Saturday, April 27, 2013


The big players of TV are a little worried and it’s all because of a small company named Aereo, an upstart which wants to change the way we view television. No wonder all the big firms from NBC, ABC, CBS to Fox have all sued it but its CEO Chet Kanojia (who incidentally is a native of Bhopal) is not worried at all for he is absolutely sure of what he is doing. Aereo TV, simply put is an ‘online TV service’. The modus operandi of the company is simple. Kanojia has made very small antennas. Each user is assigned one antenna which grabs the broadcast-TV signals from the air and with the help of a software those signals are aired to the user. Not just this, the signal can be aired to any device which the user opts for – his mobile, his PC, or even his TV set. What this translates for the user is: a) he does not need to pay the hefty cable fees, and b) he can now watch his favourite TV programme anywhere. He could be stuck in traffic and watch it on his mobile, or in office on his PC. Kanojia saw a loophole in the copyright act and made the most of it, which is why in spite of his company being sued twice he seems undeterred and has in fact won both times. Not just that, today he is sitting on a funding of $38 million with the help of which he would spread his network, which is currently available only in New York, to 20 more cities.

Kanojia saw a gap in the system and filled it up with his service. According to him, everything will soon migrate to the Internet including TV. The youth today is more loyal to a TV programme and not a TV channel. He wanted the freedom to watch it whenever and wherever he pleased. Add to that the fact that he did not want to pay for the channels he did not watch, but under the current system he had to pay for a package. Aereo, on the other hand, gave him just what he wanted.

Whether Aereo really makes it big and becomes the next best thing is debatable and only time will tell. However, it has an important lesson for all to learn and that is ‘never fear to challenge the big players or the best ideas’. You may turn out to be a game changer.


The way students learn is going to change in times to come. Some predict that with the advent of the Internet online classrooms, one-on-one interactive sessions may become the norm and shake up the classic lecture theatre model. Scientists from Stanford have already created a platform where universities can offer their courses and students have the freedom to choose different courses from different universities. 12 leading universities have already joined this portal, giving students greater access to the best courses across the globe.

Higher education in the future will see a dramatic change. One person who has been a pioneer in this is Gene Wade, the Founder of ‘UniversityNow’ which provides university courses online at a nominal fee. The students can pace out their courses at very nominal fees. Gene Wade’s vision is to make higher education ‘debt-free’ so that students do not carry the burden of heavy loans. He wants to provide high quality and affordable education to as many students as possible. He is a man a lot of people are sitting up and noticing as he had made university as cheap as your phone and cable bills and has already got 4,000 students! Not just universities but even banks are watching his moves carefully. He is going to change a few rules in education. Just the same way as Mark Shuttleworth changed the way people buy software. If Windows (Microsoft) charged a premium for its software then Shuttleworth decided to give it for free. He named it “Ubuntu”, an African word that means ‘humanity to others’, and dared to challenge the biggest player in the market. If Ubuntu can catch and retain the attention of the consumer then it has the potential to shake up this industry too.


The smart entrepreneur needs to constantly look out for changes in the business environment and change too or else be prepared to be left behind. When people asked Michael Dell last year whether it was the end of the PC era he rubbished the idea. Even when, in 2011, the sales of the PC (personal computer) declined by 1% no one thought much about it. However, the next year sales were down by 14% and then again 14%. What took Dell and Microsoft time to realize was the fact that the consumer had

moved on. He had moved on to the ‘tablet’ or the ‘smartphone’ as a replacement for his PC. What that meant was that in the past while 95% of all desktops and laptops were controlled by Microsoft now hardly 50% of the users were using that device and hence Windows. People today would prefer an interesting app like Box, or Huddle, or even a free platform like Ubuntu than pays for Windows. The company failed to move with the times. It had such a good grip over the market yet it lost out to the fast changing times.

However, one company has been keeping up with the changing times perfectly and that is Samsung. Apple used to be the one who changed the game for many businesses. Be it portable music players or notebooks or phones, its iPods, iPads, and iPhones changed the rules for all these categories. Samsung, on the other hand, did the same for the ‘lower-price category’ in all these segments. Today, it has launched so many products of such good quality and of such affordable price that it is giving Apple a tough time to cope with it. If Apple boasted of the world’s best designers in-house then Samsung went and hired the best designers from the best places and today its products are as beautiful. It has gone on a rampage by launching numerous new products, spending $38 billion in acquisitions and keeping its employees constantly on their toes to keep innovating and creating. Apple, the original game changer, might get replaced soon if it does not keep up with the changing times. Apple has it all. It is the original king, but it needs to get real aggressive to safeguard its kingdom, before it’s conquered by someone faster!

Even though its product had faced the maximum criticism in the world yet this company in 2012 ranked No.7 in the list of ‘Most Valuable Brands in the World’ . The brand is Marlboro and its brand value was $73.6 billion, just a little lesser than Coca-Cola, which at No.6 had a brand value of $74.3 billion. The reason being as times changed so did the company and its marketing strategies. Launched as a cigarette for women it quickly changed its theme to ‘The Marlboro Cowboy’ when it saw that just marketing to women did not work. It became the most ‘masculine’ cigarette. Then, when reports started coming in of how cigarettes cause lung cancer, it added a filter, and market share increased once again. To keep the interest in the brand alive it slowly shifted from the ‘cowboy’ theme to that of ‘Marlboro Country’. Then, when government and social regulations prohibited the company from advertising, it switched to a different strategy. Glossy advertisements were changed to in-store advertisements, mail coupon promotions etc. Marlboro packets were placed near check out counters for greater visibility. The company announced annual sweepstakes through mail. You could win a few dollars off on a carton of Marlboro or even a holiday to the ‘Marlboro Ranch’. Some lucky ones even won land in Montana! The company has been on its toes all the time, very agile, very swift, and is still such a valuable brand. Ethical or not, well, we don’t debate on that but as marketers this should serve as a lesson in innovation and the rewards of innovation and of changing strategies along with the changing times. This year American TV once again saw an advertisement of cigarettes. The last one was seen in 1971, on January 1, when Virginia Slims ran its final commercial one minute before the midnight deadline of the ban. This year the cigarette used was a little different. It’s an ‘e-cigarette’, a smokeless cigarette made by a company named NJOY King. They were invented in 2003 but are becoming popular with every passing day, with sales doubling every passing year. If the trend continues NJOY may just turn out to be the ‘game changer’ and steal all the market share from right under the nose of the big tobacco manufacturers. The victory will be well deserved for the last time someone innovated a cigarette was when the ‘filter’ was introduced in 1952 or the flip-box in 1954. NJOY might make traditional cigarettes history very soon.

Times are changing at breakneck speed and if you don’t think different you could be left behind. If you don’t question and challenge the big guys you may lose out. If you don’t believe in being a game changer you could become the biggest loser. So, stop doing what you have always been doing. Be a game changer, think different and dare to change the rules of the game. It’s the best strategy of survival.


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