Opening address of Mr. Tarun Malaviya in the 2nd Collaboration Retreat 2011

Following is the full text of the speech delivered by Tarun Malaviya (Co-founder and CEO at Mithi) during Collaboration Retreat 2011 event held on 23rd and 24th September 2011 at Pune (India).

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So how are you all this morning? Hope you all had a good nights rest. We are very happy to have you all with us.

A very warm welcome to you all to this second edition of the Collaboration Retreat. We started this program last year with the idea of creating a platform for exchange of ideas on Collaboration and it’s impact on the enterprise.

We hope to have this meet every once a year. We hope to grow it both in scope and size as we go along but more importantly improve it continuously. I stand assured of that with your support.

We will speak less and the objective of it will only be to set the context for the talks ahead.

We will mostly talk of the ideas, experiences and learnings that are shaping our thinking and in turn the value we create for you.

We also talk about this to share with you our learning from across the wide range of customers.

But, this is your conference and you are the people whom we want hear more from. We already know what we have to say.

This year, we have broadened the theme to cover a little more of the collaboration landscape. We’re getting a little bolder, you see.

We want it to be useful to you as much as we see it as an opportunity for us to learn from you. We are of course available to you to talk about anything in particular that you may want to.

We would like to stay clear of conceptual acrobatics and stay with our real experiences and what is readily useable and useful to us.

But we’re at a retreat and we’d like to take things a little easy and take a broader swipe at things.

As I had talked about last year, we believe that collaboration and not competition is the better way of progress for business and for the human society in general. We feel that gaining the collaboration advantage is more important than gaining the competitive advantage. Competition is overrated as a means to progress. We don’t think others must lose for us to grow.

Look at this event e.g. it would not have been possible if our team was locked in a competitive battle amongst themselves. They had to collaborate to get this done. Every human enterprise is a collaborative endeavor. Everywhere I look, I find collaboration at work.

There is too much of a contest going on between the customer and the supplier, amongst team mates and even amongst husbands and wives. When clearly, the competitive advantage rests with the wives. And when collaboration can win the day for you.

If you compete too much you’ll die. The more you collaborate the more you might live. For sure, you will live an easier life.

Let’s take some examples.

Last year, I talked about collaboration technology as an alternative to travel. Let’s see what our experience has been on it so far.

Last year e.g. we saved more than Rs 10 lacs and countless hours on travel for our sales department alone using collaboration technology. It might look like a small saving to many but it constitutes nearly 60% of our travel costs that were already compressed by delivering services over the net.

By choosing to do sales and services over the net using collaboration tools we are also expanding our reach to a wider geography and creating a capability to scale at low costs. But it is not all an unmixed blessing. We may have lost some sales as a result of not meeting some customers face to face. So we need to adjust a little bit may be we need to use local partners to provide the personal touch and learn to use these tools better to engage with customers over the net. Like e.g. by making our product available for free evaluation over the net.

Or e.g let’s take, the CIOs Dilemma of Lower Cost versus the Assurance of an established brand, that we talked of last year.

Here, our experience has been that there are distortions in the economy introduced by a lack of adequate education infrastructure that are pushing things in an unnatural direction. Unavailability of trained manpower is resulting in a shrinking in-house IT team that in turn is pushing customers into expensive outsourcing and branded purchase. The result is a loss of flexibility. We feel this is detrimental to longer term costs.

Loss of flexibility can mean higher costs in the future. Maybe investing a little more in training to right size the in-house IT team is in order, to help retain this flexibility.

India’s special advantage is frugality. Just as Technology is for the West and Quality for the Far east. That frugality, comes from keeping our means of production cost low. We as business leaders have the responsibility to protect this special advantage.

My task is to cheer you all up for the day so I hesitate to bring in depressing news. But let me do it anyway.

With a 1.5 trillion dollar stimulus and a negative real rate of interest having failed to kick start the American economy, many economist have started to talk of a brewing second financial crisis. Managing costs therefore become increasingly important. But more important than the cost of IT and Collaboration infrastructure, is the use of collaboration to reduce overall costs and build greater adaptability for the enterprise.

The last bail out itself was a collaborative effort between the G20 nations. Surely a lot of emails and SMSes must have been exchanged to get it done.

We talked about Collaboration being the infrastructure for the 21st century and the unsustainability of the transportation as the infrastructure for future growth. Petrol has moved from about Rs 50 a year ago to 71.92 rupees a litre today and it is still subsidized to the extent of Rs 41,000 crores plus. For the enterprise it means higher costs of travel and transportation. Clearly we’re moving towards where the old patterns of growth cannot be sustained.

In about the same period the online audience grew by about 40% and e-commerce by about 120%. Much of this commerce is supported by collaboration technologies in one form or the other.

It’s not that travel and transportation will disappear, but collaborative transportation and travel will grow more rapidly.

I am reminded of an interesting anecdotal evidence on this.  On how people are using collaboration to overcome such constraints. It’s not Nano that makes cars within easy reach of the lower middle class it is collaborations. Many lower middle class families today buy cars on loan and put it up on rent over the weekdays. Weekends are when the family can use the car for going to the movies and outings. With large and joint families, collaboration and not Nano provides the solution. The cost of petrol and the car is shared between the family and a large number of customers.

Infact the family might be having the cake and eating it too. Making money in return.

These family don’t have a home office they have a phone office. Collaborating over phone calls and SMSes to run their business.

As I said before, we’re not here to make a sales pitch for our product. We can leave that for another day.

We’ll of course be talking about ourselves but mostly about what we’re learning in terms of the purchase preferences of our customers, how they are organising themselves to deliver collaboration services to their enterprise, and perspectives that are shaping our product and services.

We will be doing all this in a newer format this year which will unfold as the day progresses.

Few things however I’d like to mention here –
1. We’ve organized a set of Kiosks in the adjacent hall which showcases some of the upcoming enhancement around Connect Server.
2. We’ll be unveiling a new case study today.
3. We will be conducting a brief survey to access the trends in collaboration infrastructure in Indian enterprises. We’ll be sharing the findings of this survey with you.
4. Lastly, an edited version of the proceedings of this program will be available on the net after seeking the required permissions from the speakers and their organizations.

I hope you will find this event useful.

I hope we can work even better together and grow together.

We should finish in good time so we don’t eat too much into your weekend.

Have a nice day. Thank you.

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