Is there a slowdown? how bad is it? Which sectors and companies are worst affected? What is causing it? How long will it last? Most debates on the current business environment are centred on these questions- and pointlessly so. Downturns, even the most definitive ones, strike different sectors in different ways and at different times. As long as we are clear that business conditions today aren't as good as they were last year, the debate has to move to the next level, which is: how to ride out the slowdown or mitigate it or even avert it.
That's exactly what this issue's cover story sets out to do. Over the past fortnight, Business Today reached out to key industry leaders to learn from them how they are managing the slowdown-present or prospective, severe or slight. The lessons we learnt from them are interesting and instructive. Not just from the companies that have borne the brunt of a full-fledged demand recession, e.g. Maruti Suzuki and ICICI Bank, but also from those that haven't yet witnessed a demand recession, like L&T and Samsung. The downturn strategies go much beyond conventional cost-cutting measures. They include steps like finishing a greenfield project ahead of schedule to advance revenue streams, reducing the weight of auto components by just one gram each, or cutting assembly-line times by fractions of a second. Pay special attention to the bulleted boxes in the cover stories for anecdotes from individual companies.
Of course, slowdowns aren't the only time companies do interesting things. This message comes across very clearly from Dell's experience in India. Dell India is the company's largest set-up outside the US and is the fastest among all its global subsidiaries to reach $1 billion in revenues. That speaks volumes for the growth and opportunities in India's computer hardware and services sectors. But more surprising are the small but significant successes of Indian companies making software products (Indian Microsofts in the Making?). This kindles the hope that one day, India may well have its own Microsoft or Oracle.
That success, sustainability and inclusiveness go together is demonstrated by a unique initiative of "responsible tourism" in picturesque Kumarakom in Kerala. Read Lessons from the Backwaters on page to understand how the government, industry and panchayats can not only work together, but do so to each others' advantage. It is business models such as these that bridge the divide between the interests of stakeholders and shareholders-the holy grail of modern businesses.