Archive for July, 2009

Don’t sell Experience; sell Experiences!

July 29, 2009

During my recent flight on American Airlines to US, I got a chance to flip through their recent edition of in-flight magazine – American Ways. I came across this very well written article by Joseph Guinto titled – “Making a Change” – in which he talks about how one can make a career change if the existing one is not working out for him or her. One of the sub-title caught my eye – “Forget your experience, sell your experiences“.

How true!

While the context of the above statement has been used more from a job-career perspective; IMO, it also applies a lot to many aspects of marketing and selling of any products or services. From a job-career perspective, I have seen that  it is a common habit of focusing more on self as individuals rather than trying to describe self as part of a role played in a particular scenario.

Sounds confusing as to what I meant? Well, here is a very simplistic example. Suppose you are an experienced Java programmer and you want to mention this attribute of yours on your resume. Based on my experience of scanning thousands of resumes, I think majority of the individuals would have written this as -

Experienced Java Programmer” or “Java Programmer with 5 years of experience”

Note that the above statement is only referring to your experience i.e. what you know and how much you know (Assuming here that years of experience is a quantifiable way of measuring how much you know. Whether that is true or not is a point of another debate). What if the above experience can be put in the manner as below -

“Successfully helped build a streaming media product using Java for a online social media start-up with needs for rapid go-to-market, managing fast-evolving requirements, and collaborating with geographically distributed team.”

Now the above statement in a way talks about your experience in a holistic manner. You are no longer just alluding to your knowledge about Java; but also referring to your overall experiences in building a particular product in a particular environment. Joseph Guinto in his article points to a quote from Rachel Canter – you would get hired for a job not because you think you can do the job, but only if the person/organization hiring you thinks that you can do the job. To do that – as a seller you have to sell your experiences and not just your experience.

IMO, the above statement about selling experiences applies not only to the people looking for a career change, but also to selling other things in life. For example – selling products or services! More and more customers are more interested in knowing if products fits in with their personal needs rather than just simply knowing what the product can do. A classic case of this is Amazon Customer Reviews feature. Customers who have brought the specific product put in their experiences associated with their buy. Potential buyers read through these reviews and typically decide if the product fits in with their needs. Considering that in today’s highly competitive market – be it for a product or any services offering or be it to all of us as individuals if we were to consider ourselves as a product –  when almost all of these things are dime-a-dozen, it is the experiences which sells. Just ask Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz or Virgin CEO, Richard Branson or Kingfisher CEO – Vijay Mallaya!

Thoughts and comments are most welcome!

Is Paternalistic Model of Healthcare effective in Modern India?

July 20, 2009

I had mentioned in one of my previous blog about me writing on some of my thoughts from a Consumer perspective on the Healthcare scenario prevalent in India. This blog is a continuation along that line.

In this blog, I wanted to talk about the typical doctor-patient relationship model which I have seen being prevalent in India. Let me say on the onset that the purpose of the blog is no to opine on any one particular approach – but to lay forward the pros and cons and the factors governing them.

Almost everyone whom I have talked to (again from a Consumer perspective) are in common agreement that their typical experience of visiting a doctor in India is along the lines of following vignette -

“Mr. Patel is suffering from a disease which is critical but not life-threatening. This particular disease has several treatment options which Mr. Patel is not aware of. Mr. Patel visits a specialist Dr. Shah who is known to specialize in the area of this particular disease and is aware of all the treatment options available. Dr. Shah believes one particular treatment option to be in the best interest of Mr. Patel and prescribes the same to Mr. Patel with little or no discussion about the other options.”

Note that in the above scenario – I am not implying that Dr. Shah had any ill-intentions or Mr. Patel suffered because of the prescribed treatment. However, just wanted to mention that this particular approach where the patient typically plays a passive role is termed as Paternalistic Model of doctor-patient relationship. The foundation of this model relies on the values such as personal loyalty and unquestioning obedience from the patient’s side and un-ending benevolence i.e. disposition to do good from doctor’s side.

Plenty of studies have shown that the Paternalistic Model of Management or Interaction is highly prevalent in almost all kinds of disciplines in India – be it in a Corporate settings or an Academic settings or as in this case even the Healthcare settings. Similar studies have also shown that such paternalistic model has traditionally worked favorably in Indian/Asian context with all the parties involved showing preferences for it. Also, as a Society, I have always believed that Indians – who have always traditionally been part of the collectivistic culture – have found the safety in relying on the paternalistic leaders for care, support, and protection. This has led to high paternalistic values in Indians. As a society, India’s culture values respect for hierarchical relations, strong family, and personal relationships assuming that there would be an affective reciprocity amongst all. This also fueled into India’s inclination towards paternalism into work places and institutions.

I strongly believe that at the core, the success of Paternalistic Model requires an effective leadership. From that point of view, I like the triad model which B. S. Cheng and D. Y. Jiang (you will have to do a Google search on this) presented about Paternalistic Leadership after their study in China. Essentially, they conceptualized Paternalistic Leadership as a three-dimensional construct involving -

  1. Benevolence – Holistic concern for dependent’s well-being.
  2. Morality – Demonstrating superior personal values
  3. Authoritarianism – Authority and control over the subject matter or the dependents.

This now brings me to the main part of this blog – is an Paternalistic Model of Healthcare effective in Modern India? My answer to this is ‘yes‘ and ‘no‘ both. I think as a society, India will soon have to find a middle ground on this. Here are my reasonings for it -

  • Rampant Illiteracy or Reducing Illiteracy – One of the common reasoning given in India for paternalistic approaches in Healthcare is rampant illiteracy. There is a strong belief amongst Healthcare providers (and many a times rightly so too) that such patients are unable to understand the nuances of medical treatment, procedures, and drugs and hence are unable to make the right choices for themselves. Hence the paternalistic view is taken. The corollary of this then is that such view then should not be taken with sufficiently literate patients or such view should be on its way out as the illiteracy levels in India reduces over a period of time (which is true!)
  • Human Body is one complicated piece of Machinery – I am sure, like me, many of you would have gone through the enormous amount of brain scratching (and stress) with or without your mechanic to figure out what is the matter with your car for not giving the mileage you desire. And we are talking about a machinery as simple as a car here (pun intended!). Complexity of Human Body machinery increases to the n’th level as compared to the cars. Except the run-of-the-mill problems, majority of problems in human body are complicated and requires a joint partnership between a doctor (or several doctors together) and the patient. In my opinion, one individual (be it the doctor or even the patient) providing the authoritative leadership over the subject matter of human body is just not humanly possible. There are limits of healthcare alternatives. It is not an exact science. Neither patients should believe that nor should doctors make their patients believe that. Hence paternalistic model of healthcare has its inherent limitations, IMHO.
  • Benevolence from Doctors - In my experience, Indian Doctors are typically extremely stressed with the work overload. Keeping an expectations from them to continiously have an holistic view of the patient’s health (it does take substantial time to do a good checkup of a patient, BTW) is being extremely unfair to them. I am saying this with the deepest amount of respect to the doctors. This is where, IMO, patients have to play an equal role in their personal healthcare. Rather than simply playing a passive role, they need to be the facilitators to the doctors so that the doctors can suggest proper decisions. Doctors on the other hand also need to be open and honest about this kind of expectations with their patients.
  • Morality – Paternalism rides upon enormous amount of faith and trust in the leadership. In this model of relationship, the expectations of patients are similar to the ones as to what a son would have from his father. In the same way as parents make decision for their children, doctors are supposed to make the decisions for their patients. Unfortunately, in the recent times, this aspect of relationship and/or trust seems to have taken a major beating for the worse in India. Hence the role of complete paternalistic model might be under question in healthcare in India.
  • Finally, it is “my body” – Majority of the doctors will continue suggesting what is the best for your body in the same manner as banks/financial institutions would continue taking care of your earnings. But this should not imply that you or me – as the individual owner of our body or our financial investments – do not have any responsibility. In my personal opinion, patients too have to rise up to take up the responsibility of owning what in reality only belongs to them.

Several literature in the West have gone to the extent of terming Paternalistic Approaches in Healthcare as an endemic. I would not go so far in terming it in that way considering that there are enough valid reasons for its existance today. However, as the Society in India evolves, an hybrid approach has to make its way.  Even the Prime Minister of India has acknowledged about this need in his address to AIIMS few years back.

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, and fires on this topic. Depending on which shoes you wear, I have seen that this topic does induce a lot of passion.

[Update] – To read a Doctor’s perspective on this topic – please refer to my new blog post – “Doctor’s View – Paternalistic Model of Healthcare in India!

Microsoft Azure – Its got the muscle but does it have the heart?

July 15, 2009

Within a gap of few months, Microsoft continued its tradition of making a late entry to the party and saying “Hey, I am here too!“. About a month and half back, Microsoft made the announcement of the launch of their new Internet search engine – Bing. Although very late to the party, it seems like it has got some good initial favorable write-ups and reviews (login required). Yesterday they made another such arrival – this time in the Cloud Computing arena – by announcing details about the pricing and details of their upcoming Cloud platform – Microsoft Azure.

Stacey Higginbotham from Gigaom has published a nicely summarized blog – “Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft Azure” – to cover the details of the announcement and what people are saying about it. You may want to refer to it to get the details. Few things that stood out for me in this announcement -

  • Microsoft’s support for allowing the developers to build their products beyond just .NET. Developers can use Azure and build products in Java, Ruby on Rails, Python, etc. My guess is that this is their “Infrastructure as a Service” offering. However, in the “Platform as a Service” offering, .NET Services seems to be their standard and only offering. Still a big step if we were to consider it from Microsoft’s perspective.
  • If I am not completely wrong – they seem to be the first who have come up with a Service Level Agreement (3-9s on the Storage Side and 4-9s on the Compute Side). Non-availability of the SLA had been a common complain against Cloud Vendors like Amazon.
  • There still seems to be substantial reluctance on part of Microsoft to facilitate Azure for implementing Enterprise-wide Private Clouds – however they are saying that they will soon roll-out functionality which will allow users to create a Private-Cloud amongst themselves. In my experience, I have seen Enterprises still very reluctant to move on to the Public Cloud. Although Microsoft certainly has a substantial leverage over enterprises as compared to their peers in the Cloud Computing arena, it would be interesting to see how they succeed in purusading them.

On the whole, on the initial onset there seems to have been a mixed bag of initial feedback with this Microsoft announcement – more seem to be on the positive and hopeful side though. Considering that Cloud Computing itself is at its infancy, IMO it does not matter if Microsoft is relatively late in making this announcement.

Bigger question for me is whether Microsoft has its heart in it from a long term perspective. It is becoming more and more clearer that (and many within Microsoft also have in some admitted to this) that Azure in some way is going to eat into the Microsoft’s primary cash cow – the traditionally packaged software sales. Microsoft has already announced that they would be allowing enterprise customers to take their existing Microsoft licenses into the cloud (in the similar fashion as IBM is also doing for its products on Amazon Cloud). Although Microsoft is betting upon that this entry in Cloud Computing would generate additional revenues for them – what happens if it does not? What happens if additional business does not come but it still hurts the existing selling-licenses business. Would Microsoft still have their heart in Azure in that situation?

That should be the million-dollar question! (I am sure we will see lots of debate on this point for months to come)

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Healthcare in India – From Consumer Perspective

July 12, 2009

Many of you might find this to be slightly away from usual categories of topics which I typically blog upon. Over the last few years, having gone through some experiences and having had interesting conversations with many in the area who are associated with healthcare (both as a provider and consumer) – made me think a lot of about how healthcare is being dealt with in India. When I say how it is dealt with – I mean really at the ground level. I mean how people like me (as a consumer) get what we need from healthcare perspective and also how majority of providers like my brother provide their services.

Before I write further, let me say that I come from a family of doctors.  My Uncle is a practicing Medical Practitioner. In my generation, my brother and his wife are. Many of my childhood friends are also now in this profession. So if you were to visit my folks, it is very common to participate and hear conversations around various healthcare issues and practices around the dinner table.  So needless to say that I have nothing but respect for the providers of medical services.

Although I referred myself as a Consumer above, let me confess that I am not completely sure if I can characterize myself as the majority of consumers of medical services in India. As a consumer of any service  (and this applies to products too), one has to figure out which particular service fits his/her needs; search for who can best provide it; and then have the service to be delivered in the best possible manner. Majority of the medical services consumers in India go through this on a day-to-manner. For me this process, however, has typically been very simplified. A phone call to my brother or uncle; I know what I have to do next and where I have to go; and I have the access to the best possible service. However, when I talk with many of my friends and colleagues – I do realize that I probably may not completely match with the most common persona of a typical medical consumer in India. They go through a different drill. However, I also find myself having the ability to understand what are the challenges and possibilities of an efficient healthcare system and what it means for both the Consumers and the Providers.

Healthcare in India as a ‘Product’ has grown leaps and bounds over the years in India. However, as a ‘Service’, my opinion is that Healthcare Services in India – not just from Providers side and but also to the same extent even from the Consumers side too – needs a serious relook (and in many scenarios – a reboot!).  To a large extent Healthcare Services in India seems be centered around the Provider i.e. the Doctor. But as any successful consumer offering in the world would tell you – this service needs to be around the individual who needs it – the Patient.  Please note that when I refer to a Service – I am not just referring to a scenario simply about how a patient gets treated by a doctor – but the complete process of how the consumer (patient in this case) goes through the process of figuring out what he/she suffers from; services best for them and their providers; and then getting the best and optimal service delivery. On my blog I am keen in communicating some of my thoughts on this topic and also getting your inputs on the same. I will be writing many posts on this topic going forward.

This week, I am also happy to see that my brother – Dr. Mukesh Rathi – also starting his own blog. As I had mentioned above, he and his wife are practicing Gynacelogists with a very modern setup along with a recurparting hospital. Whenever Mukesh and I meet – in addition to various conversations around our families and our work – we also talk a lot about what he is seeing happening around in the healthcare system today; how is the medical profession changing today; what kind of opportunities and challenges he sees around; and more specifically what it means to the consumers/patients in India. I am hoping that I will be seeing many such thoughts posted by Mukesh on his blog. You can read his blog at http://www.drmukeshrathi.com.

More on this topic in future blogs.

So do you have it in you to be an Entrepreneur?

July 9, 2009

Entrepreneurs for many of us have typically been cool yet mystical figures! There are typical curiosities which many think about them when they hear or read about them – “What did they have in them that they could become an Entrepreneur?“, “What drives them?“, “Do they do this for money or glory?“, etc. And ofcourse the million-dollar self-introspecting question which many have – “Do I have it in me to become an Entrepreneur?

An interesting new study titled “The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur – Family Background and Motivation“, just published this month by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation demystifies a lot of that. It is an interesting read. The study certainly seems to be debunking lots of common perceptions out there. No, you don’t have to be a college-drop-out or a revolt in a family or be in your twenties to be a successful entrepreneur. Sigh!

Some interesting findings/thoughts/questions which I had after reading the survey which the study conducted -

  • Average or median age of the entrepreneurs seem to be around 40 i. e. many of them are around the peak of their career age-wise. (Hence majority of them were married and with children). A while back I had read a particular VC had created some flutter when he mentioned that the prime age of becoming an entrepreneur today was in the 30s. This finding in some sense may invalidate that.
  • It may not be an accurate statement when some one says that entrepreneurship typically runs in the family. The study found that about 52% of the entrepreneurs interviewed were the first in their family to take that step.
  • One thing which I always had perceived is that majority of the ventures by the entrepreneurs were typically motivated by certain challenges they themselves faced in their life and thire urge to resolve the same. This study seems to have missed covering that aspect when they listed out the prime motivations for becoming an entrepreneur.  Would have loved to see how many of them started their ventures because of “want to change the world” factor!
  • Also, does the motivation factors change from males vs. females?
  • While reading the paper, I got a feeling that the study seems to be considering the entrepreneurial venture more from the perspective of factory/start-up/company setting. However, I think there is yet another sub-section of entrepreneurs – who are typically not the Bill Gates kinds – but still are running their own individual setups. Example – a Medical Practitioner who sets up his/her own private clinic; an artist who sells his/her art on the Ebay, etc. I would consider these also as a form of entrepreneurs. If these forms of entrepreneurs were also considered in this study,  my gut assumption is that a lot of findings could have been substantially different.

I understand that this is the first finding report and few more future ones are going to come out. Looking forward to reading those too.

Happy Reading!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.