Monday, December 27, 2010

SpiceJet - Surviving and succeeding in a bleeding market

When times are going good, the economy is in boom, stock market is on an uptick and the respective sectors are growing, all companies that succeed get talked about and written about in books. But when times are good, it is anyways quite simple to succeed. It’s only when the going gets tough that real strategy is able to emerge. A classic example of real strategy emerging in difficult times is Spice Jet.

In an era when Air India is bleeding probably without repair and Kingfisher and Jet Airways owe thousands of crores of money to fuel companies, Spice Jet is one of the very few airline companies that has managed to make a profit in 2009-10.

Net profit (2009-10) in crore rupees
Jet Airways
Kingfisher Airlines
Spicejet Ltd.

After Sun TV’s Maran acquired a 37.7 per cent stake with a 20 per cent open offer in Spicejet, its CEO Sanjay Agarwal quit the company and has since joined Kingfisher Airlines. But we ascribe the success of Spicejet in 2009-10 completely to the decisions taken by Sanjay Agarwal who had taken charge in Dec 2008. Hence in this post, we will talk about the changes that he brought about while he was at Spicejet.

Increase in aircraft utilisation: There is a metric “aircraft utilisation” that airlines use to indicate efficiency. This means the number of hours that an aircraft flies in one day, and obviously has a direct impact on the revenues. In 2008-09, SpiceJet had an aircraft utilisation of 10.5 hours/day, and it managed to increase this to 12.5 hours in 2009, when the average for Kingfisher was 9.5 hours, for Jet it was 10.5 hours and for Air India it was 8.5 hours. It was able to manage this change by small improvements in ground handling, reducing refuelling times and then strategically rescheduling flight times. This helped reduce its cost per available seat km much below Kingfisher and Jet.

Cost Avoidance: Apart from cost-cutting, SpiceJet followed a strategy of cost avoidance. Fuel costs constitute 40% of costs for airlines in India. SpiceJet was able to reduce that cost due to two reasons. Firstly, unlike other airlines which owed huge dues to fuel companies, SpiceJet paid its fuel bills on schedule, which helped them negotiate a 15% discount in the fuelling contracts. Secondly, they made small tweaks to the flight operations by adjusting ascent and descent profiles of the planes. They ensured that short-haul aircrafts did not ascent too high and long-haul aircrafts ascended to their right height quickly. This helped reduce the fuel expenditure by 14% in 2009-10.

Providing Good Quality: The biggest challenge that SpiceJet faced was to maintain a perception of good quality in spite of its low-cost personality. It needed to create this belief in its quality both to attract customers and to retain employees.  To create that perception, SpiceJet launched a new ad campaign that focused on a “value-led” proposition rather than a “promo-driven” proposition or “cheap rates” proposition. The brand message that was being communicated was "Get more when you fly SpiceJet". In line with this brand image, the quality of in-flight meals was also improved and advertised about. Though food sales, which in fact increased by 200% in 2009-10, do not contribute much to the revenue, but they help attract passengers. Also, to create a plush and clean feeling while travelling, the inside aircraft maintenance staff was increased, frequent painting was done, carpets were changed, regular washing of the aircraft was carried out etc.

Much of the credit for all the innovative measures taken at SpiceJet goes to the top management who implemented the required changes and motivated the other employees to contribute to SpiceJet’s mission to succeed. In fact, with the exit of Sanjay Agarwal and his team of 10 people, it will be interesting to see how SpiceJet fares from now on with its new management.

SpiceJet was able to make cost-cuts where they were needed and where the impact would be the most, while still investing to maintain or build a reputation of a good-quality carrier. It managed to do this at a time when the airlines industry was in shackles, and all its competitors were bleeding badly. It came out of the crisis relatively unscathed because of the innovative strategies that it deployed. That is what real strategy is all about.

Reference: Business Standard

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Green consulting: The way to go

We at IIM Ahmedabad's Consulting Club have started a new initiative on this blog where we will regularly publish articles contributed by corporates working in the area of consulting. We hope that these insights from the professional world will be interesting for our readers and will help contribute towards making this blog an active forum for students and professionals related to the world of consulting.

The first article in this series has been contributed by Gensol Consultants Pvt. Ltd. who have been working in the area of Green Energy Consulting for about three years. 

Talk about green jobs and the image of men operating wind-turbines, solar energy plants or environmental activists lobbying for water or forests conservation conjures up in the mind. Little does one wonder about people advising the corporates to lower their carbon emissions--called carbon footprint--through innovative strategies or helping the government devise policy initiatives aimed at mitigating climate change. But the landscape of green jobs has undergone a rapid transition to include advisory jobs that are aimed at transforming existing work practices with due regard to the mother nature.

The basic premise on which the consulting business operates is the expert advice on a certain subject, whose inherent complexity could impair the ability to achieve the objectives of the business in the absence of an expert guidance. In this vein, a consultancy that advises on the best possible strategies to low carbon emissions would require a deep acumen of the policy inputs specific to climate change and its mitigation. Given the kind of opportunities presented by the climate change mitigation and adaptation measures around the world, the role of a green consultant is a promising field to make a career in.

It is the passion to harness the huge potential of this business that Gensol Consultants Private Limited (GCPL) set itself on a path to become one of the big names in the green advisory business, to a point that when you say 'green consulting', Gensol's name quickly makes waves in your mind. Notably, Gensol had made a humble beginning in the year 2007. And during this short span of three years, Gensol has already etched a strong presence in the global CDM market, by clawing more than 25% share of CDM advisory market in India, with more than 350 clients under its kitty.

While it is true that CDM advisory was the primary business for GCPL, the heightened sense of responsibility towards preserving environment the world-over has certainly presented opportunities to spread our wings even wider. To put this context, it would be notable that developing nations have fashioned a very mature response to the problem of climate change and they are time after time giving out policy responses to this important issue. For example, with a view to emerge as a low carbon economy, India had released its first National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), in June 2008, outlining existing and future policies and programs addressing climate mitigation and adaptation. Under this Plan, eight national missions have been the identified, namely the National Solar Mission, the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency, National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, National Water Mission, National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, National Mission for a Green India, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture and the National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change. Importantly, the solar mission seeks to add 20,000 MW of solar-based generation capacity by 2022, the energy efficiency mission aims to yield savings of 10,000 MW by 2012, the sustainable habitat is intent upon promoting energy efficiency as a core component of urban planning and the water mission has set a goal of a 20% improvement in water use efficiency through pricing and other measures.

Meanwhile, goals under the green India plan include afforestation of 6 million hectares of degraded forest lands and expanding forest cover from 23% to 33% of India’s territory, the sustainable agriculture plan aims to support climate adaptation in agriculture, while the sustainable Himalayan Ecosystem scheme aims to conserve biodiversity, forest cover, and other ecological values in the Himalayan region, and the mission on strategic knowledge for climate change envisages a better understanding of climate science, impacts and its  challenges.

While a lot of green consulting activity has already been done while framing this policy, the path of implementation unveils a much more lofty scale of opportunities for us to grab. Each mission embodies a vast gamut of business potential, in light of the huge scale of activity the country has tounfold in order to achieve its  dual aim of inclusive growth and a better environmental standing. For example, the solar mission is a great platform to improve the business potential since solar power generation is still in a nascent stage and requires a lot of desk as well as field research to find a site that is suitable for the installation of the solar panels. Given the fact that solar power generation is a capital-intensive business, the role of a consultant cannot be left without attention. Then again, the Green India mission is another potential area where Gensol is eyeing a big game, given that forestry carbon projects have always been on the agenda of the international climate change summits. The role of forests as stocks of carbon has been an area of heated discussion in light of the fact that they are non-permanent sinks of carbon and, therefore, require suitable forestry models to maximize revenues--another potential area of green consulting. Similarly, other missions also present a bunch of business opportunities for Gensol as a green consultant.

Besides, there are numerous avenues where the consulting business could be expanded. A stellar example in the Indian context would be the renewable energy certificates (REC) mechanism, which a market-based instrument to promote renewable energy power. Under this scheme, the power generating companies would be required to generate a certain percentage of the total electricity consumption in their area--called renewable purchase obligation (RPO)-- from renewable energy sources, like wind, solar, biomass, among others. The existing disparity in the renewable energy sources across the country would allow these companies to purchase these certificates from the energy exchanges in order to meet their RPO targets. It is estimated that the REC market is worth more than Rs. 14,000 crore, which further enhances the scope of our business. A similar budding opportunity is the energy saving certificates (ESC) scheme, under the national energy efficiency plan, under which, the units of energy saved could be tradable in a similar operational framework, whereas Green IT and Green logistics remain robust candidates on our business radar. Not only this, Gensol has carved out its global expansion plans, with its maiden overseas venture being the U.K's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) program, which is a U.K-specific version of the global carbon trading market. Gensol hopes to grab a fair share of this market, by helping the corporates cut costs, make money and improve their environmental standing.

In this background, it might be apropos to say that Gensol is well on the path of its vision to become a 360o carbon solutions provider, with minute focus on 'green and the shades of green'.

Credit: Mr. Anmol Singh Jaggi, Director, Gensol Consultants
             Ms. Tisha Dwivedi, Gensol Consultants

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Philanthropy in India

Azim Premji’s recent donation of $2 billion has put him in the league of socially responsible and proactive billionaires working towards the betterment of the world. This distinguished league boasts of names like Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn and Mark Zuckerberg. Melinda and Bill started The Gates Foundation, one of the biggest and most transparent organisations working for improving health and eradicating poverty. This Foundation has received donations from numerous billionaires like Warren Buffett (who has pledged 99% of his wealth to philanthropic activities). In order to carry the message of philanthropy to all US billionaires, ‘The Giving Pledge’ was started by the Gates and Warren Buffett. This is a pledge to invite the wealthiest individuals and families to commit a majority of their wealth to philanthropy. One of the latest members to take this pledge was Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. It is said that he took this pledge and donated $100 million just before the release of the movie “The Social Network” which paints him in a negative light.

Premji’s generous donation goes to Azim Premji Trust, which works for promotion of primary education in India. This activity is being misconstrued as CSR(Corporate Social Responsibility) by the media although it is his personal wealth that he’s donated as an individual, in no way related to his companies. Historically, the Tatas and Birlas have been socially responsible conglomerates, encouraging education in India without calling their activities with fancy names like CSR. With the advent of MNCs in India, CSR is viewed with scepticism since it is seen by MNCs as just another policy to be implemented. Sometimes the CSR activities carried out seem like giving a royal feast to poor people for a day and then forgetting that they need food for subsistence all through the year. It is artificial and just another foolish way of spending shareholders’ wealth.
As a country, India leads other developing nations in philanthropy with charity contribution at 0.6% of GDP. However, it lags far behind the developed nations. Looking at the complete package that gets disbursed in India, only 10% is donated by Indian individuals and companies while 75% comes from abroad. The government and individuals donate largely for disaster relief and not on a regular basis as is a trend in USA and Europe. Another interesting observation is that in India, the higher class donates lesser than the middle class and the same holds true for the middle versus lower class(in terms of percentage of household income). As income and education levels rise, why is it that donations do not? On a more fundamental level, why is it that Indians do not loosen their purse strings for the poor and needy?
One of the reasons is the recent accumulation of wealth by individuals. Normally, it takes about 50 to 100 years for the donation market to mature after an economy matures. At a micro level, in a developing economy every individual considers his wealth as a statement of his social standing. Charitable donations do not command the same social status as money in one’s bank account, hence parting with it is not easy. Another popular reason is the mistrust with which NGOs and philanthropic organisations are viewed. Given the high levels of corruption in India, along with the non-transparency of such organisations, Indians would rather keep the money for their future generations than give it away to unknown people who might misappropriate it. Traditionally, Indian society is pro-saving and wealth is kept in the family for generations. Hence, giving away money to an organisation which would benefit a village in some remote corner of India does not appeal to the public. Although they are generous people, personal donations tend to be even more personal - in the form of giving away food, clothes or money to poor servants and slum dwellers around their own area of living.
The good news is that India is waking up to the idea of philanthropy and many industrialists including Azim Premji, Sunil Mittal and Bajajs have set up their own foundations. In order to promote the culture of individual philanthropy India needs to introduce new tax laws (like inheritance tax in USA which is close to 50%). Bureaucracy and archaic laws which make non-profit organisations and donors run around for operations and tax savings respectively dissuade individuals from making charitable contributions. These should be reviewed by the government.
Social development as an investment is being promoted by a few institutions around the world. This approach attacks the problem that philanthropy is trying to solve in a novel way and may prove to be successful. Since India ranks high among foreign investors, inviting investments in the social sector is not difficult and is being carried out successfully by MFIs or MFI related companies like Legatum and Omidyar Network India Advisors. These investments are done in rural energy, health, farmer loans, education and other areas of empowerment such as property rights.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Strategy Digest Volume 1 (Dec)

Top newspapers gearing up to make readers pay for online content

Some of the world’s top newspapers including “The New York Times” and “The Times of London” have showcased a serious intent to charge readers for online content. In recent times, the US and UK newspaper industries have been continuously plagued by steeply declining advertisement revenues. The decision to charge for online content comes with its share of serious difficulties that include the possibility of a heavy decrease in online readership which might make advertising through this medium less attractive for marketers. The publishing houses are still sometime away from actual implementation but it is interesting to see the starkly different strategies that they plan to implement.
The Times of London - The Times of London plans to establish an opaque pay wall which will allow readers to access the content for a price of £1.00 for a day or £2.00 for a week. A similar strategy which seemed to work for the business counterpart, “The Financial Times”, in the earlier stages failed to deliver results for The Times which witnessed a grave downfall in readership by almost 90 percent during test runs.
The New York Times - NYT’s plan of going for a “metered” tariff is very different. It plans to charge readers after they have accessed a limited number of free articles on the website. FT has been using this model for the last few years and at present the digital revenue at FT represents about 20 percent of the total revenue.
The publishing houses strongly believe that paid subscriptions allow them to gather valued data which in turn helps fine tune advertising programmes for the target audience. This offers better value to the marketers and increases the efficiency of advertising revenue for the newspapers.

“The Great India Nautanki Company” in China

Kingdom of Dreams, which is India’s first of its kind live entertainment complex, is ready to be established in China. The Great India Nautanki Company (GINC) which controls the Kingdom of Dreams has entered into a JV with China’s leading stage equipment manufacturer Dafeng to setup 10 live entertainment destinations in China at an investment of roughly $100mn each. It is common to hear about Bollywood popularity in the USA and Europe, but GINC’s strategic move into China with its theatrical firepower presents an interesting strategy that has been adopted by the company. GINC is banking on China’s local tourism where more than 30 million people travel each year.
The idea behind Kingdom of Dreams is to deliver an assortment of complete Indian entertainment which would include Indian handicraft, architecture, exotic Indian cuisine and India’s most expensive theatrical extravaganza – “Zangoora”. Wireless interpretation machines and dubbed dialogues will pave the way for our Chini brothers to understand and enjoy Indian art. The move sounds fresh and aims at more than 24 percent ROI.

Dell enters the smart phone market in India

A month after unveiling the Dell Streak tablet, Dell has launched two Android based smart phones, XCD 35 and XCD 28 attractively priced at Rs. 16,990 and Rs. 10,990 respectively. After establishing a strong foothold in the laptop market in India, it is interesting to see Dell exploring the hyper-competitive smart phone market in India.
The smart phone segment in India has seen a dramatic turnaround from being the corporates’ delight to becoming an affordable gadget for the tech lovers. The competition is intense and has proved to be tough to deal with, even for supremely experienced players like Nokia. The segment is growing at an attractive 30 percent. With Apple, Nokia, Samsung and HTC fighting it our hard in this segment Dell is obviously a late entrant and will have to perform exceptionally to make a name.
Dell’s strategy is banked upon a) The upcoming rollout of 3G services in India which will further boost demand for smart phones, b) Dell’s established clientele in the laptop segment and it’s highly rated after sales support network and c) The growing acceptance of Google’s Android mobile platform in India.
Dell wishes to couple this launch with an extension of its retail network in India to enhance sales. The customer is at the winning end with tonnes of choices in the smart phone segment and Dell’s entrance will be another headache for Nokia which has been struggling lately.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Strategy Digest Volume 4 (Nov)

Britannia to enter bridge snack segment
Britannia Industries Ltd. is all set to launch its new product 'Timepass' which will mark its entry into the healthy bridge snack segment. Timepass will be a product with double baked bread and is expected to be launched in about three to four months.
Britannia believes that the bridge snack segment will be another foray into the healthy snack segment which is a big market in India now and is growing at a healthy rate. Britannia had recently also launched Nutrichoice diabetic buscuits, to fortify its market share in the healthy snacks segment.
Conde Nast launches 3rd magazine
Conde Nast just launched its third magazine, Conde Nast Traveller. This follows its two magazines, Vogue and GQ, which have been successful in the Indian market.
The reason behind the success of Conde Nast is its proper identification of its target customer. Conde Nast is targetting the affluent Indian, and all of its magazines are prices at over Rs. 100. Since its focus is solely on the upper-class segment, Conde Nast also finds it easier to get advertisers targetting the same segment.
Though it has competitors in the travel magazine market, most of their competitors are licensee brands which have a low focus on brand-building. On the other hand, Conde Nast it trying to build its brand by having high-class events and having a greater digital presence.
Canon India strengthens retail footprint
Canon India has strengthened its retail footprint by launching its first stand-alone store, Canon Image Square, in Noida. This store is an initiative towards its ambition of having 300 exclusive retail stores in India.
The company had previously launched exclusive non-selling stores called 'Xperience Zones’ and ‘Image Lounges’ in a few tier I cities in India where consumers could experience the look and performance of the Canon Products.
This foray of Canon India is similar to the foray that Sony entered in the form of Sony World, which had worked well for Sony India. Also, exclusive retail stores can be a good supplement to multi-brand stores where consumers can finally purchase a Canon product after experiencing it at the exclusive Canon store.
ONGC to invest in renewable energy
ONGC will be investing Rs. 500 crore in renewable energy R&D to make the country less dependable on hydrocarbon reserves. India currently is highly dependent on hydrocarbon reserves and the non-conventional sources of energy are barely used.
Energy is a major infrastructural bottleneck for India and India’s growth rate is largely contingent upon the energy available. To be self-sustainable in energy consumption, ONGC intends to conduct R&D mostly in the solar, thermal, LED (light emitting diode) and fuel cells, which also result in less carbon emission.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A snapshot of the Real Estate sector

The real estate industry in India is currently estimated to be worth approximately US$ 16 billion with a CAGR of 30%. Growth in this sector is driven primarily by IT/ITeS, growing presence of foreign businesses in India, the globalization of Indian corporates and the rapidly growing middle class. The high growth curve in the real estate sector also owes some credit to the liberalized Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) regime in the real estate sector.
Role of FDIs in real estate
The Government of India in March 2005 amended existing norms to allow 100 per cent FDI in the construction business. This liberalization cleared the path for foreign investment to meet the demand for development of the commercial and residential real estate sectors. It has also encouraged several large financial firms and private equity funds to launch exclusive funds targeting the Indian real estate sector.

In 2003-04, India received total FDI inflow of US$ 2.70 billion, of which only 4.5% was committed to real estate sector. However, in 2005-06, post the liberalization, this figure went up dramatically. While total FDIs in India were estimated at US$ 5.46 billion, the real estate share in them was around 16%. The sector emerged as the recipient of the highest levels of FDI equity inflows in 2007-08, with a near five-fold increase over FY07.
India attracted FDI equity inflows of US$ 2,214 million in April 2010. The cumulative amount of FDI equity inflows from August 1991 to April 2010 stood at US$ 134,642 million, according to the data released by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). Better to put numbers in billions itself as done above
India will continue to remain among the top five attractive destinations for international investors during 2010-11, according to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Recent Developments
A recent joint report by Ernst and Young has urged the government to improve the regulatory environment to facilitate real estate development in order to stay ahead in the economic race. Some of the salient proposals of the report are:
  • Creation of a regulatory body for real estate: The ministry of housing had issued a draft Model Real Estate Act in September 2009; the purpose of which was to establish a regulatory authority for the sector. The report has suggested that the role of the body should be purely advisory, and should not serve as a hurdle to growth.
  • Infrastructure status to housing: Foreign direct investment norms of minimum area and minimum capitalization should be relaxed in case of affordable housing. At present, foreign investors are restricted by a minimum capitalisation requirement of $10 million (around Rs 45 crore) for wholly-owned subsidiaries and $5 million (around Rs 22.5 crore) for joint ventures with Indian partners; and a minimum area of 50,000 sq metres.
  • Greater flexibility to foreign investors: According to the report, the three-year lock-in period for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the real estate sector has been dubbed as too tough a restriction to allow the smooth flow of foreign funds. Currently while the original money invested cannot be repatriated before a period of three years from the completion of minimum capitalisation, investors can exit earlier with prior approval of the government through the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). This approval is very difficult to obtain, and cases of investors exiting before three years have been very rare. It has also been proposed that greater leeway be given to foreign investors in cases of dispute between residents and non-residents, and the non-resident wishes to exit the project; or where the project could not be initiated due to lack of statutory clearances.
Government Decisions
In September, this year, the government announced that foreign investors in the country’s real estate sector will have to remain invested for a minimum of three years and rejected industry claims about the policy restricting FDI inflows.
According to Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, foreign investors should be willing to stay invested for longer than three years. The purported purpose of the move is to limit exposure of the domestic economy to external risks and fluctuations. In fact, Sharma pointed out, India was able to come out of the real estate generated global financial downturn quickly only because of its prudent policies in FDI. India’s central bank, RBI too is highly cautious of allowing unrestricted FDI into the real estate sector.
Furthermore, the department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has clarified that the lock-in period of three years will be applied from the date of receipt of each instalment/tranche of FDI or from the date of completion of minimum capitalisation, whichever is later. Previously, it was understood that original investment meant initial investment. DIPP has clarified it implies total investment.
The change could be a boon to at least 30 Indian real estate groups, large as well as small, which had sold put options to foreign investors to bring in FDI through various deals. These put options required the Indian promoter to buy out the foreign investor. But grappling with a cash crunch, low demand and soft property prices, these developers are today not in a position to honour these options. And, even if they can cough up the amount, they want to avert a large payout.
Under these circumstances, if the government spells out that the entire investment of the foreign investor belocked-in for three years, the foreign investor will not be able to exercise the option immediately. This will give several cash-strapped developers time to organise money. However, it will further dampen the sentiments of foreign investors in real estate.
Future prospects
The Indian market has emerged as an attractive destination for foreign investors interested in investing in the retail sector. India was ranked as the fifth most attractive destination for future real estate investments in a list topped by China, according to a latest report of FCCI and Ernst and Young. In such a scenario, given the forthcoming opportunities, policy restrictions would not be the best way to protect traditional retailers.
The government should instead impose regulations such as sourcing requirements, zoning regulations and back-end investment requirements to protect traditional retailers. Furthermore, it should strive to make regulations more investment-friendly, like boosting the availability of liquid vehicles for investment such as REMFs and REITs.
The sector assumes an even greater importance given that real estate is second only to agriculture in terms of employment generation and contributes heavily towards the country’s GDP. In countries such as China, the retail sector has been a major propellant of growth and with a more liberal FDI policy; the story can be repeated in India.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Strategy Digest Volume 3 (Nov)

New Messaging Platform by Facebook
In what could be a major threat to Gmail and Hotmail, Facebook has announced the launch of a new messaging platform. Facebook will provide an email address reading as [username] and intends to create something called Seamless Messaging.
It will integrate the messages sent on Facebook and via phone (if the phone is integrated with Facebook) under the sender's name. It will also have a history of conversations, and one can continue a Facebook chat over the phone.
Currently, it is too simplistic to threaten a Gmail since Gmail is more sophisticated however; it has the potential to upstage Gmail in future. Also, there is speculation that Facebook might have a Skype (or Skype-like) function along with Seamless Messaging in future.
Axis buys Enam Securities in Rs. 2,067 crore-deal
Axis Bank has purchased the investment banking and equity capital market business of Enam in an all-stock deal valued at Rs 2,067 crore.
Axis Bank can use the brand name of Enam for two years. According to most analysts, the deal has been priced fairly and offers fairly good synergies for Axis Bank, since Axis Bank is strong in corporate banking and debt franchise while Enam is strong in equity capital markets. This transaction will increase the share of Axis Bank in capital market transactions, as Enam was a prominent investment bank.
Makeover for Airtel
Airtel will be revealing its new logo which will lend greater synergy to its businesses the world over. JWT is in charge of the re-branding programme and the cost for the same might be several hundred crores.
With investments in many countries across Asia and Africa, Airtel believes that the current logo is not easily identifiable to everyone. The new logo, which will feature a swoosh along with the brand name' Airtel, will supposedly create a better connect with people around the world.
Applications hold the key for 3G
With the telecom providers having doled out hefty amounts of money for the 3G licenses, there seems to be a consensus amongst the providers that a price war will only harm their ARPUs.
With the first couple of years not likely to generate too much 3G revenue for the telecom providers, it is believed that differentiated products and value added services will be the key to increase ARPUs. Moreover, the recent 2G spectrum allocation controversy has only made the telecom providers more cautious about their margins.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Growth strategies in the luxury industry: the case of LVMH

The author of this post is Erminia Monzo, an exchange student at IIM Ahmedabad. She hails from the University of Bocconi, Italy.
Growth is extremely difficult to manage in luxury companies, as they have to strike a balance between raking in the profits versus maintaining an exclusive aura around the brand and goods sold. Empirical research in literature shows that multi-brand companies dominate in the luxury industry from a dimensional point of view and all together retain a higher market share than mono-brand companies. Also, there seems to be no significant difference in terms of economic performance between mono- and multi-brand companies operating in different business segments of the luxury sectors. So, why is the general trend in the luxury goods industry towards the consolidation and the promotion of multi-brand conglomerates? The immediate answer lies in the importance of the intangible components of luxury goods: in order to maximize the company dimensions and allow it to achieve a dominant position in the market without destroying the brand equity, companies must accept the limits of brand extension and move to the next step, i.e. brand portfolio; therefore the intangible components strongly influence the decision to grow through the external acquisition of brands because of the need to find a balance between the firm’s necessity to grow and exclusivity, which creates high value for the final customer.
LVMH, known as the luxury industry best player, has managed to formulate and execute this strategy successfully. Headquartered in Paris, LVMH Mo√ęt Hennessy – Louis Vuitton is world leader in the luxury sector with a unique portfolio of over 60 prestigious brands. The sustainability of its strategy of growth through brand acquisition is mainly due to the following reasons:
  • Ability to grasp the sector specificities of the brand;
  • Creation of a balanced and attractive brand portfolio;
  • Management of the brand portfolio not just with a logic of maximizing financial results in the short term but also with a logic of creating symbolic value for customers in the medium/long term;
  • Ability to acquire the adequate managerial to tools to reach an appropriate balance between brand autonomy and integration, search for synergies and maintenance of the brand identity.
The resilience of the multi-brand strategy during the last financial crisis has shown its capability not solely confined to managing cyclical patterns of luxury goods during good times but also to be able to weather through extreme periods of down turn. LVMH as a group managed to recover from the crisis remarkably also because sales from a division or market could cross-subsidize losses made in another. The diversity of LVMH’s business allowed the possibility of LVMH to free resources to meet new challenges and also take on emerging opportunities whereas other competitors in the same industry were barely surviving. LVMH took advantage of this period to expand into the hotel industry, a move indirectly strengthening specific brands in its portfolio. Also, despite facing a complex market, LVMH has been able to discover the peculiarities of the Chinese consumer by leveraging on its existing brand capabilities and also developing new competences together with local Chinese managers. Up till date, LVMH has successfully managed the acquisition and positioning of the Chinese brand Wenjun, one of China’s top traditional spirits distilleries, because of the organization’s ability to adapt and learn. Accordingly, despite failed attempts at multi-channel marketing via the internet, LVMH shows no slowing down when it comes to e-shops and has recently launched separate e-stores for Kenzo and Loewe, two of the brands it owns. The point here is that, with an era of hyper-competition and rapid change, LVMH as large as it seems, is nimble when it comes to learning, adapting and reacting to contemporary challenges.
Overall, with LVMH’s fundamental values propelling it forward, and financial bottom lines restricting its parameters and overall direction, there is no doubt that LVMH has mastered the art of the multi-brand strategy. Although, this must be said with caution, that this strategy is not for the faint hearted or simply any aspiring conglomerate. Competitive advantages such as material scale advantage, a stellar brand portfolio, balanced categories of goods and a wide geographic exposure are built up over a long period of time, led by a strong leadership.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Strategy Digest Volume 2 (Nov)

Videocon to reorganize businesses

Videocon, an electronics-to-energy conglomerate, has decided to undertake reorganization to facilitate greater focus on each of its businesses. Videocon has been increasing the number of verticals it operates in, all under the Videocon umbrella.

The consumer electronics business of Videocon, which contributes approximately half of the company's revenue, is likely to continue under the Videocon brand whereas the other business will likely be spun off. Videocon while most likely appoint a consulting firm to assist them in figuring out the best way to reorganize in order to benefit the company and its shareholders.

Harley to assemble bikes in India

In a move that will most likely reduce the prices of high-end bikes in India, Harley Davidson, the well-known manufacturer of luxury bikes, will start assembling bikes at Bawal in Haryana.

The Harley Davidson recognized the potential in India for such bikes in India and said that the growing economy, rising middle class and better road infrastructure makes leisure bikes a good proposition. India is currently the 2nd-highest bike market in the world but most of the bikes are used for commuting purposes. However, the rising number of millionaires in the country has increased the demand for high-end leisure bikes.

Tata DoCoMo prices 3G services aggressively

In a bid to convert many of its 2G customers, Tata DoCoMo has announced an aggressive tariff policy for its 3G services. In the process, Tata DoCoMo has also become the first private operator, and 3nd overall after BSNL and MTNL, to introduce 3G services.

Most of its plans do not differentiate between its 2G and 3G customers as 3G customers will pay 0.66-1.1 paise per call, which is approximate the same as 1 paisa a second paid by the current 2G customers of Tata DoCoMo. Also, for its 2G customers wanting to experience 3G services, they can do so at a nominal cost. Of course, it remains to be seen how the other private players price their services, and these set of prices introduced by Tata DoCoMo could only be transient prices till the competitors set theirs.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Strategy Digest Volume 1 (Nov)

Can Nokia regain ground?

In recent times, the smart phones and high-end touchscreen phones have dominated the market and much of the market-share has been taken away from Nokia by players such as Apple and Samsung.

However, Nokia is ready to launch new phones which touchscreen facilities, high of design, overhauled current operating system and a new operating system. The new operating system, called the MeeGo, will be launched later this year and promises to be competitive with the rest. Nokia also plans to price its new products aggressively to regain the lost market share.

An example of such a phone is the N8 which is banking on its overhauled operating system, Symbian 3, which is more memory-efficient and can also run more applications simultaneously. It has a 12-megapixel camera and will be priced at approximately Rs. 26,000 competing with the Samsungs and LGs. Nokia wants to build its brand and increase sales through improving user experience and giving them more value for money phones.

Oracle to buy software firm

Oracle Corp. announced that it would be acquiring the Art Technology Group (ATG) for $1 billion. This would strengthen its e-commerce software applications. This acquisition will increase Oracle's retail software portfolio, which also includes Retek, a company it acquired in 2005. This acquisition is another example of a major technology company acquiring other firms in order to diversify its product portfolio.

This deal is considered to be a safe and sound acquisition for Oracle which was reflected in its share price increasing after the acquisition announcement.

SpiceJet plans for expansion

SpiceJet, the low-cost Indian airline, is planning for a huge expansion and intends to spend upto $ 900 million to buy new aircrafts. SpiceJet will buy 30 NextGens from Bombardier Inc. and plans to double its fleet size from the current 22 by 2013.

SpiceJet is looking at taking advantage of the growing aviation sector in India and the growth opportunities available by connecting tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Also, it is looking at entering the international markets where there are few low-cost airlines.

However, the source of funding for this expansion plan is unclear. It might resort to the share plan that it had planned to raise $ 75 million before Kalanithi Maran, the Sun TV founder, came forward and bought a stake in the firm.

BHP Billiton still forced to wait

BHP Billiton, the resources major, is still awaiting a green signal for its offer for Potash Corp, the world's largest supplier of fertilizers, an all-cash $ 39 billion deal.

The Canadian government is still unwilling to let the deal go through although there have been rumours that the government is being advised by bureaucrats to pass the deal.

BHP has currently bid for Potash Corp at $130 per share and analysts expect the offer to go higher before the deal goes through. The deal is expected to help BHP gain access to high-quality resources at a reasonable rate.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Airline Debt Restructuring Plan

The Indian airlines industry exhibited explosive growth in the period from 2003 to 2007. Thousands of passengers started flying for the first time, drawn by new airlines offering bargain flights around the country. However, the industry was hard hit by the economic crisis in 2007-08. Passenger growth, which was touching 40% at the onset of 2007, went into reverse. Soaring fuel prices in 2008 pushed up ticket prices, which further reduced demand.

The three major players in the aviation sector in India - Jet Airways (India) Ltd, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd and National Aviation Co. of India Ltd (NACIL)—which collectively control 65% of domestic passenger traffic, were the worst affected. The three airlines currently have a combined debt of $13.5 billion (Rs63,315 crore). State-owned NACIL runs Air India. Other than the exogenous factors, poor managerial decisions including predatory pricing by the larger players and underutilization of capacity were prime contributors to the huge debt.

Factors Leading to the Debt

Kingfisher Airlines is labouring under a debt burden of Rs 7,413-crore (as on December 2009). Out of this, Rs 2,099 crore is short-term debt; the remaining amount being long-term debt. Subsequent to its launch in 2005, the first year and a half went quite smoothly for the airline. A lot of Jet passengers shifted allegiance and joined Kingfisher and the company registered rising profits. However, it spent money like water on onboard service and brand building; neglecting costs altogether. Things began to go downhill soon after the airlines a stake in Air Deccan in June, 2007. Not having a CEO further exacerbated the airline’s problems.

2008 proved to be the final straw in its operations, and as oil prices hit new highs, so did the merged entity’s problems. By end March 2009, the airline’s debts had touched over a billion dollars. Senior executives were also at loggerheads with oil companies, vendors and the Airports Authority of India.

Jet Airways is slightly better off than its rival. Although it has a debt of Rs. 14000 crore; short term debts constitute only a small portion of that amount. In 2009, Jet’s domestic revenues were 37% higher and profitability was superior to Kingfisher due to a higher share of full-service carrier operations, while the higher proportion of low-cost operations in Kingfisher’s operations dragged it down.

Furthermore, aircraft ownership is a key difference between the two airline companies. Jet owns 39 aircraft against 21 owned by Kingfisher Airlines. Difference in fleet ownership is reflected in Jet’s higher debt levels. As per Jet’s management, 85-90% of the debt is towards purchase of aircraft at long term interest rates of 5-7%.

In an effort to minimize losses, Jet entered into sale-and-lease-back of its aircraft, or the ability to sell off the aircraft it purchased and continued using them for a rental fee.

State-run Air India, which enjoyed a monopoly in the country till the deregulation of the aviation sector in 1991, is besieged by a debt of Rs. 40000 crore. One of the major factors for this colossal figure is over employment of labour. The airline has a workforce of 31,000; which translates into 230 employees per aircraft. According to international standards, the number should be 100-150 employees for every aircraft.

Another major reason for the spiralling debt are the massive aircraft orders placed by the beleaguered firm with aircraft makers — 68 with Boeing and 43 with Airbus. The orders were placed when the country was beginning to witness an aviation boom, but the figures were overestimated even according to the heydays. The orders cannot be cancelled now; since cancellation entails a hefty penalty, which the airline is ill situated to bear. Poor capacity utilization is another major issue for the national carrier, with over 40% of seats going unoccupied in 2009.

Braving the Storm

In June this year, SBI had approached RBI with a proposal to restructure more than Rs2000 crore of Kingfisher’s debt. RBI declined to clear that proposal as it was not comfortable with the idea of giving any special concessions to any particular aviation company. In an 18 June meeting with bank executives, the central bank noted it would be a moral hazard for RBI to give any regulatory forbearance for any specific company. It was made clear that any regulatory consideration of banks’ requests regarding restructuring guidelines could only be for the aviation sector—and not for any airlines in isolation—in view of the difficulties faced; and provided the banks came together in a consortium arrangement and took a long-term and holistic view on the restructuring.

This prompted the bank to put forward the case of the entire airline industry rather than that of a particular firm, which was approved by the RBI in September. The proposal asks for conversion of the short-term loans into long-term ones and then extending the repayment schedule to nine years, with a one to two-year moratorium. SBI’s investment banking arm, SBI Capital Markets Ltd (SBICaps) is working on the debt recast plan, leading a consortium of 13 banks.

The most significant beneficiary of the recast would be Kingfisher Airlines, and will get a much needed respite from the payment demands of various lenders including oil companies and airports. With the restructuring, more time would become available for repayment of loans and its operations would not be encumbered by the cash crunch. Other options like raising money overseas or diluting equity to raise cash could also be explored. In the fiscal ended March, the airline also reduced its losses to almost half of those posted in the previous fiscal. This improved performance was achieved through better seat occupancy and cost reductions.

While the airlines are talking about cost-cuts and route rationalizations to turn things around, Jet Airways posted a profit in the current fiscal year through a number of innovative strategies. These include improving aircraft utilization efficiency, increasing flights on existing and new routes without adding new aircraft, reducing the weight of flights to scale back fuel expenses, and launching a second low-cost carrier; by converting some of its full-scale flights into a no-frills all-economy service under the brand name of Jet Konnect. Jet Airways has also sought approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB to raise $400 million via qualified institutional placement (QIP) to repay debt and augment capacity.

Air India’s debt of Rs. 40000 crore is a different story altogether. More than any proposed debt restructuring, measures taken by the government in terms of equity infusion and guaranteed loans would have a larger impact on the public sector carrier. However, the government has hinted that the airline should generate more funds through better passenger yields and cost-cutting, instead of expecting further bailouts.

Is the Restructuring Justified?

In the past, the government has extended support to crisis hit sectors such as real estate and steel on previous occasions, and there is no reason not to provide the same to the domestic airlines. However, the debt recast should come with certain riders. A major cause for the heavy losses was the overcapacity inducted by the airlines and the undercutting that followed.
They should commit to keeping costs under leash and run their operations with maximum efficiency. The debt restructuring also makes sense from the banks’ point of view. Big players like SBI have an exposure of over Rs. 3500 crore to the industry. RBI’s move would help provide relief to banks as they would not have to classify airline-sector loans as non-performing assets (NPAs), giving them an opportunity to contain the growth of NPAs, while airlines would get some breathing space to repay their loans and would not be compelled to raise costly debt to continue operations.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Strategy Digest Vol 5 (Oct)

Conglomerates now look for brand-holding firms

Several business conglomerates in the country are looking for ways to take care of their generations-old brand names and manage their different brands for different industries. Juggling a wide portfolio of brands and retaining the core identity of the parent calls for more than sound brand management capabilities and a simple brand identity manual. This means a strategic shift in thinking about the brand as a core intangible asset that has to be safeguarded and monetised through a robust mechanism like a brand holding firm. These firms would earn royalty from each of the operating companies using the brand as a shared resource. It is like a licensing agreement within a company. The contract in this case spells out how and where the corporate brand can be used in existing and new business areas. It could also be useful option for family-owned companies where frequent spats can lead to dilution of the corporate brand as members deploy it indiscriminately into new businesses and markets.

As new India strategy, ArcelorMittal to build smaller plants

As part of a new strategy for India, ArcelorMittal plans to begin with, smaller steel plants in states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Karnataka, that could be expanded later, instead of mega units as proposed earlier. This would help them have larger number of footprints and allow for faster execution of plans. Going ahead with the new strategy, the company may also look at acquiring small units in India and was reportedly in talks with at least a dozen firms for the purpose.

Dr Reddy's to enhance OTC presence by marketing drugs for Cipla, Vitabiotics

Dr Reddy's Laboratories (DRL) has entered into an agreement with drug major Cipla and UK-based Vitabiotics to market over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs, besides nutraceutical products, in Russia and CIS countries, adding immediately to its revenues from the Russian and CIS market. There are long-term synergies, as Dr Reddy's has a strong sales and marketing network and our partners have a basket of products already registered and distributed in these markets. The agreement with Cipla will enhance Dr Reddy's presence in the OTC space and in therapy areas of gastroenterology, dermatology and oncology in both Russia and Ukraine.

Corporates look to cash in on growing football craze, Venky's close to a club buy

Venkateshwara Hatcheries, better known as Venky’s, is close to becoming the first Indian company to own an English Premier League (EPL) football club, the 135-year-old Blackburn Rovers. Both foreign football clubs and Indian firms have sought to promote football in India, given the sport’s rising popularity and growing business opportunities. Chelsea FC has been in talks with several companies to promote the game in the hope that India can seek to host the World Cup by 2030. Venky’s move comes after several attempts by domestic companies to own EPL teams. Sahara India Group earlier this year placed a bid, of which they later pulled out, to buy a 51 per cent stake in cash-strapped Liverpool. Ambani brothers Mukesh and Anil have also been keen on owning Liverpool and Newcastle United, respectively, but denied making any bids.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010


This year, the flagship event of the Consult Club, Sectorama (a one of its kind sector analysis competition) is being conducted in a bigger and better avatar as part of Confluence 2010, IIMA's annual business summit, with prize money of Rs. 80,000 up for grabs! To check out the details and register, click here.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Walt Disney of India

Suppandi, Shikari Shambhu, Ramu and Shamu, King Hooja, Amar Chitra Katha

All these kindle fond memories in most of us, a reminder of what we read in our childhood days. These old brands of Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha which we fondly associated with the famous Uncle Pai, have now been acquired by a relatively new venture known as ACK Media or Amar Chitra Katha Pvt. Ltd.

ACK Media, a venture launched in 2007, was founded and is headed by Samir Patil, an ex-Mckinsey partner with 10 years of experience in media, hi-tech, and healthcare firms. ACK Media started with acquisition of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle brands from the India Book House in November 2007. Then, in April 2008 they acquired a controlling stake in Karadi Tales (series of popular audio books for children). Since then a number of steps have been taken to develop and revamp the old charm of the ACK characters and stories.

In addition to improving content in print, magazines, comics, home video space, ACK wanted to improve its distribution network and have a better relationship with the end customer. Hence, it acquired India Book House in May 2010, and gained control of a distribution network that includes 400 cities, 2500 stores and over 22000 vendors. Also, in order to cash in on the growing size of web users, websites of Tinkle Online, etc. were launched which have been developing considerable traction ever since. Also, to capitalize on the telecommunication and mobile data access revolution, there are several mobile games and apps in the making.

There has been a lot of activity in TV & film production space as well. Apart from a deal it struck with Cartoon Network for an animated series, ACK has a content partnership with Turner Broadcasting System to produce two animated films and a series on Amar Chitra Katha stories. Other Indian comic book houses are also making similar attempts to revive the market For example, Raj Comics has tied up with a mobile services provider, and Diamond comics is slated to launch a TV channel this year.

In the near past, ACK had said that they were looking to raise Rs. 100 crore by selling stakes to private equity firms in order to increase their product portfolio, mostly in the digital space. The latest buzz is that Kishore Biyani is interested in acquiring 40% of ACK. Biyani’s reasons are still unclear, but it seems that Biyani wants ACK to venture more into animation and eventually theme parks, as part of his ambitions of creating the Disneyland of India.

The concept of making cartoons popular by involving social media, creating TV & Films animations and launching theme parks sounds fascinating, but there is a catch. Firstly, the world of children that grew up on Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha has grown up into adults now. The current generation of children has too many options in terms of entertainment, and hence domestic comics figure forms a very small part of their leisure time, if at all . Secondly, the urban children population in Tier I and Tier II cities has undergone an anglicization of reading habits, which is steering them towards Noddy, Archies, Enid Blyton rather than Suppandi and Shikari Shambhu. Majority of the children who are still passionate about Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha will probably belong to a class that might not be the target population for the web/mobile ventures, animations and especially theme parks that ACK is planning to launch.

In this background, how successful would web ventures, animation or an entertainment park based on Tinkle or Amar Chitra Katha be? It is all right for Samir Patil to aspire to be the Walt Disney of India, but is that a possibility with his current brand portfolio? To be fair to ACK, they have followed a very structured process - they have tried to revamp the brand by adding newer titles, by reaching out to the end consumer via a revamped and much improved distribution network, by generating online content to increase reach etc. All these are attempts to revive the comic books market and create a market demand for ACK/Tinkle characters and stories. ACK is assuming that by the time they launch animations and theme parks, this market would have undergone a complete revival, thus creating a pull for the brand.

But whether a successful revival is possible in this era of Archie’s, Noddy, Tin Tin, Nancy Drew etc., remains to be seen. Only time will tell!

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