How McEnroe Defeated Ivan Lendl 9 Times In A Row

John McEnroe’s and Ivan Lendl were great players of the 1980s. McEnroe was the #1 from 1981-94 and Ivan Lendl was #1 during 1985-87, 1989. In 1982, while McEnroe was on a winning streak with other players, he was facing a very stiff competition from Lendl. McEnroe writes in his autobiography: Lendl cleaned my clock once … Read more

The First Question To Ask Of Any Strategy

Strategy is about making choices. This much is already known. But, what really qualifies as a valid strategic choice? A strategic choice is a valid one if its opposite does not look stupid! Example: Consider a global wealth management business “Where to Play” choice below: To target wealthy individuals who wanted and were willing to … Read more

Baajirao’s Mother’s Answer To: How Can Strength Be Defeated?

Most people often take Strategy for granted. To them strategic solutions seem very simple and obvious. This mindset suffers from what I call the IIT-question syndrome: The question is very difficult to solve initially. But if you see the solution, the question feels damn easy. The IIT-question syndrome applies to the mass perception of strategic frameworks … Read more

Xiaomi’s Fall In China

Xiaomi sold over 61 million phones in 2014, beating Samsung and Apple to become the biggest smartphone vendor in China. But, in Q1of 2016, Xiaomi is behind 5 companies: Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. Why? Well, one of the reasons being its distribution model. While Xiaomi was focusing on selling online, its competitors were … Read more

How Steve Jobs Saved Nike With 1 Simple Advice

In 2006, Nike’s CEO Mark Parker called Steve Jobs for advice. Steve Jobs gave one simple advice: “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.” Nike took the advice and … Read more

When ‘Operational Excellence’ Is Your Best Growth Lever

Context An owner of a restaurant (who knew that I was a business consultant) once asked me: What should be my business strategy? I was stumped. I felt in my gut that the concept of Competitive Strategy is not going to be of much help to this guy. But, I was not able to come with … Read more

How General Motors Lost Its Focus–And Its Way

There is no better example of just how important market focus is than the case of General Motors, which has been devastated because of a complete loss of market focus in their corporate portfolio. Managers and teams must make the tough choices of where to compete and to not compete. But, incredibly, in 2009 GM’s … Read more

How DuPont’s Board Failed Ellen Kullman

Boards, by their poor decisions, can often destroy great companies. Examples: Past boards of General Motors, American Express, Gap, Jet Blue, Apple, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola. Du Pont seems to a latest example of this psychological pathology. Its CEO Ellen Kullman had to step down after disagreements with the Boards and an activist Hedge Fund investor Nelson Peltz.  … Read more

How Steve Jobs Was Spot On And Others Wrong

“I give them two years before they’re turning out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.” Such were the harsh comments that Steve Jobs received when he decided to go for an Exclusive Distribution strategy for Apple. Such an approach was indeed unthinkable back then. The world was more impressed by Dell’s model of direct … Read more

There Are Still Only 2 Ways To Compete

Context In 1960s, BCG asserted that there was only one way to successfully compete: gain relative market share. This would result in lower costs than the competitors. In 1980s, Michael Porter pointed out that there is another way to compete: differentiation. But, do these 2 ways of competing still hold true today? Does strategy today need to … Read more

What Strategy Can Borrow From Biology

Existence of competition is the reason businesses need Strategy. But, competition exists not just within businesses, it also exists between biological species. What strategies do biological species use to survive the competition? Can the field of Strategy borrow some learnings from the field of biology? Key Insight Just as species survive in their ecological niches, businesses can withstand … Read more

How Chasing A Wrong Growth Metric Almost Screwed Up Starbucks!

The metric was same-store sales growth. Starbucks used to track quarter-on-quarter same-store sales  comparisons (a.k.a. comps). Stock Analysts expected this metric to be reported publicly. The stock market expected the comps to be positive. Fortunately, the company had witnessed a consistent and long period of positive comps. Its stock price was high too. This was … Read more

E-commerce in India: Succeeding due to Business Model, Failing Due to Strategy

A Business Model is a higher-order concept than Strategy. It answers 3 basis questions on How to: Create value, Deliver value, and Capture a part of that value. E-commerce has gown phenomenally fast owing to its disruptive Business Model: First Inventory-based and then the Marketplace-based. The online/mobile shopping model has become successful because it did … Read more

How MBA-Style Leadership Killed Sony

Sony was once a company to watch. Under Akio Morita, the company kept looking for advances in technology–and hence was able to create new markets and dominate “consumer electronics”. Stories about Sony management meetings revealed a company where executives spent 85% of their time on technology, products and new applications/markets, 10% on human resource issues … Read more

A Tale Of GE vs. Apple

Have you ever seen 2 badminton players focus so much on aggressively hitting that shuttle back towards each other, that they often fail to notice the gaps in the court? Competing is emotionally intensive. Competing is ego-boosting. Male ego likes competing. But, we often confuse what is intensive and ego-boosting with what is valuable. GE … Read more