From the discomfort Zone: Structuring your need

The start of FIFA World Cup 2014 in Sao Paulo reminded me of my visit to another football obsessed country, Argentina, a few years ago.

Written by Shombit Sengupta | Published: June 15, 2014 12:28:22 am
The mind can work efficiently if our needs are structured and parked step by step in the traffic jam in our mindspace. The mind can work efficiently if our needs are structured and parked step by step in the traffic jam in our mindspace.

The start of FIFA World Cup 2014 in Sao Paulo reminded me of my visit to another football obsessed country, Argentina, a few years ago. 

Planning the day’s activities is quite unlike structuring the need of each of your working hours. The difference is between allocating time, and constructively absorbing objectives to efficiently channel resources for arriving at the solution.

In most enterprises a plethora of information is gathered through digital technology. Competitors have access to the same data collected from the same sources, so its uniqueness is limited. How can you bring focus when they are bombarded with layer after cloudy layer of generic information? The magnitude of data can overshadow or subvert the objective of catering to market needs. We may believe that exhaustive data will take us forward, but it actually deters our ability to effectively filter inputs. And we lose sight of the specific target.

The mind can work efficiently if our needs are structured and parked step by step in the traffic jam in our mindspace. When a need is mentally structured in different steps, pertinent information can be stored in each virtual step for retrieval at the right time. This applies at the individual level too. Unless we prioritise the bull’s eye, we only see plenty of bulls, not the eye.

Btructuring the need when prospecting for business: Suppose you are on a mission to scout for a business opportunity in a foreign country. If you take the fast, easy route of collecting data on the country and your area of business, you could be considered a business tourist. Alternatively, you can choose to see the market differently. You can ask questions like what people in different socio-cultural contexts eat for breakfast here; what’s the social relationship between men and women in general; what comprises the zones of stress, or of being carefree.

The start of FIFA World Cup 2014 in Sao Paulo reminded me of my visit to another football obsessed country, Argentina, a few years ago. On TV nowadays, along with the World Cup matches, all channels are featuring stories on how various poor sections of Brazilians are missing out on the Games. As the tickets are extremely expensive for them, only the country’s rich and foreign fans are enjoying the live football. In the city clean-up operation on the eve of the games, even 22,000 food stall owners on Sao Paulo’s streets lost their trade. Only 600 vendors have been licensed to sell wares in front of the brand new, massive and beautiful football stadia hosting the games. Perhaps the Brazilian government did not take enough precaution to structure the need of catering to the sentiments and economic requirements of the local population. The result is controversies, protests and riots they are having to manage along with ensuring smooth flow of this prestigious international event.

A client from France had sent me to Buenos Aires to strategise, with the local team, on an everyday essential snacking product called criollitas. Considered Argentina’s staple accompaniment, this was invented 170 years ago by a Bostonian called Melville Bagley. Observing football fanaticism everywhere, I one day dragged my client to see the much awaited Bocca vs River Plate match. To absorb the football ground climate among spectator, I obliged my companions to go outside the stadium at half time to absorb what was happening there. This was my real learning of Argentina than any other research I did for my client. The football fervour on the streets, among young and old alike, was indeed amazing. Hard pressed to find a link of the old FMCG brand I was working on with the new generation, I turned to understand how to structure the need of these football enthusiasts, mostly living in slums, to what the brand had to propose to them. Analysing the socio-psycho and historical context of this specific subject gave us insights into its meaning and inherent uniqueness. Peppered with health and energy, we have revitalised the product taste by focusing on its platform “link of generation” that met the needs of its consumers. The brand has since performed exceedingly well in the market.

Need of the hour in India’s retail industry: India’s organised retail sector, estimated at $500 billion, contributes about 15% of the country’s GDP. There’s a wait-and-watch situation as the FDI in multi-brand retailing policy will change. Currently after 20 years, organised retailers of hypermarkets and supermarket have only 4% of the business is located in costly metros and most make no profit. It’s obvious the retails have not structured their need, nor aligned with the retail requirement of four musts, catchment excellence, outstanding sourcing according to locality requirement, creating merchandise theatrics to increase shopper footfall and increase the number of bills and bill size; in sum, what I buy and how I sell. Repeat purchase is the most important factor in the retail industry. To get that you have to mentally live with consumers, seek them out to find your success and look at in every shopper touch point, how you structure your delivery to respond to shoppers need.

Outsourcing a service: Structuring the need of outsourcing a service depends on the quality of human intelligence in the sourcing function in any enterprise. A company may need to outsource certain services to reduce responsibility of directly managing extra manpower in their organisation. But mere focus on cost reduction will not encourage your outsourcing partners to upgrade. You have to structure your need to responsibly engage with them to meet the quality that your customer wants (QCW). If they are not educated they won’t understand the value of your need and your customers’ need, so they deliver you a transactional job because they have not been called for alignment of your organisation culture.

Actually I got this idea of structuring the need from my long association with Jacques Vincent. As COO and Vice Chairman of Danone, he used to set up meetings with me every two months and make me recount diverse societal factors freewheeling into multiple directions while keeping his business in mind. It’s amazing that if I’ve spoken of 10 things, within five years he’d implement at least eight points. Once on a plane journey from Paris to Mumbai I asked about how he deploys his business learning. He said that he never interferes during my narration but takes notes. When I queried what that was, he replied “je structurer ma demande” meaning “I structure my need”.

Shombit Sengupta is an  international creative  business strategy consultant to top management.  Reach him at  www.shiningconsulting.com

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