There was something very interesting that happened at Christie’s (the auction house) in London on September 29, 2010. The auction was very unique. The room was packed and beyond – people had even formed queues outside Christie’s; the heightened interest made the authorities shift the auctioning to a bigger room. People were bidding not just inside the room, many were on telephone, many more were registered online, from countries all over the world. From New York to Dubai, nobody wanted to miss the action… It was the auction of 300 items from Lehman Brothers’ London headquarters – paintings, miniature battleships, et al. It’s interesting to note that while not many were interested in the sale of Lehman’s European business (which was bought by a Japanese company Nomura), this auction was evidently different – and the most interesting bid was for a large metal nameplate that used to adorn Lehman’s London headquarters. An anonymous bidder bought the sign over telephone at an exorbitant price of £42,050. It was symbolic, for these letters symbolised the beginning of something new. The collapse of Lehman Brothers had ignited the global financial crisis, which changed the world forever.
Incidentally, Lehman Brothers’ mission statement was another sign that fetched record prices! It read: “We are one firm defined by our unwavering commitment to our clients, our shareholders and each other”!
A company that once seemed invincible is today gone!
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,” these words of Lord Alfred Tennyson from the story The Passing of Arthur should never be forgotten if you don’t want to become redundant. It’s the “mantra” to help one keep growing.
LOOK WHERE NO ONE IS LOOKING
Daimler, the world’s no.2 luxury carmaker, was in for a pleasant surprise when its largest order in Asia came from a dusty small town in India, one which most people probably have never heard about – Aurangabad. 115 Mercedes-Benz vehicles were ordered by the Aurangabad Chamber of Commerce. It seemed like a prank, but it went on to prove a point. If you don’t learn to look beyond, you may miss big opportunities. Don’t do what everybody is doing. Most multinationals, when entering a new market, simply look at the top 10 cities of that country.
If you want to race ahead, think ahead, for according to Boston Consulting Group, your next billion consumers will not come from the biggies, but small towns that have quietly grown while no one was noticing. Aurangabad drew the world’s attention by this gimmick of ordering 115 sedans (Mercedes, eventually sold some 148 cars there!). There are places like Curitiba in Brazil, Xiaochang in China, Yekaterinburg in Russia, and Amritsar in India, where the new markets lie. Not surprising, Wal-Mart has opened in Amritsar and guess what it caused – a huge traffic jam as Amritsaris in BMWs lined up to check out the new store!
If you want to make a quick buck, look beyond the obvious. The one multinational that has done this is Unilever. It never feared stepping off the beaten track and exploring new markets. It always succeeded. So can you!
SHAKIRA, CHANGE YOUR BEAT
Shakira recently sang the line: “It’s time for Africa...” Well, in business circles, the new song which hopes to set the cash registers jiggling to a happy tune is: “It’s time for Asia”!
UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank discovered that a large majority of its richest clients were from Asia. The number of ultra-rich Asians climbed 37% in 2009, which is double the global pace. With so much wealth-creation happening, Asia becomes a very important market. This quarter, UBS AG is focusing on its Asian clients and their needs.
India is Asia’s rising power. Its 9% growth rate, its rapidly increasing middle class, is making it the hot destination for the low-growth Western governments!
As if Slumdog Millionaire was not enough to showcase India’s dirty underbelly, the Commonwealth Games gave the Western world a display of how India functions. The world criticised our corruption, lack of planning and shoddy implementation. However, the flipside is: it’s these very nations (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) that are fighting hard to get into trade agreements with us. It’s also interesting to note that not one of the 54 participating counties backed out of India’s Commonwealth Games despite such negative publicity! India is today too important for the world. We may not work like the West, but the world has to accept “our way”, however chaotic we may be and however much we may have a habit of getting things done at the last minute. As Mr. Lee of Center for Independent Studies in Sydney quoted, “North Korea has great military parades with 2,00,000 people, but no one looks at them” even though they are executed with perfection. The world is watching India. Yes, it’s definitely time for India. If you want to test your entrepreneurial skills, look no further. India is your playground. Vijayawada, Ujjain, et al, may be difficult to find on the map of India, but you may find your best business opportunity in these places!
DON’T STOP LOOKING
“If you think you can, you are right” – I believe in this quote from the book Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch. There is nothing more powerful than a strong resolve. Napoleon Hill in his world famous book Think and Grow Rich writes: “Thoughts are things and powerful things, when mixed with purpose and persistence”. Most great entrepreneurs have started not with big money, a great education or a strong circle of influence, but a steely resolve and the will to win.
Know first where you want to go and keep going no matter how hard the going is. You know not when you will strike gold!
Who had ever imagined that the once financial powerhouse Lehman Brothers would be auctioned off, that America would lose its sheen and that the world would change? All of it happened; and those who kept working are reaping the rewards. The new emerging nations – India, Brazil and China – are making the developed nations stumble. Save one. Germany! It’s growing faster than US. Its citizens for years have accepted wage cuts in return for life-long employment. And today, unemployment there is lesser than US. Of all the developed nations, it’s the strongest right now. Today, it’s the showcase of eurozone. This year, as Germany celebrates 20 years of its unification, it has shown the world that it is ready. It’s beaten all, and as the world gets ready to come out of the recession, Germany is prepared.
However, India is ready too. It has become too important to ignore. Look no further, for the world is coming here, looking for their next billion consumers, their next growth opportunity. You get ready too. Your pot of gold could be buried right under your feet! Get ready to be a part of this growth and let’s prepare to make our first million – right here!