Category Archives: General

Kickoffs – Blending Sales and Bid Management

Kickoffs and Deals can easily represent pursuit blending, one leading to the other with effective execution of business strategies. I am not talking about bid kickoffs that are an integral part of opportunity / proposal / bid management.

This is about the annual sales kickoff (SKO) that businesses hold with pomp at the start of every fiscal year to pave the way for a strategic assessment of what worked well and what did not in the preceding 12 months and for evolution of a market attack strategy for the next 12. To that effect, it is a vital platform.


Essential Components for an Effective SKO

While puffed-up analysis and hyperbole are an inevitable component of any SKO, it also brings to the fore reality-based ‘state-of-the-nation’ assessments of the year gone by and a clear direction for the next with accountability. That is essential for an effective SKO.

The sales-enablement value from bid management and sales operations teams stems from assimilation of business strategies that are formalised at kickoffs and putting them to practice in the opportunities they manage.

Celebrate Successes Without Masking Failures

Bid managers ensure win themes and key messaging from kickoffs are captured in their proposals for submission. They will find articulation in their own bid kickoffs for broader acceptance.

Celebrating successes while masking failures may inspire a feel-good sentiment among the staff. That, however, will mean there were no opportunities to learn from mistakes.

If it takes two to tango, 1000s of personnel are involved in delivering a meaningful SKO which, in my opinion, will have no clichés, no drama and no hype. For a Strategic Knockout (SKO) punch to competition!

G Joslin Vethakumar


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Smooth Self-Check-in at Changi

Automated check-in was a breeze at the Changi airport (Terminal 3) where I boarded a flight to San Francisco this morning.

It took me just a minute to have the boarding pass printed and the baggage checked in.

Smooth and sophisticated! There is even a sky train to move travellers to their boarding gate. That’s not just from terminal to terminal.

Security was tighter than usual. Laptops and phones were subjected to double scanning.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Leadership and Stock Price Surge: Hardly Any Link!

Cisco Breaches $40 Barrier!

It is not uncommon for business leaders to claim the performance of their company equities is the least of their priorities as their focus is on innovation, market success and all it takes for a fillip to the corporate bottomline.

They have their emphasis right even if investors feel shortchanged. They should not have to worry about why the stock prices of their companies are lagging far behind those of new-generation companies.

Wealth for Philanthropy

Stock market fortunes may have made Bill Gates the world’s richest man (a position he ceded this week to Amazon boss Jeff Bezos).

As market capitalisation determines the wealth of the super-rich, fluctuations keep this list inconstant. What is significant, though, is that the Microsoft founder and several other philanthropists are focused on using their money for meaningful, social causes.

Manipulation by Analysts

Sometimes leadership may have little to do with surging (or falling) stock prices, as market swings are often the result of projections (to me, that is manipulation) by analysts.

During my five-year stay with Cisco (2005-2010), its share price was hovering around $16. Stock options and the Employee Stock Purchase Plan were among the benefits the staff enjoyed. So, they had reason to hope for a market climb.

Cisco did not have its sights set on a booming market. Informally, nonetheless, there was talk of a $40 target. While there was optimism among the staff, it was nowhere near that mark for long.

It was only this week that the stock finally breached the $40 barrier. After hitting the magic number a few days during intra-day trading, yesterday it closed at $40.10.

Cisco’s revenue growth has been dismal, so it can trigger talk of the stock looking overvalued. Its fundamentals are intact with billions of dollars in cash reserves.

Once Close to Becoming World’s First Trillion-Dollar Company

There was a time when I thought it may soon become a penny stock. It is to be noted that Cisco was once well-positioned to become the world’s first trillion-dollar company, hitting $82 during the millennium year.

About 18 years later, no company has reached that milestone yet though Amazon and Apple have been coming close.

Until last year Cisco was helmed by John Chambers, a visionary leader who took the company to phenomenal heights. He presided over it during the days of the market bust as well.

Quarter after quarter, it was exceeding forecasts but downward guidance prevented any climb in the stock price.

Plus, Cisco did not have the practice of paying dividends. Why will investors buy the stock when there are neither capital gains nor dividends to benefit from? They did start to pay dividends a few years ago, leading to a steady climb in the share price.

Elusive Target Under Visionary Leader

I find it interesting that the target proved very elusive when it was steered by a forward-looking, inspiring leader.

I don’t think its current CEO of Cisco, handpicked by Mr Chambers, is anywhere near the calibre of his predecessor. Still, the company has been having a rollicking run in the market, trading at a price that is the highest in 17 years.

To me, visionary leadership has nothing to do with how it fares in the stock market. Leaders with a strategic vision put a company on the pedestal with ground-breaking technologies and sound profitability.

Some marketing spin and market dynamics take companies where investors, institutional or retail, want them to be!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Sydney’s Hottest Day In 79 Years

Sydney’s weather has never been a hot topic for discussion as I have only found it consistently pleasant during my short visits there in the past.

I did not think it will get as scorching as Sydneysiders appeared to have experienced today, with the temperature hitting 47.3C (per BBC report linked to below).

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Dhoni Cricket Academy in Singapore

M S Dhoni setting up a cricket academy in Singapore is good news for Indian students in the country who love the game.

It does not matter if cricket will ever be able to find wide global acceptance. It will retain its lustre among nations that are mad about it.

The game will continue to be a money-spinner for cricketers, particularly in India.

So, the academy in Singapore, the second outside of India (the first being in Dubai), will serve Dhoni well.

I will be surprised, however, if it makes cricket a hit with non-South Asians in Singapore.

In any case, Singapore does not have a tradition of sporting excellence despite flashes of brilliance from swimmer Joseph Schooling and the country’s table-tennis team, thanks to imports from China.

G Joslin Vethakumar


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As Wishlists Evolve and Dissolve…

Singapore Must Act Swift to Trim Population

Wishlists evolve at the start of each year and dissolve at the end of it, hardly seeing any fruition! The annual wishlist is just a pastime, allowing us room for some reflection, introspection and hope even as we step into it fully aware that despair may be the inevitable outcome.

Often, therefore, they will be not very different from our previous-year yearnings.

For instance, in my wishlists for the last three years (2017,2016 and 2015), I had hoped to see a less-congested Singapore with a roadmap for trimming down the country’s population with jobs for all through a citizen-first strategy. They remain mere musings, a pipedream!

With 2017 slipping into the annals of history, I will still keep them in my list of wishes for 2018 –  a significantly lower population for a higher quality of life in Singapore which will address other accompanying challenges centred around discrimination of various hues. From education to employment, Singaporeans continue to be shortchanged.

Interestingly, 2017 saw the most open economies begin to look inward, with the emergence of Mr Donald Trump as President with an “America First” slogan.

In India, the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s BJP has seen its “Hindu First” mission and politics of hate yield electoral successes countrywide. So much so that even the opposition Congress leader, Mr Rahul Gandhi, began to wear the Hindu cap to counter the BJP.

Strong Singapore-India Ties Amid Politics of Hate

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had to contend with sibling opposition during the year and any discontent among them may continue to simmer. Strangely, Singapore enjoys a close rapport with the Indian leaders, thanks to business interests in the world’s second most populous country. Singapore is helping build an entire capital city for the State of Andhra. Singapore’s India-origin population, MPs and ministers are also contributing to the ties with the divisive BJP.

This even as the BJP came up with the outrageous statement, through its spokesman on Indian television, that Singapore will become bankrupt if the IT sector sees a meltdown.

What 2018 holds for the world is impossible to fathom, we can only hope for the best while staying ready to overcome challenges with grit, determination and fair play. May the New Year bring cheer, peace and prosperity to the world!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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2017 in Retrospect – Cloud Turf Grows as Rich Digital CX Gains More Traction

Another year of mergers, acquisitions, business bankruptcies and industry consolidation rolls into the annals of history.

In 2017, the cloud turf got bigger and more intense with Microsoft, Google and Alibaba becoming major challengers to Amazon. This amid outages involving the likes of Amazon and Microsoft, bringing focus on the reliability of public clouds and drawing businesses to hybrid clouds.

Amazon made big strides with its Echo smart speakers, vying with Google Home. This was driven by household users even as robots are expected to make deep inroads into the home.

The merger of CSC and HP Enterprise to become DXC Technology brought about a significant change to the service industry. Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, my employer, completed the acquisition of Interactive Intelligence to extend its sway over the Customer Experience (CX) space.

Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots for Self-Service + Assisted Service

Interestingly, the year saw Amazon enter the CX domain with a basic Voice-only cloud contact centre offering, hardly a challenge to those with a 100% sector focus, delivering natively omnichannel solutions.

The innocuous entry, though, demonstrates the growing importance of the contact centre infrastructure in enabling positive customer experiences even as Artificial Intelligence-centric Virtual Assistants / Chatbots are placing focus on a combination of self-service and assisted service.

What and Who Will Rule 2018!

Bitcoin Scales Phenomenal Heights

The world also saw the Bitcoin mania scale phenomenal heights, with a mind-blowing 1000% surge in 2017. Some clairvoyant investors thus had a rich harvest, becoming easy millionaires, a small list that includes teens with a vision. One of them saw a $5000 investment in 2013 reach a value of more than a million dollars in 2017.

It has produced billionaires too – like the Winklevoss Twins who used their payout from Facebook four years ago on the Bitcoin. Their investment was $11 million and in 2017 its value had shot up to more than a billion dollars.

New cryptocurrencies such as the Ripple are also making waves in the market.

Running Down the Bitcoin

Financial institutions and market analysts that missed the race are going all out to run down bitcoins, betraying an inability to digest their lack of vision. Morgan Stanley, for instance, even had no qualms saying that the bitcoin’s value is zero.

A flashback to 2014 brings up Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates being upbeat about bitcoins. “Bitcoin is better than currency in that you don’t have to be physically in the same place and, of course, for large transactions, currency can get pretty inconvenient,” he was quoted as saying in an interview to Bloomberg.

Deep into philanthropy, Mr Gates also tempered his enthusiasm with some cautions that has stopped his foundation from using bitcoins. The main reason, according to him, is that “the poor shouldn’t have a currency whose value goes up and down a lot compared to their local currency.” He remains excited about the blockchain technology that powers the Bitcoin.

But then number crunching, Excel wizardry, generation of reports tuned to catch their fancy and tactical analysis leading to outcomes that toss out expectations are some of the attributes that sit with the likes of Morgan Stanley!

To them, the future is imaginary, dotted by what they like to see and hear, not what market trends lead to. Thought leadership? What is that??

Analysts and the Sales Community

That’s typical of the analyst community – missing the big picture, failing to see what will go on a mind-blowing surge, as it happened with the bitcoin, and then scrambling to recover lost ground with fake projections. No real vision, no real strategy!

Sales personnel also take a walk along the same oft-beaten, pitfall-ridden path – all the while imagining mere numbers-based analysis, some cliched marketing and relationships with decision-makers will help clinch deals.

Some will work and most will fail. What is lost is the opportunity for a multi-pronged attack with well-defined win themes.

In market analysts, they have good company!

Personal Ramblings

G Joslin Vethakumar

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