Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mother Pious Lady- The book on Understanding India

Was reading Santosh Deasi's 'Mother Pious Lady Making Sense of Everyday India, and thought that I should share something about the book. This is not a formal review per se, but more of the first-cut thoughts on the book, which I am doing because I have liked the book immensely and want others to read it..

The name is a bit deceptive , Mother Pious Lady , will not play spoil sport and explain what it means, but spread across 14 chapters and 380 pages , the author shares more than 100 small articles which he had written over a time in various newspapers on India. Each of them not more than 3 pages in length.

The topics are varied, from writings on the street food in the country to Indian Traffic. The best thing in his writings is his ability to see meanings in ritual and practices which one has been following for a long time, he provides us with a different lens to understand ourselves.

To give an example from the book, the author writes about the meaning of thali in one of the write-ups, by drawing analogies between thali and the pluralism which exists in our society, and how it contrasts with the western society. How thali is able to accommodate all in one go. According to him thali tells the story about the Indian ability to create harmony out of discordance and find pleasure in chaos.

Though the number of topics which have been covered can be seen as a strength, it also lends some weakness, because at times one feels not all articles are equally good. And even the common binding thread feels weak in some cases, but then overall the compilation is a good read. And a final word, this book is not one of those which you would want to read cover to cover , in fact I think one can derive more pleasure if it were to be read slowly and randomly.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Indian Mobile Handset Market - Smaller Players Making a Dent!!!

It is predicted that India will have a mobile subscriber base of 1.159 Billion by the end of 2013 and become the world's largest market, from the currently fastest growing. For one who has seen the growth of the market from close quarters (though more as a consumer..) it has been a industry which has come from nowhere and gone on to become huge, though the scene on the service providers front is not very rosy especially looking at the future and the fact that the call rates are among the cheapest in the world make the life even more tough for them.

But what has surprised me in the recent times, is the emergence of strong local players in the Handset market. The structure of the market is very clear, you have a dominant player in Nokia with more than half of the market under its belt and then you have a host of players jostling for the second place. And we would have cover stories devoted to players who would gain 1-2% market share to become the number two player in the market. Just to give you an idea of how competitive the market is, 28 new vendors have been added in a space of one year. So in such a competitive market how easy or difficult is it for a new player to gain market share???

There is a detailed story of How MicroMax Mobile did it in Business Today. The story goes on to tell how Sharma who founded the company saw two features battery life and signal reception being the ones which were the number one priority for many of the low-income consumers, and capitalized on the opportunity. Now this insight is not something for which you need McKinsey's study???

It was not that the emergence of these local vendors was something which happened overnight, they were making their presence felt through local ads, and I could see many people slowly buying them, like my gardner has recently brought a Lava phone. But it was this IPL which brought the focus, with many of them capitalizing on the opportunity to highlight their brands..

We have known about the first mover advantage, though the evidence on the advantage is not very clear, but it seems intuitive that if there is a gap in the price-value equation it should be the existing players who should be able to see it first and capitalize. I can understand when it happens along with a shift in the technology, but....

But it definitely provides a lot of food for thought smaller players suceeding in an extremely competitive market. And the mobile handset market is only going to become more and more crowded with time, and success of MaxMobile is only going to add to the rush...


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