I recently read the "It Happened in India" book. It is the story of Kishore Biyani, the man who created Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Bangalore/Hyderabad Central, EZone, and much much more - effectively, the one person who made retailing a roaring success in India and who had envisioned it much before anyone else dared to even think about it.
I had first known about the book when glancing over Ashish's book review, and so when I happened to see it in a book store, I had to buy it. I was most surprised to see the price of just Rs.99. Later, I realized that this was true to the philosophies behind all the businesses that Kishore Biyani has built till now - "value for money".
I have to admit that I found the first half of the book to be boring. I mean listening to ten different people eulogizing Kishore Biyani can get really tedious.
The second half gets really interesting - about how KB (that's Kishore Biyani for the rest of us) takes pride in doing things in an India-centric manner and creating strategies that are derived from the Indian mindset, the poignant motto "Rewrite Rules. Retain Values.", about how they use the concept of "memetics" to design what kind of products to stock in their stores, the various retail formats they created after analyzing the traditional bazaars, about the various people involved and the viewpoints they brought in, and so on. I found it fascinating that people actually think to such deep levels, and all this to try to understand what the customer wants, many times even before the customer themselves know it.
One of the most amusing sentences was his Time Pass Theory:
I interpret life very differently and I have this belief that we all come to this world to kill time. Therefore, we pick up some activity that we like doing and call it our profession. I call this the Time Pass theory.
One of my favorite passages in the book was from the last chapter of the book:
The last century marked the transition from the industrial economy to the 'knowledge economy.' However, within a few decades of the knowledge economy, we are again witnessing a major shift.
Knowledge as we know it is being commoditised. What was once central to organisations - systems, processes and much of the left-brain, digitised analytical work associated with knowledge - is being outsourced. The most successful organisations in this new era are the ones that harness ideas, creativity and innovation to generate top-line growth.
The central objective for earlier businesses was to bring in stability and consolidation. They were built to enforce order. However, in the new era where nothing remains constant, the dominant theme for businesses need to be speed and imagination. Going forward, companies will be lucky if they can write a five year plan for their business.
For organisations to survive and succeed in the Creative Economy, innovation has to take centre stage. Soon, the nature of innovation will also change and organisations will have to keep up with that. Macro-innovation, like a new technology, a new product or a new business model will continue to be important. But what will become far more important and decisive is micro-innovation - the ideas and imagination driving day-to-day innovations based on how well a company pre-empts its customers' changing needs and consumption patterns.
The new macro-differentiator can be design. Design is helping companies to sell differentiated experiences and solutions that connect with the consumer's emotions. It's no longer about selling products and services alone. Nor is it just about completing transactions. Every time a customer walks in, it is an opportunity to build a relationship and invite the customer to become a part of the transformational scenario. Design management is helping us position the customer at the centre of every decision we take and also operate with true entrepreneurial spirit.
It is proven fact that diversity leads to creativity. From popular culture to sport, diversity has helped teams perform better. In corporations too, diversity has to be brought in. That is why we have begun to develop cross-functional teams. Having swarms of male management graduates, engineers and accountants isn't good enough. We need more anthropologists, ethnographers, social scientists and most importantly, more women to be part of every team within the organisation.
It cannot be a zero-sum game anymore. We need to create win-win-win scenarios - where we can win, our business partners can win and the customer can win.
Another interesting passage that I liked was where he describes himself as the creator and destroyer (and re-creator) of all that he builds - he doesn't believe in preserving because that's when the company starts stagnating. So, every few years, KB changes their entire organization structure to adapt to the current and future environments, and that's why they now have a new name "Future Group":
â€œFutureâ€? â€“ the word which signifies optimism, growth, achievement, strength, beauty, rewards and perfection. Future encourages us to explore areas yet unexplored, write rules yet unwritten; create new opportunities and new successes. To strive for a glorious future brings to us our strength, our ability to learn, unlearn and re-learn, our ability to evolve.
We, in Future Group, will not wait for the Future to unfold itself but create future scenarios in the consumer space and facilitate consumption because consumption is development. Thereby, we will effect socio-economic development for our customers, employees, shareholders, associates and partners.
It all happened (and is happening) in India :)