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March 30, 2012

Sustainability: It's not only just the right thing to do

Posted by Srikantan Moorthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:19 AM

The world is currently grappling with the challenge of having to adapt to rapid change.  With 7 billion people and counting, there is now a lot more to worry about if the planet is to endure. Sustainability is no longer a synonym for a softer form of environmentalism. Companies are seriously asking how to merge responsible behavior with corporate growth and economic development.  Now, customers and shareholders are all trumpeting the same tune - it makes sense to band together to ensure that our resources are renewable and that non-renewables can benefit mankind for as long as possible.  We can argue over the corollaries and sub-definitions, but one thing is true: It is no longer something that is merely "good to do". Sustainability has become a core practice. If a company is thinking about the long term, it needs to be in harmony with society; it must use resources efficiently; it must create jobs; and it must create value for investors, customers and employees in the foreseeable future. Sustainability, therefore, is about consistently producing value for its stakeholders while protecting the environment and being socially responsible. That is the broadest definition of sustainability and something I think we can agree on.

Sustainability has become a business unit within many enterprises, as they realize it is part of any sensible strategy. Going green is not just the right thing to do, but it is a way to make operations run more smoothly, efficiently, and at the same time lower the costs of doing business.  It is as much a business opportunity as it is the right thing to do.

However, there are questions to ponder. How to take care of the short term but then make sure that long-term sustenance is guaranteed? How to make sure that the organization is a good corporate citizen and yet tends to all the stakeholders - from investors through employees to society at large?

I'd say, think of doing the right thing as a business opportunity.  Here are some examples:

•   Members of the board of directors of Infosys serve on global councils and contribute to policy making in corporate governance, education, healthcare, diversity, and the environment.

•  At $100 a ton, the landfill tipping fee can be expensive. But in the past two years, General Mills has turned its solid waste into profits. Take its oat hulls, a Cheerios by-product. The company used to pay to have them hauled off, but realized they could be burned as fuel. Now customers compete to buy the stuff. General Mills is now recycling its solid waste, earning more from that than it spent on getting rid of it.

•  Infosys empowers rural youth by providing them with hands-on experience in Information Technology. The on-campus program initiates rural Indian high school and engineering students into technology practices. It partners with academic institutions to enhance the career prospect of these students while also meeting the burgeoning demand for industry-ready talent at Infosys

•  General Electric's new diesel engines cut fuel consumption by 5 percent and emissions by 40 percent compared with the last generation. A hybrid diesel-electric locomotive runs just like a Toyota Prius, capturing energy from braking and improving mileage.  The energy dissipated in braking a 207-ton engine during the course of a year is enough to power 160 homes for the same period.

Every firm has inefficiencies, from their rote operations to the behavior of the workforce.  On conducting a diligent study, it is not that difficult to find ways to buy in to the notion of sustainability, and at the same time reduce operating costs and impact the bottom line positively.

March 28, 2012

Different strokes for different folks

Posted by Chandra Shekar Kakal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:25 AM


As I experience the energy unleashed by and in emerging economies, I realize that my decision to work in India after I got my Master's degree was the right one. What brought this point home was a recent report I read which stated that the combined GDP of emerging and developing countries - measured in PPP terms - is set to overtake that of advanced economies in 2013. This news is highly significant, highlighting as it does the fact that the balance of economic power has shifted.

Engaging with an emerging economy at this point in time is truly exciting as these are opening a whole world of opportunities for business. The cost arbitrage and skill-sets brought to bear by a deep pool of educated manpower are propelling growth. A large consumer class is demanding better products at lower prices, driving innovation in business models and products. The leapfrogging in technology evident in this part of the world as people strive to catch up with the West nurtures out-of-the-box thinking, making the emerging economies crucial as a source for talent. I believe emerging economies offer multiple opportunities - they are a ready market and a hub for innovation, and also a source for top-quality talent.

However, enterprises can convert these opportunities into a business advantage only if they understand the amazingly varied nature of these economies. The developed world is largely homogenous, with a certain threshold in the parameters considered for trading and commerce - such as education and income levels, infrastructure and the standard of life. Emerging economies, on the other hand, are deeply and disparately segmented. But the West views them as a monolithic mass and herein lies the root of the problem.

Let me take India for example. You will see the richest of the rich here living and working in proximity to the poorest of the poor. It has a middle class that is larger than the population of the United States. In such a situation, considering the economic average to do business is surely not the right way, for the average is hardly representative of the economic and social reality that needs to be understood to engage in successful commerce. Any enterprise will need to dive deep into each emerging economy and dissect each segment and understand their needs, desires, wants, thought processes, cultures, and ideas if it is to leverage the economic opportunity on offer. It will need to customize products, distribution networks, and sales strategy, among other aspects, to satisfy the demands of each consumer segment.

I think this is where Infosys comes into the picture - we are from this part of the world and know these economies intimately. Moreover, we have worked with global enterprises for decades and have put in place the best processes and practices. We can partner corporations and support them with the business and technical knowhow needed to help them capitalize of the potential offered by each segment of the population in each of the emerging economies.

As I blog on this fascinating area, I will continue touching on these themes. For now, I would like to stress that Western corporations will need to appreciate segmentation running through emerging economies if they are to seize opportunities for the future. For I believe the future lies here - with emerging economies - and global enterprises will need to engage with these economies to safeguard their own future.

March 26, 2012

The hole-y road to simplicity

Posted by Pravin Rao U. B. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:20 AM


As I drove home one evening, I observed something not unfamiliar to those of us who've lived in this part of the world. The road had been asphalted a few weeks ago. The rains had already caused some damage and what should have been new was already pockmarked with potholes that were unmerciful to an unsuspecting driver. These potholes had been covered up to make the road look like a patchwork blanket. What made matters more interesting was that the local utility company had decided they needed to lay some more pipes, and so had gotten to work - furiously tearing apart parts of the road that were unblemished... I thought to myself that this fractured order isn't very different from the way many businesses are run today. While insufficient information is creating fissures in operations, an uncertain environment and unresponsive systems are making the mess, messier... Too many variables, too many stakeholders - all striving towards different goals, all on different pages!

A confounding web of complexity has found its way into the simplest of things in business today and there is no running away from this new order. However, unless we find a smarter way of running our organizations, we face the risk of becoming obsolete. A lack of focus, non-collaborative efforts, layered-beyond-belief structures, inflexible processes - and these compounded across geographies, locations, cultures and systems are just some of the factors that are contributing to a recipe for absolute chaos.

In this context, building a smart organization that evolves to simplify itself - a living organization, is the only way to remain relevant and profitable. But like most everything worth having, this takes work as well - and brings with it a whole host of challenges. And there is no  one-size-fits-all solution. Even so, our tried and tested formula, is this - Scale up - no, I don't advise making a large organization larger... But this: Simplify. Collaborate. Adapt. Learn.

Over the past years, I've been closely involved helping clients solve their business challenges. What worked, what didn't, what might work for the future, has made it all an interesting journey towards discovering simpler, more efficient ways of doing business...

In the meantime, here's to a smoother drive...onwards!

March 23, 2012

Value of strategic partnerships

Posted by Paul Gottsegen (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:35 AM

If you are a golf fan, there's no way you wouldn't know Tom Watson. But, you may not know his long-time caddy Bruce Edwards who was on his bag for 37 PGA tour victories. Have you ever noticed that champion golfers always seem to have the most well-respected caddies? This is no coincidence. Golf pros who treat this partnership strategically set themselves up to reach their potential and beyond. The key is having strong criteria for what to look for. With a caddy it would be great preparation, managing the player's psychology, and technical expertise on what shot to hit.

What does your company look for in a strategic partnership - one that will help you accelerate your growth beyond what you thought possible? I believe that the core criteria you should seek are:

1.    Partner's organization is tightly aligned with your business objectives of growth, return-on-assets and differentiation.
2.    Partner has the depth and breadth of solutions in their portfolio, so you can design solutions for what you need, not steered to what they offer.
3.    Even with #2, partner needs a strong ecosystem to bring in complementary expertise. They should track all of the various options available that you can leverage.
4.    A co-creation partner. Meaning they are able to take the vast amount of industry and technical capability to craft a custom-fit solution - their advanced technology is easily consumable by your organization.

We believe in this so strongly, we organized our entire company around building long term strategic partnerships with our clients. This is why our clients grow faster than the market.

March 21, 2012

How smarter organizations simplify...or don't

Posted by Sudhir Chaturvedi (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:52 AM


To say that an organization can get smarter by keeping things simple is to oversimplify the argument.

Simplicity, the way I see it, is the end result achieved by organizations that smartly manage their complexity. Note that I say 'manage' and not 'eliminate'. The fact that it is impossible, in reality, to cut out complexity altogether has nothing to do with my choice of words. Rather, my point is that smarter organizations know where to draw the line. Because, every organization has both good and bad complexity, the former leading to desirable outcomes and the latter managing to achieve the exact opposite. Needless to say, smart organizations work at enhancing good complexity while suppressing the unproductive ones.

Good complexity, an oxymoron? Actually, it is a differentiator for those organizations that know what to do with it. Take the industrial goods industry, for example, where you can clearly see the different ways in which manufacturers combine advice, products and after-sales service. Those following a relatively simple approach see advice as part of the pre-sales ritual. The product must, then, be sold, and after-sales service is about making spares and technicians accessible. On the other hand, there are enterprises that leverage the advisory process to truly understand customer pain points. These insights are then meticulously channeled to build, customize and offer suitable products - manufactured in house, acquired, white-labeled...whatever. This is backed with a proactive spares and service plan delivered through the customer's channel-of-choice. Decidedly there is more complexity in the second approach, but it's complexity with a purpose - better delivery, experience, satisfaction and customer stickiness - that's near-impossible to achieve with the simpler model.

The other interesting thing is that contrary to popular perception, an organization's complexity is rarely about its structure. Complexity stems from unnecessarily convoluted processes or other inefficiencies - tucked away as easily in simple structures as in greatly layered ones. So, what's the fix? What needs to stay (good complexity) and what must go is best determined by an organization's objectives and overall strategy. One of the best examples I can think of is that of a train manufacturer we work with. Rather than manufacture in its 'least-complex' well-oiled home-facility, this organization has taken a novel approach of building its trains at the customer's location, even setting up an entire township, in an emerging market, to facilitate the process. Clearly, the goal of this organization is not just to build a good train in the most efficient, simplest way possible, but also to build equity driven by a strong CSR agenda and, most importantly, to change the rules of the game whilst competing with others who operate using more traditional models.

So, the most efficient, cost-effective or simplest organization isn't necessarily the smartest. Complexity must be seen through a different lens to appreciate its nuances. If it serves the enterprise's core agenda or helps counter an organization's 'grand challenge' then it's a smart thing to have. Complexity assessment must take into account the organization's objectives while examining the intricacies of its projects and tasks. Complexity that must be amplified is typically marked by its contribution to new revenues, customer delight and such like. That which must be eliminated, you'll find, is evident across enterprises where there are leaks in effort, time and money for no measurable strategic objective.

In every industry, companies that are remarkably similar on the outside, tend to do things differently on the inside. Ask them about it, and they can't always tell you why it is so. When an organization can clearly and convincingly articulate the reason for a more complex approach, while tying it inextricably to an organizational goal, they are onto something. These smart enterprises make complexity work for them. Simple.

March 20, 2012

Advertising's Social Side

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:37 AM

Today, the overall social media story has achieved epic status. There's nothing new to say about even the newer batch of stories. It's tweeted, liked and followed in good faith. So let's shift focus to the interesting vignettes developing within its canvas, the stories branching out from the main tale.
One of these is about the rise of social advertising and its influence on consumer behavior. During the course of several studies, a well-known research organization found that online advertising in social media or with a social context was more effective at compelling action. South East Asian consumers were particularly susceptible to its charms - 3 out of 4 said they were highly or at least somewhat influenced by advertisements in social media, compared to 3 out of 5 globally. The engagement became stronger with social context; so when the ad was for a brand that was liked or followed by friends, it favorably influenced 4 out of 5 consumers.

The research firm further tested these findings by studying around 80 Facebook ad campaigns over 6 months. They found that social ads indeed had the edge over other non-social online advertising, creating a 55% greater jump in ad recall.  Some brands have been quick to pounce on social advertising equity. Right away, I can think of two, a domestic cleaning liquid brand -  Mrs. Meyer's and Kraft's Riitz crackers my favorite snack, both of which have "not-for-us-the-run-of the-mill" kind of advertisements which viewers can click on to see what's going on in the brands' Facebook pages in real time. And it seems to work, because reportedly, consumers spent nearly thrice the time on these ads than the average for online advertising. What's more, even a relative commonplace product like a home cleaning liquid had 35 of 1,000 viewers of its ad clicking through, compared to 1 in 1,000 which Google claims is the average for regular online ads.

Maybe this is taking things too far, but I cannot resist sharing this other tidbit.  The Center for Eating Disorders recently surveyed 600 U.S. Facebook users to find that more than half of them felt more self-conscious about their physical appearance after looking at photographs posted on the social network. The think tank feels this might contribute to eating disorders. Now, is that a straightforward opportunity for wellness brands, or what?

March 19, 2012

The Cloud has a silver lining

Posted by Vishnu Bhat (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:47 AM

Sometime last year, the National Science Center moved its flagship program - called Learning Logic - to the Cloud to enhance its IT staff and optimize infrastructure efficiencies.  Learning Logic went from its earlier server-based avatar to serving a much broader audience. In migrating to the Cloud, the cost savings were significant. But the additional audience was a direct outcome of Cloud-led innovation.

Cloud computing has come of age.  In the past, skeptics groaned that the Cloud was simply a way to outsource large databases to IT warehouses and server farms to lower the cost of ownership and allow clients to seamlessly scale their IT requirements.  The Cloud premise was built solely around infrastructure.  Though the initial imperatives - faster, cost-effective, and more efficient IT capability - are still important, it is only a part of what the Cloud can offer to enterprises. In fact, these are now virtually hygiene.

The potential for innovation is limitless. Some examples:
  • A bank extends its services to remote areas outside its urban branch network by enabling agents to access a Cloud-hosted core banking platform.
  • A soft drink manufacturer streamlines distribution through a combination of mobile devices and a Cloud computing setup where merchandisers input stocking and other information in real-time.
Besides fostering innovation, the Cloud also helps organizations leverage data better to make better decisions. Today, everyone's talking about "Big Data."  The subject dominated conversations at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.  Big Data is available because of the computing power of the Cloud, and we're just beginning to take advantage of this huge mine of information.  The Cloud is enabling organizations to tap into Big Data that exists within and outside their four walls to slice and dice it faster, cheaper and in more minute detail than it was thought possible.  Retailers have taken the lead.  They are not only crunching structured data but also mining unstructured information.  Social media conversations and online commentaries about their own and competitor brands - as well as consumer perceptions and user expectations -- reveal better ways to market their products and services.

Organizations are accepting the notion of trusting large amounts of data in the Cloud as long as it is implemented within the safety of a private Cloud.  However, they raise the usual concerns around security, data privacy and the risk of regulatory violation, when presented with the idea of leveraging the true benefits of the Cloud.

Just consider. A solution that brings all the fragmented workloads - on the private and public Cloud ecosystem - together and seamlessly.  One that can offer a single, unified view of its entire operational setup across multiple Clouds, and benchmark its performance with respect to the industry's best practices.  Even better, one that can also make intelligent recommendations around which Cloud is best equipped to deploy a new workload. Now, that, you'll agree, is indeed a bright silver lining. On the Cloud.

Read White Paper What I see, in the Cloud, for enterprises

March 16, 2012

Is there a formula to replicate success?

Posted by Anand Prasad Arkalgud (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:59 AM


The short answer is yes. The long answer is more complicated.

Many companies incorrectly assume that they can replicate their developed world success in emerging economies, by starting off simply building on their developed model of the business.  Of course, they finally get their arms around what aspects to change and what not to, in the new market, but it takes an inordinately long time with several rounds of trial and error.

The gap lies in what is best explained as the "institutional void" propounded by Harvard Business School Professors Tarun Khanna and Krishna Palepu.  Put simply, these are a company's "blind spots," when they do what they think is a careful analysis of market potential in an unfamiliar venue.

For instance, in countries without a strong capital market and governance structure, even the largest businesses need not make their financial statements public. How can a foreign entrant possibly conduct a competitor analysis without this information? Similarly, if this company chooses to go to a country where the education system is not industry-ready, it has little chance of quickly finding the right kind of talent that can be readily harnessed to drive business.

Institutional voids are often the reason why a $10 billion corporation in the U.S. cannot build a similar business in China, using its familiar model for success.  No doubt, some elements of the original model still apply to the emerging market context - such as expertise in managing the complexities of business - but there are simply too many differences on the ground, all of which suggest a failure of a one-to-one replication.

Imagine that a hypothetical successful American corporation is planning to enter an emerging market. During its 50 years of existence, the company has, no doubt, developed explicit capabilities within its organization in the areas of finance, human resource management, manufacturing, product design and development, and so on. In all likelihood, it has also nurtured explicit relationships with partners, suppliers, customers and other members of the ecosystem.  But it may not have given the same attention to all those implicit relationships - with regulators, lawmakers, analysts, rating agencies, professional associations and media, to name a few - that it relies on or takes for granted.

That inattention could change very quickly should the company find that some of these institutions are absent in its target market. For instance, a corporation, accustomed to screening customers in the U.S. based on the credit scores provided by ratings agencies, will find that it is tougher to get similar information in China. Or the enterprise may discover, at a significant cost that the judicial system in India could take years to decide a case, which back home may be mandated by law to be resolved within 30 days.

The prepaid mobile business in India, China and several countries of Africa is a case in point. Telecom companies couldn't possibly apply, to these countries, the postpaid model - which was so successful in the U.S. where it is easy to ascertain a customer's creditworthiness. So they negated this constraint by coming up with a prepaid model. And despite the subsequent proliferation of network operators, those who got into the market first gained the most.

Here's another example. Consider Infosys' acclaimed educational campus. It has cost the company the equivalent of a space shuttle launch to build its training center. But this was a response to a shortage of adequately trained, motivationally aligned, business-ready human resources in India. Today, spurred by the huge competitive advantage this creates for Infosys, it is a clear model that others are seeking to emulate. Companies that move first to close an institutional void through meaningful innovation create breakthrough advantage for themselves, and erect barriers that their rivals take years, if ever, to overcome.

Can success be replicated?  Of course.  But it will only come to those companies who make the effort. The institutional void is a barrier. But once you break through it, the rewards - as a first market mover and innovator - are clearly there.

Read White Paper Replicating Success. Is there a formula?

March 14, 2012

Please listen carefully. (Your menu options have changed)

Posted by Manish Tandon (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:16 AM

As I booked tickets on my phone for an evening out at the movies, I marveled at how things had changed over the past couple of decades. (No, I'm not talking about the price of tickets, although that alarms me as well!).  In a country of 1.2 billion, where 15 years ago even getting a regular phone was a luxury, here I was buying movie tickets on my mobile phone!!!

Really, mobile telephony has had an unprecedented impact on our lives today.  Consider some vital statistics and see what I mean:
  1. 4 billion active mobile connections the world over vs. just 1 billion active personal computers
  2. 90% of the world's population has access to a mobile network
  3. Average mobile app usage is 81 min/ day vs. Internet consumption of 71 min/ day
  4. 45% users check their mobile devices first thing in the morning (A newspaper is not a mobile device!)
I suspect that if you look at these statistics for emerging economies, the difference will be even starker. For example, in India, a person earning less than US$ 5 a day probably has a mobile phone but has never used the Internet on a PC. With smartphone prices predictably dropping, a vast majority of them will become smartphone users riding the net on the mobile airwaves. Mobile penetration, in India, which is currently the fastest growing mobile market, is slated to reach 100 percent by 2015.

Alexander Pope didn't have our world in mind when he wrote, "A little learning is a dangerous thing, drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring." Today, anything I need to know (and more) is accessible at the touch of a button, or better still, a voice command.  I can learn as little or as much as I'd like. While technology has grown at a mind-boggling rate, what is even better are the possibilities this has opened up. Businesses have changed. Economies have changed. Life has changed. But wait... that isn't the complete picture. Mobility has brought in a new dimension to an already incredibly empowering online world.

Paper money is being given a run for its money, so to speak. Plastic money might still be at a premium and inaccessible to the local tea stall owner in Rajnandgaon, but a mobile isn't. In fact, even as I write this, one of the leading mobile companies in India, is literally painting the airwaves red by launching this service across India (Powered by Infosys, who else?). Let's kick it down a notch, too.  We're all not comfortably middle class.  What of the 1.7 billion people in the world who earn less than US$ 2 a day? Will mainstream banks and financial services support them? Who will support high-volume, low-value transactions and how?  The key to supporting high-volume and low-value transactions is ensuring that the distribution and intermediary costs are near zero. And, no prizes for guessing which platform and medium can achieve this for all sorts of relatively virtual goods - money, advertisements, information or even knowledge.

All of this clearly points to the beginning of a new era for commerce. The possibilities are endless. What these possibilities will mean for our world, the challenges this will present and how we can tackle these are just a few things worth deliberating... And while we're at it, if you have any idea as to how I can get through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu without giving vent to subconscious violent tendencies, do let me know.

March 12, 2012

In a world where self-disruption equals self-preservation!

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:23 AM


While most of us continue to "unsee" competition, some smart companies are fighting the "bad guys" even before they show themselves. It's dousing fire with fire for them, as they employ self-disruption to thwart competition and not just survive but thrive. Look at the AutoCAD app-store from Autodesk - the world leaders in 3D design and engineering software. Making its application downloadable for smartphones and tablets, on a third-party store, meant revenue sharing. But by offering the "most convenient...most accessible" solution, even in such a niche market, they've effectively neutered the other wannabes.

All open source success stories showcase the same logic. Disrupt to preserve. It's always about an idea that the owner can potentially preserve and sell, but chooses to disrupt by giving it away to external nurturers, providing a continuously evolving quality alternative to commercial, closed source options. The method of ensuring sustenance in the market is Darwinian: Survival of the fittest. Through natural selection by the consumer.

It's uncanny how ideas that disrupt can bubble up from the bottom, instead of flowing down from the top. That's why crowd-sourcing works. Other times, the problem can hold, within it, the seeds of the solution. Consider the runpee app. Born from the challenge: Theatres don't have pause buttons. Disruption came in the form of this free mobile app that provides approximate "best" times for taking breaks while watching films in theaters. New markets, new trends, new technologies...they can all threaten, but also enable. Remember the pre-paid revolution ushered in, for the emerging markets, by the telecom big boys from the Western world? Competition from other industries can also be a source of immense learning and disruption. After all, those looking within their own industries for inspiration are not very different from ship-wreck survivors merely exchanging oars within the same lifeboat. No one will get any further or any faster than the other.

We often recognize threat from potential competitors or changing consumer behavior, but lack the ability to organize this input into an executable plan for disrupt-and-preserve. What would be useful is a lens to see what to disrupt, when to disrupt and to what end. Then, perhaps, the threat of destruction by our inability to adapt, and also the best defense, under the circumstances, will be visible with equal clarity.

March 10, 2012

Why bioinformatics matters more than ever

Posted by Vaidyanatha Siva (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:33 PM


Charles Dickens' epic line "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." aptly describes the current state of the life sciences space. On the one hand, there are exciting possibilities brought about by the convergence of biological sciences and information technology - leading scientists to proclaim this as the century of bioinformatics. On the other, unprecedented challenges are arising from macro-economic, demographic and industry-specific factors.

Let's start with the last one - industry-specific factors.  The dominant players in the $900 billion global pharmaceutical industry are at a crucial juncture, because within the next three to four years, drugs worth $150 billion in revenue, will go off patent.  At the same time, new drug creation has become prohibitively expensive, costing, on an average, more than US$ 1 billion to take a drug from concept and R&D through clinical trial and FDA approval, before it can be put into the market. Understandably, pharmaceutical companies are struggling to put their innovation investment to work.

Governments in the U.S. and Europe are the biggest healthcare spenders, and they are currently undergoing budget crises.  This will force a tactical cutback in R&D investments and may put the discovery of blockbuster drugs on the back burner. Any big-ticket research is likely to be confined to the drug company's traditional areas of strength, such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's or pain medication.  There is good news here, however.  Big pharma reduction in moon-shot research will leave the door open for smaller companies to make bigger and bolder moves. I anticipate that in the near future, revolutionary drug research will be driven not by large single investments, but rather by the collective resources of an ecosystem comprising pharmaceutical companies, large IT firms, government agencies and individual research labs (yes, the mom and pop stores of the business). The role of technology in enabling the pharmaceutical industry to realize the stuff of dreams - the next wonder drug, for example - cannot be overstated.

We could not have mapped the human genome without bioinformatics. Today, there are devices, which can determine a gene sequence for about US$ 1,000. It is conceivable that in future, people will be able to figure out their own genomes using such gadgets, at even lower cost. Technological advancement has brought down the cost of research infrastructure (and the monopoly of large research firms) to such an extent that individual researchers are now setting up home labs.

All these outcomes, whether it is the deciphering of the personal genome, the creation of consumer health alliances or the mushrooming of startup labs, will result in enormous exchange of data, the mining and analysis of which will require huge computing power and software development. Large-scale pharmaceutical companies - which have the most to gain or lose - should seize the initiative to drive this ecosystem. In fact, they're the only ones who have the credibility and resources to obtain statutory approvals. Similarly, it is left to the large technology players to create the massive IT infrastructure that is required. It is likely that this will lead to joint ventures and alliances between big pharma and tech.  Would a merger be possible? Why not? Innovation is imperative for the life sciences industry, and its complexity and need for specialized capabilities are best managed through co-creation.

We are looking at an industry where potential is limitless, the competition brutal and the stakes enormous. And it's best described as going through the best and the worst of times...

Read White Paper Innovation: Where Life Sciences Meets Advanced Technology

March 9, 2012

It's what we can't see that matters in IT

Posted by Sanjay Jalona (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:11 AM

In 1963, Ted Nelson, a futurist, coined the phrase "hypertext," and a decade later, he predicted that we would exchange ideas through a series of connected terminals.  Today, HTML, or hypertext markup language, is the predominant language for web pages used by almost everyone. As a seer, Nelson had few peers. He somehow sensed that computing technology would someday become "pervasive" - a word that has etched itself into our psyche today. Twenty years ago, social scientists and anthropologists, at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, spent countless hours wondering how we would be using computers today. Mark Weiser, another seer of note, wrote back then that the desktop would be outmoded, as microprocessors become smaller, and spread about in the most unlikely places.  Pervasive computing would adopt "calm technology" and be "invisible, everywhere....that does not live on a personal device of any sort, but is in the woodwork everywhere."  That's as accurate an explanation and as you can conjure up even today.

There are three elements that comprise pervasive computing: sensor networks, intelligence, and the Cloud.

Sensor networks involve using nodes that collect data for analysis that is then acted on in central locations. For example, smart meters that allow customers to monitor energy usage. At the same time, the power provider can also get real-time feedback to allow the most effective switching of the grid's substations during high-demand periods.  Intelligence entails data mining, intelligent agents, and autonomous programming. These systems incorporate the idea that they can get smarter - also using artificial intelligence - as they gather data and digest it to reveal user patterns.  Some examples:  Traffic GPS systems have become more useful as cumulative feedback from users goes to the head end. Social networks such as Facebook and large retailers like Wal-Mart are adopting this kind of computing.  Facebook can use this feedback to understand "friend preferences," and Wal-Mart can optimize just-in-time inventory restocking on a store-by-store basis once it distills consumer demands. The third piece - Cloud computing - is an outgrowth of the massive collection of information over the past few years. Skeptics may wonder if the Cloud is simply a more lyrical label for off-site data storage at a server farm.  But with businesses increasingly leveraging it for attractive pay-as-you-need options and to drive innovative business models the flocks of believers are growing.

Pervasive - or "ubiquitous" - computing covers so much terrain. At once mobile and also stationary. Wired and also wireless. Where we so easily take it for granted. After all, TV screens are now in refrigerator doors. GPS devices on car dashboards. You can even track space shuttles on your phone. And microprocessors being inserted in the human brain, in clinical trials, are helping enable motion recovery in stroke patients.

Invisible, yet increasingly indispensible, pervasive computing is about what does not meet the eye. But then, why should users have to worry about what's going on behind the curtain. Now, you'll agree, that's the calming effect and our mandate.

March 7, 2012

Making it in China

Posted by Anand Prasad Arkalgud (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:03 AM


"OK, so what's it like to do business in China?" This must rank among the world's top questions. People ask alright, but don't really want to listen to your detailed answer. So, here's my 2 minute China capsule for when you pop the question.

When people think China, they see red. They see exotic foods and flavors. Chinese lanterns and dragons. But what enthuses and drives China is not only tradition. Popular culture has a significant impact as well. Increasingly, this is fueling Chinese aspirations. A decade ago, China was proud to be the world's largest exporter. Today, it dreams of being the world's largest. Period. It is the largest market for luxury goods, and as many manufacturers will tell you, also one of the most profitable. To the uninitiated, language appears to be a barrier. But I can tell you, from experience, that my Chinese hasn't improved much in my 3 years in Shanghai because everyone around me wants to speak English!

Big. Really big. Everything about China is humungous. See how their railways leapfrogged decades of incremental evolution to build the world's only train that runs on magnetic levitation. Their gigantic cities were made in just 25 years. What this means for businesses is that we must build to scale to first get into the reckoning set, find takers and then stay ahead of the curve. In the Chinese lexicon, it does seem that big equals great.

Take a look at the Fortune 500 list from just 20 years ago. You'll find an incredible 75% of the names there are not on the 2011 list. Ironic, when you think about how much enterprises invest in "building to last"! With the "let's build to last" mindset also comes our default approach to fortify readiness for challenges and opportunities from the same quarters we've always seen them come from.  Obviously, this approach won't get us very far in a market like China. Now, what if we focused, instead, on letting its changing landscape shape and reshape the enterprise we build to adapt? We can then let our business and strategies be moulded for success by the very forces of this dynamic market. But this alone is not enough.

50 years ago, consumerism in China was driven by manufacturers. Two decades ago by retailers and today by consumers. That's why we must look beyond and begin to create products and services that the Chinese are only just beginning to dream about. By building willingness to be led by these consumer aspirations, our businesses can then adapt to thrive even in a distant tomorrow when current demand and market share would have long ceased to matter.

March 5, 2012

Because building tomorrow's enterprise needs tomorrow-ready people

Posted by Srikantan Moorthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:55 AM

US$ 450 million - that is what it apparently costs to send a shuttle into space. That's also what we've invested in our Global Education Centre. Yes, the facilities are unparalleled and can cater to more than 13,500 people in a single session. But that's not the story.

Unlike so many training programs designed for skilling employees to fit into their current jobs, at Infosys, we target continuous employment readiness and motivation - empowering each employee, today, to excel in his or her role not just now, but tomorrow, and through the duration of their professional career. That's why, learning at Infosys is a continuum, rather than an event, and this makes it really special in many ways.

For us, continuous training and employment readiness is not something that's just nice to have, but rather an absolute necessity. How else can we deliver on our commitment to build tomorrow's enterprise? Then, there's the question of what drives creative and innovative people - the kind we seek to retain and nurture.  We know, from listening to our people, that what makes continuous learning effective is keeping it relevant and flexible. I have seen, time and again, that few things motivates good talent more than the opportunity to direct one's own work and chart one's own path through mastery of the work domain. And our interventions are designed to equip them to do exactly that.

This has a happy side-effect. Infoscions feel they 'belong' here and can clearly see where they're headed. They see the ability to learn new things as clear value they gain from being here. Just this morning, at breakfast, it was a pleasure listening to one of our youngsters say "I have learnt so much from being here. I wish I had joined Infosys much earlier. This is what I tell my friends. I can clearly see a path to reach my professional aspirations by leveraging the continuous learning programs available at Infosys."

We know that is not only about employability for graduating students but is also continuous career-building in a fast-paced industry that our learning needs to enable. Empowering our professionals to build tomorrow is also our business.

March 2, 2012

A happy, productive workforce. It's a mixed bag.

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:24 AM


Twenty countries around the world show zero or negative population growth.  Birth rates are on the decline. By 2025, the U.S. alone will be short of around 29 million workers, as 77 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) retire, but only 48 million individuals belonging to Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) enter it.
Interestingly, studies indicate that only 20 to 40 percent of 55- to 65-year-olds say that they are fully retired, implying that the majority is still open to working. Why not rehire them? Companies must recognize that their older employees will stay on only if their expectations (shorter/ flexible working hours, respect of colleagues or sense of fulfillment) are met.  The incentive? Save on the rising cost of training a skilled workforce to replace retired workers. Organizations can also bridge the workforce gap by recruiting "millennials" - those born in the two decades between 1980 and 2000.

A comparison of the workplace expectations of baby boomers and millennials reveals some interesting findings. While mature workers seek an income (or nest egg) to live on and want to make productive use of their time, for the young workforce, a job is all about career and skill development, and exposure to cutting edge technology. But they also have several things in common, such as a desire to contribute to society through work; a preference for flexible work arrangements and an appreciation of the social connections formed at the workplace. Generation X, on the other hand, is more concerned about the corporate ladder and compensation.

How to encourage older workers?  Convince them that they can still contribute.  It's up to the management. HR managers must weigh the higher salaries of mature workers against their higher productivity, the cost of recruiting and training fresh hires, and of course, the loss of connectivity and tacit knowledge occasioned by their exit. Managing the aging workforce is only part of the story. To ensure access to world-class talent and turn their human resources into a competitive advantage, organizations need to configure their workplaces to meet the future needs of their people.

Some key trends indicate what these might be:
  • Increasing female workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women employees are a two-thirds majority in 10 industries out of 15 that are tipped to grow the fastest over the next few years.
  • Dynamic working schemes. Working schemes will not only become remote and flexible, but also more innovative. Solutions such as eLancing will be used more frequently to quickly bring a trained workforce on board.
  • Flexible training. This needs to become more flexible, as younger workers embrace on demand, anywhere, anytime learning.
  • Smarter communication. Increasing use of personal devices like smartphones (even at work) will enable millennials to maintain work-life balance.
  • New technologies. These will help the ageing workforce remain productive longer.
  • Virtual workplace. Telecommuting is a win-win for the worker who needs flextime and the employer, which can save on overhead costs.
Organizations that embrace these to-dos improve their supply of talent...make existing workers more productive, reduce attrition and delay the retirement of older employees.

Read White Paper Keeping the Workforce

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