Global Family Business Social Media Influencers

Just found out that I had been ranked 30 in the Family Business Influencers Global Power List .  This list is described as ” Family Business Social Media TOP 100. Recognising the most powerful family business influencers on social media around the world.”

The webpage also states:

Family Business United champions the family business sector identifying the people/organisations that are making the most family business noise on social media.

Social media is here to stay and an integral part of the way businesses engage, seek knowledge, build brands and communicate.  The Family Business Influencers Global Power List uses social media activity to create a league table of those with the greatest presence/influence and is updated weekly.”


Changing profile of family businesses

An article in on Ferrero speaks on how the famous chocolate company is changing. It also refers to Nestle and Lindt changing accordingly in tune with the more health-conscious new customer requirements.

A thought provoking article, for all family businesses to think, how do we remain relevant in today’s times?


My first French Media Mention!

Ok, so a small start, with my first French media mention , in the magazine Afrique Mediterane Business, a french magazine published for African regions. My thoughts on the Tata issue (ok, this was done some time ago).  My name appears on page two.


Notes from Cebu

I was invited to be a speaker on family business for the family business owners at Cebu last weekend. My topic was legacies in family business and what families need to do, to ensure that they can sustain their legacies.

While the talk was well received, I was fascinated at the cultural similarities in the ways families behave. I found remarkable parallels that one could derive between Indian families and those in the South East Asia region. It was an honour to be speaking in the same forum as Her Excellency Leni Robredo, The Vice President of the Philippines and Joni Aboitiz, a fifth generation family member.

Was touched by the warm reception and the fascinating experience of addressing a packed hall of entrepreneurs from all over South East Asia!

My comments on the Visionary Cipla One vote

Ok I must confess that this piece in BusinessLine was somewhat not quite recent, but highly overdue.

This took some time to get the research, but I consider this as a fascinating story of how one family patriarch, Y Hamied of Cipla has shown vision in ensuring the longevity of his firm.

This is not new, and the Japanese have been doing this already for centuries, resulting in perhaps some of the oldest firms in the world still being Japanese. But the fact that this has been done in India within the purview of the law, to secure the single largest shareholder is a first.


The Tata Sons – Cyrus Mistry affair is just another day in business….family business

Apologies for the late response, was terribly tied up with a lot of stuff, and lots to write about, so let’s get started!

I maintain that the Tata sons-Cyrus Mistry matter is a family issue and my opinions in the Economic Times. I have given my reasons why this matter is all about values in this article.

I have co-authored a case on this matter, which I have used jointly in the 2 year MBA program with fascinating results. The students were expected to understand the viewpoints and pressures of all the stakeholders! Very valuable learnings and a whole lot of fun…. especially when the Students representing the community decided to move away from the script, and staged a walkout from class…. We had to go running after them to continue the rest of the class!

Going further on this, my other article in Forbes Online (in the thought leadership Section) talks about the learnings from this, for family businesses. After all, if this can happen in the most reputed family firm in the country, amongst probably the most qualified and competent people around, what have you done to prevent this from happening in your family firm?

Do you know how your customers are treated? Modern Retail’s new headache!

Given how QSR (Quick service restaurants) are hot now, with venture capitalists chasing them and newer stores opening up everywhere, I often wondered how do the new startups manage growth? how are they able to leverage the competencies of the systems and their people to offer an uniform customer experience ?

And I am disappointed to report, they don’t.  And given the state of things, I am not surprised that they are soon forgotten or are forced to shut down. Let me share my experiences.

Let us start with a new product, frozen deserts.

I sent my kids to pick up a frozen yogurt from a store in Napean sea road and was waiting outside the empty store. They returned back, with the product in hand, and handed me the change, which found was Rs 15 short. I was also told that they were given a bill only when they insisted on it. I went inside to ask the cashier, who feigned ignorance, and then on confronting her, she admitted her mistake. Her colleagues said that she was new, and she had made a mistake, inspite of using a computerised billing system, and a calculator! She offered to give me the balance change, but I asked that she write on the bill that she had paid me Rs 15 short, in a Rs 335 sale.

I took my kids to a newly opened showroom selling nitrogen ice cream. Pretty good stuff, and the newly opened store was pretty crowded too. Since we could not eat more than one shared one, we packed the others and took them home. Imagine our surprise when we reached home, and found that there was one cup less. I called the store to complain, and the attendant heard me and just hung up on me. Repeated calls were not picked up! And there was no response from the store on this subject.

I did write about these incidents on social media ( i am a senior contributor on Tripadvisor and have multiple followers on twitter and my blog) but the lack of response from these stores, frankly made me wonder.

What do you think is the future of QSR stores, if they do not make any efforts to check on what their customers feel about their brands? The fact that both these stores were empty after the first month, should send warning signals to the owners.

Let us also look at some other examples of super service.

I was in Starbucks, and the lady at the cashier suggested i try out the new flavour. I was not very sure, and stated that I did not want to risk trying out the new flavour. She said, if i don’t like it, she would change it. I bought the new flavour, and tried it out, and did not like it. She replaced it with the flavour that i wanted, at no additional cost!

On another note, I had booked an low cost airline ticket and found that I had to pay an extra Rs 200 for an aisle seat. Irritatedly I paid this amount. The site froze, and my payment could not go through, so I had to rebook my seat again. Mercifully , it went through the second time. However, on reviewing my AMEX credit card bill a few days later, I noticed that i was charged twice for the seat. I called AMEX and told them about this, and sent a mail to the airline, pointing out the mistake.  Guess what happened? AMEX gave me an instant credit for the amount.

Not an issue of the amount, but the fact the above two brands did this, speaks volumes. Maybe that will explain why the only card I use is  AMEX for over 20 years now, and guess which is the only store where I buy my coffee from?

There are many examples that I can give, of my personal experience of horror stories, which would make any entrepreneur’s blood freeze. And the best part is, that the management does not even care or know or even aware of what is happening!

I will tell you my story some other time, of how a Mumbai airport duty free cashier was willing to let go of a sale of 98 Euros, because I had given him, 97 euros in notes, and 1 euro as two 50 Eurocents. And he stated that they had a policy of not accepting coins. The fact that I had got these two coins as change from another cashier a few minutes ago, from another purchase, did not cut any ice. it was only when the manager went and verified with the other cashier, carrying my bill to him, did they agree to do me a “favor” and accept my money!

I know another water filter company which has film stars promoting it, but the after sales service is so lousy, that unless we called the MD’s office to complain, no one in the local office would budge. Finally, we got fed up and threw the RO water unit away and brought another brand. Thankfully, that is a little better.

Things that you can do:

1. Get your training right:   Let your people know, that their salaries come from the sales that the customers buy.

2. Don’t take customers for granted: This is a BIG mistake that most companies make, especially during the heady days of rapid growth. I see this with a lot of new restaurants when they open, when people are standing outside waiting for their tables. The attitude of the staff to the customers is sad. I have seen only a couple of restaurants, who have treated people right, even those who did not have reservations or could not get seats. And these are the restaurants that are always reasonably fully, even after the initial six month honeymoon trial period is over.

3. Communicate with customers : How easy are you to communicate with? If a customer has an issue, whom and how can she call? and if someone does call, what response does she get?

4. Encourage customers to communicate with you: I know a lot of companies which make it impossible for anyone to contact anyone at the top management. Try some of these cellular phone providers or even credit card companies, who are hiding their people behind call centers and automated phone systems which i think are built to frustrate any attempts to contact anyone empowered to make a decision or resolve their issues. In the meantime, they go along disconnecting phones if you have a disputed charge or seek clarification.

5: Communicate in simple english: Imagine buying an item and then finding out that the charge is a lot more, or that there are a bundle of other charges along with the product that you did not ask for… In fact, most cell phone plans, credit card charges, ketchup with burgers, minimum balance charges in savings accounts, are all examples of hidden charges which can cause problems if not communicated well.

Retail entrepreneurs should take heed that unless they make active steps to engage with, and communicate with their customers, they will lose, especially when the customers have no way to communicate their displeasure. Because it is one thing to assume that you are in an ivory tower and can survive without these irritating guys AKA “customers”, but most disappointed customers will vote with their feet and take their business elsewhere. And this is usually to the competition ! Going forward, my prediction is that we will see increasingly, a situation where those brands who care for their customers, being rewarded by increased repeat sales, and positive word of mouth publicity, and the others ? They will probably become an additional statistic in the list of retail failures. Already a field which plagued by high failures and rapid shifts in customer loyalty.

And the worst part is, if you do not know, (since the customers are not able to tell you what is wrong) you have absolutely no way of correcting it!  So make yourselves more easier to reach out to , incase the customers have a problem, after all they are the ones who bring you your profits. (The yogurt place did not even have a number to call, in case of difficulty!)

Ask your self, for every one customer who takes the pain to complain, there must be at least a hundred more, who will not even bother to complain and just shift their business!

Perhaps you will understand, why I will never step into the two above stores ever.

The question is, can you do something about this, or are you just not bothered?