Monday, September 27, 2010

HMIC5503 Managing Intellectual Capital

This course was a trend setter for me. The course had minimal discussions in the forum and we had to work with Prof Boom individually on a series of tasks. While this was initially very tough, we picked up later and what we learnt was absolutely outstanding work. This course proves that we do not need to have a discussion based setting in an online course. 

The following forum post captures the range of what we tried in the course.

1.    How do you think ICT has affected our economy and society?
From my perspective the keys would be in terms of broad and widespread information due to the advances in communication technologies. This has helped us know each other better, learn and communicate our vision. The society has benefited as a whole across the world right from the remote villages to the bigger towns. ICT has meant that we all are interconnected so much that a flu in mexico can cause a headache to people thousands of miles away.

I see the growth in information technologies as not as much as a technological revolution but a necessity to keep pace with what is happening around the world. For
e.g. when railways was introduced, we just needed a way of controlling access. This meant that tokens or tickets were introduced. As the population increased, the number of trains increased. The technological system in controlling tickets has similarly grown. I say this as, in an interaction with a group of senior citizens, this (railways) was among the most visible system advancement they mentioned.

My context thus would be to view a lot of the advancements be it in the information age or the technological age as borne out of necessity or curiosity. In support of curiosity, i would look at newton's apple as an example. Why?  and why only Newton?  
2.    Presume, you are the owner of a bakery. How would you progress to make your bakery more knowledge-intensive and on what levels?
I would study the existing system and try to understand who my customers are and what they want. Are we looking at a new market or building on an existing system. Either way, what do we (hope to) have that others don't and what is so unique about it. What challenges can we face in the future and how do we cope? How have successful businesses like ours coped and failed? What can i do to avoid it? This knowledge is
power. With this knowledge, i would educate my workers and sensitise them to what we want to do, viz. shared vision. The
employees would know what is expected out of them and what we need to do to grow, not necessarily all the details. I would embrace technology at an appropriate level and educate my team. Over a longer period of time, would look for avenues that can keep pace with the market and be sustainable.

For this, i quote from what happened in my own neighbourhood. The place is filled with migrant workers all from interior regions of the state. What they seemed to miss was the local tea shops. In an urban setting like ours, it is rare to get the low cost tea. This is what the entreprenuer
set out to provide initially. Then, branched out into snacks and a full fledged bakery grew. The snacks aspect picked up and was lapped up by the urban neighbourhood which fueled the growth. To keep pace and overcome (preempt) the competition, the owner opened up a lot of shops in the vicinity. The owner was also very smart in localizing and customizing the dishes. We have a branch located near a college where the dishes are entirely north indian. This is because of the large patronage of students of the college who happen to be from North India.

Technology started with the phones and a door delivery system which later was used for placing bulk orders. The employees are now mobile equipped and connected. The urban landscape changed with regulatory mechanisms forcing the growth of bottled water in 25 litre cans. This opened up a big opportunity for the shop as the door delivery of snacks in the
community meant that a distribution system was already in place. Now, the way to go would be to use the web to have a presence and leverage the web for recieving and processing orders. I see a similar trend happening with small businesses which are ambitious and agile in my neighbourhood.
3.    What are the necessary skills and competences for an employee to work in a knowledge-intensive environment?
I would look at enthusiasm, openmindedness, attitude, strong logical and communications skills as an important prerequisites. Once we conducted refresher courses for the law enforcement officers. I saw that the maximum participation was from the higher ranks of the officers who saw IT as an oppurtunity for career advancement and a means for getting the edge however miniscule it is. And, that is the key. An ethusiasm for the environment, being
open minded about the beliefs (and not getting trapped in a timezone for
e.g. black board teaching is the best form of teaching), embracing knowledge, being logical about the use and finally communicating the beliefs in a coherent manner.
4.    Identify the (dis)advantages to work in a culturally diverse country.
The advantages are in preparation we get for working in a global context. When i study at an early age with a diverse group, i am being prepared for the challenges i will encounter later. I can learn, assimilate, understand and communicate with a group which will help me when i meet with people from other countries and communities. The qualities which seem disadvantages initially, may later turn out to be heaven sent interventions.

For e.g. we had to learn Hindi (apart from the native language - tamil and English) which is spoken in large parts of North india at an early age. We used to hate it! Later in life, when we had to travel extensively, we found this a great advantage even in foreign countries. I also was able to learn different languages and through it different cultures. Now, learning a new language will not be difficult for me.     
5.    Choose a multinational corporation and identify how this company gains a competitive advantage.
A study found that most of the consumer brands used by large sections of india were owned by a company called HUL. Hindustan Unilever Limited which is a subsidiary of Unilever Inc. A lot of people who took a part in the study could not name even one consumer brand which was purely indian owned in the segment. Soaps, detergents, conditioners, paste it was a complete cop-out. The keys for the success was localization - speak in the local language, customize the message, form relationships and maintain them. It started from the name. By attaching a simple "Hindustan" to the name, the message went out. (Is it the case in Bangladesh where you have Bangladesh Unilever?) When i say speak in the local language, the consumer had been so used to seeing the messages (through a procession of cricketer and matinee idols endorsements)  that they always thought of the brands as their own.

Another interesting case study is that of Hyundai in the car segment. The product initially did that people had written the car off for dead. When the leading matinee idol at that time Shah Rukh Khan endorsed it, what followed was history. Just because the Bollyhood hero had endorsed it, people flocked in to buy it and this trend continues till date.

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