Learn and Lead

About continual learning and leadership

Web and Mobility

Seth Godin recently wrote

Do you know enough?

If not, what are you doing about it?

If so, who do you think you're kidding?

[Interesting side alley: I was talking to a friend yesterday and encouraged her to speak at an upcoming conference. She said, "No way. I don't know enough." I explained that volunteering to speak was the best way to be sure that she'd end up knowing enough by the time she was through.]

 

When I recently got a chance to speak at our annual strategic input conference, I thought Why Not. I am no expert (yet J) and opportunities like these help me learn more about areas of my interest.

I spoke about the web and mobility. My presentation was divided broadly into four parts. I started with a recap of Web 2.0 and some changes from Web 1.0, and getting the audience to check their Web 2.0 Quotient. I followed this up with some trends that I have been observing and how companies can/should use the Web to connect with their customers. Finally I left the audience with what I believe are two critical tools to get started on the Web and some next steps for them to get started with Web 2.0.

My main message – You can’t ‘learn’ about Web 2.0 in classroom or in a conference. You have use it and experience it to leverage its power.

Here’s my presentation on SlideShare and some notes about what I spoke.


Trends:

-          There are enough demographic studies to tell use that the workforce is getting younger. The younger workforce is more adept at using technology, and this is not limited to a particular socio-economic section. Depending on where the audience is from, they will be relatively more tech savvy. How are we going to connect with them, train them and also leverage their inherent tech savvy mindset is going to be the opportunity in coming few years.

-          While Second Life is clunky, slow and can’t be accessed through most corporate networks, we should watch out for 3-D virtual worlds. While the current use in training and business is limited, their use will increase in times to come. I encouraged everyone to get a Second Life account and try out the 3-D worlds for themselves just to get an experience. It is a little hard to imagine what it is like without actually being in one.

-          Telepresence will increase and will not be limited to just high quality video conference, even though that is what it seems in the first instance. The video of John Chambers and Marthin De Beer is a good example of what telepresence can do and give rise to new applications.

-          Mobile phones have a far greater penetration than the Internet, at least in India. In India, while 3.7% population has access to the Internet, nearly 30% population has access to a mobile phone. With the increase in sales of the smart phone, the Internet will reach the people faster on a mobile phone than on a PC. It is going to be a great tool to reach out to the customers and applications using mobile technology will increase significantly.

-          Web 3.0 will provide even more freedom to the users.

Connecting with the community

-          When you see Baba Ramdev talking about Google Chrome in his billboard advertising, you know times are a changing. So how are you connecting with your customers? Your customers are everywhere on the Web. What’s your company’s web strategy in connecting with your customers?

-          With the Web, there are a lot more channels for your customers’ voice. Your customers may not always communicate directly with you. With so many websites primarily aimed at carrying customer’s voice, it is imperative that companies listen to what their customers are saying in public forums.

Critical tools to get started

-          The most common issue with managers is that they don’t have the time to do all what I have said above. While all this Web 2.0 mumbo-jumbo is fine and sounds great, where is the time to try all these things? Well, I suggest that all managers start with Feeds and Google Alerts. Feeds allow you to scan your selected sites quickly for updates. Alerts help you track what’s being talked about on the Web. Most managers have a smart phone with Web access. We need to start using the smart phones for more than just email.

-          Most feed readers have a mobile version available allowing you easy access to updates without necessarily being on your laptop.

-          Google Alerts provide you with daily email alerts about your search keyword. This is a great way to track what’s being said about your company or your area of interest.

 

 

Why I don't want to use LinkedIn

Recently a proprietor of a small firm asked me how he can get more clients, including international clients. So with all my new found Web 2.0 and social media interest, I suggested that he start building contacts on social networking sites. I asked him to start building his contact list on LinkedIn. I also suggested that he starts participating in various groups on LinkedIn, basically increase web presence of himself and his company.

I met him a few weeks later and asked him how he was progressing on building his network. He sheepishly told me he hadn’t made much progress. On my asking why, he said that he feared that his competitors would get hold of all his contacts and approach his clients to takeaway his business. His fear completely flummoxed me. I could tell him that he could stop others from viewing his contacts but I have a feeling that it might still not be enough to get his started. So what do I tell him to get him started? 

Employability, the biggest challenge

In my second part in the series, I share what Manish Sabharwal spoke at our annual strategy input conference. Manish Sabharwal is the Chairman and co-founder of TeamLease. Manish wanted to start a new company that was profitable, fun, and good for India. He co-founded Team Lease, a staffing company, and in six years his company has grown to 80,000 employees and $250 million company. It was great fun listening to Manish again this year.

According to Manish, vocational training has to come with a job. There has been an employment failure. No one is really willing to pay for training. The employers are not willing to pay for training but for trained candidates. Candidates are not willing to pay for training but for a job, and financers are not willing to lend for training but to a candidate with a job.

Manish is working towards making labour markets more inclusive. The labour market has seen many transitions lately:

  • Farm to non-farm
  • Rural to urban
  • Unorganized to organized
  • Subsistence self-employment to decent wage employment
  • School to work


Commenting on the economic conditions, he says while there may be a slow down but there is no shutdown. Manish’s company still finds it difficult to find people for jobs. They have more than 4000 open jobs on any given day that need to be fulfilled. The problem is not that there are no jobs, the problem is that the workforce is not employable. And rural India doesn’t have the same choices as the urban India in terms of the jobs they might qualify for.

The way he sees the current situation, in the immediate term the immediate strategy is that of Matching, which is matching the workforce to the right jobs. Medium term the strategy is to reduce the mismatch. He calls this ‘Repair training’, skilling the existing workforce to close the skill gaps. And long term, the strategy is to build the pipeline, preparing the workforce for the jobs. He calls this ‘Prepare training’.

Manish laments to the poor education regime in India. There is low penetration of education, low returns to education, uneven quality of education, and while the system is accreditation heavy the outcome is light.

Manish also talks about the poor employability and employment regime. He describes the entry and exit gates (e.g. IIT, CA exams) in the education systems not meeting the requirements of the employment available in the market. He feels the current assessment systems are just not suitable and cannot really identify the right candidates. In spite of various assessment systems, the actual performance at workplace still seems to be the luck of a draw. Manish would really like to see more apprenticeship, more learning by doing, and the government policies current don’t encourage that.

Manish talks about lopsided GDP. Very few people contribute to a large part of India’s GDP and he would like more people employed and contributing to the GDP. He also feels that we are missing the middle – there can only be a hero or a zero. He wants us as a society to accept the ‘middle’. Not everyone is a hero and not everyone is a zero.

It was also interesting to know that employment exchanges in India are in a really bad state. There are 4 crore people registered and only 2 lakh jobs provided across India. The Delhi employment exchange gave 500 jobs last year at the cost of Rs. 2.5 lakh each! (1 lakh = 100K, 1 crore = 10million)

For building a pipeline, Manish feels quantity comes first and then quality. He feels we should get the critical mass and then refine the process/delivery as we go along; the good is not the enemy of great, e.g. not looking for Einstein for Front Office Sales; we are not trying to be right, we are trying to be successful. He urges the education system to include softskills and communication skills in schools and colleges.

It was interesting to hear him say that knowledge of English language is a must. He says English is like Windows, it is an operating system. We can like it or hate it, but we need it.

According to Manish, we can’t have employment and employability conversations independently. To increase employment, we have to improve the employability. Skill deficit is worse than the infrastructure deficit, and an unemployed or unemployable India is not free India.

Finally let me leave you with this interesting quote:
Entrepreneurship is the art of staying alive long enough to get lucky


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A crisis is a terrible thing to waste

As part of the annual strategy input conference at our company, I got chance to hear some great speakers. There were some very articulate speakers who caught our imagination. It was also interesting to hear diverse views about employment and employability situation in the current world economic situation. In a series of posts I will share with you what the industry leaders are saying about the current situation.

Pramod Bhasin is the CEO of Genpact, the largest BPO company in India. Genpact is an $882 million company with more than 34,000 employees. Pramod is a very dynamic, articulate and passionate leader who doesn’t mince words.

According to Pramod, there is globalization of Services and not just products, and it will only increase in times to come. BPO as a term will become obsolete... ‘Services’ will be bought or sold much like products. India has the potential to be a global hub for process excellence, six sigma, lean and re-engineering and not just the current BPO services being offered. The service mindset will move from ‘transactions’ to ‘solutions’.

Pramod initially painted a bleak picture of the current world situation and went on to provide some very useful leadership inputs. According to him, we are in the worst economic meltdown of our lives. It starts with liquidity crunch as phase 1, which leads to abrupt disruption of industries. Bad news about industry slowdown and economic de-growth is yet to flow through. It will be hard to regain confidence and trust of investors. More regulation will be required and businesses will have inherent inability to predict their results.

He provides some rules for the environment that business should be sensitive to, including some of the things he is implementing in his organization.

  • “Cash is King”. He mentions that one analyst mentioning that cash is not just king in times like these, Cash is God! It is imperative that companies manage and improve their cash reserves in current times.
  • Avoid denial... acknowledge and then solve. The worst that can happen in these times is the leadership being in denial mode of the situation we are in.
  • There are no sacred cows in this environment. He urges to relook at everything. No project is too sacred, no initiative too pet. Focus on core strengths; abandon ‘hobbies’.
  • Pramod urges you to renegotiate existing terms and deals. Don’t wait for end of term or contract renewals.
  • This is also a time to be aggressive not defensive in terms of going after business and managing costs. Aggressively drive your sales team to close orders. Focus on improving the order win rate, even if it means dropping prices. Now is the time to take calculated risk, focus on volume and increasing market share. He urges his sales teams to be closer to the customer, abandoning old models of engagement. He urges his sales team to get on the plane to meet with customers and close deals rather than wait patiently for customers to respond to proposals.
  • Interestingly, he says leaders could use the ‘burning platform’ to alter cost models and bring in cultural changes. Now is the best time to bring about major changes. Now is the time when there will be least resistance to change in order to survive. Set new productivity goals for your teams. Crisis, he says, is also an ideal time to build teamwork.
  • Accept lack of ability to predict and always have a plan B. Build flexibility in your plans.
  • Look further out than what’s in front of you. Focus on high growth areas and areas that have the most potential in times to come.
  • Take decisive actions, don’t hesitate. It is okay that some decisions may not be the best but now is not the time to hesitate.

Key takeaways:

  • Assume that your pricing is going to come down by 10-15%. How will you make the same money?
  • Change at this time will be relatively easy. Make the change now.
  • Crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Use the crisis to figure out how can you change your business model, how do you want to utilize cash?

Connections on Social Networking sites

Taking a cue from Tony Karrer's recent post where he relooks at his approach to LinkedIn connections, I am also attempting to increase my PAN (Potentially Active Network) and increase my network on LinkedIn and Facebook, the two social networking sites that I am more active on.

So you go to my LinkedIn profile or Facebook profile and connect with me. 

On LinkedIn, click Add Manish to Your Network, select Other and put in my email manishmo [at] hotmail [dot] com. On Facebook, select Add as Friend.

Please do provide some introduction about yourself in your initial connecting message.

Network Feedback

This month’s Learning Circuits Big Question asks where is the best place to ask if you need input from people, what works and doesn’t work, what did you consider using, what was the outcome, ...

Continuing with my experiences with social networking, I have tried to use blogging to connect with people and get answers. However I haven’t been very successful in generating a dialog through my blogs. Perhaps my blog has very small readership, or perhaps people aren’t comfortable commenting.

As part of my journey in social networking I also started two communities – on Facebook and LinkedIn. Somehow it seemed harder to get a dialog on Facebook community but LinkedIn community got the dialog going quicker initially.

I recently sought inputs on a presentation I had to make.  I posed the question on my LinkedIn community and didn’t get any response. I also sent a message to my Facebook community inbox instead of posting it to the group site. I got most response using this method. It makes me wonder if email is still the best form of social networking.

My Experiences with Social Networking

I am relatively new to social networking and social media. I remember my first encounter with social media was on a new Indian social networking site about 17-18 months ago. The social networking site’s interface was a combination of Orkut and Facebook-style networking (which I figured later after I started using Orkut and Facebook). So here I was on this social networking site but I couldn’t see anyone to network with (it didn’t let you see anyone’s profile unless you were their ‘friend’). On their open chat room, I asked what the point of this site was. I was told by someone that I could invite the ‘real’ friends I knew and grow my network. I felt a little silly. But I already know all my ‘real’ friends. What’s to network with them? I thought the whole point of these social networking sites was to expand and build new networks. I gave up first attempt at social networking within an hour of trying, turn my nose up, wondering what all the fuss was all about when I couldn’t really connect with people I didn’t know.

Thankfully I progressed on to using the social networking sites and even started my own communities, figuring things along the way. Blogging definitely helped my journey in using the many social networking sites. I primarily started building my social networking on Facebook. Initially I found Orkut a lot more ‘social’ and Facebook a lot more ‘professional’. However I now figure it just depends on which communities you connect to on each of these sites. I have since figures that LinkedIn perhaps truly ‘professional’ networking site while Facebook and Orkut have a much more ‘social’ side to them. I have also felt that Orkut seems to have a much larger Indian community than on Facebook before finding some statistics recently that validate this.

The social networking sites have also made it easier for me to remember birthdays by transferring the responsibility to the person whose birthday I should remember J. And like mobile phones ruined my ability to remember phone numbers, social networking sites are making remembering email addresses a futile exercise.

As my online presence grew (though still miniscule compared to many other bloggers I follow), I started getting ‘invites’ to be ‘friends’ on Facebook, Orkut and LinkedIn. Many old colleagues were connecting with me. I get scraps on Orkut seeking my inputs on career and education. I have also started reaching out to people I don’t know. I always try to provide a brief intro/background/intent of my connecting with them. I am petrified of connecting with an old acquaintance with no introduction or an introduction like “Hi, remember me?” What if they don’t? So I play it safe and provide some introduction. It is also better to receive introductions that have some background.

I also figured (again) that humour or something said in lighter vein can easily be misinterpreted. I should know this but still have learning experiences. And no, a smiley in my message does not necessarily mean that the intent will be transmitted and interpreted correctly by the other person. So humour is highly avoidable with professional contacts with who I have not yet established some sort of communication rapport.

 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

Creative Commons License This work by Manish Mohan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License.

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