Thursday, June 18, 2009


It was almost as if I was waiting for that day. The cacophonic kids of my block are one intemperate, raucous and uncivil bunch belonging to the we’ve-just-now-entered-double digit- age variety. But I somehow kind of really like the cheeky brat lot of fifth and sixth graders. Thus it was, when one day while returning from work, I chanced upon the truants discussing how that day, one of their teachers at school had told them how globalization had worked for... I froze in my tracks, and didn’t even let them finish the statement when I literally jumped into them! Like I said, it was almost as if all my pent-up emotions were just waiting for that that moment to happen, as for ages, I had known ‘the’ answer!

Well, my first question is, is globalization really necessary for companies? This one’s actually a no-brainer. The noted neo-IT 2006 study titled ‘Globalization and the Impact on Shareholder Value and Revenues’, which used the Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies as their research base, dramatically proved how companies that globalize “create more value for shareholders than companies that don’t globalize!” The year 2006 Accenture report, ‘Expanding Markets: Innovation and Globalization’ added that “the best performers [globally] were 83% globalized, while the average performers were only 18% globalized,” – which brings us to my second question.

Is India globalized? One of the most outstanding reports released by AT Kearney and Carnegie Endowment titled, The Globalization Index 2007, after analytically ranking countries around the world on multitudes of parameters like political engagement, FDI, technology, personal contact and economic integration, puts India at a lowly rank of ‘second from last’ (ahead of just Iran!). So much for our claims of being globalised! Jordan, Estonia, Tanzania, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, Uganda, Ghana and many more are ranked above India. In 2002, the same report (Globalisation Index), based on the same parameters, had ranked India seventh from last! In other words, with each passing year, we have actually regressed when it comes to going global.

This brings up my third question – how many recognized, valued globalised product/service brands does India have? The answer is not two or one, but zero. Most recently, MilwardBrown released its much awaited Most Valuable Global Brands 2009 rankings. Out of ten Asian brands which fought their way into the rankings, 6 names were from Japan and 4 were from China! Zero from India. A similar tale is repeated in the most respected Interbrand/BusinessWeek’s Survey of top brands for 2008, where amongst 8 Asian brands, none are of Indian origin! What a shame!

Bringing us to my fourth and last question – isn’t India supposed to be the top globalised country when it comes to technology adoption? As per the 2008 report by World Economic Forum, titled, The Global Information Technology Report 2008, India is ranked a lowly 50 on ‘readiness to adopt technology’, much behind countries like Barbadoas, Slovak Republic, Latvia, Tunisia, Chile, Lithuania, Estonia and others. The February 2009 report by Nokia-Siemens, titled Connectivity Report 2009, proves how India Inc. stands battered at the 6th last position on the global rankings in terms of technology adoption by companies.

In straight terms, India stands shamefully last on almost all parameters of globalization... I was out of breath when I stopped bleating to the fi ve foot gang on the wretched global performance of India. A few moments of silence passed, when I realised that they were all staring at me, predictably stunned. I knew I had made a path breaking impact... till one of them spoke, “Mama [they call me that; it means Uncle, colloquially], guess you’re working too much. Not that we understood even a word of what you said, but all I had said was that our sports teacher told us today how globalization has worked for Indian wrestlers, as they get desi Indian food outside the country too... Mama, chill down...” Food?! Wrestlers?!? What was I thinking!! While slinking away totally embarrassed, I got my fi nal learning on the topic – globalization never works, not even with Indian kids!


Thursday, June 4, 2009


The argument dates back to a dinner I was having at a restaurant last week with three of my Austin Power school friends (yes, we all have a combined IQ that just about beats a tubelight’s... when it’s switched off), who were complaining rancidly that whenever we ate out, I always ordered the same old dish time and again. “Man, why’re you so against ordering different dishes? Look at the wide range we’ve ordered,” they all argued. When I tried to throw them off by mumbling something complicated about how core is better than diversified, they all pounced on me clearly highly irritated, and the grouchiest one of them threw me a choker, “If you’re so much in love with the stupid concept of sticking to your so-called ‘core’ dish, choose dude, which friend amongst us do you want? And choose fast...”

Cornered, my life flashed in front of me... Alright, not my life, but at least a few research reports I had read up a few days back on whether focusing on core businesses is more profitable for companies or having diversified streams of operations. Prof. Gert Bruche of The Berlin School of Economics destroyed the happiness of the core lovers when he proved in his working paper titled, Corporate Strategy, Relatedness and Diversification, that diversify ed companies “display a better performance” than single business companies. Another sparkling report by an erstwhile core proponent, McKinsey & Co, titled, Beyond focus: Diversifying for growth, proves how over a period of a decade, the market value CAGR of diversified companies stood 126% higher than of focused companies. There’s more. The report further clarifies how on one hand, while “the focused group tallied an average annual excess Total Returns to Shareholders of 8%,” the “diversified group notched up 13% annual excess TRS and higher median EPS growth…”

Then follows the pumped-up and charged to the core, ‘anticore’ study by Profs. A. M. Pandya & N. V. Rao of Northeastern Illinois University titled, Diversification and Firm Performance: An empirical evaluation, which proves how, “Diversified firms show better performance compared to undiversified firms on both risk and return dimensions. Diversification can improve debt capacity, reduce the chances of bankruptcy by going into new product/ markets, and improve asset deployment and profitability. Diversified firms pool unsystematic risk and reduce the variability of operating cash flow…” Even the iconic Professor Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School argues in his almost revolutionary book, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, “Resource sharing and competence transfers enable the ‘diversified firm’ either to reduce overall operating costs in one or more of its divisions, and/or to better differentiate the products of one or more divisions resulting in a price premium.”

The argument against core focus entities doesn’t change, even when we talk about the Fortune #1 company ExxonMobil. In his paper titled, Risking Shareholder Value, well-acclaimed consultant Mark Mansley of Claros Consulting, while analyzing the oil giant, proclaims and proves definitively, “ExxonMobil has the potential to transform the company into a total energy business, increasing global market share, through [vertical] diversification!” Another sparkling paper titled, Can Diversification Create Value?, by Prof. Tomas Jandik of Sam Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas and A. K. Makhija, Fisher College of Business, Ohio University, proves how for diversified firms, “this ‘failure’ to focus has been rewarded with higher firm values. Diversification can create value by opening up new investment opportunities...” The most celebrated Professor Belen Villalonga of Harvard Business School proves in his paper titled, Diversification: Discount or Premium? that diversify ed firms “trade at a significant average premium relative to comparable portfolios of single business firms.” Slapping worshippers of single business philosophy harder, he finally sums it all in one short line, “I find diversification as a premium!” Further good news to shareholders of diversifying firms comes from the Boston Consulting Group which, while mocking all praises about ‘core competence’, proves in its report titled, Managing for Value: How The World’s Top Diversified Companies Produce Superior Shareholder Returns, how during the years 1996-2005, not only did the majority of diversified companies resoundingly beat the stock market average by hugely significant margins, but also that a majority of the core focused corporations (almost 60% of them) were not even able to beat the average shareholder returns provided by diversified companies. The typical nail in the core coffin is the conclusive remark that, “There is no statistical correlation between ‘focus’ and shareholder value. The more businesses a company has, the greater the flexibility it has to reinvent itself and sustain growth.”

Even demergers ostensibly attempted by companies to focus on core businesses have ended up destroying shareholder value. BCG in its report titled, Conglomerates Report 2002: Breakups Are Not The Only Solution, it proves statistically how 70% of such break-ups to focus on lesser number of businesses in the past ten years, either “destroyed” or “did not create value”! Contrary to narrowing down multibusiness focus, diversifying mergers in the past 55 years have continued to deliver superior returns as compared to single-business deals, as proven in the landmark paper by Professor Mehmet Engin Akbulut and John G. Matsusaka, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, a report that analysed 3,667 mergers in the past 55 years.

But research be damned! With many highly annoyed restaurant guests starting to stare, I still had three massively slighted friends who were spewing fi re in front of me ready to put me on the stake, asking me to choose just one of them, and that too during a dinner where I was supposed to foot the huge bill. Cornered, I did the most intelligent thing – I apologized to my friends and accepted my mistake that diversification was better than core. With all the three gluttons guffawing away to glory in the most atrocious manner at their victory, I did the next most intelligent thing. I loudly asked the waiter to get four ‘diversified’ bills instead of one ‘core’ bill. I paid up my quarter part of the bill, wished my friends a loving goodnight, got up and walked away home... to my sweetest ‘core’ wife... Well, that sets me thinking, would one core wife be better or many diversified wives?... Hmm, not in this life honey, not in this life... Sigh...