Friday, December 6, 2013

Reimagining India

Reimagining India

McKinsey is come out with a book Reimagining India - a great collection of essays, that explore the subject of unlocking the potential.

In a series of interviews it has published - the one with Eric Schmidt is worth listening to....

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chobani: A Startup Story

Bloomberg Businessweek recently carried an article on the founder of Chobani: Hamdi Ulukaya, it is tale that every entrepreneur should read, it has all the ingredients in the roller coaster ride of a startup, here are a few that I found interesting:

1. Do what you love, love what you do
This is a clear case where the founder is very fond of the product he makes, and has grown up eating it. And he has first hand experience in making it.
Ulukaya grew up milking sheep at his family’s dairy in eastern Turkey. He ate the thick, tangy yogurt of his homeland day and night. “My mother used to make the most amazing yogurt,” he says. He and his five brothers fought over who would get the scrim of cream on the surface.
2. Give your customers quality product as never before
High quality gels very well with today's discerning consumers - 'no preservatives'.
The yogurt that most Americans ate for decades was a travesty, in his view: too thin, too sweet, too fake. “So horrible,” he says in his Turkish accent, his eyes bright against a lean face. “Terrible.” As he sees it, we were all snookered by big food companies that cared little for our taste buds or health. Greek yogurt’s high protein content makes it more filling, and it contains little or no fat. His doesn’t have preservatives, either. “There is no reason for us to put preservatives in the food,” Ulukaya says. “I would say to the big guys, ‘Watch out. You’d better change your ways. The consumer knows now, and the consumer will punish you if you don’t do the right thing.’ ”
3. Leverage the latest trends [in this case the rise of "protein" and the health consciousness]
Paleo diet is in, benefits of protein are on the rise. [formatting with bold is mine, not in the original article]
As the founder and chief executive of Chobani, the brand of Greek yogurt that has stormed the stainless steel refrigerators of coconut water drinkers and ancient grain eaters, he has some standing in the matter, although he’s actually Turkish.
4. Find a gap, trust your instinct, exploit an untapped opportunity
Hamdi realized that an opportunity existed in the yogurt market, and he jumped in.
After a visit from his father, who complained about American feta cheese, Ulukaya started a company in Johnstown to make feta for restaurants and food distributors. He named it Euphrates and still owns it.
5. As a founder, entrepreneur - be ready to roll up your sleeves
Be willing to do what it takes to get your dream into a reality - painting walls is part of the game.
His first employees were four ex-Kraft workers and Mustafa Dogan, a yogurt maker in Turkey Ulukaya knew by reputation. The first thing they did was paint the walls.
6. Hire & expand at the right time
Hamdi took a couple of years before he hired a sales guy... and hire the right people. Attitude is as important as aptitude and experience - in Kyle he had both qualities.
In 2006, Chobani hired its first salesman: Kyle O’Brien, then 33, a veteran of packaged food startups. He and Ulukaya set a goal of selling 20,000 cases of Chobani a week, which they thought would make the company profitable. “If we couldn’t get to it in 36 months, we said we’d hug it out and go our separate ways,” O’Brien says. “He said, ‘We will change the yogurt category forever.’ I loved that.”
7. Pay importance to the details
Would you obsess? Hamdi knew what was important and clearly spent invested in the design of the packaging.

Chobani couldn’t afford to advertise, so the packaging became almost as important as the yogurt itself. “If you’re going to be buried in the lower left corner of the shelves, it had to pop,” says Joshua Margolis, co-author of a new Harvard Business School study on Chobani. Garbage bags full of sample cups piled up in Ulukaya’s office. He decided he wanted a European-style cup with a circular opening 95 millimeters across. It made for a squatter, fatter tub that looked bigger than others. The packaging manufacturers Ulukaya contacted in the U.S. wanted $250,000 just to create a mold. He found a Colombian supplier that was able to make his cups at a much lower price, but wound up spending $250,000 anyway—half his working capital—on cup design. Instead of painted-on labels, Ulukaya wanted shrunken-on sleeves offering sharper colors. “People say, ‘It’s yogurt, who cares?’ But there’s emotion to it,” he says. “You can make this a moment: the opening of it, the eating of it, the experience. I spent so much time on every single detail …”
Ulukaya still obsesses over the cups. In his office, he plucks a Chobani plain out of a mini fridge and traces a fingertip along a green stripe below the lip. “It has to be the same all the way around, flush with the top,” he says. “I get really pissed off when the label is not put on right.” He peels the foil cover back. A smear of yogurt is stuck to the inner lining. “I see this yogurt on the lid, I go nuts. It shouldn’t be like that.” He tosses the uneaten cup into a garbage can.
8. Luck & Destiny, a little bit of Blue Ocean
As the article suggests not many companies who take on established incumbents, the 800-pound gorillas and emerge victorious:
It’s rare that an upstart can bust into a business as entrenched as packaged food, command a premium, then withstand the counterattacks of large, established players. Boston Beer (SAM), maker of Samuel Adams, has pulled it off. Whole Foods Market (WFM) did the same in supermarkets. Industry analysts expect rivals to squeeze Chobani by discounting prices, though Lu Ann Williams, research manager at Innova Market Insights, doubts that will work. Chobani has “delivered against consumer expectations,” she says. “I don’t think a Chobani consumer would trade easily.” Harvard’s Margolis says eating Chobani, like shopping at Whole Foods, isn’t about any one thing but many—from the label to the cup to the stuff inside. Ulukaya, he says, “thought through the buying experience.”
9. Persistence
Hamdi and Dogan (Chobani's Yogurt Master)  sweated to get the product right, persistence, patience and long nights were normal.
For months, he and Dogan experimented. They wanted yogurt that would retain its good taste and texture for at least six weeks and tested hundreds of recipes using different bacterial cultures with milk at varying durations and temperatures. Ulukaya often spent the night in his South Edmeston office; lunch most days was a slice of cheese pizza and salad at a nearby pizzeria. To bring in a little revenue, he made conventional yogurt for private-label brands. After about 18 months of trial and error—and a great many batches of crappy yogurt—Ulukaya and Dogan hit on the right recipe.
It is an inspiring tale, and a must read!

Monday, January 28, 2013

India's Second Class Citizens

The rape case has been in the news many weeks before this article by Business Week was printed. This is disheartening to read. And I wish, desire, hope that India the Nation and its citizens work hard (both in the country and abroad) to evolve the culture. Two sentences stand out:

India needs to modernize its police and its judiciary. There are barely 11 judges for every million people. In New Delhi the police are so mistrusted by women that traffic cops are barred from stopping single female drivers past 11 p.m. unless a female police officer is present. Yet there’s a shortage of policewomen.
The case has led to national introspection. “India thinks it can be a superpower and a developed country, but we have these problems rotting out the core,” says Sunita Thakur, a counselor with Jagori, a nonprofit that promotes women’s empowerment. “How can we change? These values have been deeply ingrained over thousands of years.”

The national introspection needs to gain strength, and then go beyond thinking into real action and change.

Business Week: India's Educated Women Face a Conservative Backlash

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rishikesh: A place to find enlightment

Last week I picked up the Nat Geo Traveller, October 2012 issue specially for reading the article: "Here Comes the Sun". But it wasn't the title of the article - but the tag line on the cover - "A Yoga Skeptic in India". I am a bit into Yoga - actually the meditation kind - Pranayama. So I was intrigued and picked up the issue.

The article was fantastic - very well written and insightful. A Must Read! A few quotes from the well-written article:

Reading the line below had me break into a smile  - "spirituality mall". It is unfortunate that even though I have lived in New Delhi for the first half of my life - I have never visited Rishikesh. Ok I may have been there when I was very young but no memories from the trip.
Rishikesh is a shopping mall for spirituality straddling the Ganges northeast of New Delhi.
Yep Yoga is not about breaking a sweat. And a teacher is a must, IMHO. Yoga is a way of life, and it is most certainly not about difficult and challenging poses.
There are no New Age tunes pumping through hidden speakers, no distracting yoga outfits, no blinding heat, no incense, and no attitude. Just students and a teacher.
On driving on the wrong side of the road?
STAY LEFT, STAY LEFT quickly becomes my mantra as I wind past candy-striped buses and overstuffed rickshaws belching black clouds. Left-side driving is easy to adapt to—until you forget.
And Peter sums it up well:
I ask Jagdish if he does yoga.
“Yes, every day. Work is my yoga. My job keeps my body flowing.”
Yet Madhav, I realize, is the walking example of that knowing soul I aspired to be. Nothing, no matter the urgency or size, derails him. He doesn’t live in a cave, nor did he guide me through a single pretzel contortion. Yet he taught me, almost daily, not necessarily how to walk the “yogi path” but how to understand it better and, most important, to realize that my mind needs as much stretching as my annoying back.

Here is the original: Here Comes the Sun by Peter McBride

Indians sailed to Australia four millennia ago

Indians may have sailed to Australia about 4000 years before Captain Arthur Philip discovered it in 1788. The evidence is genetics-based - specifically what are known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs.

Dr. Irina Pugach of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, and her colleagues, discovered that there is a pattern of SNPs that is not found in people from New Guinea or the Philippines. But it is found in some Indians—particularly in Dravidian speakers from the southern part of the subcontinent. Combining the SNP data with the Y-Chromosome data they calculated that the Indians arrived in Australia about 141 generations ago - roughly around 2217BC!

Two surprising things about this - it implies that these sailors had access to seaworthy ships, not just boats. And secondly an interesting conflict - Dravidians herald from the southern part of the Indian sub-continent and the civilization that was well known during this time is the Indus Valley but it is was in the north west part of the subcontinent.

The research also indicates that this arrival of Indians resulted in three shifts in the Australian life:

Tools: Aboriginal culture, which had hitherto depended on the large and relatively crude stone tools of the palaeolithic, suddenly started using the smaller and finer ones of the neolithic.

Gastronomic: Removal of toxins from Cycad nuts - Cycad nuts are still familiar food in Kerala, India/

Dingo: This may explain the arrival of Dingo to Australia - they have resemblance to certain breeds found in India.

Source: The Economist, An Antipodean Raj