Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lessons from RED BULL – Awful Taste – Massive Market Share

“Red Bull is not just a drink. Instead, it is a "philosophy"—one seemingly derived from his own outlook on life—and a "functional product," used to improve strength and performance and to revitalize the body and mind.” Dietrich Mateschitz –Owner of Red Bull

Starting from Fuschl, an Austrian village, RED BULL has developed its niche in 161 countries. Only last year it sold 4.2 billion cans of its drink, including more than a billion in the U.S. alone. In 2004, the company had 2,605 employees; in 2010, 7,758 -

Undoubtedly, Dietrich Mateschitz now 67, is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of this century, a man who with his unique selling abilities, challenged the most established brands in the beverage industry..

His vision that created a new beverage category “The Energy Drink” also famous as “speed in a can". This unique positioning made RED Bull as number 1 product in this category!

Question is: Red Bull does not taste very good, so what are the reasons for this huge success?. Mateschitz says “It's not just another flavored sugar water differentiated by color or taste or flavor. It's an efficiency product. I'm talking about improving endurance, concentration, reaction time and speed”.

To me the answer is: A Well defined USP – Implemented in a Unique way

The company works closely with sports that require energy and present state of mind. Focus of Red Bull's marketing campaign has always been its claim that “it can improve athletic performance”. It l has over brand 500 brand ambassadors - athletes from 97 various sports. The company also owns four soccer teams: New York's Red Bulls (and their stadium), Red Bull Salzburg, Red Bull Brasil, and RB Leipzig and a Nascar team and two Formula 1 racing teams.

Mateschitz is Austria's richest man, and Red Bull is the biggest thing to come out of this small country in Europe. This success has close ties with “Vision” “Positioning” “Strategy’ and “Implementation.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another Surprise – Excellent Waiting Lounge at Dhaka

On my way back to Pakistan from Dhaka, I got the opportunity to wait for my flight at Business Class Lounge managed by Ruposhi Bangla Hotel. This lounge was earlier managed by Sheraton Dhaka. Since Sheraton has now stopped operating its chain in the city, the lounge is now managed by this local hotel.

In my pervious visit, I used Biman Airline lounge, and I was shocked at the poor quality of that lounge.

So my expectations were low this time around too!

However, when I entered Ruposhi Lounge, I was happily surprised! It was a well managed and neat place with hi speed wifi, nice choice of snacks and beverages. Staff was very friendly. I particularly like to mention that Chief Captain Sarwar Hosain and his waiter Prince were actively taking care of their guests.

Mr Hosain told me that this lounge serves about 250-300 customers on a daily basis and they prepare fresh food and keep it properly replenished. It is operated around the clock.

This lounge is supervised by Mr Harun Ur Rashid Mollah, who is the Operation Manager for this lounge.

I recommend spending time at this lounge at your next flight from Dhaka

Dealing with Workplace Conflicts

“I am upset”, how frequently do you hear this phrase? Off course uncountable times, at home or at work. Reason is simple – people are generally frustrated!

The above phrase is the beginning of “anger”, symptoms can affect the individual badly and spread like an epidemic, causing damage to the organization.

In my recent discussions with senior executives, one key feature which registered to me very strongly was, all workplace related anger issues initiate with “ego”! Hurt by a remark or attitude of a colleague, reaction starts. Perhaps uncontrolled emotional reaction is human nature, but certainly workplaces aggressions mostly caused by some underwater currents within the organizations.

Generally speaking, the key reason for workplace anger is to do with attitudes about themselves and predisposed judgments about others, which influence them to display disrespecting behavior towards others. People acknowledge that exhibiting aggression isn’t a sign of rightfulness or being energetic. There is no doubt that those who engage in angry behavior, lack maturity and insight about influencing behavior of a fellow human. Whether you are the one who is an aggressor or are the one on the receiving end of these emotional outbursts, the key to manage workplace anger is to make conscious choices for one’s actions. One must pause and reflect whether the behavior is going to contribute towards resolution of exacerbation of the problem. This one choice is likely to spell the difference.

Having said above, managers often find themselves in a challenging situation while dealing with such issues. Please realize that “Anger is mostly caused by conflicts” – period.

Now if this realization soaks in, managers need to understand the reasons for conflict and deal with it accordingly. My extensive discussions with HR guys reveal that there are three major reasons for workplace conflicts:

• Communication barriers
• Lack of recognition
• Ethical issues

And often dealing with workplace conflicts become easier managers are focused on the three points given above.

While dealing with an angry staff members, first thing is to listen and take notes, ask simple questions, repeat if answers are not satisfactory, get your facts right.

Caution: Do not react even if a direct comment is passed; remember angry person is “out of his mind”

Slowly you will see fire dying, this is the time to start your move towards discussing the solutions – Be prepared, as angry guy can’t give you one – You are now in lead. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Simple Experiments can Improve Sales

Effective Product display is a technique used by large stores and branded product outlets. However, small businesses often neglect the importance of this important tool.

In the year 2000, I was working as a part time cashier at Dairy Queen outlet in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Owners were two Italian friends who had other businesses as well. This outlet was managed by a Senior Staff member. His name was Mark. He was a great guy. He trained me in the art of ice cream making (I am still good at it!).

We used to make ice cream cakes and other products from raw ice cream. I am sure not many of you have heard RAW ICE CREAM. This means ice cream coming direct from the freezer. The process is simple, plastic container full of homogenized and pasteurized milk is attached with the freezer via pipes. Freezer sucks milk and rotates it at a certain speed, raw ice cream is ready to use in 30 minutes.

We had cold displays cabinets in which ice cream cakes and other packaged products were displayed. I observed that specific products were staked in a specific cabinets, and customers pick the first available container only, and the rest of the containers remained unsold. It was our duty to replenish these cabinets.

I had an idea, without asking Mark. I changed the display setting, which allowed customers to see every flavor available in the cabinet. Two benefits, customers were selecting from a wider variety, and sales increased the same day this change was made. Mark asked me how I got this idea, I said simple – I placed myself as a customer and quickly learnt what needed to be fixed.

You know what, I got a 1$ raise in my hourly pay – I was making $5 extra everyday!

Simple things can bring major changes; one does not need to know ROCKET SCINECE. Message is “keep experimenting!”

Where to stay in Dhaka – I recommend Neat, Friendly, Modern Lakeshore Hotel , Dhaka

Although Dhaka receives a large number of visitors from all over the world that come here mostly to do garments business, there are only four world class hotels in the city, The Westin, The Radisson, Pan Pacific and Sheraton (Sheraton is now run under local management and name has been changed too). Last two are in the heavily crowded and congested location, whereas Radisson is near the airport and Westin is too expensive!

During my last visit to Dhaka, I stayed at Radisson. It is a grand property, but just too far away from the city, so once you are in the hotel, going out for a walk is challenging.

This time around, I was recommended to stay at Lakeshore Hotel located about 7km from the airport in the heart of Gulshan area. I took a chance, and believe me, I enjoyed every moment of my time here. I booked my pick-up which was provided in a superb car at only $10! Right from check-in the professionalism and hospitality has been of highest level.

This encouraged me to express my feelings in this blogspot.

Located next to Lake Banani, this hotel is owned by Mr Kazi Tariq Shams who started this property as a guest house and turned it into a hotel about 5 years ago. The hotel has 60 excellent rooms fitted with all necessary stuff. Bathrooms are spacious and toiletries are of good standard (disposable razor was of inferior quality though, but I use my own so didn’t bother me at all). And FREE WiFi also --

Breakfast is fantastic and ranges from fresh juices, fruits to hot dishes of wide variety. I however did not find decaffeinated coffee and stuck to local Ispahani Tea. For the last three days I was served by MD Baehchu, who is a trainee waiter, but he showed excellent hospitality and care.

Another young man Soumen was there from room service who served me dinners. Food was of high quality and wide variety to chose from. I quite liked the Vegetable Thali and cream of mushroom soup.

While leaving Pakistan, a friend who was born in East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) told me to eat Shagur Kala (banana). Its excellent. Must eat when you are here next!

Most exciting thing was an excellent pool at the rooftop! I would recommend this hotel to anyone traveling to Dhaka and wants to stay close to shopping area of Gulshan.

Entrepreneurship is about turning crazy ideas into Profits

1/3rd Idea, 1/3rd Hard work and 1/3rd Luck – I heard this from a seasoned entrepreneur and mentor only last week! In my opinion, entrepreneurship is an addiction without cure. Once into entrepreneurship career, failures become learning, time becomes money, ideas become cash cows and success becomes the ultimate objective.

• Turning ideas into opportunities

• Securing cheap finance

• Implementation and

• Continuity

Scott Gerber who is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Sizzle It!, a New York based sizzle reel production company specializing in promotional videos for PR and marketing professionals, and the Young Entrepreneur Council says:

“I am proud to have learned such a great deal from my failures, and the fact that I get to share them—and, more important, the hard-knocks lessons learned—with a worldwide audience is a real thrill. After all, what’s the point of ending up in frivolous litigation, nearly losing your shirt, pitching VCs for tens of millions of dollars with no revenue model, or being forced to move back in with your parents if you can’t have a few laughs as a result, right?”

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group is unique. He says "I don't go into ventures to make a fortune. I do it because I'm not satisfied with the way others are doing business." This shows that some entrepreneurs are just different; they want to do things in a different and in more creative manner.

Richard started his entrepreneurial career in 1967 when he quit school at the age of 16 to start a magazine. He hoped his magazine, titled “Student”, would become a voice for young activists. When in 1968 the first issue came out, the headmaster of his school wrote him a note that said: "Congratulations, Branson. I predict you will either go to prison or become a millionaire." Richard’s passion made him a billionaire with a net worth (in 2010) nearly $8 billion!

I believe that one needs to be crazy and consistent to achieve the rewards of Entrepreneurship!

I wrote this blog as guest writer for Ashraf Chaudhry's blog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You too - Arnold Schwarzenegger!

The picture shows Maria Shriver giving kiss to her husband Arnold Schwarzenegger on winning the elections as Governor of California.

"This is a painful and heartbreaking time. As a mother, my concern is for the children. I ask for compassion, respect and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives. I will have no further comment."

The above statement was made by Maria Shriver after separating from a 25 years of married life with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who admitted that he fathered a child with of their household staff members and hid the secret for 10 years. The staff member worked with the family for 20 years, left the job only in January this year.

63 years old former governor and said that, "I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry."

He told media: "While I deserve your attention and criticism, my family does not ".

Lets see how media treats this news and for how long this remains focus of media attention in the US and internationally.

Old Dhaka – A city within the City

A city of massive traffic congestions and history! Over 20 million people it is the most thickly populated city in South Asia.

This is my second trip to Dhaka, capital city of Bangladesh. During my last stay, I did not find time to explore the city. But this time I was determined to do a bit of traveling in the old part of Dhaka.

After a busy day with board members and senior staff at Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BWCCI), the primer business association on South Asia serving over 2500 women entrepreneurs across Bangladesh, where I was working with them in developing a Strategic Plan, I hit the road on an auto-rickshaw (called CNG here because it uses compressed natural gas as fuel). My guide was Mehdi Hasan, Training and Capacity building Officer from BWCCI. Mehdi’s seven month old son was sick today, and he came to work a little late, but he happily took me on this trip to old Dhaka, where he lived during his childhood. He is after all a South Asian, you know, we are full of hospitality and respect.

CNG took us to the closest intersection to the old part, but due to a procession that was celebrating Hasina Wajid’s return to Bangladesh (it is an annual event), we got down and crossed the road to take a bicycle rickshaw. It was my first time in this environment friendly vehicle pulled by a skinny man, I asked him if he is a local resident. No, they come to Dhaka only to make some money, with an average income of about 300-400 Taka, of which 80 Taka goes to the owner of rickshaw; they hardly make enough to survive! But this is the most effective way of traveling short distances in the city.

So Old Dhaka – almost all residents of old Dhaka were Pakistanies, means non Bengalies. After separation from Pakistan in 1971, they opted to stay in Bangladesh and are still called Pakistani. This is not strange for me, because those Bengali families, which stayed back in Pakistan, are still called Bengali.

Crocked and narrow streets of old Dhaka reminded me of old Lahore, red brick tall buildings were quite similar to inner Lahore. One could smell Kacha Biryani from a distance (meat biryani, very similar to Palo Rice). Small shops were making puri and kachoori. Our rickshaw puller knew I am a foreigner, in expectation of reasonable reward; he gave us a big round of the area. We passed through wholesale markets selling auto parts, bicycles, food grains etc. I saw many small food vendors selling noodles and peeled cucumber, which were fully poised with dust and other pollutants!

It indeed was an experience. Old Dhaka is a different city within the city.

Most interestingly I was told to keep only little cash in the pocket, CNG rickshaw have doors that one needs to keep locked (fear of snatching!) and Mehdi said “You look different”!

It was a trip, I can never forget. My thanks to Mehdi for taking time out for this unforgettable experience.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Poor Service – Poor Rating

The secret ingredient for a successful airline is its service quality.

After having traveled in Emirates, Qatar, Thai, Itehad, you get used to a high quality Business Class experience. Nice, comfortable and modern seats, excellent meals, both in quality as well as quality.

However United Airlines is yet to learn the actual meanings of Business Class! Experience UA977, a 14 hours direct flight from Dubai to Washington DC. The flight leaves at mid-night Dubai and lands in the US at around 7am. You would like to get enough sleep to allow you going to work around mid-day.

Forget about this if you have taken UA977…. Business Class is comparable to an Economy+! Still operating with manual seat controls, the leg room and seat alignment does not provide Business Class comfort.

After the recently becoming a single company, Continental and United together with United Express, Continental Express and Continental Connection, operate an average of 5,820 flights a day to 373 airports on six continents. However US Airlines are not in good financial shape.

The US's eight largest airline companies (counting United Airlines and Continental Airlines as one and Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways separately) incurred a collective 2011 first-quarter net loss of $1.01 billion, ATW calculated. The deficit was slightly widened from a net loss of $985.7 million in the 2010 March quarter as rising fuel costs offset strong revenue gains. With these financials, one should not expect any major service quality uplift program, at least in the medium term.

Choice is yours, but I would opt for other options!

Markets Suffer as IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn Arrested

“IMF will remain fully functional and operational” – Caroline Atkinson, IMF Spokesperson.

This weekend’s biggest news hit the media that reported the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Head of International Monetary Fund.

He is expected to plead not guilty at his arraignment Monday, following allegations that the Frenchman sexually assaulted a maid in a swank New York City hotel. According to an account the woman provided to police, Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway and pulled her into a bedroom, where he began to sexually assault her. She said she fought him off, then he dragged her into the bathroom, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him and tried to remove her underwear. The woman was able to break free again and escaped the room and told hotel staff what had happened and police was called.

Anne Sinclair, who is a TV journalist and wife of Kahn said "I do not believe for one second the accusations brought against my husband. I have no doubt his innocence will be established,"

In 2008, Dominique was investigated over whether he had an improper relationship with a subordinate female employee. The IMF board found that the relationship was consensual, but called his actions "regrettable" and said they "reflected a serious error of judgment."

BUT markets have felt the jolts!

Gold prices kicked off the week on a softer note Monday, as the dollar gained following the news of Dominique’s arrest. Gold for June dropped $3.20 to $1,490.30 an ounce in electronic trading on Monday. Silver prices also weakened, with silver for July delivery dropping 36 cents to $34.65 an ounce!
Europe is also worried, Kahn had been one of the key players working to address Europe’s debt crisis. The euro has suffered, falling 7 weeks low. Asian shares took a dip over concerns about European sovereign debt woes.
Watch for developing news on media.

Are there Investment Opportunities during Economic Downturn?

A public opinion poll is no substitute for thought. Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars. Warren Buffett

The world economy is in recession! For a long time, we have been hearing this statement from friends, governments, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Central Banks etc. Real Estate Market is down; stocks are in shamble, mutual funds made huge losses, be careful hold on to your liquidity, do not make foolish investment decisions – have been the grapevine around coffee tables, pubs and golf courses.

Having said above, there are many financially literate opportunists that were able to crack business deals worth billions of Dollars. One recent example is $ 8.5 billion Skype buyout deal by Microsoft Corporation. If the times are challenging, I wonder why aggressive corporate entrepreneurs are making new investments, from where are they making money and parking it in money making opportunities?

Perhaps they are the intelligent once and are able to interpret the insights of businesses with open minds and turn these challenges into opportunities. They are able to tap into hidden opportunities, no matter how bad the economic indicators are. Or they are planting seeds today in the hope or sweet fruit in the times to come?

I was training a group of senior businessmen, and ethos of my session was “Investment Opportunities”. Although, belonging from wealthy business families, it was a depressed bunch of people. At least for the first hour of my session, I kept challenging their ability to improve upon their superficial way to looking at opportunities, and some of them started reacting! Off course I was expecting that.

After coffee break, said, if the business climate around you is so sickly, why are you in still in business? The fact is that your respective businesses are sustaining economic pressures; you are employing staff, producing goods, competing with other market players, paying for your luxuries. I went on and said:

“You are managing your business well. The only thing that is missing in the equation is your boldness to start investing in opportunities”.

They were astonished and started realizing the fact! Let’s discuss how you define opportunities, I said. They were thrilled, and over the next five hours the group came-up with a number of potential investment opportunities.

In my view, the general notion of being careful turns in to being lethargic during the time when economies are slow. But those with ability to understand that challenge are always willing to take calculated risks and are often successful!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Anthony Robbins’ Elements of Leadership and Peak Performance

I was touched by Anthony Robbins’ following quote:

“I was 11 years old when a man I'd never seen gifted my family with a huge basket of Thanksgiving goodies we couldn't afford ourselves. In that moment I came upon a new meaning—strangers care. Soon after, I created the Basket Brigade to bring hope and food to those who need it most.”

Anthony Robbins, a great speaker, author and specialist in peak performance has been actively assisting leaders for over 30 years in sharpening their leadership skills. He has spoken in front of more than 3 million people around the world and sold around 35 million books and audio coaching products.

He is also a strong believer in giving back to the society. Anthony Robbins’ Foundation, a non-profit initiative feeds about three million people in 56 countries every year through its international holiday “Basket Brigade”.

Established in 1991, The Foundation programs have impacted more than 2,000 schools, 700 prisons, and 100,000 health and human service organizations. Foundation’s main focus is improving quality of life for children, the homeless, the prison population, and the elderly. Anthony uses funds raised by his book sale, public speaking engagements and live events to support his initiatives.

To me Anthony’s personality impresses people around him with his positivity. This positivity brings about the power to excel and power to succeed, two elements that create leadership and ensure peak performance.

Anthony, keep inspiriting the world!

Watch an Anthony Robbins’ excellent video I found for you: