and “where” we are selling that also matters.

It is not only the product or brand that pulls the customers. Customer Experience counts.

If along with the product and its brand name the selling process is not transferred with the brand’s true spirit, all the franchisees of a product don’t get the same response because the customer experience is not duplicated everywhere. Here is an example.

Even though Juhu’s famous Ice Cream brand has its franchisee parlors at many places in Mumbai and elsewhere, only the flagship one at Juhu is always very crowded. Others are not so successful. Some are complete failures. Reasons?
1. Location plays a very important role. Some parlors are in very inconvenient locations, which people don’t like to frequent.
2. Service and Customer Experience are most important than the brand or the product itself. At their franchisee store in Malad-West, for example, customers don’t feel welcome. The franchisee owners are very greedy and the staff completely unprofessional, making a customer’s experience unsavory in contrast to the brand’s tasteful reputation.

It is not only the product or brand that sells. The process of selling and customer experience also affects sales equally.

Along with financial strength of a franchisee, their value system also must be examined. Otherwise their association will damage the brand’s image.

Bad execution can undo great strategic steps

A close look at why international pen brands fail in India shows how poor quality affects the famous brands adversely.

In a very bold strategic step, a well known Indian pen manufacturer brand bought the rights to manufacture and market a famous international pen brand in India. They also hired India’s biggest superstar as the brand ambassador. A very aggressive advertising campaign was unleashed to popularize the brand in India.

But, the venture failed miserably. The sales did not grow as expected. The world famous brand could not do well in India.
Why?

Assuming that the brand will sell on its reputation only, regardless of the quality, the license holders neglected the quality of the pen. It was very very inferior compared to the imported product. The buyers who knew the brand expected that same quality from India manufactured product, but it was way down the standards.

Gradually, the hype created by the brand died down. The same is happening with many other famous international pen brands.

All these European brands are realizing that if they sell their rights to the greedy, commercial minded organizations in India, it costs very dearly to the brand’s equity.

If you compromise on quality, even the biggest superstar can’t save it.

Where has the money gone? Here it is…

India’s Gold reserves with RBI are approximately Rs.1.25 lakh crores.

But, India is spending almost double this amount every year, on mobile services and handsets. And that is about 2.06% of India’s GDP…

Telecom and Mobile handset industry is where the money from average consumer’s pocket is going. No wonder most of the markets are reeling under slowdown. India spends less on goods and a lot of time and money on talking…

Check some interesting numbers to get a better perspective :

India’s GDP in 2012-13 : Approx Rs 114 lakh crores (Reference :Wikipedia)

India’s Telecom Services sector revenues in 2012-13 : Approx : Rs. 2 lakh crores based on Q4-2012-13 report of TRAI (Reference : TRAI Report for Jan-March 2013 Quarter)

Mobile handset sale of last 2 years : (Reference : Economic Times article here.)

a) 2011-12 = Rs. 31,330 Crores

b) 2012-13 = Rs. 35,946 Crores

That means, EVERY YEAR, approx Rs. 2.35 lakh crores are being spent in India on Mobile services and handsets. That is approx 2.06% of India’s GDP. Considering approximately, 120 Cr population of the country, this works out to about Rs.2000 average PER HEAD PER YEAR….!!!

This means that out of about Rs.90,000 per capita GDP, EVERY Indian is spending average Rs.2000 per year on mobile phones…! Now that is a significant number…! A lot of Indian money is turning into hot air.  This has a very serious possible repercussions on the Indian economy.

1) Notwithstanding the immense communication advantage of mobile and Value Added Services and their contribution to the economy at large, the actual productive usage of these facilities is comparatively lower. Most of the mobiles are used for non-productive purposes (Chatting, Social Media, Group messaging,  Playing games,Listening to music, as a Camera etc.). Along with money, this is wasting a lot of productive time of the country’s populace. The general population, newly exposed to this technological solutions, is behaving like a small child who has suddenly entered a room full of toys. The instincts ‘to be there among the crowd’ is costing the economy a very huge amount of productivity. Unfortunately, this will be realized later than sooner.

2) A lot of this money is going out of the country, as most of the telecom hardware, mobile handsets and accessories are imported. This puts a lot of pressure on the Indian rupee.

3) With many of the family members now having their individual mobile phones, the monthly budget of the average household is very strangely skewed due to mobile hardware and services claiming a significant amount. A lot of essential goods and services are becoming predictably unaffordable due to this imbalance in the household income and expenses. This is one reason why all other markets are reeling under reduced demand.

4) The social impact of ‘the mobile revolution’ is generating a lot of lonely souls, destroying the fabric of relationships. This also gives rise to a lot of psychological disorders. Small children exposed to mobiles early on are reducing time on physical activities and spending a lot of time on mobiles, limiting their wholesome physical growth. All this finally impacts the general physical and mental health of the country and then to the economy.

It will be good if the child gets wiser after playing with the new-found toys for a while and getting back to its normal life.

Otherwise, these toys will prove to be very expensive for the economy in the end.

The games Indian telecom operators play make customers hate them…

If you ask any mobile subscriber in India about their experience with the operator, 99% chances are that his/her experience is not pleasant. Why? Because true to a maxim in Gujarati which says “All crows are black, no matter from where hail”, almost all telecom operators in India are notorious for their dubious and customer unfriendly practices. I am sure, most of us may have suffered due to some or the other of them. Here are some examples.
1) When a mobile operator comes out with a cheaper plan, it NEVER informs the existing post-paid subscribers about the new plan, which surely can reduce the subscribers’ billing amount. But, when you apply to port out from their service or try to get converted to Pre-paid connection, their customer service (!) personnel get hyperactive. At that time they call and offer “A much cheaper plan to reduce your expense…” I wonder in which heaven these overzealous souls were resting when we were subjected to higher tariffs which forced us to get away from patronizing them. I have had such unpleasant experiences with Reliance Mobile and AirTel.
2) If you change any value-added pack, and then next day you wish to subscribe the same pack again, the operator may give you the bad news that “That pack is no longer available. Now the same pack is available with half of the benefits at the same price.” Previous day, at the time of taking your request of cancelling the existing plan, they don’t inform you about the plan not being available for new subscription. This gross loot they do with the loyal subscribers (whom they classify as “Platinum” subscribers), who have been with them for years. This is the worst gift for loyalty a customer should expect. Reliance Mobile, AirTel, Idea and Vodafone all of them have done this.
3) Mobile Number Portability (MNP), is the facility TRAI has provided to customers, giving them an option to change their mobile service providers. But, in MNP the mobile operators have found a new way of harassing customers. Because of any reason, when a subscriber applies for Porting out, the erstwhile operator puts as many obstacles as possible.  Recently, Reliance Mobile delayed releasing the number beyond stipulated 5 days and then released the number at 10 pm on Saturday night, knowing very well that the offices of the new mobile operator will be closed for weekend and the customer will have to suffer no-mobile services for the weekend. This is like arresting somebody on Friday evening, knowing well aware that the courts will be closed for the weekend, so that the person will have to remain in custody for at least two days as no bail can be processed. This dirty kick by the telecom operator in the butt leaves a painful wound in the customer’s mind.  We had a similar experience with Idea when they, too, delayed releasing the number for a very long time.
Every subscriber in India may have such stories. In response to my post on Facebook about one such grievance against Airtel, one of my friends commented, “All operators are same.”
Truly echoing the fact “All crows are black… regardless from where they hail.”
Do you have any experience with any of the crows? I invite you to come and share.

Options to the real estate industry

The real estate industry in India is facing an uphill challenge. Last 5-6 years have seen an unprecedented rise in rates of real estate all across India. The rise is really phenomenal as it is beyond any logic that market experts could attribute it to.

But, now it seems the rally has stopped. The rise has stalled for the time being. But, the recent hike in the sale prices in real estate has resulted into a corresponding rise in the input and interest costs. So, even though the prices are unaffordable, they are not coming down. The developers of the real estate industry can’t sell at lower rates and can’t bear the burden of the unsold inventory also.

So what is the solution?

In marketing terms,there is a NEED for the accommodation, for the real estate. But this need is not resulting into sales, because the price is not affordable to the customer.  How to bridge this gap?

1) If we observe recent trends, there is a lot of mobility in people’s careers. More people are shifting bases rapidly, jumping from one job to another, from one city to another. The demand-supply equation of the job market is prompting people to stay at a city for few years and then move to another city. A large number of these people are youngsters, who are not yet married and are open to change cities for few years. But, each time they shift to a new city, they have to pass through a lot of hassles of finding and settling into a new house.

2) There is a huge movement of marketing/sales/support people across the country for shorter periods at various cities and towns. They face difficulty in finding decent accommodation, because hotels are prohibitively expensive and the low-end options are unacceptably lower in quality. Admin departments of companies are always hard pressed to find good temporary staying solutions for their touring staff members.

Such types of movements of people from one place to another can be supported and exploited commercially by real estate developers.

For that, they need to look at little ahead in their value chain. They need to develop real estate management organization and provide managed, furnished, shared or independent decent and affordable paying guest type of accommodations to individuals, families or companies for various types of time periods.

In short, there is a huge demand for managed, rental accommodations which do not have troubles associated with Leasing or renting Leave & License accommodations and are affordable below the hotels. Also, if such housing options are available across major cities, companies will be interested in booking accommodations for their touring manpower. They will get same standardized quality across various cities.

In today’s changing India, temporary ownership is becoming popular. Customers are not averse to paying for using something of good quality. This way, even if they can’t buy it, they can avail of good quality product or service. And the real estate developers can get better returns on their investment, while still holding the ownership of the property and earning its appreciation.

Just like radio cabs pooled together many assorted transporting vehicles, it will be pertinent if real estate developers and investors look into similar options for accommodation.

How to select a business consultant?

In Gujarati, there is one beautiful line written by Shri Gunvant Shah, which says something to the effect : “A boy fell in love with a girl’s beautiful eyes and then made a mistake to marry her whole body…!”.

In selecting business consultants, many businessmen make such mistakes just like that enamoured boy who could not see anything beyond the beautiful eyes. They go to a seminar, listen some passionate, well-rehearsed speech and they get so impressed by that speaker, that they bring him/her in as a consultant in the company, without really checking the credential or capability of that person as a consultant.

Good consultants are needed for any company. A good consultant can be a great source of guidance, expertise and advice. He/She can bring in an independent perspective, which the insiders cannot see perhaps because of the bias which comes along with being within the business. A consultant can provide a ‘third-eye’, an independent view of the business’ realities. But the selection of a business consultant requires careful examination.

Here are some guidelines to help entrepreneurs check in prospective consultants. I begin with some pitfalls to avoid :

No business experience:

Many consultants have no real business experience. They have been teachers, speakers or trainers during their whole career. They have learnt and taught many theories, but not really ‘run’ any business. They have not made any mistakes. They have not failed or succeeded in any business. They have only delivered passionate speeches and trained people in how to do business…!  They have got experience only in Doosre ke kandhe pe bandook rakh ke fodna…

What dependable advice can anybody give where he himself has not succeeded or failed doing anything? The distance between management colleges and corporate offices has to be walked on the path of real work experience, which does not come by simply reading Harvard Business Review or Tom Peters.

Name-Throwing :

A certain class of solo consultant have a habit of throwing big names. I have come across a big number of ‘name-throwing’ consultants who have

  • ‘Worked’ with Tata, Birla, Reliance etc. group companies.
  • ‘Guided’ so and so MNCs.
  • ‘Managed’ 80,000 crores of business of their consulting clients. (Whatever ‘managing’ means here…)
  • ‘Transformed’ the organizations.
  • ‘Built’ the brand ‘xyz’ of so-and-so company.
  • ‘Turned around’ the sick company.

Remember, One can also enlist ABC Tata Company as a ‘client’ by giving one hour lecture to their watchmen or drivers on how to open/close doors to visitors. This can be useful only if you need the consultant to train your watchmen/drivers.

Arrogance:

The business consultant as a breed is losing its respect due to some irresponsible elements who hide their ignorance and intellectual handicap behind a facade of rudeness and arrogance.These people operate from the safe cocoon of the boss client’s cabin. Once out of that shell, they stand vulnerable and exposed. They pretend that their arrogance is the manifestation of their supreme confidence. No businessperson should allow his employees being treated badly by any outsider while at work. If a consultant does that, he should be shown the door as his value system lacks individual respectability.

Management jargon :

A crop of wannabe consultants read latest management magazines and books and come to the clients’ office spitting out this valuable ‘gyaan’ to gullible, impressionable, unsuspecting entrepreneurs, who, in their enthusiasm to build big business, catch every word oozing out from the consultant’s mouth as sacred and give orders to their subordinates to implement the same immediately. Next time, when the consultant visits again, he has read some other article, so he gives some different gyaan, completely forgetting that previously his victims have been enlightened by his respectable self by some different management fad  (which was never tested for suitability to the client’s situation, nevertheless…).

Level of Honesty :

All that the consultant is going to charge must be clarified in black and white. If the consultant shows tendency to make some fast buck on unclarified or undecided matters, that shows his level of honesty.

Accountability:

The tenure and the expected outcome of the consultant’s assignment must be clearly spelled out in the beginning. The performance must be reviewed regularly.  The major part of the consultant’s remuneration must be linked with the outcome he is brought in for. He should be confident about his contribution and if it does not work, he must be ready to share the risk, by linking his remuneration to the results.

In a nutshell :

1) Hire a business consultant only if he can add value. Today it is fashionable to say “We have a consultant.” Don’t fall prey to fads.

2) Check out for the performance of the businesses the consultant has worked with. If possible, ask for the reference and check it sincerely. It is tempting to get carried away by ‘our reputed client lists’. How is the business doing now? Most importantly, what was his/her contribution in that business?

3) Don’t get carried away by big talk. The intellectual capacity to decipher business situations and gift of gab don’t always go hand in hand.

4) Remember, a consultant needs his client as much as the client needs him. The consultant is just another business associate. There is no need to treat consultants like God. Let that distinction remain for real Gods. No wannabes please.

5) The consultant must not be given any authority to directly give instructions to or seek report from any employee. It has to be routed through somebody inside the company. Do not compromise on the respect of your employees. Consultants may come and go, employees will remain longer.

6) The choice of consultants that you make, speaks volumes about your own value system. I have observed a striking resemblance among the values and results of the clients of certain consultants. They all have a lot of similarities. If you get associated with loud mouth Bol Bachchans, you will end up listening to a lot of hot air. And people will know what you stand for. Choose your consultants wisely. The loser doesn’t have much to lose, but you will end up wasting your time, money, reputation and maybe more…!

7) During your growth period, you will come across many people.  At this stage, whom do you listen to and believe in will make all the difference. Those who influence an entrepreneur’s mind can make or break any situation. Choose your advisors wisely.

8) Academic, theoretical knowledge has to be tested for its application. If every great Professor can become a great consultant, you won’t find so many PhDs filling university rosters at such meager paychecks. All theory is good, but business runs on practical applications.

Bottom line : In selecting consultants, you must learn to distinguish between noise and voice.