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Five of the eight Indians in Thinkers50 on their respective areas of expertise

Alokesh Bhattacharyya and Anand J     January 3, 2012
Vineet Nayar
Vineet Nayar
VINEET NAYAR
Vice Chairman and CEO, HCL Technologies
Specialises in Employee First

On why 'employees first' and how it works
The concept has to do with why you would spend money on petrol to go to church on Sunday and feel good about it. And why on Monday you would come to office - get paid to come, including the petrol - and still feel bad about it. Reason: you are not engaged, motivated or aligned, and are working at 25 per cent of your capacity. If you can increase employee productivity from 25 to 75 per cent, you will see a significant rise in the company's fortunes.

On balancing customer centricity with employee first
Customers tell me they disbelieve companies that say "customer first". Most customers would prefer just to experience the uniqueness of being really important. For example, I went on a college (choosing) tour for my son. One receptionist made us comfortable, and talked about her college with a lot of passion. Receptionists of other colleges saw their business as coordinating schedules and meetings; this receptionist saw her business as being passionate about the college. My son chose her college. The customer sees the company through the eyes of the employees.

On how companies can implement "employee first"
First, don't tell your employees how good you are, but share your problems with them. Second, make the enabling functions genuinely enabling. Today, HR, finance, quality, CEO's office, have become pests for employees. By reversing the accountability, you can make the enabling function possible. Third, get your appraisal as CEO, and your management team's, done by employees. And fourth, hand over execution to the employees. Tell your employees: this is the problem, I am accountable to you, all enabling functions will be accountable to you, but you need to run the risk. This is not about pizza parties. This is about growing faster than our competition.

Vijay Govindarajan
Vijay Govindarajan
VIJAY GOVINDARAJAN
Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business, Tuck School of Business
Specialises in Strategy and Innovation

On what has changed in innovation
There are three important changes. First, the rate of change in the world is much faster today. Since innovation is a response to change, its importance today is critical. Second, historically we equated innovation with technology innovation, whereas today it is about business model innovation. And third, the financial crisis of 2008 and the recent debt crisis in the United States and Europe have fundamentally reset the world. We are entering two decades of slow growth, in which the only way we can grow is through innovation.

On the importance of emerging markets like India in fostering innovation
I see a huge opportunity for Indian companies in terms of reverse innovation. If you can make a product for the rich, poor people can't afford it. But if you make a product for the poor, everybody can afford it. So, if we can innovate for India, we can also simultaneously innovate for the world. Frugal innovation is the biggest opportunity.

On the importance of reverse innovation for transnational corporations
US and European companies fear competitors - Tatas, Mahindras, Birlas - from emerging markets and therefore they need to embrace reverse innovation as well. They are world-class companies with tremendous competencies, but when they come to India, they need to focus on how they can grow India economically, culturally, and socially. If they can meaningfully do that, they will also protect their market positions in their home markets.

On the idea and feasibility of a $300 house
Out of the world's seven billion people, four billion don't have a house. So I issued a challenge: why can't we create a $300 house for the poor? We created a global design contest; every entry there can design and build a house for $290. We have six design winners; we will come up with a workable scale of their designs and build a prototype in Haiti. Then, we will build a model village using that prototype. My hope is, once private sector companies see this is possible, they will jump in. Also, this is not just a house; the house is a metaphor for delivering health, education, jobs, water, electricity, etc.

Pankaj Ghemawat
Pankaj Ghemawat
PANKAJ GHEMAWAT
Anselmo Rubiralta Professor of Global Strategy, IESE Business School
Specialises in Globalisation

On the world not being flat
The delusion that the world is flat is fairly common. Tom's (Thomas Friedman's) The World Is Flat is a 500-page book without a single table, figure, chart, reference or footnote. But when you look at, say, what percentage of phone calls occur across national borders, it is around two per cent, which is less than one-tenth of what people believe. The bulk of international interactions are accounted for by countries that are geographically, culturally or historically close.

On where the world is today on the globalisation curve
The world is only 10 to 20 per cent globalised. If we are already there, there would be no more juice to squeeze out of that lemon. Also, many of our fears get exaggerated by intuitions of how globalised we already are. For example, I started writing World 3.0 when international rice prices had tripled over a six-to-eight-month period, which led to statements on speculators and calls for a crackdown on globalisation. Actually, only five per cent of the world's rice is traded internationally.

On what is holding back greater globalisation
Partly, the fear of the unknown, and partly, misguided intuition and hype. For instance, Americans think 30 per cent of the US Budget goes to foreign aid; the actual aid is one per cent. When we were living in caves, it was safe to trust people in your own cave or the next cave, but not others. There is this hard-wired fear of strangers that is a basic element of our make-up. And that tends to worryingly come to the fore when times get tough.

Nirmalya Kumar
Nirmalya Kumar
NIRMALYA KUMAR
Professor of Marketing, London Business School
Specialises in Marketing

On the changing framework of marketing
Marketing people rarely get on to boards of companies. The research for my first book on marketing and strategy asked why this was so. Marketing people use the 4 Ps - product, price, promotion, placement - framework. And CEOs feel marketers are not addressing issues strategic enough, crossfunctional enough, bottom line enough. So, I said we need to use what I call the 3 Vs model: who is the valued customer, what is the value proposition, and how will we deliver it through a value network. I think 4 Ps should be supplemented with the 3 Vs approach.

On India-grown brands and advertising
When people say there is a great bedrock for brands in India, they are talking about brands developed in India and sold in the developed world. That is going to be very difficult, because in the developed world, budgets for branding and advertising are huge. The more interesting thing is what Harsh Mariwala is trying to do: build a brand in an emerging market.

On the steps Indian marketers should take to be more effective
They should develop analytical skills and learn about other functions. If you promise something as a marketing function, you should know how it will impact operations, manufacturing... And think of strategic issues.

Subir Chowdhury
Subir Chowdhury
SUBIR CHOWDHURY
Chairman and CEO, ASI Consulting Group
Specialises in Quality

On the importance of quality in the context of business
Year after year, 'business' consistently proclaims its commitment to quality. Yet it continually devises flawed processes that turn out flawed products or services. This results in constant firefighting. Taking responsibility for quality, not quality control or end-of-the-line quality, is everyone's business and is absolutely critical to the success of every organisation.

On which is more important - quality of processes or employees
Organisations can only succeed when the quality of their people is given the same importance as the quality of their processes. Individuals must also exhibit and practice quality in everything they do. Individual quality breeds process quality, and this combination leads to a highly successful organisation.

On the case for companies having a Chief Quality Officer
Delegating 'quality' to a person or department is the worst thing any organisation can do. When quality is the focus of everyone, productivity increases, costs decrease, products and services exceed expectations and, ultimately, the organisation benefits tremendously.

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