India on Wheels

For many non Indian visitors being driven around in India is like Russian Roulette, but as we all find out it is our preconceptions that are  chalenged and it seems very little damage is done to our bodies – the rate of car sales and the difficulty of providing public infrastructure in some parts of india must make one wonder about the  divide between the public good and business interests – in this article we see the Modernist tendency of focusing on the object a car and its appeal to the individual broadened to include its social significance but little or no consideration of its impact on the urban fabric it inhabits – at this stage design still sees its role in a narrow funnel of proving value to individuals and companies profits from where it derives its own functions and income – we have yet to understand the implications of this consumerist approach applied to the rest of the planets population. A good design article by Harsha Kutare at DESIgn MASALA

The Indian automobile industry is set to become the sixth largest passenger vehicle producer in the world, growing 16-18 percent to sell around three million units in the course of 2011-12. The passenger vehicles sales trend has shown an exponential growth in past few years and it is expected to grow further in coming years.

The Indian market presents several challenges to car manufacturers and dealers. After researching a bit online about the current car scene in India and talking to car owners, I came up with the factors that make the Indian car market stand out from others in the world.’

Harsha goes on to describe the factors he sees as influencing the Indian automobile market naming  Traffic and Road conditions; Way Finding; Huge numbers of first time buyers; Financial factors; Social Influencers; Cultural Significance/Unique features as areas which make the Indian market different from others

Social Influencers: There is lot of social influence from friends, family or relatives when it comes to buying a car. Buyers reach out to their social circle for recommendations regarding car models and dealerships. Some of the online platforms that are influencing people’s buying decision arewww.carwale.comwww.teambhp.comwww.autocarindia.comwww.cardekho.com

Cars make a statement about the owner’s personality hence buyers are very cautious about the cars that they pick. Brands also play a vital part in projecting a brand image for e.g. Honda equals Pride, Mahindra is seen as a rugged brand and Maruti Suzuki equals good value for money whereas Mercedes signifies luxury. Brands carefully pick actors, sportspersons or celebrities as their brand ambassadors as Indian consumers, mainly youth is influenced by testimonials of celebrities.

First cars for most of the buyers are mid range hatchbacks. In most cases the buyer is the first person in the family to own a car. He takes his driving lessons from a driving school and prefers something easy to maneuver within the city with low maintenance costs and a great mileage.

Infographic: The half-life of smart phones & apps

An cool infographic by Sarah Wenger 

As the world continues moving into a mobile one, smart phones have become an invaluable part of our lives – an extension of our own being. And because of our newly adopted part of our anatomy, Apps become increasingly more important as they are a more efficient and more precise way of accessing information on our phones. Mobile phone applications may seem like a small part of the changing landscape of the way we receive information, but in actuality, mobile applications may very well be the future. Because of this, many different professions from many different fields of study may want to take note of this. Most obviously, applications are important to software engineers and designers, but applications will also be important to those in marketing and business. Those fields of study should realize the growing market and figure out how to successfully capitalize on the growing trend of accessing information through applications. This infographic will show just how big apps got and how people are starting to use them.

Social lending, the new face of monetary loans

Another way the social media are impacting “Business as Usual” Social Lending promises to disrupt the hegemony of banks and finance companies and  allow business to access money directly from potential investors.  In tight markets where finance is not freely available, direct person to person ‘face-to-face’ (via Skype?) loans could allow a new vibrant “angel investor” market to bridge the gaps between traditional finance with its high security and high interest fees and to become a genuine social investment phenomenon. Websites such as ‘kickstarter” the crowd-sourced start up funding platform are already generating larger and larger investments in creative startups. You can find a list of crowd-funding projects by country here:Finanzmarketing-Blog and read about a Capitec Bank initiative  Idea Bounty  South Africa

This report from biz-community.com on peer to  banking extends the ideas to larger businesses needs  by Sean Emery

http://vimeo.com/31365494#

Against the backdrop of a global financial crisis where people feel that the big banks have failed them, consumers are beginning to look at alternatives such as person-to-person or social lending.

This new person-to-person model of lending uses the Web to disrupt the financial services industry by directly linking people and groups who have cash to invest with people and even small businesses who want to borrow money. Consumers are able to lend and borrow money at more competitive interest rates than they could get from the banks and without the excessive charges and fees.

Few industries are as overdue a radical change as the banking sector. Banks have positioned themselves as middlemen between people who have money to invest and those who need to borrow money, earning plump margins and fat fees for the privilege. The amount of inefficiency and complexity in this market makes it as ripe for disintermediation through the Internet as travel agents and insurance brokers.

Rise in US, Europe

The market started to see the rise of the first major social lending marketplaces in Europe and the US around five or six years ago and, since then, they have grown from tiny operations into a major force in the global financial services industry. Gartner predicts that peer-to-peer lending will account for 10% of all outstanding consumer personal loans by end 2013.

In the US, peer-to-peer loans have eclipsed more than $1 billion since 2006 and social loan volumes calculated by the two largest players in the US are around $50 million a month and growing, according to a report by TechCrunch. In the last 30 days, these two lending marketplaces issued 5600 new loans totalling nearly $64 million, with a borrower average interest rate of 15.81%.

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Why Designers Need To Stop Feeling Sorry For Africa

This article from Co.DESIGN although couched in the terminology of neo-liberal capitalism and  written from the perspective of extracting value from the worlds poorest people, the recognition that there is a creativity and resourcefulness in African’s diverse people that is often surprising in its adoption of technology and it’s ability to utilize the technology of commercial exploitation in novel ways which are subsequently subsumed by the purveyors of this technology e.g.How the developing world is using cellphone technology to change lives. This, together with the appreciation of the patronizing tone of much of the coverage given to such innovation is being given credit, which is a step towards treating all  people as of equal value, regardless  their origin or bank account or lack of one.

A different  exploration or alternative view is given by Abdoumaliq Simone  in his introduction to URBAN AFRICA: Changing Contours of Survival in the City

 “Urban Africans have long made lives that have worked. There has been  an astute capacity to use thickening fields of social relations… to make city life viable. …..It  emphasizes the resilience and resourcefulness displayed by African Cities .. the ways in which urban life is concretized across the region are thus seen not as history or as a series of policies gone wrong; rather we wish to emphasize the determination of  urban Africans to find their own way.”

TAKING A PATRONIZING APPROACH TO INVESTING IN AFRICA UNDERMINES THE CONTINENT’S PEOPLE AND ENTREPRENEURIAL PROMISE, ARGUE JENS MARTIN SKIBSTED AND RASMUS BECH HANSEN.

Earlier this year, the Cooper-Hewitt wrapped up “Design with the Other 90%: Cities,” the second in a series of exhibitions intended to demonstrate how design can address the world’s most critical issues. This time around, the focus was on the challenges created by rapid urban growth in informal settlements. Some highlights were Digital Drum in Kampala, Uganda, a solar-powered information access point made from two durable, low-cost oil drums welded together, rugged keyboards, solar panels, and low-power tablets; a large-scale oven that uses trash as fuel to power a communal cooking facility in Kibera, Nairobi; and M-Pesa, a money-transfer service that enables urban migrants in Kenya to send money back to their villages via a mobile device.

The designers represented were local. But locals aren’t leading the pack when it comes to designing products for the bottom of the pyramid. Examples of Western efforts to care for the other 90% are many: Social entrepreneurship has grown into a full-fledged program at Harvard,Forbes started a list of the top 30 social entrepreneurs last year, and a host of major design studios have established nonprofit initiatives, including IDEO and Fuseproject. The latter designed MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 laptop, with the goal of creating an educational project for poor schoolchildren, rather than a cheap laptop for the masses.

It is no wonder that these projects have gained massive interest, since bottom-of-the-pyramid markets–those in the lowest global income band (with average household incomes below $1,500 a year)–provide a tantalizing market opportunity. In his book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, the Wharton Business School professor C. K. Prahalad argues that businesses can combat poverty and turn a profit at the same time.

But the road to hell may well be paved with good intentions. There clearly is a bottom-of-the-pyramid market, but linking it to “aid culture”–a non-market-driven-culture–detracts from the entrepreneurial opportunity. And correlating hunger, AIDS, malaria, poverty, and illiteracy with Africa perpetuates a stereotype that is far from the optimistic, go-get-it-attitude and ambition that we’ve encountered when traveling in Africa. Take, for instance, the title of this Harvard report: “HIV/AIDS and Business in Africa and Asia: A Guide to Partnerships.”

Obviously, HIV/AIDS is an issue to be addressed, but confusing and pairing regions with issues make them synonymous in the public eye. How does “Obesity/Diabetes and Business in North America: A Guide to Partnerships” sound? To us, it sounds funny, but it doesn’t sound conducive to business. How would American businesses react to foreign customers who expressed pity for them at large? I bet that seeing foreign news headlines like “Give America a Chance: Support the Fat and Illiterate” would get tiring after a while. That is what Africans experience over and over again–plus foreign-media-dominated news about Africa to the outside world.

There are many exceptions, of course. But a disappointingly big part of them share the patronizing and generalist perspectives on Africa. One of us watched William Kamkwamba, a young Malawian who built windmills to power his parts of his village, speak at a TED conference in Arusha, Tanzania, in 2007. What was so remarkable about him was his genuinely humble attitude, resisting moderator Chris Anderson’s prompts to elaborate on his own accomplishments. “I just did it” was Kamkwamba’s typical response. He is, by any standard, a great guy, but his story is now woven into this other narrative of Africa–the patronizing Western assumption that Africans are up against insurmountable odds and ethnological challenges.

The Role of Brand in the Nonprofit Sector

Our image of ourself and how we communicate our ideas i.e. sell our ourselves is intimately connected with our “brand” even if we hate the idea – thats what people see – so getting it right for yourself or for your non-profit is essential if you wish to communicate with others, but much as the language used by marketers for people, consumers, is an anathema to urbanists, they use the same types of research into peoles behavior, culture and soiciety, so this article uses the concepts that are so well developed in the commercial world to situate  ‘brand image’ in language that is digestible to the rest of us and develope a toolkit for its use. From the Stanford Social Innovation Review by Nathalie Kylander & Christopher Stone

Nonprofit brands are visible everywhere. Amnesty International, Habitat for Humanity, and World Wildlife Fund are some of the most widely recognized brands in the world, more trusted by the public than the best-known for-profit brands.1 Large nonprofits, such as the American Cancer Society and the American Red Cross, have detailed policies to manage the use of their names and logos, and even small nonprofits frequently experiment with putting their names on coffee cups, pens, and T-shirts.

Branding in the nonprofit sector appears to be at an inflection point in its development. Although many nonprofits continue to take a narrow approach to brand management, using it as a tool for fundraising, a growing number are moving beyond that approach to explore the wider, strategic roles that brands can play: driving broad, long-term social goals, while strengthening internal identity, cohesion, and capacity.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, recently appointed Tom Scott as director of global brand and innovation. Oxfam International embarked on a confederation-wide “global identity project.” And GBCHealth was one of several organizations completing a rebranding process. Brand managers in these pioneering organizations were focusing less on revenue generation and more on social impact and organizational cohesion. Indeed, some of the most interesting brand strategies are being developed in endowed, private foundations with no fundraising targets at all.

“We’re catalysts,” says Scott. “Could we have greater impact if we leveraged our brand in different ways? What difference could it make to attach our logo to things to move conversations forward or elevate certain issues? Can we use our brand to elevate other brands?” The questions Scott asks aren’t about raising money. Instead, they are about how to leverage the Gates Foundation brand in the cause of greater public discourse and social impact.

Although the ambitions of nonprofit brand managers are growing, the strategic frameworks and management tools available to them have not kept up. The models and terminology used in the nonprofit sector to understand brand remain those imported from the for-profit sector to boost name recognition and raise revenue.

Nonprofit leaders need new models that allow their brands to contribute to sustaining their social impact, serving their mission, and staying true to their organization’s values and culture. In this article, we describe a conceptual framework designed to help nonprofit organizations do just that. We call this framework the Nonprofit Brand IDEA (in which “IDEA” stands for brand integrity, brand democracy, brand ethics, and brand affinity).

The framework is the result of an 18-month research project we led with colleagues at Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations and collaborators at the Rockefeller Foundation. Building on previous work in the field, we conducted structured interviews with 73 nonprofit executives, communication directors, consultants, and donors in 41 organizations. Then we analyzed these interviews to learn how leaders in the field are thinking about nonprofit brands today and how they see the role of brands evolving.

Entrepreneurs in chains

A rant at the bureaucracy that chains entrepreneurs in South Africa sent to me by a farmer friend who is at the mercy of these chains yet continues to farm, process and pack agricultural produce –    by Clem Sunter: Scenario planner, speaker and best-selling author.

This article is prompted by two conversations I have had recently; one with a young Chinese woman at a lunch with friends last Sunday and the other with a South African businessman who has just returned from Lagos in Nigeria.

In the first conversation, the lady said that despite the strong political hold that the Chinese Communist Party has over the nation, in the minor towns and villages across the country economic anarchy reigns. This has been incredibly beneficial in that it has led to an entrepreneurial revolution which has propelled China to No 2 in the global economic order behind the US. It may not be the sole cause because you have to consider foreign investment in China as well, but sure as night follows day it has helped.

The businessman said that he had gone to Lagos expecting another down-at-heel, demotivated Third World city. Instead, he discovered one of the most exciting places he has ever visited, putting it on the same pedestal as Hong Kong. He found the entrepreneurial energy irresistible in Lagos. Everywhere he went people were buying and selling things in an unregulated environment other than the prime rule of cash on delivery. He now considers Johannesburg’s boastful slogan of being the leading business centre in Africa to be totally empty. He sees the future of African capitalism as Lagos. Johannesburg belongs to the history book of colonial capitalism.

What both these people’s opinions had in common was the idea of economic freedom – not the one peddled by Julius Malema of transferring assets at no cost between rich and poor with an increasing role for the state. The one they have in mind is breaking the oppressive chains binding the small business owners in this country. True liberation will only come when all those creative souls who are not politicians, not civil servants, not directors or employees of large, established businesses, not unionists or union members, not the recipients of regular monthly pay cheques, are put on a par with those inhabiting parliament and the formal economy.

Consider the following chains that currently shackle South African entrepreneurs:

1. The snobbish attitude of the political and business intelligentsia in this country which at worst consider entrepreneurs to be criminals and at best greedy little capitalists that need to be tolerated as a sideshow. Whichever, they have to be regulated as an irresponsible underclass.

2. All recent national plans. They have emphasised the developmental state which is a euphemism for more chains and more regulation and more economic prioritisation. The people writing these plans have never personally had to create wealth themselves in order to be paid. As recipients of regular salaries, they have no idea of the risks involved in being an entrepreneur. Remember it is economic anarchy in China which has largely contributed to its economic miracle. Nassim Taleb puts it a different way in his books about black swans and randomness: it is all a matter of luck as to which businesses grow into major international concerns and which fail. The best policy is thus to have an environment which maximises the number of new businesses without any preferences for particular industries. The lucky ones will make it and you have no idea beforehand which they are.

3. The vast bureaucracy surrounding the establishment and ongoing operation of a small business in a legal manner. We are now regarded as one of the most hostile countries in the world for entrepreneurs. Most small businesses here only have one employee – the owner. The reason is that nobody wants to take on extra people with the potential hassle of going to the labour court if these people fail to perform. Below a certain size, entrepreneurs should have total freedom to hire and fire as it is their business and their money after all. It is not the taxpayers’ money.

4. The culture of non-payment to small business which thrives in the world of big business and government. In big business, standard payment terms can extend to 120 days while some state entities like hospitals never pay which is why they are in such trouble. The whole process of being approved as a vendor is now used an excuse to defer payment. Can you imagine going to a supermarket and walking out with a trolley full of goods and saying to the security guard that you will pay as soon as the supermarket fills in the appropriate forms to become your approved vendor? Big companies do this all the time to small service providers.

5. The tight-fisted approach of all providers of capital to entrepreneurs in South Africa. The financial universe here resembles a well-heeled club that is happy to extend credit to members. But woe betide uppity non-members who rudely knock on its doors making unreasonable requests to finance small business ventures. What a lack of manners! Why don’t they just disappear and borrow from their equally vulgar and impecunious friends?

I can go on, but we have completely lost the plot. Until we fundamentally change our mindset in regard to entrepreneurs and regard them as the centrepiece of this nation’s future economic prosperity, we are finished. Nigeria will overtake us in the next 10 years as the continent’s largest and most vibrant economy and leave us eating dust.

Useful resources:

Mind of a Fox We are foxy, game-playing strategists and the authors of two number 1 best selling books

A New Silicon Valley? Tech Hubs Spring Up In Africa

Internet access is expanding rapidly across the continent, and with it new organizations are coming to help foster a budding tech startup scene. From Co-Exist by Katherine Gammon

When thinking of tech hubs, Africa doesn’t exactly spring to mind. But the continent has had some amazing spurts of open innovation, with 45 collaborative hubs now open.

Africa faces some hurdles in developing information technology. Even though global Internet penetration is about 32%, it’s lower in Africa, where only around 11% of the population have access to the Internet through a computer or mobile phone. Within the continent, too, there are enormous divides. While a country like Nigeria has 28% of its population online, Ethiopia has less than 1%. But all that is changing: Internet usage in Africa has grown faster than on any other continent over the past decade.

So what exactly do tech hubs do? In the African continent, they train, connect, and encourage innovation. Here’s a closer look: