Introduction The Art of Seeing the Big Picture is not common sense. It is an Art that can be perfected over a period of time. The finer details pertaining to this Art need to be understood and appreciated. This Art will be a big success if one is able to a) Understand current trends to predict futures for two decades b) Analyse socially desirable methods to make progress c) Have ethics as the bedrock of action d) Go the extra mile to demonstrate success and e) Continuously go on overdrive to aim even higher.
Understand current trends to predict futures for two decades How will the market respond to the new products? Will we have continued growth with our existing products? Are we on the right path when it comes to predicting the future?
Each of the above questions will be part of what we call "Seeing the big picture". However, even here, the answers will be perfect if, and only if, the data on the ground is accurate and does reflect the ground realities. To give one simple example. Only those with huge pockets, with tonnes of money and willingness to innovate with new products, can enter the cell phone market. The market is available only for those who can innovate very fast and kill the competition with additional features at very competitive prices and EMI schemes. This is exactly what Xiomi, the Chinese maker has done to the market. It has edged out the likes of Vivo and Micromax to a very large extent. At the upper end, we do have Apple Computers that leads the market with unbeatable features. The rich and the neo-rich simply do not buy any other product. Between Xiomi and Apple, Samsung dominates the market and there is not much of Indian competition here. Only Vivo is trying to slog it out to some extent. However, the individual customer will switch brands very quickly and the cell phones do not get used for more than 15 months, by most of the younger generation.
The signals are very clear. Innovation, the ability to offer better products and cater to a variety of needs will dominate the scene for even ten years. Let us take the car market. No manufacturer can afford to neglect the rupees three to five lakh car market. Most models that offer value for money in this bracket, will continue to sell like hotcakes. The new regular jobs are not coming. Those on contract are very unlikely to go in for cars, as they are not sure of their future. They cannot get the loans either.
Analyze socially desirable methods to make progress This is another important thing. When we see the big picture, any action by any company that goes against nature destroys the environment and so on, will be hated by the public. The Sterlite group, at Tuticorin, was destined to be in trouble from day one. The copper smelter plant had run into trouble, only because of its disastrous record of pollution. The matter is now in court. However, the company has lost all the goodwill. This is bound to happen to any company today. One cannot afford to keep on manufacturing products that cause immense harm to nature and the environment. The art of "Seeing the big picture" does need to factor in this important point too.
Have ethics as the bedrock of action The year was 1995. The new wave of companies called the Nidhi companies, were considered safe for investment. One particular Nidhi called the GNS Nidhi, started offering as high as 24% per annum. The gullible investors in Chennai played ball. Others like the Royapettah Benefit Fund and Alwarpet Benefit Fund followed the same path. On the other hand, was one excellent company called Sundaram Finance, who then owner-CMD, whose name was Sundaram, refused to pay anything more than 12%. Inflation was high. Even banks like the City Union Bank were paying 15% interest and Ashok Leyland Finance ( now part of the IndusInd Banik), offered 19%. Mr. Sundaram was able to see the big picture on time. He simply said that the market would crash at any moment.
He was bang on target. All the Nidhi companies vanished. Their promoters were arrested. The depositors got back very little, after a huge legal battle. Sundaram Finance is today the largest NBFC in the country. Its non-performing assets are very little. Even today, it has over two thousand crores in fixed deposits. All TVS group companies, to which Sundaram Finance belongs, borrow money from it but repay the loans in record time. The TVS culture of no debts is maintained to this day. Contrast this with the likes of Vijay Mallya, the GVK group, the Jindal Steel group, Essar and Anil Ambani, who play around with public money, and you get the big picture. Of late, companies like Himalaya Drugs, Havels and Pathanjali are proving to the world that good products will always sell. Ethics is very much possible in each of these groups.
Go the extra mile to demonstrate success This is also very important. The ability to change tracks and demonstrate a commitment to quality products has to be a continuous one. Look at what has happened to the likes of TVS Motors. And the Tatas. They have weathered many a storm. Their ability to come out with quality products is legendary. Hero Motorcorp is a similar success story. The other companies that seem to be doing so well are P&G, Hindustan Unilever and so on. The list is endless. It should be noted that these companies have formidable core competencies built over a period of decades. They are never fly by night operators.
Continuously go on overdrive to aim even higher At Infosys Technologies, MRF, HCL, Asian Paints, TCS, and WIPRO, among others, the senior management executives have a lot of fire in their bellies. They slog it out but are very happy with their work. They sort of demonstrate that it is possible to aim higher and higher. TSC, for example, is present in so many countries and keep on re-discovering itself so often. The ability to stand out is so high in this globally competitive organization. Tata Motors may be having some problems now but will emerge very strong very soon. In each of these companies, the plans to grow higher are very much in place. And they are executed so well.
Conclusion Corporate India is in the midst of a massive transformation. The situation is very ripe for the best companies to prove that everything is possible. The Art of seeing the big picture is always a work in progress. Some dimensions have been discussed above.