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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some tips on etiquette for business travel to India

With India now having a strong global business presence, which is expanding continuously, it is crucial that as UK business professionals, we are aware of how to behave and interact appropriately with fellow business professionals from this continent.

The subject is huge, and with cultural differences within India itself, it could easily fill a volumes.

However, let me give you my top tips for successful business interactions:

  • Never touch a person’s head, even to pat a child, the head is the seat of the soul
  • Beckoning someone with the hand or finger is insulting as is standing with your hands on your hips
  • Never point your feet at someone. If your shoes or feet touch someone else, make sure you apologise immediately.
  • The word ‘no’ is considered harsh in Asian culture. Evasive refusals such as ‘maybe’ or ‘I’ll try’ are preferred and regularly used.
  • Always use formal titles when interacting with Asian clients, however many times you’ve met them.
  • The use of leather products including belts, handbags and briefcases may be considered offensive.
  • It is generally not socially acceptable for Asian women to be touched by any male other than husband or child. This is obviously changing as more and more Asian women are entering the corporate world and travelling globally for business, but if in doubt only shake hands with an Asian woman if she offers her hand first.
  • Asians take themselves very seriously so the UK dry sense of humour and gentle banter that we take for granted is unlikely to be well received.
  • Be aware of the deeply established caste system and understanding dharma and karma
  • It is inappropriate for a man to make any comment about a woman’s appearance.
  • It is considered impolite to address a person who is older or holds a higher status by their first name. In Hindi, the first name is usually followed by “ji” to show respect.

The business etiquette within India is changing rapidly as more and more Asian people are entering the global business arena. But be aware that the above points are very well ingrained in their psyche so always err on the side of caution and be led by your client/colleague. You are far more likely to need to adhere to letter to the above if you are visiting the Continent as opposed to receiving visitors in the UK.

Picked these tips up from Katie Day who is a people changer at personal development consultancy Unlimited Potential. She is also guest lecturer at Warwich Business School. She worked with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development from 1995 to 1999, advising on cross-cultural exchange.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Growth of the web since 2000, and the opportunities it is bringing

Growth of the web since 2000, and the opportunities it is bringing

2020 vision for the web

Online copy of newsletter here

The growth of the web since 2000 has been massive and in the 'new' economies - China, Brazil, Russia, India, Eastern Europe that is likely to continue apace. It’s not until penetration reaches that of the phone that the market will mature. That’s lots of growth as the figures below indicate.

World Regions Est. pop. 2009 Users 2000 Users Latest Pen % Inc % User %
Africa 991,002,342 4,514,400 65,903,900 6.7 1,359.9 3.9
Asia 3,808,070,503 114,304,000 704,213,930 18.5 516.1 42.2
Europe 803,850,858 105,096,093 402,380,474 50.1 282.9 24.2
Middle East 202,687,005 3,284,800 47,964,146 23.7 1,360.2 2.9
North America 340,831,831 108,096,800 251,735,500 73.9 132.9 15.1
South America 586,662,468 18,068,919 175,834,439 30.0 873.1 10.5
Oceania 34,700,201 7,620,480 20,838,019 60.1 173.4 1.2
WORLD TOTAL 6,767,805,208 360,985,492 1,668,870,408 24.7 362.3 100.0
Internet Usage and World population Statistics are for June 30, 2009. Information www.internetworldstats.com. Copyright © 2001 - 2009, Miniwatts Marketing Group. All rights reserved worldwide.

Given this likely growth what will the web look like in 2020?

Well, there are two sides to that coin – the way the technology works and then the ways we use it and, of course, forecast vision is less likely to be accurate than optical.


According to technology expert and entrepreneur Nova Spivack, the development of the web moves in 10 year cycles.

In the first decade, most of the development focused on the back end. In the second decade, focus shifted to the front end and the era social media, mash-ups and experiments to make the web more interactive. The next cycle will shift focus to the back end again. Then by 2020 focus will return to the front end and we'll see thousands of new ways to use the web.

Some of the predictions for the next 10 years are the:

  • ‘ever present’ web will merge with all other forms of entertainment and everything will be delivered via the web. Everything (phones, fridges, the lot) will connect to the net and you will have a constant connection to the web at work, at home, driving, in the pub or restaurant, in fact wherever you are.
  • semantic web and artificial intelligence where all information is categorized and stored in such a way that a computer can understand it as well as a human. The web will capable of analyzing data and extrapolating new ideas for you. In fact people already feel that, as one of our readers, Tony Cox, wrote after one of our recent articles: "The Internet is evolving like a primitive brain building neural connections to integrate the myriad of input signals for evaluation, selective storage and sending of response signals. The conscious mind is only aware of that which demands attention, with most work dealt with automatically and subconsciously."
  • three dimensional web - one single virtual world with buildings, shops and other areas to explore and people to interact with in virtual reality and real online personalities. However, standards for programming and graphical design would be much more complex and expensive.
  • above or some combination thereof.

Web usage

So what will the backroom developments mean for what we do on the web? Well, Seth Godin has characterised these next developments as:

  • ubiquity – because it is about activity, not just data, and most human activity takes place offline
  • identity – because the deliverable is based on who you are and what you do and what you need
  • connection - because ‘you're nothing without the rest of us’.

We are already seeing some of these changes with the growth of social media and the launch just recently of Google Sidewiki – a new feature of the Google Toolbar that lets you leave comments about any website. When some else running Sidewiki views that web page, they'll see your comments.

But in the future Godin sees much more potent applications. He gives examples of how this will work too, such as:

  • I'm typing an email to someone, and we're brainstorming about doing a business development deal with Apple. A little window pops up and lets me know that David over in our Tucscon office is already having a similar conversation with Apple and perhaps we should coordinate.
  • I'm late for a dinner. My GPS phone knows this (because it has my calendar, my location, and the traffic status). So, it tells me, and then it alerts the people who are waiting for me.

Some of this is not so far away. Google Wave has just launched and has a lot of features, such as:

  • Real-time: In most instances, you can see what someone else is typing, character-by-character.
  • Extensions: Just like Facebook developers can build their own applications within waves. Google Wave code will be open source, to promote innovation and adoption amongst developers
  • Wiki functionality: Anything written within a Google Wave can be edited by anyone else
  • Playback: You can playback any part of the wave to see what was said.
  • Drag-and-drop sharing: Drag your file and drop it into a Google Wave and everyone will have access.

The Social Issues Research Centre says that the web in 2020 will:

“……….meet human needs more fully than it does at present, with many resulting social and political implications. It will have come to provide a renewed forum for social cohesion and democracy as well as continuing as a platform for information, entertainment, communication, shopping, etc. ……… If a Web application, however complex and sophisticated, does not fulfil a timeless human need then it will not succeed. While technology changes, people in general do not………. We reinvent tribal groups in which we find a true sense of belonging, whether they be the familiar youth subcultures………. or the more staid and respectable………. ‘grown-up’ groups with which we are so familiar………. As basic mechanisms for bonding and social cohesion are eroded in the faceless anonymity of modern towns and cities, we re-create new means for satisfying our timeless needs. In this sense, nothing changes much apart from superficial style. The Web increasingly serves such needs, allowing us to establish and maintain the same social bonds……….”

Hence Marshall McLuhan’s Global Village becomes truly real and as Jeremiah Owyang, says: “people connect to each other – rather than institutions………. Consumers will rely on their peers as they make online decisions, whether or not brands choose to participate……… The community will take charge and that's going to happen whether or not marketers or brands participate………. Social networking will only continue to facilitate the power shift toward the consumer.”

The crucial thing about all of this is that it completely changes the dynamic. For many years now the dynamic has been biased towards companies. As examples, branding and price promises have been two of the ways that companies have been able to maintain profitability whilst ‘reassuring’ consumers, i.e.

  • The purpose of any brand is to undermine the homogeneity of products so that pretty much indistinguishable items – whether cola or lager or denim or something else – have a substantially different value because they are marked with the label ‘Coca’ or ‘Pepsi’ or ‘Virgin’ or ‘Carling’ or ‘Heineken’ or ‘Budweiser’ or ‘Gap’ or ‘Levi’ or ‘Top Shop’. The advertising industry is dedicated to establishing consumer preference for one brand or another. This provides companies with increased profitability.
  • With the ‘range’ of goods currently available how could we possibly know about all of them or what they are worth? Our knowledge of the market and its goods is far from perfect, hence advertising campaigns offering that ‘If you find it cheaper elsewhere, we’ll refund twice the difference’.

Clearly, if you had perfect information you would know it was cheaper somewhere else to start with and, if you wished to ‘maximise your utility’ buy it there. This also provides companies with increased profitability.

In the social web market where much more perfect knowledge may exist (like small towns in 1750) then will brands that are really ‘just commodity products’ be able to exploit these situations?

Maybe, but it will take a significant change in attitude from top down to bottom up thinking, thinking which REALLY puts the consumer first ( 'ask not what your community can do for you - ask what you can do for your community' ) and not the CEO’s pay package.

Richard Hill


Thursday, October 01, 2009

A dragon from Dragon's den that I like

A Good Dragon

In the past I have been a tad disparaging of the BBC 2 program "dragons den" I still am, but more so about the companies producers for selecting prospective entrepreneurs who should not be there, I feel sorry for them, they have some good ideas, some crap, but the good ones are poorly presented with the wrong preparation before hand, if they had spent sometime with an experienced Entrepreneur, or a company like www.go.uk.com , they would have brought much richer presentations and better deals to the Dragons. Anyway back to the article I noticed in www.startups.co.uk it was an interview with one of the better Dragons, Peter Jones, he brings smart money to a deal and stays involved, hands on, now this can be a good thing or bad, depending how it works out in the business, but generally it is a good thing, Smart money is a multiplier. The article is below, a good read and some good ideas, something I am passionate about, helping Entrepreneurs to be a success.

Peter Jones

As one of only two original Dragons’ Den panellists still on the BBC2 hit show, Peter Jones has seen his fare share of budding entrepreneurs run their ideas past him. But having just launched his new Enterprise Academy, for which funding came from both the public and private sector, he’s really putting his money where his mouth is. Startups spoke to Peter about his ambitions for the academy, why he thinks Britain’s entrepreneurial mindset is in dire need of a change, and what he really thinks about his fellow Dragons.

You’ve just opened the doors for the September term of your new Enterprise Academy. What’s the journey been like?
I first wrote about the introduction of an academy for enterprise back in 2006 in my book Tycoon. From inception to launch it’s been three years but it was only the latter part of 2007 that we started to make real headway. It’s been amazingly refreshing working with the government on this. We’ve clearly hit a nerve and I feel very lucky to have established Britain’s first enterprise academy.

Is launching the academy your proudest moment so far?
From a career perspective it’s definitely up there in the top three. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. But my absolute proudest moment is becoming a dad. Nothing can beat that – not even the best deal of my life.

What are your long-term goals for the academy?
We’re going to change the complete landscape of enterprise learning in this country and start with a cultural shift. I truly believe that anybody and everybody can become a successful entrepreneur but first they have to change their belief system. Being typically British we always ask ‘Can I?’ but we will be teaching the students the meaning of ‘I Can’. That might sound flippant but it’s at the heart of where we need to be. We clearly have a lack of skills when it comes to entrepreneurship in this country and we need to change that.

The academy will offer complete support from a mentoring based system where seriously successful entrepreneurs will lay down the foundations of how they made it. But also, all our tutors are successful enterprising people in their own right. It’s very difficult to find a business man or woman that also has teaching experience but we’ve done it.

What’s the single most important entrepreneurial skill?
One of the things about being an entrepreneur that we often don’t like to accept is that it’s a lonely road. You’re continually motivating people and patting others on the back. Although you’ll always need specific people to go out and do a multitude of things for you, a big part of being an entrepreneur is the ability to understand the overall business from a helicopter’s perspective and then get each of the components working with applied focus to the best of their ability.

Do you have a favourite Dragon’s Den investment?
I don’t have a favourite but I am lucky enough to have the most successful Den investment. Who’d have predicted that a singer songwriter from Jamaica would walk up the stairs singing about his product and he would end up a multimillionaire. Reggae Reggae Sauce now generates 12-14 million bottles a year and has licensed out the brand to a range of different things. It’s become a brand that’s right up there, and the next step it to take it over to the States.

Are any of your investments purely financial transactions?
No. I don’t have any investments that I’m not personally involved in. I’m not a person that likes to just give money. I just don’t see the point in that. I’m a people investor and I’ve active in all deals to varying degrees.

Which other Dragon do you enjoy working with the most?
I haven’t had the opportunity to work with Deborah yet despite sitting next to her in the Den, but I do get on really well with her. Theo and I work together a lot. We’re friends and we know each other well. He likes to jump on the back of a lot of my investments and likewise, I often like to follow his lead.

Much to everyone’s, even my, shock and horror, I also work well with Duncan. I couldn’t describe in words what I used to think of him, but over the last 18 months I’ve really started to understand what he’s all about. I respect him because he’s straight talking but also a really charming guy, and he’s become a good friend.

What about James?
James is a nice guy but I like to call him the cat – as in copycat. If I set up a website, he copies it. If I decide to set up my own fashion label, he’ll do one too. He hasn’t got a shred of fashion sense in his body. He’ll go into a house and think the flowery curtains would look good on him. My message to James would be to stop dressing like the interior design of property and learn about true fashion. He needs to go back to copying me but I can’t see him in stripy socks. He’s not that cool.

Can money buy you happiness?
Yes. Without a doubt. Money gives you choices. I’ve been in both camps and I’d much rather have money than not. It’s great to walk into your garage and see a lovely Ferrari in there. Money can make you happy as long as you remember it isn’t everything.

What’s your biggest tip for business success?
For a dream to become reality you need to make it real enough to believe in. If you’re pitching an idea to somebody, make it real to whoever you’re aiming the pitch at.

Gordon Whyte