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September 30, 2013

What We Learned From the Global Economic Crisis

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:09 AM

Infosys Finacle Mobile Banking - Simple, Secure, Future -Ready [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmvLX0eSl2Q]

Chances are you remember exactly where you were five years ago this month when the global economy began crashing down. "Financial Armageddon" was the term many an analyst and economist used to describe what happened during those frightening couple of weeks in September of 2008.

As with any traumatic event, we human beings tend to prefer not to think about what transpired. That's only natural. But if we can look back upon what led up to that meltdown and how our institutions handled it, we can learn a lot about how to prevent something like that from happening again. I think one of the positive things to have come out of the GEC is that banks are using technology in new and innovative ways, especially when it concerns their customers. Some aspects of mobile banking might be the keys to preventing another economic crisis.

First it helps to look at the crisis through both quantitative and qualitative lenses. If you view what happened quantitatively, a criticism might involve the sheer size of some of the banks - banks that were "too big to fail." Whatever your opinion on this matter, the American government made sure that many of those banks did not fail because of their Troubled Asset Relief Plan (or TARP). As a comparison, their neighbors to the north, the Canadian banks, tended to weather the crisis better because they'd taken fewer (and smaller) financial risks in the years leading up to the crisis.

In some cases, when the large Western banks coughed, smaller institutions in emerging markets, it was said, caught a full-blown cold. Yet another thing happened in the global capital markets: The emerging markets had low correlations to the West and actually made them popular with investors looking for any kind of growth during what was otherwise a dismal time for securities.

In the case of Lehman Brothers, the bank's unraveling might have had more to do with its positioning than with its assets. At least that's one theory tossed around by Henry Paulson, the U.S. Treasury Secretary at the time. Some of the banks that were deemed too big to fail were combinations of commercial and investment banks. Until the 1990s, combining those types of institutions under one roof was illegal. Experts, including Paulson, reckon that if you were to unwind the underwriting and investment banking activities from the commercial activities, you'd have a more stable and predictable system going forward.

On the commercial banking side we've experienced an explosion in mobile activities among consumers. Their proactive nature and newfound consumer power because of mobile devices and social media have helped make banks more responsive and customer-friendly. Lehman Brothers was one of the few large banks that didn't have a significant commercial banking presence. Hence its relationship to "Main Street" - people like you and me - wasn't on the line. There weren't millions of retail customers who were ready to demand that their savings bank not go under. It's one theory of many, of course. What happened to a pure investment bank does, I think, have something to do with the fact that it didn't have that commercial (and increasingly mobile) consumer connection.

There's no doubting that mobile platforms are changing the ways commercial banks operate. And how consumers perceive them. If used effectively, large banks across Asia, Europe, and the Americas can use mobility to strengthen consumer ties and perhaps prevent another meltdown. Why? Because the more transparent a bank's activities are, the easier it is to anticipate what could possibly go wrong in the future.

"Mobile" doesn't solely describe the changing nature of the banks themselves. It also captures the essence of the modern consumer. Armed with powerful, personal computing platforms, digital consumers have a global reach. They're able to provide banks with instantaneous feedback that will go a long way in preventing future economic and institutional meltdowns.

Remember: One of the overarching issues that defined the global economic meltdown was the nature of the debt instruments that many of the large banks had both created and propagated. At first, collateralized debt obligations were new and useful financial innovations that banks utilized amidst their quests to improve their balance sheets. But down the line those debt instruments ended up in the hands of people and institutions that couldn't account for them. Their sheer numbers didn't help, either. They'd grown so popular that no bank had the wherewithal to cover the potential losses when the day of reckoning came due.

Former Sec. Paulson recently said of the global meltdown that regulators now have the tools to wind down large banks. And they can do so in an orderly way. The test of these new regulations, however smart they may appear on paper, might only come in times of crisis. Indeed, from a regulator's point of view, we may very well have moved from considering too-big-too-fail to too-big-to-bail scenarios.

Until that time, the Main Street consumer, armed with a new array of mobile banking tools, might just be the most powerful deterrent from a large-scale banking collapse happening again soon.

September 27, 2013

Developing the Right "Nano Tools" for Your Company

Posted by Paddy Rao (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:57 AM

Narayana Murthy on "Leadership" : Economic Times - The Power of Ideas [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTMN78iio0k&list=PL5A78EB670692772A]

Do you have what it takes to be an effective leader? More specifically, do you have what it takes to make a leader's checklist?

I ask because of new academic research on the importance of the actionable checklist in any organization. For instance, New York City's fire department, one of the largest in the world, has no less than 13 different checklists that its leaders must abide by in case of emergency - and the FDNY faces lots of emergencies. Their "Mayday" checklist includes things like ordering all unrelated two-way radio to stop and establishing a staging area for firefighters.

In the corporate world, Microsoft's sales managers use a pre-sales checklist that includes finding out who will be on the sales call, researching those people on an Internet search engine, and committing their sales pitch to memory. Another organizational checklist highlighted in a recent article I read included softer topics such as trying to see the world through clients' eyes and working with them to transcend conventional thinking.

I thought it might be helpful to review what thought leaders at the Wharton School of Business say are 15 indispensable things to think about when forming any leader's checklist. They remind us that a leader's checklist is only as good as the materials and engineering that go into it. What follows are their ideas plus some commentary of my own.

1. Articulate a Vision. Formulate a clear and persuasive vision and communicate it to all members of the enterprise. Are you remembering everyone when you convey your vision?

2. Think and Act Strategically. Set forth a pragmatic strategy for achieving that vision both short- and long-term, and ensure that it is widely understood. Consider all the players, and anticipate reactions and resistance before they are manifest. There's no substitute for planning ahead.

3. Honor the Room. Frequently express your confidence in and support for those who work with and for you. High morale is an important key to success, especially during long projects.

4. Take Charge. Embrace a bias for action, of taking responsibility even if it is not formally delegated, particularly if you are well positioned to make a difference. Your teammates will respond positively to your leadership actions

5. Act Decisively. Make good and timely decisions, and ensure that they are executed. Debate and theorizing only go so far; eventually you need to act.

6. Communicate Persuasively. Communicate in ways that people will not forget. Simplicity and clarity of expression help.

7. Motivate the Troops. Appreciate the distinctive intentions that people bring, and then build on those diverse motives to draw the best from each person. That means genuinely getting to know the people on your team.

8. Embrace the Front Lines. Delegate authority except for strategic decisions, and stay close to those most directly engaged with the work of the enterprise. Leadership begins by going to the front of the pack.

9. Build Leadership in Others. Develop leadership throughout the organization. Large projects are good opportunities to scope out new talent within an organization.

10.Manage Relations. Build enduring personal ties with those who look to you, and work to harness the feelings and passions of the workplace.

11.Identify Personal Implications. Help everybody appreciate the impact that the vision and strategy are likely to have on their own work and future with the firm. Each member of the team has a unique role to fulfill.

12.Convey Your Character. Through gesture, commentary, and accounts, ensure that others appreciate that you are a person of integrity.

13.Dampen Over-Optimism. Counter the hubris of success, focus attention on latent threats and unresolved problems, and protect against the tendency for managers to engage in unwarranted risk. A little bit of paranoia isn't such a bad thing in these situations.

14.Build a Diverse Top Team. Leaders need to take final responsibility, but leadership is also a team sport best played with an able roster of those collectively capable of resolving all the key challenges.

15.Place Common Interest First. In setting strategy, communicating vision, and reaching decisions, common purpose comes first, personal self-interest last. Often times this point can be the most challenging to live up to, especially if the leader has been in that role for a long time. Pretend it's your first time leading a team and the common purpose can become a lot clearer.

September 25, 2013

Is It Consumer Power That Takes a Quantum Leap?

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:43 AM

Complaining About Big Companies On Social Media By Advertisement [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i46jc2zd7h4]

Customer service representatives around the world: Your jobs just got a lot more interesting.

For those of you who haven't heard, a disgruntled man from Chicago might be the first consumer to shell out big money for a so-called "promoted tweet" - essentially a paid ad on Twitter - to gripe about a company. We've all come to appreciate the potency of social media on its own; his buying a $1,000 tweet that would be sent out to the company's 77,000 followers made his rant exponentially more powerful.

Syed Hasan's complaint was about how British Airways lost his dad's luggage during a trip to Europe and, so he claimed, was nonchalant about addressing his requests for help during the ordeal. In the old days, an unsatisfied customer could write a strongly worded latter to corporate headquarters and hope that someone within the vast corporate hierarchy would at least see the complaint. Sometimes a company, depending on its commitment to customer service, would mail the person a mea culpa in the form of a voucher or coupon in the hopes of retaining his business down the line.

But ours is not a society where we wait for a written apology to arrive in the mail several weeks on. We're all about instant gratification, and for this, a social media tool like Twitter serves us quite well. What interests me is the stratified class structure of social media citizens currently being formed. Access to a giant site like Facebook or Twitter is essentially free (although you have to pay for access to the Internet and have a device from which to input your information).

But online equality only goes so far. The real power, it now appears, rests with those digital consumers willing to pay for the privilege of widespread exposure - exposure they don't build organically but rather acquire instantly with the swipe of a credit card. They are the upper class of social media. (Not unlike flying First Class on a British Airways jetliner!)

Before we all proclaim a new level of power and influence given to the digital consumer, maybe we should pause and consider where the real power and influence rests in this new digital paradigm. According to marketing experts, a promoted tweet was originally intended by Twitter to be utilized by corporate advertisers who pay to reach a large swathe of the public. Paying for such a tweet allows the message to appear at the top of search results, among other perks.

Far from ushering in a new era of empowered consumers, what this arrangement does instead is to usher in a new era of empowered companies: those that control social media channels. I'll go one step further and argue that a non-Internet company, a venerable airline like British Airways, could in fact transform itself into a social media powerhouse by having strategies that anticipate widely read tweets from disgruntled customers. In other words, every company, no matter its sector or industry, must think like a social media company if it has even the slightest interaction with consumers. Social media must be part of its strategy, and a very proactive one at that.

Syed Hasan's initial tweet read: "Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous." Then he said he would continue tweeting until the company responded to his complaint and found his dad's lost luggage. What if British Airways had a system in place to deal with such an event? It should. It flies tens of thousands of people around the world each day and likely deals with its fair share of angry customers.

I predict that British Airways will have a more vigorous social media strategy in place after this week's events. Its marketers will find ways of nipping viral complaints in the bud so that it controls customer service situations - not the other way around. Hasan was so emboldened that when the company said he should contact them, he tweeted again, saying that they had his direct email. So they should be the ones reaching out to him. Well!

True, Hasan demonstrated consumer power. But that power derives itself from a digital strategy that anyone - or any company - can use with great aplomb. The fact that corporations have more financial resources that a single person suggests that they're soon to catch up and put an end to promoted tweets running wild.

September 23, 2013

Social Media Goes Mobile

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:51 AM

SOCIAL MEDIA 2013: STATISTICS AND TRENDS [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yxuljHX09I]

Like the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs, social media stands as one of the world's greatest unsolved mysteries. Why is it that a large swathe of the world's population owns a smart phone and frequently uses social media, but accessing social media via smart phones isn't the preferred method?

Sorry to throw a wrench in an otherwise neat and tidy explanation of how the digital world works, but consumers still prefer to sit in front of their desktops and laptops to engage in social media. Nobody questions the trend that smartphones and tablets are quickly displacing laptops and desktops as dominant computing platforms. Why social media remains tied mostly to the older platforms is anyone's guess.

My theory begins with social media sites calling to attention the small cracks in the armor of mobile platforms. First, a good part of social media involves images best viewed on larger screens. Second, social media is experiential. Participants enjoy spending significant amounts of time on popular sites like Facebook. It's an activity that lends itself to being stationary and comfortable. (That is, if not being mobile sounds comfortable to you.)

Social media companies are doing everything they can to address the two advantages that laptop/desktop computing has over mobiles. Most Web pages, for instance, are holdovers from a bygone era. Does any mobile version of a Web page look better than the desktop version? Of course not. But that's going to change. Web experts are predicting that the future of the Internet rests with "card" designs. If each page is designed to fit an index card instead of a long scroll, then the mobile platform will become more visually appealing. Just as we flip through playing cards, the idea is that users will shuffle the various pages of Web sites instead of having to use their index finger to scroll down long lists of text and images.

The way digital consumers utilize and view the Web says a lot about their changing tastes. Web cards replacing Web pages will make social media an ideal fit for mobile platforms. So will the growth of the emerging markets, fertile territory for all things digital. How Americans and Western Europeans utilize social media sites will matter proportionately less in the grand scheme of things as millions of new users in the emerging markets take to social media. Those users will bypass the desktop entirely in favor of their smartphones.

Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the company's former marketing director, recently said that consumers increasingly will use smartphones to do most everything. Plus, they'll be able to get any piece of content on anything on their mobile devices. When "anything and everything" includes starting your car or monitoring your children at home, it's clear that mobility will triumph over the stationary desktop experience. In America, for instance, consumers spend nearly a quarter of their time using their mobile phones for social media - even though mobile still trails desktop/laptop platforms. Facebook accounts for 18 of that 24 percent.

Another reason why mobility will soon become the perfect match for social media revolves around the automotive sector. Some people are already referring to cars as the next mobile device. Whether they're self-driving models or dashboards equipped with passenger-side computing platforms, cars of the near future will place even more demands on social media networks to transform themselves entirely into mobile-friendly entities.

Imagine someday if they drained Loch Ness to prove that the monster of lore definitively didn't exist. That's not unlike what's happening right now as consumers and companies alike solve the puzzle as to why mobile devices haven't yet conquered social media. What we're seeing are exciting market forces at work. These forces - the demands of the digital consumer - are revamping the fundamental way we view the Internet. Mobile devices will then be the platform of choice for participating in what until recently was, well, a decidedly sedentary activity.

September 20, 2013

Female Mathletes Are Finishing Strong

Posted by Aruna C. Newton (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:18 AM

Inspiring the next generation of female engineers: Debbie Sterling at TEDxPSU [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEeTLopLkEo]

Girls. And their education is a subject close to my heart. That's one of the reasons I also closely follow the activities of Infosys Foundation.

Part of the Infosys Foundation's mission is education. We've helped teach thousands of children across India. In the West we're active in a number of charitable efforts as well, not the least of which is sponsoring an entire class of students enrolled in the YWCA of Greater Atlanta's "Teen Girls in Technology" program (TGI Tech).

TGI Tech is an innovative program for girls in middle and high school that helps cultivate interest and competence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). By using real-world examples, critical thinking, and problem solving, the program helps girls to develop confidence in subjects long recognized as being geared toward boys.

When girls get a solid grounding in science and technology, they grow up with skills that are sure to pump life into any economy - Western or emerging. What's really inspiring are the alternate ways to encourage young girls to set out on this path. One of the most fascinating ways to create opportunities in science and technology is through play. Meet Debbie Sterling, the inventor of the GoldieBlox toy. Her creation is flying off the shelves at major retailers like Toys 'R' Us.

The way Sterling set out to create this wildly successful toy is a lesson in creative disruption. Sterling noticed a couple things about the engineering and technology world: Men dominate the field and bring more technical knowledge to the table. Plus, engineering can be a lot more creative than she'd originally thought. With that, she set about solving a problem - not to invent a toy. The issue for her was: Why did boys love building blocks like Legos but girls didn't have a similar toy to nudge them into the STEM fields at an early age? The reason, she deduced, was that girls enjoy placing problems - even mathematical ones - into the context of a narrative. (She was doing just that as she began to invent GoldieBlox.) Because the toy helps address the unique cognitive skills of girls, she felt she had something special to introduce to the market.

The toy focuses on a girl engineer and her friends who have a construction set at their disposal. Therein lies a story - whatever story a little girl wants to run with. And they've been running: As of last month, Sterling has sold 50,000 sets, ensuring a lot more girls will discover their talents for STEM subjects and won't be afraid to study them on undergraduate and graduate levels in the near future.

Well, seems like it's a great time to cheer - "Go girls, go!"

September 18, 2013

IT Goes From Support to Strategy

Posted by Ravi Kumar S. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:19 AM

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) - first steps for business [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXcQ0wXj4jM]

"The Untouchables" is the name of a group of law enforcement officials who took on powerful bootleggers in 1920s Chicago. But it could just as well be a name for a certain part of every company during the past two decades: Information Technology.

No matter your industry, sector, or position, you've most likely crossed paths with members of the IT department. Up until recently, their ranks were filled with people whose function it was to support everyone else in the company. The IT department has always held a rarefied place within every organization. We all have at least one recollection of when the earth seemed to stand still until someone from IT came to the rescue and the organization could get up and running again.

With that kind of power and specialized knowledge, IT departments naturally became their own version of the Untouchables. CFOs - and all finance people, for that matter - came to believe that this was the one area of the company where you didn't challenge the department head come budget time. IT got whatever it needed to keep the organization running smoothly.

Everything, however, comes to an end. In America, the Untouchables disbanded when the government repealed Prohibition. In the present day, global enterprises have largely stopped looking at IT as a support function. It no longer stands in its own silo, kept separate from all the cost centers within an organization. Now IT is as accountable as every other department when it comes to lowering costs and operating as efficiently as possible.

Part of that transformation is the consumerization of Information Technology. Instead of IT standing on its own, it is an integral part of every other corporate function. Then there's the Bring Your Own Device trend that is revolutionizing the workplace. Every employee within a company is rapidly becoming his own IT department. Your colleagues can access external IT solutions faster and more efficiently than what it would take to wait for the in-house IT help desk 10 years ago. This is good news to the millions (and counting) of people who telecommute.

Another reason is that people outside IT understand its function a lot better than they did when it was relatively new. Instead of supplying those who devise corporate strategy with support, IT (when wielded properly) becomes an indispensable part of the strategy itself. Don't think for one minute that I'm forgetting to mention the importance of the Cloud. IT no longer takes up the kind of real estate it did even a few years ago. One of the many propositions of the Cloud is that vast amounts of data storage take place outside the walls of an organization's headquarters.Enormous servers in air-conditioned rooms already seem a bit quaint, don't they? Whereas storage was one of the prime support functions of IT, public, private, and hybrid Clouds have, well, stolen IT's in-house thunder.

If the IT department has made such a startling transformation in just a couple decades, it's clearly destined to become even more ingrained in every aspect of tomorrow's enterprise. So before you call up the help desk, consider the fact that your IT colleagues are working on an array of new projects. Such projects might include your department supporting them. A fascinating transformation, indeed.

September 16, 2013

Energy Storage Key to Diversification of Supply

Posted by Ashiss K Dash (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:50 AM

Energy Storage for the Age of Renewables: Prof. Dr. Eduard R. Heindl at TEDxStuttgart [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF7mbEsEP04]

Remember the major development of the Basel II accords that followed the global economic crisis? Bank governors huddling in a Swiss boardroom came up with a stress test to gauge how much liquidity banks needed to buffer them from another meltdown. Many banks found the test results to be sobering. They worked on stashing away more cash for the proverbial rainy day.

Municipalities up and down America's eastern seaboard continue to face record-breaking temperatures each year - heat waves that strain a utility's ability to provide service. Wouldn't it be great, utilities said, if they had sufficient energy reserves to keep their customers powered up during future heat waves? Unlike the cash reserves of banks, however, storing vast amounts of electricity is easier said than done.

The major hurdle is cost. The technology to store vast amounts of electricity in a battery does indeed exist today. However, it's incredibly expensive to do so. There are huge opportunities for enterprises to develop large-scale power storage technologies that are scalable and efficient. In fact, everyone with whom I speak in the utilities and energy sectors tells me that we're within three years of seeing major breakthroughs in this space. The race is on.

One of the big drivers for battery storage is the reliability of energy supply from renewable resources. Because solar and wind power are intermittently produced, there needs to be a way of storing electricity reliably for short periods. Blackouts are more of an anomaly but batteries help to level out the daily peaks and troughs of supply. Battery storage is intended for short durations.

US Department of Energy estimates that the threshold for an entity to store large amount of electricity profitably is $100 per kilowatt-hour or less. By comparison, a conventional car battery provides electricity at $8.50 per kilowatt-hour. As it stands now, most "mega-battery" platforms cost well into hundreds of dollars per kilowatt-hour.

Global retailers like Wal-Mart have actually announced their intentions to generate their own power using micro-grids and become self-sufficient. We could be seeing the beginning of a mass movement in the democratization of energy management - in generation, retention and consumption. Private companies like Wal-Mart that sell sustainably produced power can be a good thing. But to make it a reliable source there needs to be a storage capability provided by batteries.

The lithium-sulfur battery is one of the most popular storage technologies for utilities investigating how best to enter the storage business. Scientists are currently tweaking the various models that will make this technology commercially viable. Part of the mindset is mass storage that mimics just-in-time inventory management. Imagine a factory that stores energy from solar panels during the first half of its day. Then, when the grid is experiencing peak demand during the second half of the day, the factory instead uses the electricity generated from earlier that morning.

I think some of the most exciting possibilities for power retention come from the emerging markets. What some people might say is a disadvantage - the absence of large-scale power grids in much of the emerging economies - is in many ways an advantage of sorts. The emerging markets are good laboratories for micro-grids but may not be the most appropriate testing grounds for batteries. Yet micro-grids in developing countries make fascinating case studies where photovoltaics and other cheaper alternatives are used to power small villages. I think of these areas as blank slates where suppliers(mostly governments) don't feel as encumbered by the past because they have fewer legacy assets to update and lower expectations to meet. The rapid growth of this trend in the emerging markets will give us ample lessons to learn.

September 13, 2013

Consumers Can Win When Banks Change Course

Posted by Rajashekara V. Maiya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:16 AM

Reuters Breakingviews: How to stop banks treating customers like meat [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeVchohzkeo]

Stripped down to its most basic elements, banking is a fairly straightforward business. A bank can make money on interest rate spreads or the fees it charges its customers. Beyond that, everything else is icing on the cake.

For the better part of a decade, financial services firms have expanded mainly thanks to the second way: increasing their existing fees and coming up with new ones. Credit the overall sluggish nature of the global economy for this phenomenon. When one business line becomes more challenging, it's common sense to ramp up your other source of income.

But now banks of all sizes are increasingly making money the other way - on interest rate spreads. As with everything else in a cyclical economy, I suppose it was only a matter of time this would happen. What I'm curious to see, however, is if some of the world's largest banks - including the ones that are touted as "too big to fail" in the West - will embrace the changing interest rate environment as an opportunity to connect with consumers.

Maybe it's a matter of re-connecting with the consumers they already have. You might come to the conclusion that it's better to focus on your organization's existing clientele before you embark on a mission to build up your consumer base. If you can't win over and retain the opens you already have, you'll be hard pressed to achieve substantial organic growth.

In fact, of the many interesting results of the recent Engaging Digital Consumers survey by Infosys, there's one that should make all banks sit up and take notice: Three-quarters of the survey's respondents said they would consider switching banks if another bank offered them greater assurance that their data would be safer with them than with their current institution. And 82 percent said they wanted their banks to mine for data to detect anomalies from identity thieves. Data protection is one of the best ways of retaining and building up a satisfied consumer base in today's changing bank environment. I also reckon that additional security could actually help take the sting away from the scramble for new fees.

A friend of mine said he was amazed at what happened to him when he recently received a wire transfer. His bank, which touts itself as customer-friendly, nevertheless charged him for receiving the money. He had been accustomed to paying a fee for making wire transfers. But in his opinion, charging him for nothing but receiving a wire transfer smacked of an overly aggressive fee structure. It was difficult to see how that particular bank lived up to its claim as being customer-focused when he saw that added charge on his monthly statement.

Some banks don't even appear to go through the motions of building consumer confidence. That can be a dangerous thing if their leaders allow that perception to linger for too long. Battered by years of an anaemic economy, devising new fees was the only way many banks could stay afloat. Don't get me wrong: It takes talented financiers to think up a lot of these fees. But now that those banks can make money without adding fees, maybe they can be just as innovative in devising ways to re-establish ties with consumers. It takes talented financiers to achieve that as well.

So what are the most effective ways a bank can reassert its commitment to the consumer? One way is to embrace new ways consumers prefer to do make transactions. The previously mentioned survey shows how many opportunities exist for banks in this evolving marketplace. We polled 5,000 people; nearly 65 percent of them said they wanted their banks to communicate their account information over their smartphones. Half of respondents expressed their desire for banks to send them updates using social media and email.

When asked to comment on the results of the survey, one of our company's experts recommended using an Internet strategy specially tailored to the financial services sector in order to draw in mobile users. No bland, one-size-fits-all plans allowed! A rising interest rate environment, the first in decades, presents an opportunity that banks should seize to establish smart, customer-focused strategies. With less emphasis on fees, they're well positioned to transform themselves into the sort of digitally savvy institutions for which their customers have been clamoring.

September 11, 2013

Investing, Now vs. Then

Posted by Puneet Gupta (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:05 AM

Winning the $30 trillion decathlon: Throwing accurately [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_ZhdTk7eBA]

An American venture capitalist with two decades worth of experience investing in India recently wrote that for the "start-up ecosystem" to flourish in South Asia, you need six key ingredients:

• Entrepreneurs
• Risk capital
• Inexpensive technology & communication infrastructure
• A talent pool
• Large markets and 
• Purposeful government policy

Fair enough, I thought. The list is not unlike what made up the culture of Silicon Valley in the mid- to late-1990s. One element - a talent pool - is especially strong in India because of the young engineers returning home from top-notch universities in America and Western Europe. Plus, they've gotten first-hand exposure to companies such as Google, Facebook, Oracle, and HP both in the West and in India.

Also true, the so-called raw ingredients required for a start-up culture are stronger in an emerging market such as India. In the mid-1990s, Silicon Valley had a lock on the Internet boom. Now, emerging markets like India are taking up the mantle of technology innovation. Today, technology skills are easier to acquire and more dispersed throughout the world's markets.

The globalization of technology has its advantages and drawbacks. To a VC firm looking for potential winners, there's a lot more from which to choose. But investors need to scrutinize the quality of their tech investments to a greater extent than when they plunked down money on anything with a "dot-com" after its name.

In fact, just 20 years ago, more than half of initial public offerings in America were successful. (We define success as when a stock is trading at or above its IPO price 30 days after the offering.) Today just 25 percent of IPOs are successful. Granted, these numbers aren't restricted to just tech companies, but you get the picture. As knowledge becomes dispersed, it's harder to pinpoint winning companies. Add to this scenario the fact that classic marketing problems like crowding still exist.

Yet, Western investors remain cautious when it comes to the emerging markets. Despite the fact that many of them have the elements of a successful start-up ecosystem, investors know that emerging economies and their start-ups often possess their share of volatile characteristics. In fact, the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association (EMPEA) reports that fund-raising in the developing world as of June is half of what it was last year.

When Western economies bounce back, even by a bit, and are inversely correlated to the emerging markets (as they are today), then you'll inevitably see a slowdown in places that nevertheless have the raw ingredients for start-up success. The EMPEA refers to this phenomenon as a movement toward "capital deployment." It's another way of saying that investors generally expect mature markets to show more immediate results.

We know that investing in a company or technology that shows promise also contains an element of chance. So, perhaps, its but inevitable that those markets where an entrepreneurial culture can flourish often provide the most reliable backdrops on which to take a gamble.

September 10, 2013

Business Collaborations That Are The Kat's Meow

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:10 AM

Android KITKAT 4.4 -- The future of confectionery [Source:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKOrkLxOBoY]

Arsenal, one of the world's best soccer teams, outfits its players with shirts that boldly urge us to "Fly Emirates." Some of the leading drivers in America's biggest sport, stock car racing, are emblazoned with the logos of brands seemingly unrelated to super-fast automobiles such as chewing gum and laundry detergents. Indeed, sports teams have long had a symbiotic relationship with companies in entirely unrelated sectors when it comes to getting their messages out.

Perhaps the most noteworthy of all marketing collaborations is the recent KitKat candy bar by Nestlé that comes wrapped and ready to eat in the shape of an Android. This cross-marketing effort is the result of Google wanting to make a splash during its 15th anniversary year. Although consumers are eating up the campaign, Google claims very little money changed hands between it and the Swiss food giant. The collaboration was more about making a statement and having fun, they said. It was about the unexpected.

The digital consumer is a demanding sort. We at Infosys know this fully well in the wake of our ground-breaking study this past summer in which we polled 5,000 digitally active consumers across five Western countries. Consumers of all ages told us that they're willing to provide information about themselves to companies if they think that those companies are doing more than just gathering data; people want something in return. Maybe it's a deal on consumer packaged goods or a special mortgage rate at a bank. Whatever the promotion, a company must demonstrate that information gathering is a two-way street.

That's why I'm fascinated by Google's decision to name the 4.4 version of Android after a tasty wafer and chocolate confection. In the past, Google had named its Android versions after generic sweets like Donut, Éclair, and Gingerbread. Instead of Key Lime Pie, the choice many people thought the company would use for "k," Google instead went with the name of a trademarked product. Nestlé is reportedly thrilled with the choice: It's shipping more than 50 million Android-shaped KitKats to 18 markets including India, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

At first, my reaction to the collaboration was that it is not unlike Arsenal's multimillion-dollar deal with Emirates Airline, or NASCAR's deal with Wrigley's chewing gum. That is to say, the consumer product companies paid big money for the privilege of having their brands seen by millions of sports fans on a continual basis.

But that's not what the Nestlé-Google collaboration is about. Rather, it's a savvy win-win between two entities that are both courting similar consumers - whether those consumers know it or not. The Twitter-sphere and other social media outlets are already on fire when it comes to chatter about the special-edition candy bar. The excitement to run out and purchase a bunch of chocolate comes from up scale, digital consumers who will no doubt feel a special attachment to the Nestlé product line long after this clever promotion ends. They'll be hard pressed to forget the light-hearted references to bites vs. bytes, and, in a subtle dig at rival Apple, which enjoys asking if you have an app for that, the company asks the question: "Got a KitKat for that?"

True, the collaboration has all the trappings of something unexpected and off-the-cuff. But don't believe for a moment that Google - and Nestlé, for that matter - is trolling social media for mass sentiments in an effort to gauge what consumers like and don't like about their latest Android offering. In a hyper competitive market that is the world of rival operating systems, no promotion goes unplanned or is spur-of-the-moment.

What's so good about this seemingly innocent and friendly collaboration is how it sets a new standard for data collection and consumer sentiment analysis. In describing KitKat as a compatible, useful piece of confectionery engineering, two consumer-oriented companies are not only poking fun at the nature of past marketing campaigns. They're demonstrating to the public how savvy they are in gathering information about their customers in ways they never thought possible.

September 6, 2013

Helping Clients See Around Corners

Posted by Soundararajan S (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:33 AM

It is difficult for someone born in the 90s to imagine a world without the Internet, smart phones, ebooks and global supply chains. The level of technological change seen in the last 20 years is unparalleled in human history barring, possibly, the industrial revolution. We live in a brave new world where there are more transistors produced every year than the number of rice grains consumed. Information travels fast and is always a mouse-click away while sheer processing capabilities have improved more than a thousand fold... remember the shiny new 1990s laptops with their 50MHz processors?

The last two decades have also witnessed fundamental changes in business models, the market environment and shareholder expectations. The ability to identify and react to market trends is key for organizations to succeed and thrive. Continuous innovation is not a choice, it is about survival. That's why it is important for technology providers to prepare to perform as key partners collaborating with clients in future-proofing their businesses. Helping them transform their business models, make it more efficient and also create new revenue opportunities through collaboration and co-creation.

While it's important to strengthen innovation rigor in defining "research spaces" and investing in building Intellectual Property that can be leveraged to accelerate innovation for clients, it is also about the ability to be bold in painting a picture of what one's view of the future is and collaborating with clients when responding effectively to that picture. In the 80s movie, 'Back to the Future II', a central character uses a sports almanac from the future to build an empire from gambling wins. But, until someone invents that time machine, it's up to each of us to look out for clients .... to guide them and arm them with what it takes to respond to what's around the corner.

Because the very best friend that tomorrow's enterprise can have is the right technology and business partner - today.

September 4, 2013

Putting a Price On Information

Posted by Simon Towers (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:52 AM

Google Nexus 7 tutorial: customizing My Library [Source:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcaHQsrpDVQ]

A while ago, when the popular search engine Google crashed for five minutes, the press reported that the inability of people around the world to search for celebrity gossip and misbehaving professional athletes caused a "short-lived worldwide freak-out."

This is the same Google, of course, that has proposed building a modern-day digital library that would be the repository of all the world's information.

The way we think about what exactly is information and what's worth saving says a lot about us as well. In America, a number of federal agencies are filing proposals as to how the public should be able to access the fruits of research conducted by the government. These proposals focus on academic research of a scientific nature. A lot of what gets discovered and innovated in university laboratories comes in part from public grants. The idea is that if taxpayers are footing the bill for scientific works, then any of those taxpayers should ultimately be able to access the results. Whether a significant section of the population actually comprehends the information presented in a typical scientific research paper is not the question; it's the existence and open access to such information in a public forum that is at stake. What also needs to be addressed is who can get access to what. Presumably a biologist who would like to access breaking research at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta might be required, via his university or corporate laboratory, to pay a nominal amount for this to become a viable economic model. However, as a citizen, if he sought to access the same information from his residence, he must be able to - albeit in lesser detail - without having to pay for it.

When I speak of being a part of the Information Age, I assume everyone takes my definition to mean digital data. That is to say, the vast amount of research and other data generated from institutions both public and private. Now, who pays to store it?

I think, it's healthy to debate whether everyone should have to pay at least a small amount. True, the notion of paying anything to store and to access data might offend our modern sensibilities, especially when we can, for no charge, look up streaming video of William and Kate leaving the hospital with their new baby and play that video over and over again. But the sheer infrastructure costs of data storage and retrieval in the digital age are immense.

Contrast today's efforts with what municipalities did at the turn of the last century: creating public libraries. From the beginning of time until the late 19th century, a massive collection of books was the sign of a wealth and prestige. Most of the information found within those books never circulated beyond the walls of the grand houses in which they were stored. In the 19th century, that cities took it upon themselves to create vast, free lending libraries for the masses says a lot about how the people of that era valued the storage and sharing of information.

That recent, five-minute "panic" caused by Google's interruption points to the growing chasm between the information we value and the data we take for granted. "Google's down - everybody panic!" read one person's comment in the Twitter-verse. And then there's my personal favorite, from an office worker who learned that he couldn't access the popular search engine: "Can we go home, then?"

September 2, 2013

Not what you can, but what you want

Posted by Suman Sasmal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:58 AM

The Most Innovative Company of the Future [Source:salesforce http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-JtJIZJlAI]

As a seasoned technology professional, you've been part of its dramatic evolution. You've also witnessed the changes in IT outsourcing paradigm - from "your mess for less" to business value creation to business transformation. Accordingly, you probably started out outsourcing a monolith of IT operations, until you discovered a better, modular way. Over the years, you have disaggregated your organization's portfolio, sliced it perhaps along a three dimensional grid, with Business Processes, Applications and Infrastructure forming the first axis, Execution Processes the second, and Functions or Lines of Business the third. This has enabled you to hand out logical, manageable parts of your business to the right partner, picked out from a global landscape of service providers. The result - services sourced in modules, which are optimized for efficiency, innovation and flexibility. In other words, you have not just cut cost through outsourcing, but more importantly, you have also served holistic enterprise goals.

But even so, do you find yourself wondering if the services you're outsourcing are the right ones? Are they clubbed and structured the right way?

Well, now the IT outsourcing paradigm is becoming more rounded in a way that closes these service gaps. I'll explain that with an example. Say a retailing company has hired a vendor to build a queue management application for its stores. It has also asked its regular infrastructure management services vendor to test the application. And that's where the responsibility of these vendors ends. From there on, everything else, which is required to deploy the application, such as validating the infrastructure which will run the application, is the company's responsibility, one that will cost it valuable time, effort and in-house IT resources.

Given this, we're seeing the emergence of a select band of outsourcing companies that assume total responsibility for core infrastructure services, as well as services at the seams - be it validation or testing or risk diagnostics or disaster preparedness evaluation. Because, the focus is clearly on realizing business value from use of the App without much ado about the underlying infrastructure. Therefore the approach is a lot more holistic and integrated today. What's more, it is possible to avail the option of buying these using the "as a service" model.

Which means not only can you source services you never could before, you can do so faster, cheaper, and with no fuss.

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