Monday, January 25, 2016

China Rout (Revisited) 2.0

Almost all headlines across all Financial papers, economy-related discussions, whether online or offline start with ‘China’. It’s like the world’s sneezing just because China has caught a cold. A very, very bad cold at that!

In my earlier blog published in late August 2015, titled “Is the Chinese Dragonlosing fire?”, I had traced China’s growth path over the past 4 decades and the bottlenecks thereafter it faced that eventually stalled its growth. The fallout then wasn’t as severe for the Rest of the World as it is now. Yes, there were losses to the tune of billions of dollars due to Shenzhen and Shanghai stock market crashes, but prospects then didn’t seem as bleak as now in 2016.

So, what’s wrong with China?

The world’s most populous country has a growth rate even now that’s still faster at 6.5% than USA’s 2.5%. The Chinese numbers, the world feels, is significantly inflated and either the top leaders are incredibly good at meeting the targets or the analysts in China are too scared to reveal the truth. The Shanghai composite indexes plummeted 15% at the start of 2016 and since then stock markets world over seem to be under a Bear grip.

China's industrial production slowed last year. Yet borrowing jumped a further 5 per cent as banks pumped more and more money into less and less economic factories, housing schemes and loss-making businesses. The message that the government sent was investment in real estate is fine even if the world does not have the appetite for its manufactures, according to Sydney Morning  Herald. China aimed to keep inflating its GDP even if the houses they built went unoccupied. Unfortunately there’s more capital outflow from China than inflow. Investors are not as keen on China, and local Chinese are stashing their money abroad. China’s president, Li Xinping’s authoritarian attitude isn’t helping either.

Solution to this persisting conundrum:

There’s a possibility, according to Bloomberg Asia that reserve requirements of Chinese banks may be cut which will increase liquidity of banks who can therefore lend more. The question however remains, are there companies who have the appetite and the need to borrow more? Inept communist policies have to be redrafted, private debt within the economy needs to be reduced, and more importantly market needs to have a free hand to work the Yuan

The world went into turmoil with the US subprime crisis in 2008, followed by Eurozone meltdown. Now the Chinese seem to be riling the world with its worst economic performance in 2 and half decades. All major stock markets will get shaken since the correlation between their performances is quite high. Well, let’s sit this one out and wait for reassuring financial news sooner rather than later.

-         -Ms. Monica Mor
Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Brand Development by DABUR via CSR

Companies these days other than the fact that they have to compulsorily undertake some corporate social responsibility initiative, are also working on their corporate branding to build on their brand equity. For example, CSR initiatives of DABUR are driven through Sustainable Development Society or SUNDESH, an outcome of the vision of Dabur India Ltd’s founder Dr. S.K Burman. SUNDESH is a non – profit organization engaged in carrying out welfare activities with the aim of improving the quality of life of the people in rural areas. The activities done under Sundesh are in the areas of Education, Healthcare, Microfinance & Veterinary Services.


Since its inception about 120 years ago, Dabur has managed to create a niche for itself in a huge range of FMCG segments like healthcare, consumer care, ayurvedic medicine, hair oil, etc. Its brands like Vatika, Anmol, Hajmola, Babool, Real and certain other products under the parent brand like Chyawanprash and Gulabari are extremely successful in their respective product segments. Dabur’s inclusive marketing and herbal association has made it a household brand name, and that too a very reliable one.

While studying Brand Management, I was intrigued by how Sundesh was helping build upon Brand Recall for DABUR as well as create goodwill amongst its consumers and beneficiaries.

Let’s look into some of these initiatives by the company:

• Education
Non-Formal Education- Education to children between 6-14 years of age by holding classes at village centers and encourage them to seek formal education.

Adult Literacy- Sundesh provides education to women in the age group of 14-35 years. After attaining education, these women are also provided with training in various self - employment activities such as cutting and tailoring, food preservation, mushroom cultivation, mehandi application, etc.

Special School for Child Labour- Sundesh provides special education to child labourers (8-13 years of age) under National Child Labour Project. Currently Dabur is running five education centers in Loni Block.

Library- Sundesh manages a library for children to inculcate the habit of reading amongst them.

• Health Care
Sundesh provides health care facility to the villagers. The main aim is to empower villagers with essential knowledge which would enable them to lead a healthy life. Sundesh Health Team includes a medical officer, lab technician, Community Health Workers and Traditional Birth Attendants.

Health aid priorities include:
• General OPD at the center.
• Pathological Testing Facility at the center.
• Provision of essential drugs at the center.
• Health check - ups through OPDs and camps in the villages.
• Self Help Groups (Micro Credit Society)

Sundesh has taken an initiative to promote, support and design a number of poverty alleviation programmes in collaboration and guidelines given by District Rural Development Agency, Ghaziabad through Swarn Jayanti Gramin Vikas Sawrojgar Yojna for Below Poverty Line people and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for general families in the targeted villages.

Main objective of this programme is to form Self Help Groups / micro credit groups and link these SHG’s with credit institutions. Dabur provides cooperation in building mutual trust and confidence between the bankers and the rural poor. These credit groups are motivated to utilize the savings for economic betterment. For this they are also given training on various income generation activities such as mushroom cultivation, cutting and tailoring, bee keeping, food preservation etc.

• Income Generation
To promote self-employment in the area, Sundesh provides need based training programmes such as Bee Keeping, Mushroom Cultivation, Food Preservation, Tailoring Training, Embroidery Training, and Mehandi Application. This facilitates the trainees to sustain their livelihood and not fall back to below poverty line status.

• Veterinary Services  
Villagers are given information on livestock health and care at Sundesh Integrated Rural Upliftment Center, village Chouna. Sundesh organizes vaccination and animal health checkup camps in the villages. Medicine is provided at subsidized rates to the villagers. This ensures that farmers remain engaged with the company, and benefit as well with their source of livelihood being well taken care of.

Impact of CSR initiatives on Dabur as a Brand
Dabur, while its name connotes reliability & warmth, with these CSR initiatives the company is gaining immensely from the goodwill generated by SUNDESH initiatives. Dabur symbolizes not just good quality products but also a friend, philosopher & guide that is with the beneficiary and consumer at every step of their life.

 Student, INLEAD
 INBM October 2015

Monday, January 18, 2016

Hotels with unique concepts

It’s the 21st century and people presume everything and anything different or unique that could be done has already been done and achieved. Well, the Hotel industry doesn’t believe in this philosophy for sure. There are hotels all over the world which are coming up with new concepts almost every day to provide the best of amenities possible to its guests. Hence, I feel they believe a mention for maintaining their uniqueness and thinking out-of-the box concepts even in this 21st century, highly competitive world.

• Marina Bay Sands in Singapore with its unique design and 2560 rooms, has become one of Singapore’s iconic buildings. The hotel offers separate amenities for business and leisure traveler. There are 32 food and beverage options, including 14 fine dining restaurants and 18 casual dining establishments. The hotel also houses the world’s 2nd most expensive casino.

• Burj-Al-Arab, Dubai is an icon of modern architecture and classic design, on a man-made island of the mainland Dubai. The hotel has the highest tennis court in the world which also doubles up as a helipad. It is graded as a 7 star all-suite hotel with 202 duplex suites. The hotel amenities include chauffer driven Rolls Royce for personal outings and access to the artificial Majles Al Bahar beach.

• Tron themed ice hotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden was inspired by an eye popping nightclub depicted in Tron. Two British sci-fi fans Ben Rousseau and architect Ian Douglas-Jones built a Tron-themed hotel suite entirely from ice and snow. The entire hotel is made up of ice, including the bed. Every November, ice from the frozen Torne river is fused with snow to remake the hotel – new themed suites are designed every year.

• Atlantis Hotel in Bahamas is located in one of the most preferred exotic holiday destinations. The resort has 6 different towers housing 11 different kinds of suites. Each suite has a different theme. The resort also has a casino, water park and fantasy camp for children.

• Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi (on a man-made island) stands as one of the icons in the area. The hotel’s main theme is based on the royal palaces of the Arab royal families. The hotel has 394 rooms in different categories. The 4 royal Khaleej suites have their own reception and give private access to the beach. This hotel has the world’s first and only gold dispensing ATM machine.

• WhitePod, Betraye, Switzerland is located amongst Swiss Alps, this resort has 5 domed shaped structures, each 8 feet high. The resort has 24 rooms with luxurious amenities and limited electricity, and plumbing lines. It is located at a height of 5600 feet and is accessible only by ski or by foot.

• Conrad Rangali Islands, Maldives is set on a private island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The hotel has water villas, beach villas, and water spa villas, with the facility for specialized treatments. Itahaa undersea restaurant is the world’s first and only undersea all glass restaurant.

• Treehotel, Harads, Sweden is a compound of four individual tree houses built among the native pines of the Lulea River Valley. Each tree house has been distinctively designed by a different architect and includes visually exquisite elements, such as a rope bridge entryway, a bright red exterior and a mirrored fa├žade.

• Armani Hotel, Dubai located in world’s tallest man-made structure, the Burj Khalifa Tower. The hotel has 160 guest rooms including its suites located on the 38th and 39th floor. The hotel has been designed and styled by renowned designer Georgio Armani.

In the end, I would like to encourage the mankind to take inspiration from the hotel industry and try to be as unique as you can. After all, “You are one of a kind and unique. Never forget that.”

- Ms. Bindu Menon
  Senior Faculty, INLEAD

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Eternal Vivekananda

Today (January 12, 2016) marks the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and is celebrated as World Youth Day all across the globe. Throughout the years of my upbringing, I’ve admired him as a Youth Icon and been deeply influenced by his ideologies of Karma and Moksha (salvation). Yet, as I sit to pen my tribute to him, it suddenly appears to be quite a daunting task. 

For more reasons than one, writing on Vivekananda’s teachings is a challenging task.  Firstly, Swami Vivekananda taught on aspects (not restricted to India alone) encompassing Spiritualism, Universal values, Religion, Character building, Education, Spirit of Service and Social issues. Secondly, his teachings influenced contemporaries, inspired innumerable followers and sparked movements all across India (continuing to do so even to the present day). Thirdly, Vivekananda lived over a century ago (before the world wars) and a lot has changed with India and the world since then - India is now an independent democratic nation; so, some may argue that the concepts like Practical Vedanta, Karma Yoga, Bhakti etc. are “old-fashioned”, “obscure” or “mere rhetoric” and as such impractical or inefficient for progress of present-day India. Moreover, the society today is much different, much better than it used to be. 

So how is Vivekananda relevant as of today?

Swami Vivekananda toured all over India and to several places abroad preaching and working on diverse problems. He played a major role in introducing India and her spiritual culture of Vedanta to the Western world, and in reviving and refining Hinduism within India. His main teachings may be summarized in terms of his views on Education, Religion, Character building, Womanhood, Hinduism, Spirit of Service and National Integration. 

1) On Education: “Education is the manifestation of perfection already in man”. He said that education which does not enable a person to stand on his own feet, does not teach him self-confidence and self-respect; was useless.

2) On Religion: “To be good and to do good to others – that is the essence of Religion”. According to Swami Vivekananda, religion is the idea which raises a brute to man, and a man to God. Swami Vivekananda preached that Truth is the basis of all Religions. 

3) On Character:  According to Vivekananda, Jiva is Shiva (every man is potentially divine). To become divine (or great), man must give up suspicion, jealousy, conceit and learn to work unitedly for the common good. 

4) On Womanhood: According to Vivekananda, there is no chance for welfare in the world unless the condition of woman is improved. He felt that it was impossible to get back India’s lost pride and honor unless the condition of women was improved. 

5) On Hinduism: Vivekananda strived to give to Hinduism a clear-cut identity, both nationally and internationally. Within India, he preached about the common bases of Hinduism, the common ground of all its different sects and brought about its overall unification. He also toured the Western countries in an effort to convey Hinduism’s liberal and universal values to Westerners and raising his voice in its defence. He also worked among the masses fighting social evils and superstitions and trying to integrate the best elements of Western culture into Hindu culture.

6) On Spirit of Service: Vivekananda said, “Do not stand on a high pedestal and take five cents in your hand and say, “Here, my poor man”; but be grateful that the poor man is there so that by making a gift to him, you are able to help yourself. It is not the receiver that is blessed, but the giver”. 

7) On National Integration: Swami said that despite innumerable linguistic, ethnic, historical and regional diversities, India has always had a strong sense of cultural unity and has been one nation. He strived to instill in Indians, a greater understanding of their country’s profound spiritual heritage and pride in their past. 

You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.

-   Mr. Sumit Chakravarty
     Faculty, INLEAD

Monday, January 11, 2016

Visit to the National Stock Exchange

Traditionally, banks have been a prime source of finance for organizations all around the world. Banks are those financial institutions, which accept deposits and extend loans to the companies and during the entire course, make an effort to earn some profits so that healthy returns could be offered to the investors. From years, banks have been top most choice of financial managers to raise funds for their business enterprises, but during past few years due to ongoing recession and financial crisis, people are increasingly losing their faith in the banking system. Moreover there are now quite a few other dynamic options than debt. Overtime risk appetites of companies have increased and they have ventured into raising funds through the equity route.
Emergence of Capital market in India
The last few years have seen the emergence of alternatives to bank funding. These alternatives have offered customized solutions to the funding needs of various corporate entities all over the globe. Some of these are private equity, public offerings, private placements etc. Out of these, instruments like public offerings, private placements are classified into the category of capital market funding. This channel uses the funds available with various market players like banks, financial institutions, retail investors and various funds for fulfilment of the needs of the corporate entities.
The development of capital market has not been limited to the developed countries alone. Emerging markets have also made significant progress in development of capital market channels for the purpose of fund raising. One of the reasons for the same has been the attractiveness of these markets in terms of the growth potential offered by them to the investors.
India has been one of the leading emerging market economies. It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The growth in the economy has been accompanied by a rise in the industrial and business activity in the country. The steep growth has brought about a spurt in the fund raising requirements and in turn led to the development of capital markets. Alongside the development in capital markets, there has been a development in the capital market platforms. National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) are two of the leading platforms in India.
Our Industry Visit
On the 12th of December INBM students of INLEAD visited NSE housed in Jeevan Vihar, Sansad Marg, New Delhi. We were apprised with the foundation of NSE, the growth that the stock exchange has seen in a short span of two & a half decades and the type of products that trade on NIFTY, as also how to conduct trade on a stock market.  The most important reason why NSE has grown the way it has, has been primarily due to the fact that only AAA rated companies can trade in its bourses. The session on financial instruments followed by a virtual trading of some stocks left us immensely interested in the capital market.
-Ranjeet Singh
Student, INBM, July 2015


Medical advice just a click away

A country that boasts of one of the highest growth rate in sale of smartphones clubbed with a population which is going on 1.4 billion, do you think that medical advice via apps or emails or messages is not a possibility in the near future? In fact people are & will be increasingly resorting to using apps primarily due to the convenience of a phone as also because it takes a lot of time to reach healthcare centres these days. So if it’s not a life threatening malaise taking help from a Siri or a Cortana to connect to some health app is definitely a near likelihood. It won’t be out of place to say that “devices once only in the hands of a doctor are now in the pockets of consumers”. Read on about some of the popular apps:

Apps for patients

Let’s begin with an extremely popular aggregator app called Practo. This app automatically uses GPS & WiFi to set the location of the app user and generates the results for doctor & diagnostic lab queries, along with details like doctors’ qualifications, consultation fee and exact address. In a tie up with Uber, Practo even facilitates a cab ride for the patient to the chosen clinic. & home-deliver medicines provided they are accompanied by prescriptions. However for over the counter drugs no prescriptions are required.

MeraDoctor is an app that brings consultations with a doctor to your phone. The app allows 15 minutes free chat sessions, where doctors help patients understand their existing condition, tests and possible side effects. They can however, prescribe only OTC drugs.

eMocha is a platform created by clinicians at Johns Hopkins to help deliver effective healthcare to patients in South Africa diagnosed with Multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis. Using this app patients record themselves taking the prescribed drugs & then upload it on cloud for verification by doctors in Johns Hopkins, USA.

Apps for physicians

Apart from Apps which can be used by patients, there are apps that can be used by physicians. Some of the popular ones include:

Epocrates: This app enables physicians to review drug prescribing and safety information, select health insurance formularies for drug coverage information, perform calculations like BMI and access medical news and research.

Medcalc: This app isn’t free. It features an exhaustive list of formulae, scores, scales & calculations.

Skyscape & WebMD: These apps are decision support tools which feature drug information, medical calculator, evidence based clinical information & summaries of journals.

There are also Vet apps like PetFirstAid (an ios app) which has detailed videos & step by step illustrations while caring for pets.

Then there are the Wellness apps for calculating your BMI, checking your glucose levels, measuring your pulse rate, etc. which are present in almost all devices running on iOS, Android or Windows platform. Recently a patient suffering from a heart problem in USA managed to get assistance 30,000 ft above sea level inflight, by using an iPhone app to consult with his doctor.

There are many pros to the above mentioned & other such Medical apps, yet doctors have expressed their apprehensions on do-it-yourself medications for patients. They have asked patients to use these apps cautiously. Chemists too in India have objected to medicines being sold using apps and other ecommerce platforms. Nevertheless, there is an increasing interest in such apps and more & more people including physicians are exploring (maybe not endorsing) these platforms.

- Monica Mor
Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Remedy for Headaches – ELECTRONIC ASPIRIN

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Changes in daily lifestyle have led to certain lifestyle diseases that are unfortunately an integral part of our daily lives. Causes could be many; ranging from hormonal changes to stress, changes in wake-sleep pattern to reaction to certain food additives, and the list goes on. Now, when migraine attacks besiege you, it leaves you retching, nauseatic, suffering from a constant throbbing pain, dizziness, and immense discomfort. Your immediate reaction is to call a doctor. And here’s what the doc says, “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning”. Migraines, cluster headaches, other causes of chronic, excruciating head or facial pain force you to take an aspirin or to and yet there is no sign of relief. Now, imagine an almond- size implant along with a small Smartphone-sized remote control – Electronic Aspirin, which stops the pain at its onset itself.

Medical reason behind migraine attacks

Medical Professionals believe that a facial bundle known as sphenopalatine neural structure (SPG) situated outside the brain behind the nasal passage and near the eye socket is associated with severe headaches and migraines. However, they haven’t until now found a treatment that works on the SPG long-term.

Electronic Aspirin

Electronic Aspirin is a technology that is a patient-powered tool for blocking sphenopalatine ganglion signals, when a patient feels the first signs of a headache. It is under clinical investigation at California based company, Autonomic Technologies, Inc.

Electronic Aspirin works by permanently implanting a small nerve stimulating device in the upper gum on the side of the head normally affected by headache. The lead tip of the implant i.e. the tiny tail connects with the SPG bundle, and when a patient senses the onset of a headache, he or she places a handheld remote controller on the cheek nearest the implant that sends a radio signal to the implanted device.  That triggers a slight electrical charge to stimulate the SPG nerve cells and block the pain-causing neurotransmitters.

Implant procedure

For patients, the implant procedure to get the device implanted is almost as easy as a wisdom tooth extraction. The patient can turn it on and off as needed. Furthermore, the patient can leave it as is or take it out, when no longer necessary.

Autonomic Technologies has been approved to treat migraine and cluster headaches in Europe, and the company is currently waiting for the FDA to approve them for testing in the U.S. In a clinical trial for people who suffered chronic headaches, upon using Electronic Aspirin, 68% reported improvement. Moreover, weekly average headaches were reduced by 31% and 75% of those reported improvement in their quality of life. 

 Medical devices are not a cure for illness, but they are improving the daily lives of people to live longer, healthier, and hopefully happier lives. Imagine the future for Electronic Aspirin, the monitoring and management of migraines with additional applications for medical devices to improve their patients’ lives. This is a new realm of science and medicine and the future for controlling pain and developing cures has only just begun.

- Mr. Iman Ikram, 
  Healthcare Administration 

What’s in a Name?... Ask a Brand.

For the longest time we have been using  brand names, sometimes because we want that particular item and sometimes because we are addressing a category of products.

A “Band Aid” is an adhesive medicated strip (how many of us knew that??), but it represents all brands in that category be it HandyPlast or HansaPlast. The brand “Surf” has for the longest time signified a detergent powder and “Lux” a bathing bar. We often use a brand name as a verb, like “Google” this phrase for doing a web search or lets “FaceTime” for a video call. Such brand names are called Generic brands.

So what’s a brand?

According to American Marketer’s Association a Brand is a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competition. We identify a product, its quality and its relationship with us with the help of its brand name. We associate an image, self-respect, a sense of heritage as also feelings like warmth and excitement with brands, like say Cartier, Louis Vuitton and our very own in-house brands like Dabur and Tata.

Choosing a brand name

So how does a company choose a brand name? There are innumerable stories behind choice of a brand name. Sit back on your IKEA futon, pick up a cuppa Nescafe and enjoy reading about some of those:

Some brands emerge from the name of the creator like Maggi noodles was named after its creator Julius Maggi; LandT named after it’s co-founders Henning Holck Larsen and Soren Kristian Toubro (2 Danish Engineers who sought refuge in India during pre-independence and founded the company LandT in Mumbai).

Some brand names are derived from certain terms:
Google is named after the term Googol which represents 1010 zeroes. The brand Canon (the famous Japanese camera company) is derived from the name of a Buddhist goddess, “Kwanon”.  The brand Amazon is named after the world’s largest river, Amazon (to signify the volume of business the ecommerce company envisioned for itself). Sony, the founder of Walkman, is derived from the Latin word “Sonus”, which means sound.

Some brands are a result of misnomers, like Spotify (one of the most popular digital music service hub) got its name from a wrongly pronounced “identify” by the founder himself.
Blackberry (the famous phone company) calls itself so, because the digits on the phone looked like the fruit blackberry’s drupelets.

Sometimes an acronym becomes a very popular Brand name, for instance UCLA (full form – University of California Los Angeles); BMW, the full form of which is Bavarian Motor Works; YAHOO, the full form of which is Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.

There are plenty of such stories that tell us a little bit more about brands we buy, we consume and embrace in our daily lives. In reality however, brands become such an integral part of our lives, we often do not pay attention to the company they belong to or why at all they have that name. And the journey to discover brand names continues…

- Ms.Monica Mor
  Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

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