Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Region restrictions in a globalised world

I think we can all agree that globalisation has won, and we live in a flat world.

However when it comes to consuming media, we still live in a world of regional restrictions. Rights are not issued globally, and rights owners see this as milking every last penny by ensuring that regional restrictions apply. This is not just true for the movie world, but also the music world, and generally the book world. Apparently the entertainment industry is one of the last holdouts in realising that we live in a truly globalised world.

Yesterday I read an interview in the FT with Kate Tempest, a writer/rapper whom I’ve not heard of. I immediately hopped onto iTunes, searched Apple Music and started playing her tunes from her album Let Them Eat Chaos – Kate Tempest. This was a success and I’d discovered a new artist.

A few months back I was in a bar (the recently shuttered La Conserverie) in Paris, speaking to a Japanese friend, and I was telling her that I did know some J-Pop; growing up it wasn’t too far fetched you would listen to some songs that made the mainstream English radio stations. One example was Utada Hikaru’s First Love. The French friend who was there said he’d love to hear it, so I fired up iTunes on my phone, and tried in vain to find the song, and realised its not in the catalogue (don’t worry, YouTube saved the day). This was a failure, and I didn’t get to reminisce properly.

Just last week, I fired up Netflix (now blocking all VPN traffic, an almost impossible thought two years ago, with VPN providers giving up the fight nowadays) and started streaming The Mirror Has Two Faces. I stopped around the half way mark and switched countries only to realise that now I’ll have to wait to be in the same geographical location again to continue watching the movie! I’d mark this as a failure because it hurts the user experience; it isn’t Netflix’s fault, it is the entertainment industry.

I still listen to an old song that I like, that resides on my drive and not in the cloud — Puff Daddy featuring Jimmy Page – Come With Me from the Godzilla soundtrack. It’s not on Apple Music, but it is available with Amazon Prime Music, that comes for free with an Amazon Prime subscription! I’d mark this as a failure since I’d expect my music collection to be available in one place, not scattered across various services.

We’re living in an increasingly globalised world. We have friends from all over the world. We’re travelling more frequently. This is all supposed to be a good thing – exposure to the world. Why hasn’t the entertainment industry caught up yet? Would they prefer everyone just focused on content piracy? Region restrictions do not work in a globalised world.

SAP customers would rather do business elsewhere?

I just read, Buy SAP again? 60% of customers say no, says Nucleus Research. SAP isn’t pleased but made clear that they don’t participate in this particular report (presumably they do for Gartner/Forrester/IDC).

Besides the opportunity for others playing in the space SAP plays in, I am reminded by how a humble research firm (Iceberg Research) brought Noble Group down – Singapore Noble Group Rejects Iceberg Research’s Claims, Nobbled, How Richard Elman’s Noble Empire Crumbled (when this was written, its share price dropped 75% since the research report). This wasn’t the case for SAP (Noble lost 9.5% the day the report came out), and may not be (who knows).

As an aside, it regularly shocks me that people don’t realise that when it comes to analyst firms, the whole game is “pay to play”. You pay a sum of money, you get to speak to their analysts, the analysts get to query your customers, and boom, a report is produced. Firms tend to be clients of analyst companies.

Spotify and the App Store

Via Recode, Spotify says Apple won’t approve a new version of its app because it doesn’t want competition for Apple Music.

Why is this surprising to Spotify? Amazon has a Kindle app on the App Store but doesn’t sell books inside said app. Its Apple’s App Store, you play by their rules, no?

I read the New York Times which presumably allows you to subscribe via the app, but I log in via my account since I have a direct relationship with them. I read the Financial Times, and they didn’t want to play by the App Store rules – they’re a full-featured HTML5 application.

Maybe Spotify should take heed from the FT and invest further in (The spec obviously support it, since Rdio had a browser based interface before Spotify did; I don’t know the status of how mobile browsers handle it.)

Personal shopper services (and the SQ plane fire)

I cannot imagine what it is like to be on a plane that has engine problems and catches fire upon landing. I’m glad everyone (222 passengers, 19 crew) are safe.

I was just taking a long haul flight myself and wondering why they bother showing the safety video, since these days you don’t really find the need for such things (planes disappear; they crash; you rarely hear about how putting on one’s lifejacket saved your life).

As an aside, a lot of the photos (and a video) seem to come from a Ms. Lee Bee Yee, who was presumably flying to Milan to perform “personal shopping” services (she is the proprietor of a site called Premium Mall). A simple search of her name reveals that she’s been 43 for quite sometime! Emerging Trend of Online Retailers Attempting to Evade GST Jan/Feb 2015, Singapore Airlines plane catches fire on Changi Airport runway; no injuries reported. I’m sure there are such “personal shoppers” operating in Malaysia too; I can only imagine what happens when customs catches up.

The Star in Malaysia recently reported that the future might be personal shoppers, in Parkson’s decline a sign of the times for retail stores. The whole article is worth a read, because Malaysia in this respect, seems “backwards” to what is taking much of the retail world by storm (key: nationwide e-commerce needs to rock; too much just focus on the Klang Valley). But the fancy quote for one to think about:

The future wave could be the birth of “personal shoppers” where they shop for others for a fee.

A “personal shopper” acts as a conduit to connect individual purchasers with online websites in other countries such as the United States that do not provide delivery services of their products to this part of the world.

The personal shopper takes down orders, secures an appropriate price and sources for the products in a foreign country. The personal shopper then handles the delivery from the foreign country to the customer.

And it is all done at a fraction of a cost compared to what the boutiques charge.

At the moment, celebrities generally engage the services of “personal shoppers” also known as “personal groomers” to source for their clothes.

In recent times, services of “personal shoppers” have been engaged by professionals and the working crowd to get the best bargains from the Internet.

On numbers and getting out there for business

Sidney Toledano (a student of math & engineering, now boss of Dior Couture), via Lunch with the FT:

‘If business is not good, don’t stay in the office’. Some people try to find out what’s wrong through the numbers. But if you stay in the office, nothing will change.”

For a mathematician, Toledano is casually dismissive of too much financial analysis. “My father taught me it’s better to have no explanation for success than a lot of explanations for a failure. Success is intuition, action, decision and take some risks. Frankly, numbers; I see them every day when I get the worldwide update. I can see every single figure for every single piece. But I don’t spend more than 10 to 15 minutes on it because I follow them every day.

“It’s like a good doctor. They see the numbers very quickly — temperature, whatever — but they talk to the patient. I’ve never seen a doctor fixing a problem with a thermometer. And you never fix a problem with the numbers. Don’t look and you miss everything.”

Tips from Paul English on work & management

Via The Way I Work: Paul English of Kayak.

I get about 400 to 500 e-mails a day, and I probably send about 120. At any given moment, I’ll have only 10 items in my inbox. When an e-mail comes in, I read it and decide immediately: Delete, reply, or delegate?

Customer emails? Let everyone see them. Because when an engineer sees the same query coming in a few times, they’ll stop and fix the code. This makes a lot of sense – which is why in traditional organisations, the support organisation needs to be tightly coupled to the engineering organisation. I’ll throw in the sales engineering organisation to this too.

Diversity of success, style, thinking and language – hire for that. 

A lot of companies have the “no assholes” rule. So if the greatest programmer ever is also a jerk, he’s fired. Our rule is “no neutrals.” So when the new guy walks down the hall, is my team drawn to him? Or do they divert their glance? If they divert their glance, we fire that person. I call it the hallway test, but it’s more of a conceptual thing. The idea is when you put superstars together, you can ask, “What did you do today that excited the people around you and made them better at their jobs?” If you can’t give examples, I don’t want you here.

Favourite metric? Revenue per employee.