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Apple and oranges

Apple and oranges
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First Published: Fri, May 13 2011. 10 22 PM IST
Updated: Fri, May 13 2011. 10 22 PM IST
This morning there is a spring in the MD’s step as he gets into the back of his BMW and settles into the comfortable seats in the back. As he sits down he places the iPad on his lap and looks out of the window.
“This is exactly how I can turn around my company,” he thinks to himself lightly tapping the surface of his iPad, as the vistas of Gurgaon pass by in front of his window.
In the front of the car, the MD’s driver is leaving no traffic rule unbroken in an attempt to get his boss out of the city, through the toll-booth and into Delhi.
The company is the world’s second largest manufacturer of aluminium thingummajigs. They used to be the biggest, but then a Chinese company overtook them four years ago. That is one of the things bothering the MD. Also, ever since liberalization, there is just too much competition in the market. Nowadays there are many thingummajig manufacturers, and all of them are approaching the same MPs for thingummajig contracts. This has given rise to unprecedented price rise.
Recently the MD lobbied hard, but lost the opportunity to supply to the Commonwealth Games.
Overall things have been sluggish. In order to increase profits, the MD has been forced to innovate by hiring cheap untrained manpower, reducing safety and quality expense, rationalizing customer service, opening a “commercial office” in Switzerland, and thinking out of the box when it comes to DEPB passbook. But he is not sure this strategy is sustainable.
Open on his iPad is a Fortune magazine story that could provide an answer. The article, which he just read this morning, is a brilliant behind-the-scenes look at how Apple Inc. operates. Adam Lashinsky’s long feature sheds light on dozens of previously unknown ways in which Steve Jobs runs Apple.
For instance, Jobs takes failure very seriously. People behind failed products are summoned and ripped to shreds. And then new people are appointed right away. Also every item on the agenda for a meeting or a project has a “Directly Responsible Individual” marked next to it clearly. Apple also has unique weekly meetings, uber-focused management off-sites and…so on and so forth.
Instead of preparing his weekly insider trading email to the special insider trading team in Mumbai, the MD spends all morning reading. And then he emails a copy to all his managers. “From this morning,” he writes, “I have decided to make our company the Apple of thingummajigs. All of you kindly read this article and draw up a plan for your respective divisions. We will meet after lunch.”
Moments after lunch, managers begin filing into the MD’s private conference room. Some of them have notebooks in front of them. All of them look somewhat flabbergasted. Last year the MD decided to make the company the Google of thingummajigs. That ended in disaster after all 600 employees decided to set aside 20% time for individual projects. There was a strike.
“So, today we start changing into the Apple of thingummajigs,” says the MD who is dressed in a black turtleneck sweater, blue jeans and sneakers. He has got the office boy to rearrange furniture. The room looks like a theatre. And the MD is pacing around in front of them. “Let me start with HR. What can we do to make our people like Apple employees?”
The HR manager says that nothing can be done because Apple employees are paid up to 20% more than the market, many have stock options and are provided with excellent perks like food. Currently only the MD and the MD’s secretary is provided company food. This is not what the MD wants to hear. He acts like Jobs. He fires the manager on the spot and asks the store manager to take care of HR as well.
Then he looks at the customer service manager and says that, like Jobs, he wants the MD’s official personal email id sent out to all customers. They should directly send complaints to him. The customer service manager squirms in his seat and says that they get over 1,300 customer complaints every week. The MD appreciates this point and decides to implement this in phase 2.
Next the MD decides to implement Directly Responsible Individuals for everything. Unfortunately, for secrecy reasons, the MD appoints himself the DRI for finance, sales, marketing, purchasing, legal and investor relations.
Then he asks the admin manager for his vision for Apple-like off-sites for top management in high-class resorts and hotels. The admin managers discusses some expense numbers. After 30 minutes of debate the MD decides that the next management off-site will be held at Oberoi Wildflower Hall in Shimla. No expense will be spared. However, due to budget constraints, only the MD will go, along with his secretary to take notes.
After one final item of discussion, the meeting concludes. The MD is excited. He can see the transformation begin. The final item is particularly exciting. Henceforth, all iThingummajig launches will be handled by him personally. Press from all over the world will be invited. “Next step,” he makes a mental note, “is to buy more turtlenecks.”
Cubiclenama takes a fortnightly look at the pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, May 13 2011. 10 22 PM IST