Sunday, 15 January 2017


Parthajeet Sarma & Sibani Sarma

Image result for THE RICH LABOURER by parthajeet sarmaI have been reading a series of books from Western sources on Management thought, strategies and economics – some reviewed on this blog as well, like Capitalism by Raghuram Rajan, HBR Top 10 Series and others; but sadly most consistently fail the applicability rule; as an Indian, I find them totally theoretical, unimpressive and / or biased most of the time – something which I have been at pains to point out in my reviews with proof. Each time I read some imported stuff, be it from the Chicago School of Economics, or be it from Harvard – I would always feel the lack of Indian Material…

This is where the current book, as also to be honest others reviewed here, like Anisha Motwani’s Storm The Norm, or Vanita Kohli-Khandekar’s The Indian Media Business, Anuradha Goyal, Ruchir Sharma or any of the others reviewed – come in as very valuable additions, giving me confidence that the coming decade belongs to India in terms of thought as well as development, as more and more good research comes into the open. Without exception, these books are powerful, fully applicable, and must-reads for any serious student of Indian Industry. This current book is one such, despite its heavily strategic tone that has universal applicability

This book proposes a very interesting, thought provoking concept; if I may summarise in a few words – look, and look hard, before you leap; think it through. That is the entire book from start to finish. To those who may find this surprising, Corporate India is littered with examples of people who didn’t do just that; look before leaping. I personally call it my 360-Degree style of analysis, which I visited for the first time in my first article, which was on Tablet Devices, as also in my interactions during my Advertising and Brand Management Visiting Faculty experience

The Book calls it the 3Ps approach – Probe, Ponder and Prove. The best as well as the worst part of the book is identical : it is a short, rapid and fast read, written in easy prose, simple to assimilate, understand and absorb. There is no beating around the bush here. Curiously, for serious readers like self, this is also the biggest issue : you are left wanting for more, deeper analysis, contents and a far deeper development of the concept. To be fair, this one in my hand is a prototype; it will be expanded in the coming versions of the book…

I would rather you read the concept for yourself; far too many excellent strategies have been wrecked by summary presentations and paraphrasing without deep study. That said, to give an idea – the concept is {or should be} simply to look in detail at all underlying parameters through a process of analysis; study the problem in all its dimensions, not just the dimensions you can visualize – but all the dimensions as can be seen by every stakeholder – including the customer. Similarly, the solutions should also be thought through, tested and analysed before launch..

The nutshell summary above may sound very uncool, un-sexy; well, to that my only observation – welcome to the real world of business. That is business in all its resplendent glory; business is a matter of attending to the minutiae, and not about grand sweeping plans and vision statements. Far too often, basic problems are overlooked; like in the Tablet market for instance, wherein the problem the interface presented to customers was ignored, or the Nano, or perhaps the most famous of all : the textbook case study for doing a proper customer study – Kellogg’s…

Far too often, business plans are based on unwarranted assumptions; please note my words here. Any business plan or strategy, any plan in fact {as the book proves}, will have assumptions. That is basic; the problem is the underlying hypothesis should stand true to a hard scrutiny from all POVs and Stakeholders : Shareholders, Employees, Resources, Customers, Uses, Benefits, Competitions, Objections etc. Then and only then is an assumption a successful hypothesis. Tablets collapsed as a mass market product due to this, as an example : unwieldy large user interface, combined with developments in Mobile Technology making larger displays affordable and superior. Both these could and should have been foreseen; that they weren’t is mute testimony that deeper thought was needed.

As I said, it is that lack of detailing and further development of the concept leaves you gasping for more. This is, in its current version, a powerful and hard-hitting management thought that will redefine the way you think. This is in reality a framework, around which you will have to devote a lot of thought and tailor it to your specific needs. The demands of a social project, for instance, will be at divergence with those of a business venture and this theory is applicable to both in equal measure.

Let me take an example. In a business plan, the first P – Probe will need to be properly defined in all its parameters. Take my industry, Mobiles Devices, or Music Earphones. Why does a customer by a smartphone? Ask a sales person, at any level most times., and the answer will be internet+calls. Now this fails at the first hurdle itself – I, Me, Myself. I use one because

a) Staying Connected
c) Great and Loud Marathi & Hindi Music
d) Marathi Movies
e) Games and Entertainment

Note that calling does not even enter my list; I assume it as a given. Now if I probe deeper, I prefer Brand A over Brand B due to several reasons., one of which is call clarity, and a silk-smooth user interface! My wife, well – she doesn’t value most of the above, for her it is size, internet and staying connected. See how the parameters change. Let me further complicate matters – I have two clear major preferences : Display. Games & Music. All are non-negotiable, and one phone cant provide both at my price point. Ergo, I keep two. If you don’t track that, you miss my sale – which is what one brand did do,, as I went to the competition! That is the level to which probing needs to be done; this will have to be industry-specific, beyond a shade of doubt.

That said, it is feasible to evolve a basic set of broad parameters that will need probing. I touched upon some of these; Customers – Usage Purpose, Usage Pattern, Usage Occasion, Usage Style, Desired Features, Non-negotiable minimum features required, Pricing Band, etc. Then you will have to go deeper from this framework for each industry you are in, and will have to be re-created and re-crafted for each solution. But the broad set of parameters could have been done, which is what I hope to read in the final version of the book, among other things… despite that, this is a treasure and a must-read… 5 stars!

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