Saturday, November 23, 2013

Famous Business Rivalries

Competition is good for everyone – individuals, companies, education institutes, states and societies. It encourages one to excel in their chosen field, drives innovation and keeps everyone on their toes. The only thing to watch out here – competition should remain healthy. Classic example is the rapid strides made in the space exploration programme in the 1980’s when the USA and USSR were locked in a race to be the first one to send a man on the moon – many often lament that the progress in the space programmes has become slow after the disintegration of the USSR as there is no competition to the USA. It is also true that competition can bring out the worst in us, if the aim is to win at any cost.
Similarly monopolies are bad for the society, especially in business. Notice how most of the monopolies are run by the government - public transport, water and electricity supply, law and order, waste management. Monopolies emerge in the absence of competition eventually get misused as the people have no other choice but to pay the price that the monopolist demands.
Let us now look at some famous business rivalries that have spurred entrepreneurs and benefited customers over the years -
Ferrari vs Lamborghini
Enzo Ferrari founded the company in 1947 that bears his name and is famous for making mean racing machines. Ferrucchio Lamborghini was a tractor engineer who began purchasing Ferraris for personal use in the late 1950s and believed the car could become better with some modifications – suggestions that were promptly brushed off by Mr Ferrari. This led to the birth Lamborghini that competes with Ferrari in making racing cars and has benefited racing fan across the world.   
Coke vs Pepsi
The oldest and the most followed rivalries in business history. Coke was launched in 1886 and Pepsi was born 12 years later. Since then they have been in serious competition with one another across the world and have spurred product innovations and many interesting ad campaigns in the process.  
Microsoft vs Apple vs Google
Microsoft virtually monopolised the PC market with Windows and was way ahead of Apple till the launch of the IPOD, IPAD and the IPHONE – the founders of both the companies had opposite ideas on how the computing industry should evolve – both the founders were famous dropouts and it did not help that that windows was not suited to run on Apple computers. Microsoft totally missed the move from PC to smart phones and Google capitalised with its famous Android operating system for phones. The rivalry has now shifted to Apple vs Google with Microsoft a distant third in the smart phone OS market. While the verdict is still not out, the loss of Steve Jobs may prove to be a major disadvantage for Apple in this battle.  
Ford vs General Motors
Ford was founded in 1908 and General Motors 5 years later. The founders of both the companies and their successors took different paths to build the company but the rivalry still continues a century later.
Visa vs Mastercard
Both Visa and Mastercard are global payment gateways. Financial institutions issuing debit or credit cards tie up with them and issue cards that carry their logo with one of the above. The competition between that has ensured that the transaction charges remain low and the list of the outlets accepting card payments keeps going up and the transactions become secure with each passing day. 
So keep the competitive juices flowing and supporting your favourite company. After all, it is for us consumers for whom these business rivalries have been on for centuries and will continue well into the future.
The title for the next weeks blog is being kept a secret and will be unveiled soon (next week, actually).  

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gyan aur Dhan (Knowledge and Wealth)

We worship both the goddesses of wealth (Maa Lakshmi) and the goddess of knowledge (Maa Saraswati) to seek their blessings. Their photo with Lord Ganesh sitting between them is a common feature in the puja ghar of most Hindu households. I thought it would be interesting to see how gyan and dhan compare to each other.
Gyan or Knowledge has been sought after and desired by the Indian society for time immemorial. Even today our society respects a person with knowledge more than the wealthy. Dhan or Wealth is being sought after only recently – till 20 years ago the rich were generally looked at with suspicion – most of the villains in the movies were the rich people. Ostentatious display of wealth was also looked down upon. The lakhpatis and crorepatis were hard to spot and had to be pointed out in a crowd. Now wealth is celebrated and displayed rather openly in everyday life. So Knowledge gets you respect, wealth gets you envy.
Knowledge is ever lasting  - unless you are unfortunate enough get a rough knock on your head and lose everything – one more popular scene in the movies. Wealth is more temporary in nature – there are many stories of rich people becoming poor in a very short span of time. Knowledge is permanent, wealth not.
Knowledge can lead to wealth. Wealth need not lead to knowledge – on can be wealthy but not necessarily knowledgeable. Similarly one can be knowledgeable but not necessarily wealthy.
Wealth is easy to measure. We can exactly know how wealthy we are and estimate the wealth of others (except in Delhi where the entire city looks like made up of crorepati residents). Knowledge is difficult to measure, as someone said – the more we learn the more we realise how ignorant we are. And it is not a talent that people normally compete for – you will hardly hear “I want to be more knowledgeable than you are”.
Knowledge and wealth are not mutually exclusive – they are known to co exist, more so in today’s world of IT where good ideas can get popular almost instantly and lead to great amount of wealth. However it would suffice to say that if you don’t have knowledge, you will not be able to retain wealth. Those with knowledge can also hope to recover the wealth they have lost due to an unfortunate event.
Wealth can be got by illegitimate means –short cuts are generally the faster way to accumulate ill gotten wealth. Knowledge can only be gathered by the hard way – continuously keeping at it for a long time daily.
Knowledge is difficult to pass on to the next generation – unless they are suitably disposed. Wealth is easily inherited from the previous generations, although staying wealthy may not be so easy if one is not capable of handling the same.
Both also have similarities – the possessors of both cannot rest. One cannot have too much knowledge or too much wealth – it becomes a lifelong passion to gather more of it every day. Also the attainment of these can easily lead to pride and arrogance – qualities to watch out for as they invariably lead to a downfall of an individual.
From the point of view of desirability – knowledge is better, in its pursuit many have stumbled upon great riches. Many have also discovered that wealth or the worldly pleasures are unnecessary distractions.
As for me, I am more in favour of attainment of knowledge. I will end the blog with a prayer to both the goddesses to bless the readers so as to maintain a fine balance in our lives. Next week I will take the readers through some famous business rivalries which have benefited the society.