Category Archives: General

Tax the Super-Rich, Invest in Working People!

www.cnbc.com/2019/09/24/bernie-sanders-proposes-wealth-tax-after-plan-from-elizabeth-warren.html

That will be a welcome move – investing in working people and making billionaires pay more taxes! Many of the billionaires in the U.S. have themselves been suggesting hefty taxes for the super-rich.

In fact, two years ago, when AI was beginning to go mainstream, Bill Gates even wanted a mechanism in place for robots to pay income tax.

But then the Gates Foundation, in a fall from the philanthropic pedestal, recently announced an award for the world’s biggest bigoted leader!

For businessmen, even if they are deep into philanthropy, everything they do is with an eye on the market!

In Asia we have leaders calling for wealth creators to be given greater respect and incentives.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Feature Parity, RFPs and Differentiation Beyond Functionality

By G Joslin Vethakumar

Feature parity across all solution hues is not some delusional hype. It is happening in every area of business, though with differentiation going beyond product functionality. So, value still sells! Just that it may not have to be confined to features.

  • Design can be a point of difference for one (Apple, for instance) and price for another (one example is Huawei, going by the aggressive discounting that was clear during its early stages of competition with Cisco though with 5G now it has taken on a new dimension) with dependability/credibility being a key non-functional area of strength for many with a brand value built over the years.

Yet, I have my own misgivings on feature parity and am compelled to bring up some posers:

The Posers on Feature Parity
1.       If feature parity is the industry norm, why do product companies end up with RFPs containing thousands of technical and functional questions to be respond to?
2.       It is not uncommon to see more than 3,000 questions in tender documents even for a single-platform offering. And we have market reports screaming that the RFP instrument is being trashed for a nimbler pursuit strategy with short bid cycles! Do exceptions become a trend?
3.       There has always been a steady flow of RFPs that consume months of deep war-room focus and resource costs. If every product has every feature that businesses need, doesn’t it negate the RFP process?
4.       What purpose do demos and Proof of Concept (PoC) sessions serve if every product in the market delivers a largely similar set of features? Just for validation of vendor claims?
5.       If the above is taken to be true, shouldn’t some marketing / business pitch and price benchmarking suffice for decision-making? Cannot businesses, both issuers and responders, simply skip the arduous RFI/RFP journey Why do businesses, both issuers and responders, have to spend months and years on RFIs / RFPs? They can jump straight to commercial negotiations with a few hand-picked vendors, can’t they?

Winning Purely on Price, a Pipedream

That brings me to the crux of this piece, it is a fallacy to imagine that bids can be won purely on price, which can only be a part of the criteria for prospects. Teams can get carried away with the impression that if they can just match the offer of the bidder with the lowest price, the deal can be theirs.

  • That will be a mockery of the pursuit process itself, with some opportunities even taking more than a year for closure.
  • Selling on value and selling on price are both key elements of a bid strategy, one cannot be compromised for the other.
  • Yet, price is upperpost with most teams in particularly Asia. With proximity to decision-makers on low-value opportunities, quality takes the backseat. If mediocrity sells, it will be infantile to make it a core part of a larger strategy.
  • Price becomes a determining factor during final negotiations involving two or three down-selected vendors who have demonstrated compliance with a prospect’s core requirements.

Feature Parity QuestionA cost-centric prescription may work with Government entities in some countries that mandate “100% compliance at the lowest price”!

  • On a broader canvas, businesses look for value and vendors have to sell that first before they can move to the final evaluation phase. The earlier phases are, therefore, more important than the final stretch.

Notwithstanding any feature parity trend, solution vendors do need some unique selling points (USPs) that will distinguish them from their challengers and catch the buyer’s attention.

Any value proposition for market positioning need not be elaborate. Just a few points of differentiation that are in alignment with a prospect’s mandatory requirements will sell the value enough.

It is futile to count on perceived boilerplate value proposition with little relevance for businesses looking for a technology transformation with a clear future-state vision or with individual consumers seeking a premium product for a rich user experience.

iPhone – Android Feature Parity?

The new iPhone versions are a case in point. Since they are not 5G-enabled, the market is rife with Android comparisons.

Yet, any impetuous conclusion that Apple is one step behind Android will be way off track.

Apple may have stayed out of the 5G realm with valid business reasons. Possibly because it was conscious of timing as 5G is not expected to be pervasive anytime soon in most countries. Why saddle consumers with higher costs when they will not get to experience the power of 5G from their day of purchase?

“Embrace-and-Extend” Culture

Likewise, Microsoft has generally followed an “embrace-and-extend” culture. That is, embracing innovations from other entities and building them to create its own offering. Be it Microsoft’s flagship operating system or the Internet browser, they were improved versions of products that were developed by other companies.

Having spent more than 20 years in bid management with industry giants (Cisco, Lucent, BT and, currently, Genesys), I had often heard the clichéd drumbeat that:

“We can do all that our competitor can, but at 50% of their cost.”

That is a claim of feature parity with price as the USP! Unless 100% compliance is backed up by irrefutable evidence, it will not pass muster. Lofty promises are often hard to keep!

AI, Cloud and Digital Convergence2

AI-Cloud-Digital Convergence

If the accent on the convergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud and Digital is gaining market traction, that can be a value proposition for innovators with an early-mover advantage.

All vendors in the industry can be expected to claim having made forays into that evolving trend. However, they will have to come through evaluator scrutiny for proven and demonstrable expertise.

Such points of differentiation will continue to hold value even as increasing feature parity is a phenomenon that cannot be wished away. The winners in an intensely competitive environment will be those who stay focused on R&D and on continuous innovation to meet evolving requirements.

personal jottings

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Where Free Speech Still Exists in Era of Fake News!

Freedom of Expression, in its truest spirit, exists in the U.S. And Presidents, present and past, have always had the courage to face the media and handle tough questions on a regular basis.

Unfortunately in Asia, Journalists do not “just bend, they crawl” for leaders to trample on.

I will not blame them entirely, people have come to love fake news as truth is not always palatable to them, given their political and religious preferences.

Trump on Cokie Roberts’ death: ‘She never treated me nicely. But I would like to wish her family well’
https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/17/politics/donald-trump-cokie-roberts-death/index.html

G Joslin Vethakumar

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New iPhones Not 5G-Capable, But Apple Playing Cards Right!

So, now we know the new iPhones do not have 5G capability! That should provide marketing effervescence for the likes of Samsung that have 5G-capable phones!

But does it matter? If 4G is good enough, why will consumers want 5G? Particularly when even 4G is not stable enough with inconsistent network strength, slipping into 3G off and on even in Singapore, which is aspiring to be the world’s first smart nation!

With the world bracing for a recession, business investments on 5G infrastructure will be hit, Apple may be right in not rushing to give its new phones a 5G fix when a meaningful Customer Experience (CX) is unlikely anytime soon!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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One Religion, One Language, One Everything for India – BJP’s Mad Vision!

English as Lingua Franca is Ideal!

Singapore is on Agenda of Modi and Gang to Promote Hindi!

India’s Home Minister Amit Shah made an obsessive pitch for Hindi today, asserting its use as a common language across the country will be promoted (read imposed!) soon.

Hindi was everywhere at the India International Festival in Singapore that I went to today. It was obvious the plan was to promote Hindi and India’s divisive culture internationally.

India International Festival, IMG_0412

Tamil is one of the four national languages in Singapore and I could see how Hindi has been steadily winding its way into the country.

Though the majority of Indians in Singapore speak Tamil, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke only in Hindi when he addressed the NRI gathering here a few years ago – something he does in all of his visits to the rest of the world.

Indian Singaporeans, like all NRIs in other parts of the world, are veering round to the Hindutva culture in the multiracial country.

If Tamil Singaporeans are not alert, it may not be far-fetched to think that every attempt will be made to make Hindi suppress Tamil.

  • As I had said in a few of my blogs in the past, in terms of literary strength, Tamil is far superior to Hindi, a language which is popular only because of Bollywood.

English can be Lingua Franca

Learning a new language can be fun (though any time spent on it can be better utilised picking up career-enhancing skills), but any attempt to impose it on an unwilling population must be resisted.

I am confident the Modi-Shah duo will fail in Tamil Nadu, they may succeed with their religious one-upmanship, but with Hindi they are certain to stumble.

Only English must be the lingua franca as India attracts a lot of international visitors for business and for leisure.

The Hindi mania will not serve the country well – even 300 years of British rule has not equipped Indians with the ability to speak and understand English.

Even in the capital city of Delhi, it is almost impossible to get around with only English – and this is based on my own experience and not any hearsay!

India International Festival, IMG_0433

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Game Mastery, Focus Gets Nadal Another Slam!

Neither Age Nor Youth Mattered – Just Tennis Strength and Focus!

Emirates Airline, American Express and JP Morgan — all familiar logos – were prominent throughout the U.S. Open that would to a close today with Rafael Nadal remaining in winning territory following his success at Roland Garros recently.

Great events and strong players draw the best sponsors! Just as businesses with world-leading solutions get premium customers. As in sport, so in business!

Both Nadal and Medvedev looked exhausted in the fifth set.

What mattered in the end was neither age nor youth. It was a triumph of game mastery. And focus!

Congratulations, Nadal, for the 19th Grand Slam title, just one short of Federer!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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A 65-Inch QUHD TV for S$1299?

At Comex Show in Singapore

My Comex 2019 experience today was not different from other such technology expos in Singapore – streams and streams of people flowing in, including couples with babies and strollers, cacophony through hourly promotions, smart home booths and the latest and greatest gizmos from the world of innovation.

What caught my eye this time were television sets, including QUHD offerings, from a China-based company, The Creative Life (TCL), that most people will not have heard of.

A 65-inch QUHD television with all the bells and whistles we see in a, say, Sony or Samsung set, goes for just S$ 1299! And a 65-inch UHD set costs less than S$1000! Even a 55-inch Curved HUD TV for S$ 799!

I don’t remember having seen any TCL booth at any expo in the past.

Importantly, TCL is not a fly-by-night company. With annual revenues in excess of US$ 16 billion, TCL is a little-known giant in the space it has perched itself in.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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