Sunday, July 18, 2010

Apple's misery in the emerging markets !!

Apple, the world's most innovative company, is touted as one of the most respectable firm America has ever produced. Without a doubt, Apple's products are revolutionary and always take us into a new era marked by greater sophistication. They create ripples in the markets much before their launch and the tsunami arrives the day they are in the market. Be it iPod, iPhone or the recent iPad, people have tortured their legs standing in ever-lasting queues, to get their hands on the "iProducts". But as much as Apple has succeeded in American and European markets, it has failed miserably in the emerging markets. Apple has failed to sell iMac, iPad and more so iPhone in the emerging markets like India and China. Looking at the potential these two markets possess, any CEO in the world would dream to conquer them. China is numero uno with 634 million mobile users, India is second with 427.3 million. Now that combined is fcuking 1 billion "can-be" customers. Shouldn't Steve Jobs pay attention to these markets which they respectfully deserve? Isn't it a job of Jobs, to multiply the money of his company's investors in whatever way possible?

There are many reasons as to why Apple has failed to make it's mark in these tremendously growing market. The first and the obvious reason is the cost of its products. They are humongously expensive in these countries when compared to the US. iPhone 3G(8Gb) costs around 4 times the cost as available in the US markets. And as a matter of fact, people in India and China are still not rich (despite bragging about 10% growth rate) and understandably would not like to pay such an amount of money when they can buy a bike instead. Moreover, as a part of their cheaper habits, Chinese and Indians prefer to buy Apple's products from US, either when they visit the country themselves or ask their visiting friends to purchase for them leaving their own country's market dry and hapless.

Secondly, there is a lack of aggressive marketing strategy. For no obvious reasons, the company has not shown any inclination towards making its products people's first choice in the emerging countries though they are "competition killer" in nature as they have shown in the American markets. There are no ad campaigns, no massive publicity when their competitors Nokia and Samsung are flooding the markets with the news of their new products and innovations. Apple still remains a company for elite in these countries.

Thirdly, iPhone comes bundled in with a service provider. Recently, there has been a boom in the number of service providers particularly in India which has made mobile usage as cheap as a postcard. Further, these service providers have various cellular plans which are designed to suit various kinds of users. Thus, this binding of service provider with the iPhone restricts the users to avail the services of their choice and advantage.

Fourthly, India and China do not walk hand-in-hand with US when it comes to telecommunications technology. While 3G services were introduced in the American and European markets much before 2005, they are still to be launched comprehensively in India and China. This lag in technological advancement make new Apple products which are designed keeping the latest US technology in mind less attractive in the "still developing" economies.

And last but definitely not the least, tough competition from key players in the cellular markets like Nokia and Samsung, who really understand the needs of the customers in these areas and have built their products to suit them. These companies have also invested heavily in massive campaigning, covering all the segments of the society. The competition has just grown stronger with the entry of new players. And Apple will now find it all the more difficult to sell its brand in China and India unless the governments of these countries decide to cut the duties on imported electronics items sharply.

Apple is still not the "Apple" in the emerging world. Apple might be the "God" of the American and European people but it should not overlook the other half of the globe. Purely in business terms, these market could be heaven for any technology company. American and European economies are on the verge of stagnation or rather decline, thus to keep up with the pace of growth Apple has achieved in the last decade they need to focus more on the countries like India and China providing people in these countries with what they want at a fair price. Apple knows well the power of its killer products, they are better than any of their contemporaries and should use it to their advantage rather than being gratified by their tremendous American and European sales figures.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Television makes kids smarter or dumber??

Kids like watching television specially their favorite cartoons, don't they? TV has become one of the inseparable part of childhood. And parents are always scolding their kids, asking them to switch off the "Idiot box" and open the "holy" school books. Parents are completely convinced in their mind that their child would have scored higher grades if there was no TV. Have you ever mulled otherwise? Many parents would be astounded to know that their investment in buying TV was the best ever decision they made. A study has found evidence that exposure to TV when in preschool may increase average adolescent test scores. However, the overall effects are small and effects are largest for children from households where English is not the primary language, for children whose mothers have less than a high school education, and for nonwhite children. Moreover, certain TV shows educate children about moral conduct and culture of their society, thus relaxing the task of their parents and teachers.

But wait guys, before merrily giving the TV remote in your child's hand, you should go through the counter argument as well. Watching excessive television can make your child autistic. Another study has revealed that there is a direct correlation between watching TV and autistic cases among kids. The alarming rise in autism in the U.S. and some other developed nations is one of the most anguishing mysteries of modern medicine. In 1970, it's incidence was thought to be just 1 in 2500; today about 1 in 170 kids born in U.S. fall somewhere on the autism spectrum (which includes Asperger's Syndrome) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been medical evidences supporting that Television is one of the major factor contributing to the increase cases of autism. Approximately 17% of the growth in autism in California, Pennsylvania and Washington during the 1970s and 1980s was due to the growth of cable television," and "just under 40% of autism diagnoses in the three states studied is the result of television watching due to precipitation. Increased violent nature in children and suicides in efforts to emulate their super hero are other side effects.

To conclude, I would like to say that everything done within limits bear juicy fruits similarly limited watching of television by kids can contribute to their overall development and is likely to make them smarter and more aware. Excessive watching, on the other hand, can do irreparable damage to their brains and their childhood innocence might be lost in the process. It goes without saying that it's in parent's benefit to keep a check on television watching by their kids for "a child's innocence is the best gift God has bestowed upon them".

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Natural Disasters and Corruption !!

Could tornadoes, earthquakes and floods be responsible for corruption? The answer is unfortunately "Yes". Natural disasters are followed by the release of considerable amounts of funds by the federal government for the relief work, which generates activity amongst the corrupt administrators in the area. A study has revealed that each additional $100 per capita in FEMA(Federal Emergency Management Agency, USA) relief increases the average state's corruption by nearly 102 percent. It has been further found that certain regions in USA are more corrupt than others because more natural disasters strike them. More so in developing countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh which are amongst the most corrupt nations in the world. There, the administrators are in continuous hunt of a chance of money laundering either to deposit it in their swiss bank accounts or to buy big bungalows on the Palm Island, Dubai.

Floods are quite frequent in these countries and accordingly Central governments doles out money from various relief funds, so that the affected people can be re sheltered and protected from dying by starvation. But corrupted officials become active at the same time to stash as much cash as possible for themselves. And the contractors hired for the relief work like rebuilding houses, are their accomplice in this task. Administrators secretly invite bids from the contractors so as to judge, which contractor would give them the highest sum and the contract is awarded accordingly. Contractors put a higher price to built new houses in place of the destroyed ones, as they have to add a percentage to the cost which would go to the authorizing ministers. Thus, more the number of times, mother nature punishes a state, the greater it's administrators are likely to gain. This direct correlation can be proved by a number of instances. Gulf coast in USA, where natural strikes are frequent is more corrupt than the other states. Bihar, the most flood prone state of India is also the most corrupt state of the country.

How can we tackle this problem? How can funds and other resources be channelized such that they reach their rightful owners? Most would say, implement stricter laws against corruption and problem solved. But has that ever worked in the history? Don't forget our law-makers are the very same people accused of eating up poor people's money. And they know how to bend their "self-made" laws. I would suggest let media play a role here. Firstly, Central government should take charge if any such calamity occurs, so as to eliminate at least one level (the state-level) of the corruption. Secondary, the contracts offered should be made public with their price tag. Media can then analyse them with the help of experts and make any discrepancy ,if exists, public. That will not only bring transparency to the process but will also keep the petty officers under scrutiny of the public which elected them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Divorces: Urban v/s Rural !!

Divorces are higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Why is this? Is it due to availability of greater number of potential partners in urban areas or is it the lifestyle of urban crowd that distances them from their spouse. A research has suggested that that the proportion of people getting divorced in urban areas is almost 25% higher than in rural areas, country being the same. Now that's startling considering the fact that these people were natives of the same country, they followed the same traditions and shared similar beliefs, and the fact that either they or their ancestors once resided in the rural areas. But again this data can vary across continents, if not across countries. In some countries getting divorce is not a cakewalk while in some you can divorce your spouse by just reciting the term "Divorce" three times.

Urban areas are densely populated and cities are spread across hundreds of kilometers, such that people have to travel plenty for their work. On the contrary, 10 villages combined might not have roads more than 40-50 kilometers long. The lack of transportation facilities in rural areas keeps people confined within their respective areas. Thus, the urban people interact with greater number of potential partners than their counterparts in rural areas. Moreover, urban crowd is outspoken and believe in continuously experimenting in terms of partners, until they are convinced to have found a real "soul mate". More so in developed American and European Countries. Developing Asian nations have a plethora of social and legal restrictions to even think about experimenting. For instance, in some parts of rural India, people still practice "Honor Killing", of a couple if they belong to different castes. Changing partners within one's caste is also considered a blot on the family's reputation.

I know it is out-of-the -context of this topic but let me take some time to say: Though it is one's right to get divorced, but divorces benefit no body. Especially, not the children of the divorced couple. It might have a long term negative psychological impact on the children, seeing their parents fight, when they should be nourishing them "together" and with love and care. Considering this, certain law-makers are lobbying to make divorces difficult to get, but at the same time, living with someone you don't like "anymore" can be suicidal. Can we have a middle path? The only solution to reduce the instances of divorce would be to cultivate a sense of "one-partner" into the teenagers right from puberty. Parents should themselves set an example by being loyal to each other.
Children of every divorced couple must have thought this: "Mom hates dad, Dad hates mom, it all makes you feel so sad ".

Monday, July 12, 2010

Experience blurs the gender boundaries !!

A number of evidences suggest that males tend to outperform females during a competition. However, the researches further confirm that these gender differences vanish with experience. Males, for example, may have a more competitive exposure and find the idea of competing less intimidating or more exciting than females. But as females are exposed to more and more competition they become comfortable with the competitive environment and tend to work hard due to an unnerving feeling of being left behind, males when exposed to more and more competition may loose the enthusiasm and thus the craving for better and better results. This causes the differences between male and female performances to disappear.

Experiments have been conducted on samples of college students where they were made to solve Math problems. In the first round of the competition, males fared better than females on account of gender and ability. But as more and more rounds of competition were carried out and the results observed, it was found that the performance was in line with the individual's math ability and had nothing to do with one's gender. This study suggests that females are not averse to competition, instead they are not as excited as males and need time to acclimatize to the competitive environment. Because the gender gap disappears, the study in no way reveals that there is any significant or permanent difference between males and females e.g. males are better at handling stress situations or care more about winning . Initial gender gap appears due to male over-performance rather than female under-performance. Both the genders show similar improvements in the further rounds of the competition.

At last I have just one thing to say: "No body will ever win the battle of sexes".

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Economics is fun !!

Don't believe me?? Check this out.

I mean who could have thought that legalizing abortion was the root cause that controlled crime rate in 1990's in USA. Moreover, the fact that this theory is being published in a freaking economics book titled "Freakonomics". This book, for me, is a revolutionary step towards the way we look at economics. Economics to some is a "dismal" science that is used with mathematical tools like graphs and charts to explain the cause and effect of growth, output, inflation etc. Generally, people consider economics to be the study of monetary and fiscal policies. But to some it is much more than that. People like Steven D. Levitt, the author of Freakonomics and the winner of "John Bates Clark Medal", consider economics to be an art which when when used practically can solve many mysteries and reveal the reasons behind many events.

Economics is fun. That's one message books like Freakonomics want to convey. It is fun to practice economics yourself and it is also fun to see others practicing it. Economics can be taught in entertaining ways rather than by boring graphs and mathematical equations. It can be taught in such gripping ways that it also appeals to the most social, literate and the most popular guy in the high school. Economics can shed light on the most exciting, sexy and eye-catching issues rather than reading endlessly on government budgets and deficits. Nothing in social life falls outside the purview of economics. The fun lies in studying things that you can see happening in front of your eyes or if you can relate to them and economics can be taught this way. This helps in imparting "out-of-the-box" thinking to the students which would yield better results when they arrive in the "real world".

Though we are still living in a traditional era as far as economics is concerned, students are still made to cram the monstrous mathematical equations and "learn by heart" graphs on demand and supply, however, the outlook of economists is changing. Now less people appear astonished when they see an article titled "More sex is safer sex " or "Why blondes make more money than brunettes?" or "Paying students to perform better" or "Daughters make you more conservative" published in an economics journal. There is a whole new spectrum of ideas to be explored in this field and loads of mysteries to be solved. What we need is creative thinking and "application oriented" teaching by the tutors. They need to spice up the topics by developing interesting theories which keeps students glued to this subject at their own will. Remember, that's when "true learning" takes place.

Read the previous article here "If not now, then when?"

Friday, July 9, 2010

If not now, then when?

Yes, that's the question boggling the mind of many environmentalists and researchers who understand exactly what's up with mother nature. We never faced a threat more severe than what we are up against now, "Global Warming". It is not only some social or economical threat rather it threatens the very "existence" of human survival on Earth. Isn't that grave enough?? Looking at the actions taken by our administrators, to mitigate this threat, it doesn't seem so. They are busy playing blame games against each other. India, China and other developing countries say US and European countries are responsible for Climate Change, hence they must take the responsibility of cutting down the carbon emissions (root cause of Global Warming). US and European countries on the other hand, hold the recent high growth in demand of fossil fuels in the developing nations responsible for the surge in Global Warming and wants them to cut down their use of carbon emitting substances drastically.

The average temperature of the globe has augmented more than 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900 and the speed of warming has been almost three folds the century long average since 1970. All studies suggest that human actions, mainly discharge of green house gases from manufacturing units, vehicles and burning forests, are perhaps the leading factors contributing to global warming. Without action to reduce these emissions, the global average temperature is likely to rise a further 1.8-4.0 degree Celsius this century and by up to 6.4 degree Celsius in the worst case scenario, the IPCC projects. Even the lower end of this range would take the temperature to a threshold beyond which many scientists believe irreversible and possibly catastrophic changes would become more likely.

So the big question is, What steps are being taken by our administrators to avoid this catastrophe? And if we make an effort to find an answer, we'll see many promises being made by the Obamas and the Jintaos and the Sarkozys but nothing concrete has been achieved yet. Kyoto protocol, which is considered to be the first most comprehensive step towards arresting the quantity of green house gases emitted in the atmosphere, is a miserable failure. First of all, having an emission reduction treaty without USA cannot succeed. It is not only bias for developing nation who have just learnt the meaning of growth but also envious for developed European nation. They can't compromise their growth to control global warming when the biggest polluter in the world, cares least about it. Secondly, there are differences in the treaty regarding the levels of emission cut by individual nations. Some developing countries are allowed to pollute more. Moreover, on the technical front, scientists and researchers argue that the protocol was misconceived from the start because it was based on previous international treaties to protect the ozone layer, to stop acid rain and to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons. This borrowing simply failed to accommodate the complexity of the "climate-change" issue.
Then the whole world watched what happened at the Copenhagen Summit in December, 2009. The Copenhagen accord was drafted by the US, India, China, Brazil and South Africa. It was sought as a successful agreement by the Obama administration, but all the nations didn't take it likewise. It wasn't adopted in the debate of all participating countries. The document does not force nations to make any legally binding commitments for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, it leaves the decision on the social welfare will of the nations.

Is this our approach towards fighting this issue? Is this what we expect from our administrators? Aren't they aware of the rising number of instances of floods, storms and other natural calamities? I am a big Obama fan, but disappointingly, he has failed to deliver on this front, though this was one of his most promised agenda. The world, specifically our leaders need to wake up and address this issue with utmost priority and diligence before it's too late. Environmentalists should have a greater say and authority in policy making, because they know exactly what needs to be done. Agreements and deadline on Climate Change should be strictly met, in fact a severe penalty should be levied on the countries not meeting the proposed carbon cuts. A sense of "peer pressure" be built among economically similar nations to impose the reduction in emissions. And most importantly, people need to be taught and made aware of the ill-effects of carbon dioxide emission in to our atmosphere. A concerted effort is needed to arrest and control global warming. Be it the underdeveloped Africa or the developing Asia or the developed America and Europe, all need to come forward to fight for "human existence".

Read the previous article here Microfinance .