April - 2007 - issue > Sage Speak
Chris van Ingen
Saturday, March 31, 2007
We are fast moving towards an era of personalization. Everything, beginning from food to healthcare is spiraling up that order. Take the case of drugs for example; presently the scenario is such that a drug works well for a specific target population, when the same drug is used by people on the outer curve of the target population it causes tremendous, and in certain cases long-term side-effects.

The future will see drugs being developed for the entire population, but delivered with a personal twist. Medical practitioners will take a sample of the patient’s blood, analyze his/her DNA and specify a modification to the base drug, depending on the patient’s genotype.

A similar movement can be noticed in all segments, be it software, services, FMCG, or food. The trend will give rise to towers of personalization, which will be inhabited by techies writing ‘modification codes’. In such a scenario, it is but natural that they will focus on their ‘tower’, albeit be outward looking in their own way in terms of reading up and meeting people in their specific domain. What tends to happen in such a scenario though is that techies, while going about having a well-rounded view of their domain often forget to delve into other domains, and hence possess a not-so-real viewpoint about them. Let me cite a simple example to elucidate the point.

The moment I landed in India, peers told me “India is different”. It’s a refrain that I keep hearing in every country I visit: that its case is different. Yet, I have gathered through experience that the real difference is limited only to the food, language, dress i.e. the real culture. These differences constitute just 10 percent of a country’s environment; the remaining 90 percent is all the same. It’s just that people who are saying that “X is different” have not visited the other countries, but are just fantasizing how different they might be.

Since personalization is the bait for the oncoming eras in the tech-world, such fantasy on the part of inhabitants of the tech world could spell the difference between success and failure. On part of companies as well as individual engineers, they need to rise above misgivings about other domains, and collaborate across disciplines to create effective products. They must view other players in the same domain not as rivals, but as co-competitors, marrying their own niches with that of the erstwhile ‘rival’.
On part of the sales force, they must tackle myopia by being as close to the customer as possible. Like I said earlier, the business problems across all geographies are the same, only the more-than-apparent culture is different. Lest you find this hard to digest, an account of how we acquired a new business of one of our existing customers in India might help.

In a recent meeting focused on discussions about the India market (and ‘it was different’, the client specified), I noticed that the situation they were in was virtually the same as one we had encountered in Canada, with the same client. I told them of how we had addressed the challenges then. They realized the similarities, and let us apply the same solution, and in turn bag their business here.

Therefore, at several dinner conversations, I continue to stress that there is no local Chemistry or Physics or any discipline for that matter; Chemistry is just one, only the actual local protocols differ!

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