A great opening day at Ad Asia 2011. The charming Diana Hayden, ever effervescent and sharp Shah Rukh Khan, and series of thought provoking sessions. I have been asked to choose my favourite session. Given that split verdicts seem to be the order of the day (Kitty Lun and Piyush Pandey setting that trend!) I would like to choose two. For me, Dr Ram Charan’s opening talk stands above anything else I have seen or heard today. Mostly at sessions like these we get to hear experiences of people and companies or emerging trends and changes. There are very few instances where a man of such stature explains the world, helps you make sense of it. Dr Ram Charan changed a few popular paradigms on its head, talked about larger forces shaping our world. In fact, he introduced four.
The first – the liberated consumer and how consumers are fundamentally changing industries like the music and publishing business in the US. The key question – are we, are leaders especially even aware of the emerging, the new segments? Dr. Charan made a telling statement – many leaders, decision makers do not even leave their office.
The second – the flow of FDI and economic power is not from (as popularly understood) the West to the East – in fact, from North to South, the world being divided by the 31st Parallel. And below that line, East in fact, is moving west like the Tata acquisition of Jaguar & Land Rover. A fairly amazing observation about the world and the globalization strategies of Indian or Chinese companies.
The third premise – the shortage of talent and how critical it is for this south to get unfair share of it. The two great themes to think about: “Businesses don’t compete, leaders do” and “people before strategy”.
The last, and probably the most unsettling, is the Global financial system. The “system”, the repeated capitulation of which has put all our lives in disarray – its affected 60 million people as Dr. Charan pointed out. And the fact that this system is managed or rather mismanaged by a handful. The need for India and China governments to participate in the management of this Global financial system and rescue us from the “clueless” in Wall Street.
Session 5 stood out as well. Nikesh Arora of Google provoked and did raise some really uncomfortable questions about the future of broadcast media in the immediate future. Our need as an industry to seriously introspect about our ability to customise mass market messages and deal with the audience of one. Truly, the internet reflects and is moving from a web of information to a web of people. To leave you all with the same unsettling thought that Nikesh left us with – how soon? How quickly will this change happen? Given, as Nikesh put it, “the human tendency to overestimate the short term and underestimate the long term” it may be no more than a year away!
Well, well, well… I think today ended later than one wanted it to and tomorrow will be here earlier than expected.
(Anirban Mozumdar is National Planning Director at Publicis Capital.)