How to get a village named after your company? – A curious case of ‘Snapdeal.com’ Nagar

It was in news yesterday that a village in India named Shivnagar, changed it’s name to ‘Snapdeal.com’-Nagar. When I read the headline, my reaction was, ‘What? How much would they have paid to sponsor the entire village? For how long?’

However, I soon realized that my hypotheses were absolutely wrong. As TechCrunch pointed out, it wasn’t a cheap marketing stunt. Truth is that the village itself changed its name as a sign of gratitude towards the company.

Shivnagar is a small impoverished village in the state of Uttarpradesh in northern India. Like many other villages in this region, Shivnagar also suffers from poverty, lack of infrastructure and lack of attention from authorities. Villagers get electricity only for a couple of hours every day and there has been an acute lack of drinking water in the village. Kunal Bahl, Founder of Snapdeal.com – India’s answer to Groupon (And the leader in Indian market) – got to know about this village from one his employees. He decided to help the villagers by installing 15 hand pumps across the village. The act didn’t cost the company more than $5000 but had a profound impact on lives of the villagers. Finally villagers, decided to change the name of the village from Shiv Nagar to ‘Snapdeal.com’ Nagar. (Nagar meaning Town/City in languages of  Sanskrit-family).

Research on Strategy for dealing with ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ (Prahlad, 2002) has explored different sources of value creation in low-income or poor markets. (Sanchez & Ricart, 2010). One such source of value creation could actually be the business model itself. Sanchez and Ricart (2010) have shown that in low-income markets, firms may choose an interactive business model, whereby the firm would not just interact but establish strong relations with fringe stakeholders and seek long term positive impact. The philanthropic gesture of Snapdeal, despite being a truly altruistic deed, will definitely bring about positive results for the company in the long run. These positive results may not be visible in the bottomline numbers but would be in terms of positive social capital that the company would build up. Many Indian companies have in recent times, shown a greater inclination towards indulging in community initiatives and bringing in fringe stakeholders within the purview of their business models. Yes Bank, the fastest growing private sector Bank, for example has an initiative called ‘Yes-Community‘ wherein they organize ‘micro-events’ in their branches for people living in the neighborhood and try to help them about prevention of pollution, management of waste and more efficient energy management. Positive signs indeed!!

Prahalad, C. (2002). Strategies for the Bottom of the Economic Pyramid: India as a Source of Innovation Reflections: The SoL Journal, 3 (4), 6-17 DOI: 10.1162/152417302760127192

ResearchBlogging.org

Sanchez, Pablo and Ricart, Joan Enric (2010). Business model innovation and sources of value creation in low-income markets. European Management Review, 7 (3), 138-154 DOI: 10.1057/emr.2010.16

Intel’s Larrabee – Another Innovation Abandoned

Larrabee is dead! Intel has announced one of the most ambitious graphics ventures’ demise on a blog post by Bill Kircos, Intel’s Director of product and technology . Intel didn’t announce it explicitly though, but fFortunately, Ryan Smith at Anandtech has deciphered it for us.

Four years ago rumours surfaced that ‘a shadowy organization called Larrabee Development Group‘ had launched itself to do the unthinkable in the High-end graphics chip industry. It had decided to take head on the two big crocodiles of the pond, namely NVidia and AMD. However, Job vacancy postings on Intel’s website did little to hide that Larrabee was an Intel venture. After a few months Intel proudly announced launch of Larrabee, a multi-core processor design which was supposed to compete with other GPGPU based (General Purpose Graphic Processing Unit) future products from competitors NVIDIA and AMD. Larrabee was supposed to be something like a combination of GPU/CPU. A chip that would have a full programmability of a CPU and throughput computing feature of a GPU. (see image below)

However, Intel’s foray into producing a Multi-core GPGPU Chip didn’t bother Nvidia and AMD much. On the contrary their strategies were not at all affected by Intel’s apparent plans. Both of them rather steadily went ahead with their strategy of Integrated Graphics.

After missing their initial product launch deadlines, last December Intel delayed the Graphic Processor launch and decided to downsize Larrabee to Software Development Platform. The product was now slated to arrive sometime in 2010. However Bill Kircos in his blog at Intel’s website has discretely written, “We will not bring a discrete graphics product to market, at least in the short-term.”

This means, Larrabee – the product is not coming to shelf. This case brings us back to the issue of abandoning innovation that was discussed here at Creatologue in the light of Microsoft’s abandonment of Courier. However, Larrabee’s case is quite peculiar. Larrabee, if it would have been launched would have been quite a radically innovative product. As is shown in the  image below.

What Intel has done by abandoning Larrabee is effectively imitating its competitors by focusing on Integrated Graphics rather than thinking about a CPU/GPU hybrid.

It would really be interesting to explore when a company might abandon a radical innovation project? One obvious reason was that it wasn’t giving expected results. But then, in an uncharted technology category, it will always be difficult to estimate performance. On the other hand, while its competitors in the graphics processing segment, have a strong presence, especially NVIDIA being stronger in gaming segment, overall Intel is incomparably bigger than these competitors. Given it’s size Intel shouldn’t worry about economies of scale or scope. The only other probable expectation is shift in strategic importance of the innovation (Agarwal, Barry and Tripsas, 2005). Why such a touted innovation lost its importance before it could see the light of the day, only time will tell.

Reference

Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper.


Microsoft Courier – Just a Dream! or Logic of Abandoning an Innovation

Microsoft Courier (courtsey : http://www.engadget.com)

Last Thursday several Gadget lovers mourned with deep pain when Engadget wrote about sad premature demise of Microsoft Courier. It kind of made almost every Microsoft Fan (Who are an absolute minority now) a bit sad. Rumours about Microsot developing a dual-screen tablet started last September, and soon it’s images and even videos were leaked out. Microsoft however never confirmed it officially, until it decided to scrap the project.

The question however is, why would Microsoft abandon such an interesting product? Before Apple launched iPad nobody was sure of utility or commercial appeal of a Tablet PC. However, Apple’s iPad is one of the most successful début products in our recent memory. In the very first month of it’s launch it has sold 1 Mn units. Vladislav Savov at Engadget writes, Steve (Jobs) told us it’d be revolutionary, and if sales are the measure of a device’s success, then the iPad seems to be well on track to validating its creator’s bold claims.” Now when future of Tablet Computing was looking so rosy, why Microsoft abandoned something, that was already creating some excitement among Techies?

Microsoft Courier is an interesting case of a proactive exit. There is lot of academic work on Innovation and Innovation system however there is not sufficient research available on abandonment of innovations. As it’s important for companies to know, how and when to commit to an innovation, it’s equally important to know, when to abandon an innovation.  Research suggests that a company might abandon to pursue a new product, in case (i) the market doesn’t move according to its expectations or (ii) the planned innovation is not strategically important for the company.  I found another interesting explanation in an article by Sanjay Jain and Kamalini Ramdas (2005). Using examples from Videogame industry they elaborate on what they have termed as a pace keeping approach to product development. In Videogame consoles, the development cycle ranges from two to five years, whereas the development cycle for graphics processing unit (GPU), which is a core underlying technology, takes about six months. In an industry like this, where core technology evolves much faster than the product, at times it makes sense to abandon a new product development, just because it’s neither easy nor profitable to keep pace with rapidly advancing technology.

Going back to the Microsoft Courier, do we really believe that this was a reason? In this case, it seems more the problem of ‘Apps’ rather than core technology. After successful launch of iPad, most of the applications developers have strongly invested their efforts, energy and creativity in developing killer Apps for iPad. Any new Tablet, with a different platform than iPad, could face a temporary ‘Apps-Drought’. In an article in March, Fastcompany had predicted a similar outcome based on the same logic.

We don’t know, and probably would never know why Courier was shelved. Maybe Bill, The Gates has some other surprises up his sleeve. Maybe Microsoft just lost interest in Courier. Maybe it was just pure bureaucratic problem of ‘cost overruns’ etc etc. The bottomline is Courier will never be a reality. A dream, that never came true!

So here is a video of a wonder product, you never had!


References

(1) Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper.

(2) Jain, S., K. Ramdas. 2005. Up or out—or stay put? Product positioning in an evolving technology environment. Production and Operations Management 14(3) 362–376.



Firefox and Brainstorming

Mozilla has effectively used public participation strategies time and again. A great example was the ‘download movement’ for Firefox 3. They released Firefox 3 on 17th June 2008 and appealed internet users all over the world to download it the same day, in order to set a record for maximum downloads in a single day.

Eventually the results were beyond what they had expected. By the time the download day had ended they had registered 8.2 million downloads, in a single day.

Now they have come up with a new project, impact mozilla.

The introductory text on the project site says that it’s an “…………….open source marketing project“. Here users are asked to submit an innovative idea to devise a marketing strategy to make sure people who download Firefox become regular users.

To ask users to suggest ways to improve products is one thing but to ask them to devise new marketing strategy is an innovative idea. On top of it, they have nicely packaged it in form of a contest. The process somehow resembles Alex Osbourne‘s Brainstorming. While developing Brainstorming technique for creative problem solving, Alex Osbourne suggested that one of the biggest hindrances to idea generation in a team is quick evaluation of an idea. Hence, while applying brainstroming technique teams are strongly advised to abstain from any sort of judgmental evaluation of ideas that have been expressed. Since, in case of “Impact Mozilla”, users suggesting ideas will mostly be working separately from the rest of the user community, the possibility of quick judgment is nil. Firefox 3 is already enjoying very positive reviews and with creative marketing strategy that would emerge from this contest, will definitely increase pressure on the leader internet explorer.