Monday, November 28, 2016

Try Staycation This Season

Considering travelling to a cold place, an icy mountain, a tropical resort, an island in the middle of nowhere for a holiday? This season, try STAYCATION. What’s that you ask? Read on and find out.  
Staycation also referred to as Holistay is a portmanteau of "stay" and "holiday". Simply stated, it is a time when a family or an individual stays at home sleeping in their own homes, but do indulge in leisure activities within driving distance. So is this a new trend; no not exactly, staycation had become popular during the recession times when families were forced to forego their holidays because of the economic crisis. It became popular during 2007 – 2010 during the financial crisis and in the UK in 2009 as a weak pound made overseas holidays significantly more expensive. The trend is catching up again similarly like another new trend that now is catching up is going back to the roots, where hotels are not actually selling luxury to lure the guests; it’s the rustic charm, which is attracting guests.
What has led to a marginal rise in this segment? So, when an individual or family actually goes for a vacation, there is a lot of planning that is cumbersome to many and also there are issues like unpredictable exchange rates, visa regulations and political instability that contribute to reluctance in travelling abroad. A personal observation is also that for many the reason for taking a break is …RELAXATION. But, how many of us do actually achieve this. In some cases we are busier than our normal working days. This however doesn’t lessen their itchy feet, and has led to an increase in “staycations” – which are vacations nearer to home. It is also a great way of exploring domestic tourism.
There is a misconstruction among many that travel is only valuable if you travel to other countries to see new cultures and foreign lands, but this is not true domestic travel can be just as much of a special experience as international travel. Domestic travel can be an enlightening and rejuvenating experience for those who cannot afford overseas travel.

So, what can one do to maximize a Staycation:
·         Visit a local museums
·         Arrange for a beach/pool party
·         Go biking
·         Catch up on a movie
·         See a play
·         Go shopping: women would love this while men would detest
·         Catch up on sleep, hammock sound really relaxing
·         Read a book
·         Explore on a leisure activity
·         Go to an adventure park
·         Take a mini cruise
·         Participate in environment conservation activites
·         Read a book
·         Indulge in wellness( Spa, Tai-Chi)

The trick is to deviate from daily routines and truly make it a vacation. Do things that you would do during a vacation, don’t do the regular household chores. Remember that though you are at home…but you are on a vacation. 

Ms. Bindu Menon,
Sr. Faulty, INLEAD

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Global Citizen Festival: They came, they sang and they conquered!

When Coldplay’s lead singer, Chris Martin sang, “I call it Magic, when I’m with you”, the crowd of 80,000 broke into rapturing applause. Were they feeling the ‘magic’? Oh yes they were! That was what the Global Citizen Festival in Mumbai was about. Absolute magic!

What is the Global Citizen Festival?

It’s an annual music festival established in 2012 and has been organizing music concerts in New York, USA. Mumbai happened to be one other such lucky destination for the first time in 2016. There is however a philanthropic motive behind this unique music festival, whose curator is Chris Martin himself. It is actually organized by Global poverty Project, which aims to eradicate poverty by 2030.

In 2016, the focus has been on raising funds for rehabilitation of refugees across the world. The other causes include funding of education, water and sanitation. This year since the campaigning and propaganda commenced for Global Citizen Festival, a total of 1.3 million actions have been conducted form advertising to digital marketing, to YouTube videos (by even Michelle Obama) to raise awareness about the Festival. This resulted in announcements to the tune of $1.9 billion that should benefit 199 million people worldwide. (

Celebration called Global Citizen Festival

In New York when the festival was organized on the 24th of September, 2016, about 60,000 people attended it.  The celestial presence of renowned Hollywood artists, rock stars and politicians helped keep the crowd galvanized enough to feel joyful about their contributions. There were electric performances by Demi Lovato, Rihanna, Coldplay, Major Lazer, Elle Goulding, Usher, Metallica and Kendrick Lamar. These performances were interspersed by Priyanka Chopra coming on stage and announcing her support for festival partner, Google’s campaign “Made with Code”, which encourages girls to study computer programming, and by Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Leader, USA who came on stage to promote the importance of voting, as US elections then were round the corner.

In Mumbai, on the 19th of November, 2016, the festival marked India’s presence on global citizen map, with a phenomenal turnout of little more than 80,000 people. The show marked the daylong event with performances by Farhan Akhtar, AR Rehman, Amitabh Bachchan, Sonakshi Sinha interspersed by appearances made by Shah Rukh Khan and East India Comedy who were talking about issues like open defacation. The highlight of the evening other than Coldplay’s performance was the video speech made by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who even quoted Nobel laureate, Bob Dylan. The best part about Global citizen Festival is that it’s streamed live, so you can enjoy while cuddled in front of your TV screens.

Celebrations that are cause related are the norm these days, and when the mission is eradication of one the biggest problems on this planet, that being poverty, then people shelling out Rs. 15,000 for a ticket, it all seems worth it!

Ms. Monica Mor
Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Monday, November 21, 2016


It is highly disheartening and disturbing to watch a news flash about a human who can sensibly think and act, however, defies not to do so, thus wilfully causing pain and suffering to those who can’t speak our language or think like us. Right now sitting in front of the idiot box, news of three people who mercilessly took charge to beat up a 4 year old stray dog came into light. They became so desensitized that they picked up a sharp edged weapon to pierce her eyes making her permanently blind, Was this type of inhuman treatment even required? Remembering the lines of Mahatma Gandhi “The greatness of a nation is judged by the way it treats its animals”, made my head stoop low in shame.

Over 24,000 cases of animal cruelty were filed in last three years by those who can’t stand like a mannequin while some are those who see, feel sorry for the animal but do not react over the issue which makes them equally accountable for the act of cruelty which is happening around them. People are sometimes unaware of the system of laws and regulations which are made for animals, but the truth to be told - the law made for conserving flora and fauna in India dates back to the 3rd century B.C. when King Ashoka banned killing and hunting of animals in his kingdom. For now the main laws/acts that prevail over this heinous crime are: The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 which includes punishment of imprisonment and fine also. 

The Constitution of India declares the fundamental duties for every citizen to be compassionate towards all living creature. As an individual we should not only rely on NGO’s and other welfare organizations. One can monitor their areas and can also help in sterilizing process of stray dogs so they do not further increase their population. Stray dogs are scavengers so they rely on garbage which we human dump in our locality, sometimes it is harmful for them so one can feed them on their own, Adopting any stray dog might be a great idea else the least we can do to protect them is calling or transporting them to vets or animal welfare organizations when we hear or see animal abuse as many of the organization does not charge any fee for their service.  

We must understand that our origin was also from animals. Is it "HUMANS ABUSING ANIMALS OR ANIMALS ABUSING ANIMALS?” 

INLEADers @Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon

Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon is a 400 bedded multi-specialty hospital. The world-renowned hospital has around 55 specialty departments with a world class customer service to cater to many HNIs and foreign patients. INLEAD recently facilitated an Industry Visit to the hospital in order to provide its Jan’16 Batch Healthcare Administration students a deeper understanding about the working of a hospital and its various departments.

The visit gave a practical exposure to students, especially to those who haven’t worked in a hospital earlier. They were shown around all the different facilities in the hosoital like OPD, IPD, Emergency, Nuclear Medicine, Radiology, etc. The students also got an insight into the clock work activities that are performed to ensure smooth functioning of all facilities such that customers are not inconvenienced for even a small issue.

Post the campus tour, students were taken to the hospital auditorium where they had an interaction with the Medical Quality Head, HR Head and Talent and Development Head. Students got an insight into all these three major functions and were made aware about how opportunities are generated at Fortis. This will surely serve as a boon to students in the near future.

Monday, November 14, 2016

How some of our Currency become piece of paper overnight

The demonetization of INR 500 and INR 1000 Indian Currency Note has come as a surprise to everybody. Whatever change is going to happen, but, this is the first time in my life when I have sensed that a person who is living on his liabilities, honesty and morality is feeling safe in this country. “Honesty is the best policy”, the saying, in fact, is now making much sense for the Indians. But, this isn’t the only change, which made Narendra Modi’s mind to take such a huge step, there were a lot of factors that bound him to do this. So what was that? Why this decision came into effect so sudden? Is it for unaccounted money? If yes, then what kind of effect will be seen, if that black money will become white or get captured by the country’s central body institutions. So many questions are raised.
Despite possessing legal earnings, Indians (Mostly in rural areas) accumulate their makings either at their home or lend them to the nearby surroundings. Even in the 21st century, when the banking network has spread more or less in every small area, money lending, the oldest form of business, is still effective in many areas.
With these changes, people who have a lot of legally earned cash in their pocket or at home, will have to deposit it in the bank before the date proclaimed by the government (30-Dec-2016). As it is legally earned money, it will surely be deposited in the banks (with id proof) and this will let the banks house surplus amount.
Now, talking about black money basically found in large digits i.e. crore or more than it undoubtedly carry INR 500 and INR 1000 currency notes, acquired through unrecognized or illegal ways, has no option other than to be destroyed or to be deposited. But, for considering the second option, they have to disclose it as legal income and have to pay heavy tax on it. So, how they’ll make it possible with these legal boundaries.No matter, if they found a way to make their income legal or they just get frightened, they have to pull out all the money that is not under the account of Indian government. Later on, it will help to minimise the total currency circulation in the Indian economy. As the currency circulation will be reduced, the inflation rate will also become negative, it is known as deflation. Although, deflation leads to unemployment problem, it increases the internal value of money as well.

So, the bottom line is: The demonetization of INR 500 and INR 1000 currency notes is such a positive move for the Indian economy as well a good lesson to those who are playing with Indian taxation policy. 
Priyanka Sinha
Student, INLEAD

Black is Out & White is In

It don’t matter if you are black or white…” sang Michael Jackson in his eponymous song Black or White. India’s chant is diametrically opposite “It matters if its Black or White!”, and no it’s not a racist statement, it’s all about the money that many have realized has ceased to be legal tender since India’s 9/11 (9th of November).

At the stroke of midnight, 8th November 2016, the Prime Minister demonetised all Rs.500 and Rs.1000 currency notes, rendering them worthless paper. However to not irk the common man they have been provided with time to convert their currencies into Rs.100s or maybe the new Rs.500s or Rs.2000s.

The idea behind this Master stroke

Master stroke, that’s what it is! The idea behind all of this is to curb the black economy that has taken gargantuan proportions in India. A parallel black economy was the reason behind very few people filing tax returns in India. With a population of 121 odd crores, only about 3.9 crores file their IT returns. (Economic Times, dated 10.11.2016) Those are the ones the Government is targeting & those are the ones who will be adversely affected.

Money being deposited in different bank accounts will be monitored, and any large sum deposited would come under Income Tax net. There is no immunity scheme in place. There may be a spurt in foreign currency purchases, gold purchases; and the respective rates have risen due to speculative effect. People may turn religious and deposit their black money, of no use to them since they can’t declare it, in Dan Patras.

Drawbacks to this idea

There may be mushrooming of middlemen across India who for a 10% – 30% commission may offer to convert high denomination notes to smaller ones. The temples if benevolent enough, can convert the offered black money into smaller denominations. Money for temples is tax free, and they can go ahead and get their newly received cash donations converted in banks.

Micro Finance Institutions that deal largely in currencies while lending to or retrieving loans from farmers. They may have to hold off their work for a few days. The biggest setback was 1500 points fall in Sensex on the 9th of November. By 10th it had gone up by around 250 odd points.

Purchase of consumer goods & automobiles and fine dining will see a drop in the coming few days. Online shopping will see a decline, where Cash on Delivery is the most preferred mode of payment. But all of this will be short term, in the long run consumers and companies will get used to the new systems and mechanisms put in place by RBI.

What happens to the demonetized 500s & 1000s?

Well, if you have black money and cannot declare it or get it deposited in your bank account, you have to destroy them (don’t burn them, there’s enough pollution in the air already)! So what will RBI do with all the old notes?

They have to handle the truckloads of demonetized currency notes rather delicately. All money will be shredded minutely such that they cannot be reconstructed. They will then be passed through a humidifier to be converted into briquettes, which are then given to contractors who mostly use them for land filling. They may even use some briquettes for sale as souvenirs, or for artistic or commercial purposes, as is done by Federal Reserve in United States of America.

That’s the story of how Black has become White in India, and we will along with westerners be celebrating “Thanksgiving to our Govt”.

Monica Mor
Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Does Fox get the Apple in India?

Will Apple make iPhones in India? That's one question in the minds of many Indians whilst Apple Inc.’s CEO - Tim Cook seems reluctant to make a commitment yet.

He might be contemplating about calling off the contract with one of its largest manufacturing partners, Foxconn Technology Group; the contract was signed to look at the possibility of making the iPhone in India in the next two to three years, according to two people with knowledge on the matter.

Move to make devices cheaper 

Local manufacturing would allow Apple to bring products to market quicker besides making them cheaper for Indian consumers and turning the country into an export hub, while adding that this would require creating an elaborate and complex supply chain too.

On his first visit to the country in May 2016,  Cook announced the setting up of an App development unit in Bengaluru and opened a development centre for Apple Maps in Hyderabad, with an investment of $25 million. Apple wants to expand its wholly owned stores in India, which Cook sees as an opportunity to win Indian customers by setting new service standards.

Need to boost sales in India

Apple badly needs to boost sales in the world's fastest-growing smartphone market at a time US and China are slowing down.

In recent years, Cook has repeatedly spoken of India being a market where Apple sees great potential. "India is fast-growing, but our base there is smaller," Cook told the Washington Post in an interview last month. One of the biggest drawbacks that has held India back is the inefficient cellular infrastructure.

Sales boost of iPhones in India

iPhone sales in India were up over 50% in fiscal 2016 compared to the prior year. Cook said India could be as big a market as China and would be crucial for the smartphone maker.

In a market research, it was found that Apple shipped a record 2.5 million iPhones in India from October 2015 to September 2016, up by 56% in a year, according to an estimate.

Make in India push for Foxconn

Foxconn Technology is expected to start the manufacturing operations in Maharashtra by 2018.
In the month of August, Foxconn Technology signed a $5-billion deal with the Maharashtra government to set up manufacturing operations in the state.

Maharashtra government has allotted two plots of 1,500 acres each, one in Pune and the other near Mumbai, for the company to set up its plant.

The company would also be taking 1,000 engineers from India to Taiwan University for a bridge course, to enhance their skills, so India is expecting chances of growth of job opportunity too.

Yet to find 'customers', Foxconn's Maharashtra debut awaited

Maharashtra government's much touted USD 5 billion MoU with the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer and iPhone maker Foxconn is yet to materialize as the Taiwanese giant has "yet to find customers" to start its production unit, a top bureaucrat said today.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced that Foxconn will create direct employment for 50,000 people through the MoU.

Many challenges 

However, making phones locally would come with certain challenges. Compared with indigenous brands manufactured in India, Apple's plans would entail far higher investments, cutting edge technology required for making the high-end smartphones and a component ecosystem  that is currently far more developed in China.

While local brands operate at volumes running into millions, Apple would operate at multiple times that scale as it would look at catering to multiple countries from India, not just the local market.

With Apple's growing popularity in India, there's speculation that it may reduce the lag between launch and sales of the iPhone7 in India, having shortened it last year for the 6s model as well. What remains to be seen is how soon will this turn into a reality!

Ms.Shalu Solanki
Faculty - INLEAD

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sustainability in Hotels

What is that impacts the business, what is it required to be done by a hotel to the front runner, what is it that others are doing right and you are not able to identify it and lastly how can a hotel achieve a balance between the invested amount and returns. These are questions that are constantly challenging and will continue to do so. There has been a growing awareness among hoteliers and investors to figure issues that is impacting the sustainability of hotels.

Sustainability is crucial for any entrepreneur. It has been observed that guest remain loyal to brands that offer incredible experience, while the other hotels whose services are considered mediocre loose out in creating an impressive impression thereby not having bankable guest whom they can rely on for business. So let’s in a small way look at strategies that can be induced by hotels to be sustainable.

Being Available

The managers of the hotel are crucial to the success of the hotel. They have to be out there, reaching out to guests, interacting with them, finding about their stay, issues or any short comings. What usually happens is that the General Managers are so busy with mails, meetings and fortified wooden doors. To know the guest better, they have to be accessible. Guest love this, they appreciate the fact that the manager has taken out time. Of course they don’t want them to be hovering around, it’s reassuring for them that you are accessible. This is also reflected in social media travel and blogging sites where they leave positive comments and testimonials.

Market it Right

Individual hotels and hotel groups should be extremely competitive in their marketing efforts. The website definitely has to be eye catching but at the same time should use engaging headlines and illustrations on the landing page. Hotels should identify the target clientele right, and use that create content. Hotels use a lot of data analytics to get repeat guests.

Digital Marketing

In a survey conducted by Global Market Metrix Hospitality Index (MMHI), guest priorities differ by region, culture and country. Location so far has been regarded globally as the primary factor that determines hotel choice, price and past experience comes next. It’s a digital age; hoteliers will have to design innovative strategies for online visibility, content engagement, ROI tracking and user experience. Mobile search seems to be the strength of digital marketing. The hotels website has to be optimized for mobile search and should be compatible to all mobile devices.

Being Disabled – Friendly

Most of the hotels today are inclined towards catering to the needs of the differently abled. India and Indian hospitality industry still has a long way to go before being completely inclusive, but there is a significant change in this direction. Hotels today have ramps; signage’s and rooms to accommodate the differently abled. This segment is not fully explored and remains untapped by the hospitality industry.

“Sustainability is increasingly seen as a prominent factor in hospitality decision-making, but is not yet fully embedded in business thinking”

Ms. Bindu Menon
Sr. Faculty, INLEAD 

The massive Tata fiasco

Jokes and headline floating around at Diwali eve: “Shortest Termination letter ever...TATA”; “Mistry ends, Mystery begins”. The net result is the erosion of Rs. 26,000 crores in market capitalization of the company. A fourteen month long intricate selection process, followed by a sudden termination does not bode well for a company that is “India Incorporated” for the rest of the world. And, as an executive rightly stated, “They are TATAs, not Ambanis who wash their dirty linen in public!”

Yet the linen did reach public dhobi-ghats and the mudslinging did start.

Once upon a time…

A company founded before independence soared high in the sky with Air India built on strong pillars of a steel giant, which soon went on to acquire an ailing British car manufacturing company and a Brazilian steel giant. The steel king or rather the Jewel in the company crown, decided to handover the company’s reins to a young and hardworking prince of real estate world, to fly it further. The dream seems to have crash landed and the Prince has lost his kingdom, to the erstwhile King of good times.

This story has the following characters: The Indian company – Tata Sons, the British company – Jaguar and Land Rover, The Brazilian giant – Corus, The new aviation companies – Air Asia and Vistara, The Prince – Cyrus Mistry and the Jewel – Ratan Tata.

Cyrus Mistry - head of Shapoorji Pallonji group which owns real estate construction company bearing the same name, Eureka Forbes, engineering goods, power and textile manufacturing companies - is a very reserved personality. His father Shapoorji Pallonji Mistry vacated the TATA Sons board for him and, his Pallonji Trust by virtue of its equity ownership is the third largest shareholders in the Tata Group. This made the selection of Cyrus Mistry, albeit after a rigorous process, a valid one to head Tata Sons.

What went wrong...

Cyrus Mistry was never a dynamic leader and found himself sidelined by the Tata Sons’ board many a time for his strategic decisions, which he now claims were to reduce the heavy debt of the group. The Tata Group allegedly has debts close to $18 billion, a number that is equivalent to many countries’ GDP. The write-off of such a huge amount has sent alarm bells ringing in PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) and in Stock Exchanges and in SEBI (Securities Exchange Board of India). The way Cyrus Mistry handled the Tata DoCoMo issue was also not to the liking of Ratan Tata. (more details on TataDoCoMo issue can be found amongst our previous blogs)

As another executive stated that “Cyrus Mistry is a construction leader, not a constructive one!” So in fact, there was much angst about the way he worked and about the way he conducted business. Question arises about whether Cyrus loses his leadership of other Tata Group companies as well or just Tata Steel. The Tata Group has kept its quiet for most of the issues, claiming that dragging issues into public is definitely not their style and against the very ethos of TATA values.

Things will be laid to rest and with the resignation of former TCS chief Ramadorai as chairman of govt’s skill development agencies, rumours are abound that he may head Tata Sons as its new chairman replacing Rata Tata, who himself is an interim chairman after the ouster of Cyrus Mistry. (HT Business, Nov 2, 2016)

The corporate saga continues and we see another one bite the dust! But it’s the Tatas we are talking about. They will rise from the ashes like phoenix.

- Monica Mor, Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Mistry of Sacking

The board of TATA Sons, on Monday, decided to sack Cyrus Mistry, who had been serving as the Chairman at India’s largest conglomerate, thereby sending the entire Indian business community into a state of shock. Ratan Tata himself would be the interim chairman till they find a suitable replacement for Mistry. Non-performance and undermining TATA group’s value system are being touted as possible reasons for the ouster; however, the real reason for Mistry’s sacking remains to be a mystery. While this unprecedented move could spark a battle between two of Mumbai’s oldest business families that share very close ties (the Mistrys own about a fifth of TATA Sons), here’s a look at some famous sackings of the world:

1. Walt Disney

At the mere age of 18, Walt Disney was fired from his first animation job at the Kansas City Star newspaper. His editor cited his “lack of imagination and good ideas” as the reason. Disney then acquired Laugh-O-Gram, an animation studio but drove it into bankruptcy. After moving to Hollywood with his brother, they started up the Disney Brothers’ Studio, and eventually created Mickey Mouse and Disneyland. As a film producer he received 22 Academy Awards from 59 nominations and went on to win more individual Oscars than anyone else.

2. Steve Jobs

Not many know that Jobs was fired from Apple, the company he cofounded in 1984. He was in his 30s and Apple had just announced the revolutionary “new” Macintosh with a mouse and first ever Graphical User Interface (GUI) on a commercially sold computer. However, at $2500, the computer was hard to sell. Jobs wanted to go ahead and spend more money on the Macintosh, but his board wanted to focus on the older but more successful Apple II. He was fired by the then CEO of Apple, John Sculley. By 1997 Apple was a sinking ship and was going through a huge financial crisis. Its competitor Microsoft had launched Windows 95 and was taking the tech world by storm. Apple needed a better operating system with modern features and flopped for one run by Steve Jobs’ new company called NeXT. Talks were initiated between the two companies and finally Apple acquired NeXT for 427 million dollars. Steve Jobs joined Apple under the title of an advisor and rest is history.

3. Thomas Edison

Edison always conducted experiments while working at Western Union. During one of his night shifts in in 1867, he was experimenting with batteries when he spilled some sulfuric acid that ate through the floor and onto his boss’ desk below. The next morning he was fired and went on to invent the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the ever-lasting, practical electric light bulb.

4. JK Rowling

Rowling worked as a secretary for the London office of Amnesty International, but dreamt of becoming a writer. She secretly wrote stories on her work computer and daydreamed about a teenage wizard named Harry Potter. Her employers finally got fed up, giving her the boot.  Getting fired helped kick-start her true ambitions and she wrote the first Harry Potter book shortly after getting canned. Her severance check helped support her over the next few years. Today, she's a multi-billionaire author, having penned one of the most successful book series of all time.

5. Louis van Gaal

Even the sports fraternity has not remained untouched by high profile canning. Louis van Gaal was sacked as the Chief of the Manchester United Football Club within 48 hours of his side winning the FA Cup, beating Crystal Palace 2-1. The club claimed that van Gaal was let go because ManU had played poorly that year, scoring only 49 league goals, failing to qualify for Champions League, and finishing fifth in the Premier League table.

Sumit Chakravarty
Faculty - INLEAD

Monday, October 24, 2016

How safe are our ATM services

Multiple blogs have been written on utility of tech in banking services. So much so, Citibank this year shut down 5% of its branches in India due to their under usage as a result of their customers’ access to home-bank ATMs and  Brown label ATMs and  usage of netbanking for making payments and fund transfers. ATMs serve as a huge support to all the working people who do not have time to visit their bank branches and withdraw money, so much so that an ATM machine and the hosting room are becoming the new payment gateways, which will further reduce the need to visit branches. We are in this day and age, witness to the phenomenon of machines taking over the work of humans. Yet we don’t mind it one bit, as it makes lives more convenient. More often than not we ignore the fallacies and risks associated with the same and choose not to mull over the safety of this phenomenon or how vulnerable it leaves us. Because that’s inconvenient! And soon enough a red flag has been raised with the recent Yes Bank ATMs’ software glitch which left 3.2 million card holders exposed to online fraud.

The scare spread like the bird flu and forced experts to analyse and ask the simple question: “How safe are our ATMs”? And as users, we realised the importance of the oft used business phrase ‘caveat emptor’. It’s the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods and service before the purchases are made.

Let’s understand as laymen what really happened with our ATM cards…

ATMs can be home-bank (managed by bank) or non Home-bank (or Brown label which is managed by third party). The software in the brown label ATMs are managed by service providers, which in this case was Hitachi Payment Services. The 90 affected ATMs in the present case connected to the infected server. So the hackers got information of all the people who used those ATMs, and cloned their cards. Since customers often use non home-bank ATMs the impact spread to 19 banks. The hack led to misuse of about Rs. 1.03 crores, where most of the cloned cards (about 641 in number) were used for transactions in China and USA, where OTP is not a mandate for card related transactions. (Hindustan Times, 24th Oct 2016)

While Hitachi claims no breach in service, the matter is under investigation. In fact, there are no stringent regulations for ATMs, debit and credit card services in RBI guidelines.

Solution to the hack…

No one knows. It can only be prevented, till the next smart hacker cracks the new code. Banks need to take over control of ATMs, which they outsource to third party as it may be too expensive to run ATM counters all over the country, even in places where they do not even have a bank branch. The outsourcing partners in the meanwhile need to be a lot more vigilant and ensure security control measures and reduce operational risks. As users of these cards, we need to keep changing our pin numbers frequently.

My memory will in this case fail me most of the time. As if remembering my iPhone pin wasn’t enough!

-Ms. Monica Mor, Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Friday, October 21, 2016


The Nobel Peace Prize 2016 has been awarded to Columbian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring his country’s 50 year old civil war to an end. It was a war that left over 220,000 dead and over 6 million displaced. A laudable effort by no means!

So, this was the winner’s story in brief. Has anyone even bothered to find out who lost out in the race to 2016’s Nobel peace Prize? Who could have made it in the panels of history and yet did not? Who were these noble souls who did such great service that got them Peace Prize nominations?

This is the story of that loser, who in no way can be called that, simply because what they do is death defying. Their service to their nation and its citizens are unbelievable and selfless.

They are the WHITE HELMETS. Their motto inexplicably would be; “When the bombs rain down, we rush in to save”.

Their Story…

You would have few days back read in a blog by an INLEAD faculty about the plight of Syria, a great historic nation ravaged by civil strives and terrorism. The story begins from there. Syria is the most dangerous place on Earth, and on an average the country is ravaged by anywhere from 50 – 80 barrel bombs daily from ISIS or from the Russians or from President Assad’s troupes. While the ones who bomb feel they have done their bit in supporting their own selfish cause, the losers are inevitably the common citizens who get trapped under debris and perish. In a country where public services no longer function, Syrians had given up hope of seeing that rare light at the end of the tunnel. It was in these hours of despair a bunch of young Syrian men came together to help save people who get caught in debris. They are fully aware that more bombs may fall on the same site, yet pulling out people from under the rubble is what they do. They say it’s the call of Allah.

They train in Jordan and Turkey in areas like cutting through boulders and iron bars, fighting fire, handling babies trapped in unlikeliest of places under the debris, giving on the spot paramedic support, and so on. They are absolutely unfathomable in their energy to surge ahead under trying circumstances and in their passion to help the affected. They are young, have families who are equally vulnerable, do not know whether they will see the sunrise the next day, yet they remain undaunted. Even one life saved is a blessing they seek. Since the war began, White Helmets have saved close to 62,000 lives in Syria. But they have lost more than a hundred of their own brave soldiers. A small price to pay they say in a country where hopelessness abounds.

Finally they are recognized…

An Oscar nominated team from Hollywood decided to pay ode to them, and for once and for all shift the world’s focus away from ISIS and bombers to the White Helmets and their selfless acts of bravery and sacrifice. They have produced a documentary on White Helmets, which is currently streaming on Netflix and they had also been working really hard to get this group the Nobel Peace Prize this year.

The White Helmets may have lost the Nobel Peace Prize, but the world is a winner in having amongst it such brave sons of the soil.

- Ms. Monica Mor, Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Monday, October 17, 2016

Syria –Then and Now


Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. Its capital is Damascus.

A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian ArabsGreeksArmeniansAssyriansKurdsCircassians, Mandeans and Turks.

In the early 2000s, Syria headed towards gradual economic liberalization to spur growth. Some of the structured reforms agenda were supported through IMF technical assistance, including strengthening banking supervisions and regulations, modernizing the monetary framework developing a government debt market, strengthening and streamlining revenue administration, and improving public financial management. While poverty and unemployment were on the rise, Syria was making progress towards achieving the UN millennium development goals.

In 2009 “Doing Business Indicators”, Syria ranked 137 out of 181 countries, performing poorly on access to financing, and registering poverty, while making progress.  The three main obstacles in Syria’s growth were corruption, inadequately educated workforce and poor power situation. At the same time, political reforms were limited, except those initiated by President Bashar Al Assad.
But this is when things started to go downhill; when Russia supported rebels started to clash with America supported President Assad’s forces. And soon enough ISIS made Syria its base for unleashing terror across the globe.

The 2011 uprising has evolved into a crippling and violent civil war with fierce fighting between the regime and various secular and Islamist opposition groups in different parts of the country. Syria has politically disintegrated into autonomous provinces and territories controlled by the central government, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and various rebel groups. The conflict has also attracted financial and military support from external powers, including Turkey, France, Saudi Arabia, US and Russia.

The population of Syria is estimated to have shrunk by at least 20 percent since March 2011. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 250,000 people have been killed and more than 800,000 have been injured as a result of the fighting. As of February 2016, UNHCR reports that about 4.7 million people have fled to Syria’s immediate neighbors—Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Almost 900,000 refugees had declared political asylum in the EU by December 2015. At the same time, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that there are 7.6 million internally displaced people. About 70% of population is without adequate basic needs of food, water and education. Services—such as retail, wholesale, transportation, construction, and banking—have contracted sharply on account of a collapse of the overall economy, particularly tourism, and with heighted security risks, destruction of roads, and economic fragmentation impeding trade and commerce. Banking has been further impacted by the economic sanctions.

A recent report by the charity group World Vision and the consultant group Frontier Economics estimated that the conflict has so far cost Syria $275 billion in lost growth opportunities — 150 times more than pre-war Syria's health budget. A World Bank report estimates the damage to the capital stock in Syria to be more than $70-80 billion. The situation has deteriorated greatly since then.

There can be only speculation by political and economic pundits as to when the light will be visible at the end of the dark and dreary tunnel for Syrians. Let’s pray that humanity eventually wins and the world is, sooner rather than later, rid of the malaises of rebellions and terrorism.

- Ms. Shalu Solanki, Faculty, INLEAD 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Great Indian E-commerce Festival & the Snapdeal saga

The Great Indian Festival ‘October 2016 – what a huge success it was! Flipkart clocked sales of 15.5 million units while Amazon clocked 15 million units. In value this converts to Rs. 3000 crores worth of sales for Flipkart in the 5-day Great Indian Festival from the 1st to the 6th of October, 2016. There are more sales lined up all the way till Diwali. While Flipkart focused on big ticket items, especially electronics, Amazon focused on acquiring new consumers. Amazon Prime whose subscription can be bought at Rs. 499 was a huge gainer during this time. The success has left both the e-commerce players heady & happy and they have drafted aggressive plans in terms of funds infusion and promotional expenditure.

A question for you reader at this point… Did you realize that I have only been talking about Amazon and Flipkart? Have you noticed the absence of ‘Snapdeal’ in the e-commerce conversations these days? Where is this third biggest player in the Indian online retailing landscape?

Let’s find out more about the missing  Snapdeal…

It was only a year ago when Kunal Bahl, CEO, Snapdeal had boasted that his company would overtake Flipkart in sales. The company has since suffered and now lags way behind its two main rivals Flipkart & Amazon. Clearly a lot went downhill, especially with their deep discount strategy of early 2015. They never really acquired regular customers, and only got the floating ones who wanted to enjoy the discounts. It proved to be rather untenable for Snapdeal. This was followed by their brand ambassador, Aamir Khan’s “intolerance” remark. While the company did not renew his contract as their brand ambassador, many people post remark-controversy uninstalled Snapdeal apps. Then again Amazon stole the e-commerce thunder with better quality, service delivery and response to customer issues. Statistically, more people were found to be downloading Amazon app than any other in the first quarter of 2016. As on March 2016, Flipkart’s market share in the e-commerce space is 37%, down from 2015’s 43%; Amazon’s market share is 24%, up from 2015’s 14%; while Snapdeal’s market share is 14% down from 2015’s 19%. (Economic Times, 6th October 2016)

Brand Rejuvenation

Will a brand makeover pump up the game for Snapdeal? Well, the CEO thinks so. About Rs. 200 crores will be spent all the way till Dec 2016 to promote Sanpdeal’s new look. In a brand rebuilding exercise, on Sept 10th the company unveiled its new logo and a new brand identity “Unbox Zindagi”. The company wants to focus on the moments that an e-commerce customer experiences. They could be any; from website browsing to making the purchase to receiving the package to opening the box. The branding team at Snapdeal realized that the moment when the customer opens the box is most magical.

This shift away from just low prices, faster delivery and sales, to appreciating the customer’s aspirations should hopefully rejuvenate the brand and help position it better in their minds. Snapdeal insists that the rebranding is working, despite mixed response to their new campaign. And with many new distribution centers in their kitty, the company has claimed to have regained its mojo, bit by bit. As evidence they claim to have clocked their highest single day sale ever on the 2nd of October, 2016, shipping 1.67 million products in just 16 hours. Their website traffic has also risen by 20% and their conversion rate is up by 40% as compared to previous year.

It seems the Unbox Zindagi moment is working!!

So, Let the sales begin and let’s see if Snapdeal jumps into the fast moving e-commerce bandwagon once again.

-Ms. Monica Mor, Sr. Faculty, INLEAD 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

All’s Not Well at Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo – a name that was highly respected in the United States in the financial circles; A bank that has done immensely well for itself in the past one hundred and sixty odd years. This elite bank has however in the month of September got embroiled in a highly embarrassing scandal, wherein about 2 million bank and credit card accounts were opened without customer authorization to meet the impossibly high sales targets. These sales figures led to soaring stock prices, the profits from which were then pocketed by the CEO, John Stumpf. When the fraud was detected by USA’s regulatory agencies, John Stumpf went ahead and fired about 5,300 employees, which was almost 1% of Wells Fargo’s total workforce. The matter is now subjudice with hearings going on in the US house of Senate, and charges are being pressed against the CEO to resign and undergo criminal investigations.

Time travel to 1852...

In 1852 Henry Wells and William Fargo founded Wells Fargo and Co. to serve the western part of United States. Wells Fargo opened for business in the gold rush port of San Francisco. They catered to banking services including buying and selling of gold. Their hallmark was attention to detail, trust and loyalty to customers. The company went on to do very well and soon opened branches all across America. They would also do express delivery of money or drafts or gold via stagecoach (there lies the answer to a historically significant logo), railroad, steamship or via telegraph.

Their brand became a household name especially among the elite class. Soon after, they started delving in corporate responsibility and into responsible lending. A very important clientele was the armed forces, whereby servicemen could take home and vehicle loans at reasonable rates of interest and for a comfortable duration.

The controversy that led to the derailment of the stagecoach...

September 8, 2016 was when the various regulatory authorities in USA like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Los Angeles City Attorney and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, fined the bank $185 million, alleging 2 million fraudulently opened bank and credit card accounts. Not only that, there are allegations of forced closure of delinquent vehicle loans of US marine corps and other servicemen, while they were away on duty. Their vehicles, post acquisition by Wells Fargo, were immediately auctioned to recover the due amount. There are rules against harassing armed forces officials in USA which were violated by Wells Fargo rather blatantly.

Then again there are questions on the organizational culture of the bank. There are stories of branch managers locking the exit doors to prevent their employees from leaving their respective workstations before completion of day’s work. Employee harassment has come up as one of the charges against the bank, a case under the Fair Labour Standards Act.

The chip on CEO, John Stumpf’s shoulder earned as a result of an extremely successful organization, seems like the biggest burden for him as of now. There are investigations against the bank from all fronts, be it customer, its employees or its concept of ‘responsible banking’. Things look rather torrid with FBI also commencing its investigations as well as class-action suits filed against the bank.

All is definitely not well with Wells Fargo! A lesson for all organisations that are ruthlessly ambitious and brutal in their delivery.

-Monica Mor, Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Are Indian Newspapers losing their charm?

Reading newspapers or dailies, as we call them, has been considered to be one of the best habits humans have imbibed, ever since the learned civilization came into existence. From politics to sports, arts and lifestyle to entertainment, the power of news dailies is not unfathomed. My affair (sic) with newspapers started when I was barely eight. With every passing year, the bond seemed to get stronger and stronger.  I didn’t know back then, that it would hit a rocky path twenty years down the line.

The front page is the most important page of a newspaper. It is what passers-by will have chance to look at, and so it represents the showcase that might determine whether or not they will end up buying the newspaper. Many of us working professionals, thanks to our pacey routines, could possibly afford to read only the front page. Thus, the stories of the front page are carefully selected to catch the attention of a large number of potential readers. Everyday, newspaper editors meet and discuss to choose what they believe are the newsworthy stories of the day to constitute the next day’s front page.

However, the scenario has changed today. Most of the Indian dailies have started featuring full-page advertisements on the front page, some even to an extent of the first three pages, especially during the festive season. Blame it on the fierce competition, or the race for fetching sponsorship, the so called “critical” front page and its news have shifted to the third or the fourth, thereby leading to distaste for avid readers like myself.

With a readership base of over 250 million, India is the second largest print market in the world. However, this market is still under penetrated for a country with a population in excess of 1,200 million and highly fragmented with over 60,000 newspapers printed in 22 languages (Registrar of Newspapers of India). Advertising revenue continues to be the key growth driver behind the industry as declining readership and increasing competition have led the players to further reduce their cover prices. As result, this sector has been the most affected by the slowdown in advertising due owing to the recent downturn. Further, due to rising newsprint costs players were compelled to undertake multiple advertisement rate hikes during the first half of 2008, which on one hand improved per unit realizations from advertising, but on the other hand made the media an expensive proposition for most advertisers. (Source: Indian Readership Survey 2008)

What remains to be seen is whether these dailies continue to be caught up with their pro-commercial approach or shift back to preserving their original charm as a powerful instrument of the print media.

What do you think? Do share your views and inputs in the comments.

- Mr. Sumit Chakravarty, Faculty, INLEAD

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Google turns 18!

Why India is important for Google...

By 2020 India is expected to have 650 million internet users from the current 350 million. We are already the second largest purchaser of smartphones in the world, with about 220 million users till 2015. Over 20 mobile brands are now assembling their products in India with the hope that infrastructure will improve with better internet connectivity and superior performance of 3G and 4G networks pan India.

The data above seems very exciting for companies that are trying their best to capture a larger share of the internet savvy Indian. Google is one such player with multiple products and services in the form of Chrome for mobile phones, Google Assistant in Hindi, YouTube Go for faster browsing on 2G connections and Google station  to provide Wi-Fi access in large public spaces. These are just some of Google birthday announcements for that nation which shows maximum promise for the years to come.

Google was set up in 1997, and was the product of a new found friendship between Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford University, USA. The domain was registered on September 15th 1997. The name “Google” is a derivative from the word Googol, a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 and followed by 100 zeros. This reflected the founders’ vision to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web.

In February 1999, Google moved out from its founders’ garage to its new office in Palo Alto, California.

The year 2000, when Google launched its most successful revenue generating service, AdWords, Google starts to grow by leaps and bounds. By 2001 when Google launched it Google images with a cache of 250 million images, it soon became a household name. There was no stopping this company when soon after it opened its first international office in Tokyo, Japan.

2004 was when Google introduced the world to social network via its platform called Orkut and in 2005 it set up the eponymous Google Maps, which by 2009’s addition of navigation has rendered us helpless and without which many of us cannot move around the city. With a slew of new products and services constantly coming out of its innovative labs Google became a powerhouse in the online hemisphere. They set up wonderful offices across the globe and came up with innovative HR policies, and by 2007 Google became the best company to work for in the entire world.

2013 was when Google pledged for a total clean energy commitment, and soon after launched their Google Loon, its balloon project for rural connectivity. Google hasn’t stopped even for a minute ever in its efforts to provide better and valuable services to its customers. The company is iconic and the functionality of its products is indefatigable.

So here’s to a rocking birthday with wishes for many more. We truly cannot imagine our lives without this brand, now especially when the brand is increasingly used as a verb! Let’s Google it, shall we?

Happy Birthday Google!!

- MsMonica Mor, Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Six Sigma Workshop Sept’16

Mr. Mukesh Nauhar, Black Belt Champion from Indian Statistical institute, undertook a White Belt Six Sigma Workshop for INLEADers recently. During the workshop, he explained in great details the importance of 6 Sigma and shared examples of companies that have been using this quality tool for successful execution of their multiple projects. 

The session was very critical for students, especially since a lot of them have already been introduced to TQM and the various tools used. An introduction to 6 sigma opens their eyes to quality management.

The session commenced with Mr. Nauhar introducing students to the concept of total quality management. He then took them through various quality tools that are used in the industry like Lean Management, Just In Time & of course, Six Sigma.

During the workshop students got to know that, Six Sigma states that there cannot be more than 3.6 defects in a million opportunities. This implies that teams that want to incorporate this tool in their project execution strategy need to ensure that their team members are properly trained in statistics and have undertaken certain exams. This concept then brought Mr. Nauhar to talk about the various belts that a 6 sigma certified professional needs to have. The first being Green belt, followed by Black and then Master black.

He even showed many videos that highlighted the importance of 6 sigma and delved into greater details on the importance of the same.

The session wound up with a test that was taken by the students, and clearance of the same provides students with a White belt certification. 

Is WAR the answer?

It’s been over a week since the Indian Army Camp at Uri was attacked by Pakistani terrorists, and what has followed since is a situation of warmongerism across the country. There is tremendous amount of anger in India, specifically on social media; it possibly seems too easy for many to be simply sitting in the comfort of their living rooms, introspecting if the nation should go to war with Pakistan. The real standing question is: Could India and Pakistan really go to war?
After all, both countries have long been nuclear powers - a deterrent that encompasses the lives of a combined 1.4 billion people. And yet, hours after 18 were killed in an attack on an army base in Indian-administered Kashmir, the Director-General of Military operations for the Indian Army announced that the terrorists carried gear which had "Pakistani markings."

The allegation released a gush of fury on social media. "Pakistan is a terrorist state and it should be identified and isolated as such," tweeted Home Minister Rajnath Singh. This was followed by Bharatiya Janata Party's General Secretary  - Ram Madhav, who took to Facebook: "For one tooth, the complete jaw," he posted, implying a disparate retaliation.

On India's many TV news channels, a steady drum-beat calling for war gained momentum, reaching a crescendo of sorts in primetime. Arnab Goswami, the host of the country's most-watched English News Hour, expressed rage at Pakistan: "We need to cripple them, we need to bring them down on their knees." One of his guests, Retd. Gen. G.D. Bakshi went a step further: "We must be seen as inflicting punishment on Pakistan by non-terrorist means ... the nation needs a catharsis (cleansing)!"

The other side of the border has really taken this as a grave threat. The following excerpt from Washington Post’s news article on September 22 highlights the same:
“Military officials are calling it a routine exercise, but the thunderous spectacle of Pakistani fighter jets touching down on a major highway Wednesday and Thursday, with commercial flights suspended and traffic blocked for hours, has fueled public speculation that something much more ominous is afoot.

 The air exercise led to the closure of commercial airspace over several regions of the country and triggered a sudden drop in the nation’s stock market.”
Ground realities

It's easy to get carried away by the public rhetoric we're seeing. Uri attack is not the first deadly attack on Indian soil that New Delhi has accused Pakistan of having a hand in. While Indian officials continue to link those attacks to the Pakistan government, Islamabad has consistently denied any involvement. In each of these terror attacks, and others like them, there have been calls for a strong Indian response. According to an interview to CNN by the strategic affairs editor of Business Standard – Ajai Shukla, who is a former Indian Army Colonel, "When it makes decisions, the (Indian) government is guided by realities, not by a public outcry. They realize that if they attack Pakistan, it does not play out in India's favor. One also cannot ignore the fact that Pakistan has the 11th biggest army in the world. We're in a symmetrical relationship, the consequences of any form of attack are far worse than people realize."

As recent as last night, India has conducted surgical strikes along the LoC, which is being considered as a response for Uri attack. According to the Army, surgical strikes were based on specific intelligence input of terror groups ready to infiltrate into India and carry out terror attacks.“Significant casualties have been caused to terrorists and those trying to shield them. We don’t have a plan to further conduct such strikes. India has spoken to Pakistan,” DGMO Lt Gen Ranbir Singh said. 

- Mr. Sumit Chakravarty, Faculty, INLEAD

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